My philosophy on style is probably very different than most writers. Most writers, while concerned with language, are not as passionate about the minute details as I am. Being a linguist, my mind constantly considers the importance of sentence construction, word-level diction, and syllable structure. For these reasons, our attention to detail in WRT 308 has expanded my understanding of style and only increased my enthrallment.
As a young writer, I was always interested in how punctuation, diction and syntactic choices could affect how a person reads a text. In my high school AP Lang class, I became engrossed in the tiniest differences between synonyms; I obsessed over periods and semicolons. How would my reader absorb these choices? This question haunts me like a friendly ghost whenever I write. Still, I never knew to call this style.
It wasn’t until my arrival in WRT 308 that I realized one of my greatest passions for writing was, in fact, style. Throughout our class, we explored many of my obsessions in this area, and we discussed novel ways of thinking about style that I had never considered before. For instance, while tone is something I’ve known about since middle school English, the subtle effects between different stylistic tones was not something I had consciously put to use before. Furthermore, there were style types we learned to avoid. Steven Pinker, for example, writes about nominative verbs and hedging. He explains that these devices only disservice the writer by distracting the reader. As someone with a high interest in language, I readily absorb any and all information on the subject.
My philosophy of style begins with a critical consideration of the overall organization of my prospective text. I need to think about the message or the point of my piece. What do I want the audience to take away from it? This vital question shapes all other stylistic choices, from top to bottom. For instance, the answer to this question dictates whether I use a period, an exclamation point, or a semicolon. Knowing my audience can change something as simple as punctuation or as large as paragraph structure and organization.
Next, I just write. But, usually, I can never produce a whole text in one sitting without small edits in-between. These edits take the form of word- and sentence-level changes. I consult with my nouns and verbs; sometimes, I even confer with my adjectives and prepositions or other modifying words to try and pinpoint the word that exactly relates the meaning in my head. At this point, I also consider how my phrases are arranged. I wonder whether I should form a left-branching or right-branching sentence. My decision is predicated upon potential audience fatigue or structural flow. In these ways, I work through a preliminary draft.
From here I take that draft, continuing my word- and sentence-level alternations, while also editing at the punctuation-level. Ironically, it is also at this point that I return to overall organization and arrangement. In making these edits, I specifically hone in on choices relevant to my audience. As I ask myself questions about my audience, the answers to these questions inform my choices.
Consider, for example, this text itself. I know my audience is well informed of style, generally, but also of my style, specifically. For this reason, I chose to use semicolons in various places, knowing that my audience would recognize the relationship between the independent clauses the semicolons combine. For the same reason, I used rhetorical questions as a way of increasing structural flow. As we talked about this often in class, I knew how these choices would be received. With every sentence, I thought about left-branching versus right-branching structure. In deciding upon certain structures, I created additional flow for my prose. Alternatively, there were places where I chose to use nominalizations rather than using an active verb form. The point is that I chose this particular form. In other places, where there are now active verbs, there were originally nominalizations. I could go on and on, but this gives the idea of my approach to style.
My time in WRT 308 has been valuable. More than teaching me the simple definition of style, this class allowed me to deepen my passion for and knowledge of stylistic writing. Through class discussion, class workshops, stylistic analyses, and our readings, I broadened my literary techniques and rhetorical teachings. And while it might have seemed like my linguistics knowledge only informed my understanding of style, our class expanded my skills in linguistics as well. This class was the merger of these two language related topics that I always wanted to take.