Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wow- I had this book as a 10th grader! Obviously, not *this* book, but the Strunk and White book as it was then, the 1972 version. Kind of like finding an old friend!
So, I think I have commented before on my wordiness. Strunk would NOT be pleased that I have continued to be such a wordy writer! I try not to be, honestly, but I am. (there I go using But...;-) )
I will say this- I did well in 11th grade. I went to a school in California as a 10th grader, a private school, and then moved back to Illinois for the remainder of High School. I knew where certain passages worked and ones that didn't work. As a matter of fact, (drum roll, please!) I was the school winner of the Scholastic writing contest for 1979/80. It was a piece called "And He Just Smiled" which was about the popes visit to Chicago. This was a very unlikely thing for me to write about, but I did, and it won. It was read in a few venues, and I attended, too scared to read, so Syd Lieberman read it. He has gone on from teaching high school English to be a story teller. Taking this back to technology, how I wish I still had that story. If it was now, some data base would have it, and I would too. Sigh.
So, back to Strunk and White. I am still wordy, but I try and remember that motto. Short. No words that do not "tell" should be in a sentence. In my piece for the Technology unit, I used this, as I had started to read Strunk and White. Like EB White writes in the introduction, there are 1000 times certain passages should be shortened, and I have probably done it 500 times. So, batting average is not great, but I am working on it. I think the hardest part of this is I become very self conscious when I write. I think that may cause me some issues. So, at times, I wish I could tune out that voice over my shoulder and just write. I am such a huge re-writer, I know I could/would fix things. But, that's just how it is! (BTW, I just went back and edited out a number of blundering words!)
The other thing I took away from this reading was...clarity. Don't misuse words, don't use the wrong spelling. I admit that is one thing that feels intuitive to me. I use words fairly well for the most part. I can get awkward at times, and I continue to work on that.
In the chapter on Style, the sentence that resonated with me was... "Who knows why certain notes are capable of stirring a listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent?" This is, IMO, what Style is. Simply put, the ability to line up words in a way that captures your reader, draws them in and demands them to pay attention. EB White does this better then so many writers out there, and he states he has Stunk to thank. Well, Thank you BOTH! In the introduction (yet again) EB White says that Strunk felt that he had great sympathy for the reader. In reading this book, you can tell- Strunk seems to be begging the writer to be clear, concise and correct. Good Goals, these are.
When I was first reading this small book, I was somewhat annoyed by the way it was put together, finding it hard to understand what was happening. It felt hard to read, and knowing that Steve said it was easy, I felt a bit chagrined. I still feel it's somewhat confusing. I wish it was a bit easier to go to what you want to know, get it, and go on. I am totally unfamiliar with MLA, so wish that information was there, easier to find. It is not in the index, which would be nice. I personally have no issues with pronouns, and don't care if someone uses "he" more often then "she" when talking in general, and most writing can work around that issue. I guess I would not worry too much about it overall. For the Pony Club Magazine, I use she more often, as I am writing to a mostly female audience.
I must say that in reading this book, while some things feel a bit out of date, it is a small wonder of a book.

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