My Philosophy of Style

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.

 

Advertisements

Notes About Callie’s Text for 4/9 Discussion

I used track changes to create my notes because I feel I can better speak to specific material by adding comments to the document. I have attached the document with the track changes below, but I will also make some general comments here:

This was such an interesting piece to read. I haven’t read a lot of blogs about lifestyle and this is really a thinkpiece about how girls, generally, treat each other in the context of our culture here in America. Since, I haven’t read a lot of blogs that follow in this style, I can’t really speak to the type of style employed in this post. However, I really love how Callie uses more millennial punctuation (i.e. the ?!? at the end of the quoted sentence at the beginning of paragraph 3) as well as syntactic and diction choices (i.e. FaceTiming). This really sets the context and audience for which Callie is speaking from.

The only notes I really have are small, minor notes noted in the document with the track changes. Some are minor grammar changes that I offer up as options.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed the read!

Callie Workshop Piece

Notes About Imani’s Text for 4/9 Discussion

I used track changes to create my notes because I feel I can better speak to specific material by adding comments to the document. I have attached the document with the track changes below, but I will also make some general comments here:

Imani’s piece is truly stylistic gold. She is in constant command of her language (in both diction and syntax). She chooses her words carefully (I even highlighted my favorite diction choices because there were just many times I wanted to make comments on them, I gave up and just started highlighting).

Her style is truly so amazing that its seamless. I found myself getting pulled into the analysis because her style was completely spot on. I have no constructive criticism except for the very minor suggestions and notes mentioned in my track changes.

Truly this was amazing and lovely to read!

Imani Workshop Piece

 

Notes About AJ’s Text for 4/9 Discussion

I used track changes to create my notes because I feel I can better speak to specific material by adding comments to the document. I have attached the document with the track changes below, but I will also make some general comments here:

I really love the way that AJ uses sentences to build suspense. It really takes the reader along for the ride. Furthermore, as part of a different demographic than who this piece is centered, it allows me a way of stepping into the challenges and pressures inflicted by a white-centered beauty industry. Brilliant style work is at play in that way. I only commented on one section for this purpose, but every narrative that is written into this analysis is constructed the same way.

In the analysis sections, though, AJ could benefit from focusing in on diction choices for verbs, nouns, and phrases. These more specific choices would allow the audience to connect in the same way that they can connect to the narrative sections. This, in addition to some grammar options, are where many of my track changes come into play.

I hope it helps. Thank you for the awesome read!

AJ Workshop Piece

April 16 In Class

Our workshop, today, in class was somewhat informative. We talked, generally, about the pieces that everyone was supposed to read for today. However, we didn’t get into the crux of any style analysis because everyone was hesitant to talk. That said, I think we all got a lot out of everyone’s pieces. Every piece is so varied in its audience and intention that I think we all benefitted from reviewing a wide array of pieces.

Today, I learned the importance of recognizing audience because each of our pieces was geared towards a different audience. In turn, the language we used was also varied as it should be. Our styles varied because our audience varied. And that is something that I learned from the pieces I read for today. 

Overall, though we didn’t speak much in class, I think we all worked diligently outside of class and relayed the necessary and important information in class. The rest we will get from our online notes (which I still have to post because I totally missed that as part of the assignment, but I will post it today).

1st Revision of Luithana, Chapter 1 (Boundaries)

I made quite a few changes based off the wonderful constructive criticism Sean gave me. I have been holding this story and this chapter so close to me for so long. I have read through this chapter more times than I can count. And I honestly could not find any way of improving it (mostly because I didn’t want to find any way, if I am being honest).

Sean’s commentary on the piece helped me see past my own mamma-bear proteciveness and give the chapter new life through some very necessary changes. While I did not employ the change from 1st person to 3rd person as Sean suggested for this revision, I do intend to try it out on this piece. At first, I thought there was no way I would change it. I have had this story brewing in my head (and working on it, throughout) for just over six years. Since its inception, I always planned on the stories being 1st person. However, I appreciated Sean’s perspective that the change of 1st person narrative to 3rd could positively affect the tone of the piece. Furthermore, I never thought that I could keep my main character’s voice strong and present (in the way I wanted and imagined it) through a 3rd person narrative. But by utilizing the italicized, mental thoughts more, I could keep what I want and change the tone for the better. I would have never thought to do that without the suggestion and the way in which it was situated.

As for the changes I did make, many were also based off of the branching structures we discussed from Pinker’s relevant chapter. I did not adapt the whole chapter, focusing on only specific sections (as evident by the more densely packed areas of change). But I see that we will be workshopping again with this soon, and I think I will return to the others then.

Overall, I enjoyed this round, but wanted to note that my other reviewer did not post any commentary for my piece.

Below is the link for the google doc where I made my changes:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HgCFwAvCcv6j3XuCsy2VG3SIESGdh2KFUFOVfO_vikA/edit?usp=sharing

 

Analysis of Style in Michaela’s Text, 3/28/18

In “Ghostwriting and all its Spooks,” Michaela does a really good job of keeping the sentences flowing smoothly. Michaela constantly makes well-formed sentences that follow Pinker’s advice about paying attention to trees for clarity-sake, with only minor structural issues throughout.

Michaela’s abilities really shine in sentences like: “People are quick to dismiss any published works or authors that are accused of being plagiarized,” in the first line of the second paragraph. This is a complex sentence with various moving parts. Still, Michaela is able to keep her audience with her by connecting her sentences linearly as well as hierarchically. By this I mean that the structure of the sentence is well-formed. The subject “people,” directly precedes the core-verb, “are.” This leads to a very complicated predicate that is pulled off by the relation of words that are next to each other. For instance, “quick to” relates directly to “dismiss.” And the compliment phrase “that are accused of being plagiarized,” is governed by “authors,” which directly precedes its head word as well. All of this makes the potentially challenging phrase much more easy to read and follow. Examples like this are present throughout.

In other places, Michaela does have some sentences that have a slightly confusing phrase structure. Pinker’s discussion on trees can help reform some of these sentences in order to make them more clear. In Michaela’s final paragraph, for instance, this sentence is a little difficult to follow: “But even if a ghostwriter was an early writer, fresh out of school trying to jumpstart their writing career, it seems as though accepting a ghostwriting position would set up a tone and reputation that would follow them throughout their career.” The reason this sentence is difficult to follow is that the main phrase “even if a ghostwriter was an early writer,” is directly connected hierarchically to the final phrase, “accepting a ghostwriting position would set up a tone…” The meaning behind the phrases that bisect these two correlating phrases, linearly, are indeed important. The structure makes the sentence difficult to follow because the long phrase, “fresh out of school trying to jumpstart their writing career,” diverts attention momentarily, making it difficult for the reader to keep the phrase in their memory long enough to complete the “if… then…” structure. These kinds of structures are extremely difficult to keep clear to begin with, but the extra phrase in between further complicates and makes the reader have to hold more in their short-term memory longer. But these kinds of sentences are few and far between in Michaela’s piece and overall, she does a wonderful job at keeping the tree structures linearly and hierarchically connected. This, in turn, makes her prose and style clear and concise.