Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Elements of Style

When considering starting a blog one of the things that challenged me and put me off was naming it - what's in a name? While a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, when staring at a page of a nursery catalogue bearing images of yet-to-be-smelt the stout and ballsy sounding 'hemlock' would not hold the same appeal as the elegant 'gladioli', even if their appearances were identical. Therefore I've always felt a certain pressure in choosing something that reflected the aim and nature of the blog, had a nice ring and on top of that, wasn't already taken!

Having resolved to give this blogging lark a proper go (instead of my previous half-arsed attempts) and discarded various initial word-combinations I decided to go through the bookshelf for something that might inspire me. I found the very thing in my mother's copy of 'The Elements of Style' by William Stunk Jr. and E.B.White, this is not (as I expected when picking it up) a guide for aesthetic style but for writing. It is constructed in a delightfully simple style with five sections: 'Elementary Rules of Usage', 'Elementary Principals of Composition', 'A Few Matters of Form', 'Words and Expressions Commonly Misused' and finally, 'An Approach to Style'. The pithy and direct instructions guide the aspiring writer to a style that cuts the dross to deliver a clean and efficient style.

"14. Avoid fancy words
Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able. Anglo-Saxon is a livelier tongue than Latin, so use Anglo-Saxon words. In this, as in so many matters pertaining to style, one's ear must be one's guide:
gut is a lustier noun than intestine, but the two words are not interchangeable, because gut is often inappropriate, being too coarse for the context. Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason."
This attitude reflects my own preferences for style: although I do like things that are exciting and different (one of my favourite styles of interior design is that from the time of Louis XIV) I tend to set this against a simple background: I love elegant shapes and if I go for colour I will generally chose something simple rather than a busy pattern. So where is this all going? to the name 'An Approach to Style' which is broad enough to cover all the aspects of life I like to talk about without being to instructional or pretentious. Conveying that this is a bit of a journey as I have yet to fully discover my style and sometimes wonder if I will; or want to!

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