I hear inner Strunk and White voices of “don’t overwrite”, “write in a way that comes naturally,” and so forth, going through my head. I have visions of endless Williams examples and illustrations on clarity. I see weeks of blog writings flashing through my memory. From all of this, I now own and believe in a firm and personal definition of what style is and what good writing entails. William Strunk and E.B. White’s book The Elements of Style, along with Joseph M. Williams’s book Style Toward Clarity and Grace helped lead me to this point, which is: what is the point?
What really matters when we consider the style of writing? What makes good writing good? Every writer could collectively sit down together and never come up with an answer to these questions because every writer has a different opinion on what matters. As a writer and a reader, I believe what really matters in style is the affect a piece of writing has on readers. Although every reader is different in the way a piece of writing impacts her/him, there is still an unspoken knowledge that all readers want to come away from a piece of writing a changed person, with a challenged view on a subject matter, with a new interest, or a passion for a previously unknown matter. What is the point? The point is that style, no matter how it is presented, needs to have an affect on each and every reader. No writer wants to sit down and hear echoes of their seventh grade English teacher pounding messages of “use correct grammar and punctuation!” or “watch your spelling!” in their brains, restricting them from all creativity. For that
matter, no reader wants to pick up two pieces of writing from two different writers and see no style variation. So how do writers express their uniqueness while still possessing a distinct impact on their readers? There must be guidelines. Strunk and White and Williams share those thoughts with their readers, and while I do not agree with all of their rules, as a writer, I believe within these style books I have found guidelines in which writers can fulfill their purpose. As a reader, I feel that if writers follow some of the guidelines Strunk and White and Williams have to offer to the world, I can come away from a piece of writing affected.
The next question would be: how is a reader affected? Well, a reader cannot be affected unless a piece of writing is presented clearly. A piece of writing must be written in a way that any person can pick it up, read it, and not only understand the point the author is trying to convey through her/his writing, but be able to follow the flow of information. For that to take place, the information must be presented in a clear manner. I believe this to be an important part of style; without it the style of a piece of writing can be lost.
One of Strunk and White’s principles of composition suggests that writers “express coordinate ideas...