Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Écrire avec élégance...

The language has come a long way... Posted by Hello

If there's one thing that bothers me when it comes to written literature, it's the stuff that sounds so overdone that it reeks of heavy thesaurus usage. People seem to think that by throwing in tons of fancy adjectives it makes the paper elegant. Meanwhile all it does, especially if you don't know what you're doing, is make it look like someone's trying too hard.

I've seen so many examples of people doing this, sometimes with saccharine sweet, teeth gritting results. I won't forget one time, coming across this thank you letter au doyen de la fac honneurs that still stands out in my mind as someone who just was trying too much to sound educated that it made this person look like a fool. Every other word was a huge adjective, yet the sentences were incredibly short. People who kiss the proverbial derriere is drive me insane to begin with, but it was so ridiculous to read, and what was more, le directeur thought it was so worthy of people's attention he posts it online for everyone to see.

Williams describes in Lesson 9 of the book Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace the art of elegant writing. None of the points mentioned included confounding placement of huge words. Instead, he emphasizes the careful balance of words, to create a flow. My favorite new literary tool is the chiasmus, which is derived from the Greek word for crossing. In prose, the chiasmus balances two parts out, in an AB:BA pattern.

I have to be honest, when it comes to my own writing I just write. I don't think of "ooh, did I employ chiasmus here," or "I really should use some balanced coordination over there. However, the point I've taken away from the lessons in this book that you can employ to writing in any language, not just English, is that most of these things come with time and revision. You're not supposed to think of this while you write, you look to these elements to improve your paper when it's being edited.

It's always amazed me how different written language can be from spoken colloquial language. I know I talk in a far more relaxed manner than I write. But I've come across amusing individuals, I guess they think that talking like a robot, avoding contractions at all costs and using every huge word they have stored in their head, makes them seem smarter than they really are. Whenever you hear someone talk like they're writing a thesis, you can just turn your mind off right there, lest you loose it (your mind, that is, or your patience, whichever comes first!)

By the way, it's amazing how specific you have to be when searching images on Google. I type in "elegance" and I got, well let's just say I got images that weren't quite what I was looking for in keeping with the theme of this particular post!


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