Dave Lull sends me a link to a post critical of the classic book Elements of Style, by Strunk and White: Omit Needless Books of Advice on Writing at God of the Machine.
It is an interesting post. I don’t have much, if any, problem with S&W. Scientists do well to follow the advice when writing up original research, because descriptions of technical concepts, methods and so on are vastly improved by brevity. In particular, the common habit among US authors of applying six or seven adjectives to a noun can be very hard to comprehend when many of the adjectives could equally well be nouns, and the whole consists of polysyllabic specialist terminology (oh, OK, then — jargon). Whether or not one agrees with the judgement "a strange mix of the anodyne, the obvious, and the risible", S&W’s advice is, I believe, of great practical use for people trying to convey complex information in the clearest way.
Poetic or creative prose is probably different; I am sure one would not want to be too slavish in following style rules under these circumstances. As a reader, I admire economy of writing style. For me, many modern "bestseller"-type books are far too long and overblown for their content. Others will have different tastes.
Some of the God in the Machine’s comments don’t travel. His joke about thanking one’s parents, God and Ann Rynd is not funny in the UK, it is correct grammar (no comma before the ‘and’). Decisions about house style on this sort of topic (comma or not before "and"?) are among the things that make working on an international journal such fun. Almost as good as how to style an author’s country when he or she is from Palestine or Taiwan without mortally offending someone — but that’s another ballpark.
Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. has also posted on this matter.
How many cartoonists does it take to change a lightbulb? Find out here: The Dilbert Blog: Confession. Do read to the end, it is a lovely punchline.
Join us for the MetaxuCafé.com Holiday Mixer
Tuesday, December 19th from 6 – 8pm
at Verlaine, 110 Rivington Street at Essex, New York City
Sadly, I will not be able to attend this promising event, but the reason is a good one — I’ll be on my Christmas holidays at home. I am sure it will be a lovely party, and maybe I’ll get to go next year. Metaxucafe — strange name, wonderful site.
Elizabeth Baines writes about Wuthering Heights, as part of a series "Writers Choice"on Norman Geras’s normblog. I so much enjoyed reading Elizabeth’s piece. Not only is it insightful about Wuthering Heights as a novel, but it contrasts the experience of reading it when young with reading it when older.
This echoes the continuing discussion of the same book, initiated by Marydell at her BookBlog, at posts here and linked herein. Marydell also writes thoughtfully about the different ways she sees the characters now compared with how she saw them when young, as well as making other pertinent points about the novel.
In both cases, the discussants were sympathetic to Cathy when young readers, but far less so when re-reading the book later. I haven’t read Wuthering Heights for some years; perhaps if I did so again, I would also be less sympathetic this time round to the characters I liked when young.
Norman Geras has featured many subjects in his writer’s choice series: you can see the entire archive in a link at the foot of his Elizabeth Baines post.
Elizabeth Baines is known to some of us as the Tart of Fiction, and has been one of those placed at the centre of the recent "litbloggers vs Observer" storm in a teacup. I also discover by reading the normblog entry that she is the author of two novels, The Birth Machine and Body Cuts, as well as numerous short stories; and is an actor, playwright and producer of her own plays Drinks with Natalie and O’Leary’s Daughters. I’m impressed. (Subscribing to blogs by rss means that you often miss crucial information about the blogger, as I’ve done on this occasion, because you only read the posts on the blog in your reader, you don’t visit the actual blog itself.)
I received an email this morning from an impeccable source, so thought I would share it.
"Thought all the bargain hunters among you might be interested in a new service – 60207. It lets you compare high-street prices against the internet when you’re out shopping. It’s intended for things like televisions, washing machines, dishwashers etc. It works best with anything that can be uniquely identified by its product code e.g. sony cmtnez7 (a DAB mini hifi).
There was a write up about it in the Sunday Times (see this link or download attached PDF) and a smaller one in the Observer (see attached PDF).
For more info and a demo on how to use the service visit the 60207 website."
I went for a look at the site, and noticed that your first price check is free. I don’t think I’ll be using the site as life is too short, and John Lewis seem to operate a similar service on behalf of its customers in any event. But just in case anyone would find it of use, I thought I’d pass on the details.