What Is Style, pt. 2

Style is a hard concept to define. Style can mean rules or artistically breaking rules. Style is the definition of these rules. Style is a hard concept to define because we must ask ourselves, “who defines style?”

Is genre style? Are grammatical rules style? Is word-choice style? Is a chosen medium style? And the answer is “yes.” Style encompasses any form of writing we encounter. This can mean any genre of writing, and medium of writing, anything around any writing.

Some people have a clear-cut definition of style, like Strunk & White in their book Elements of Style. Some people’s definition of style comes from the way that they write, or the way that they don’t. We all have tastes, and our definition of style can come from our tastes, and our tastes can come from style.

I am hesitant to say that style can have one definition. The root of the word comes from the Latin word stylus, which was a word for a type of writing implement, such as metal or bone used on a wax tablet in ancient times. This is where the word “style” comes from for written composition. The ancients are also responsible for some of the early definitions of what “good” writing style, or rhetoric, encompasses.

Style has come to mean more than tropes of language and rhetoric. Style can mean rules, but it has come to stand for almost any way that we can define writing.

Because style can mean rules, or the breaking of rules, or the absence of rules (at least in my own mind), everything then has style. Because everything has style, this leaves it up to us to define what we believe is “good” or “bad” style. We are the creator and the judge.

Style, then, can’t be defined.

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Final Peer Review Recap

As we completed this last peer review, I thought to myself, “now, that really wasn’t so painful.” I know that in the beginning of this class there were a lot of negative feeling toward peer review, including my feelings. Now, coming to the end of this term, I feel pretty good about how the process went. I don’t know if it made a difference that these peer reviews were online, but the process (for me at least) was smooth, and HELPFUL by the end of this term.

Peer reviews in this class helped me to see patterns of mistakes that I make in my writing, grow by seeing other people’s writing, and learn to use a new thing (GoogleDocs). In the comments for all of my essays I have noticed that more than anything else, people comment on my comma usage. Some places I agreed with them, others I didn’t, but the best thing was it has made me more aware of my comma use overall. Seeing others writing in this class was also helpful because we wrote a lot of theoretical papers, and I have only a few times done peer reviews on these types of papers. I think reading helps build a better writer. GoogleDocs was also a positive – I have now used it for other classes, personal things like writing I do outside of classes, and for work. The only thing that I found “least useful” was that classmates didn’t always put as much effort into it as they could have (although that got better over the course of the semester).

When reading and responding to others it helps me grow as a writer. I have to look carefully at what they say, and doing so I think helps me look more carefully at my own writing. It also helps to read for content, structure, and grammar in my own writing. I don’t know if they take my comments and use them, but to me, that isn’t really what matters. Writing is a collaborative process, and now I understand what professor Krause means when he says this. It can mean many different things, but it is what you take from it.

I’d like to think that my classmates and I are all pretty much intellectual equals, as we are all somewhere around the same place in our education. We are all learning about writing, reading, ect., and I think that working collaboratively with them on my own writing as well as theirs has helped me grow as a writer and reader.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Contrary to Ong’s theory on writing (that it is so engrained into us that we no longer think of it as a technology), YouTube videos are so new to the world of writing that people don’t consider them that way yet. Videos are often seen as separate from writing, or the end-product of a writing process, but not as a writing technology. This should be corrected. Multimedia is a fresh new way to write  and “read” content- just as were pencils, paperback books, word processors, and kindles to name a few.

Writing technologies are meant to convey ideas to an audience in a comfortable and convenient way. Videos open this communication to even more “readers” than ever before. Videos, just like text, can be aimed at any audience, have any purpose, and convey that purpose in any way. But also just like writing, videos have rules. One specific rule to YouTube is that videos can’t go beyond a certain length of time (I believe 15 min). Other rules that apply is visual appeal (which is like the appeal to a writers voice), logical flow, purpose, ect. The same rules we read about in S & W and Williams apply to creating effective videos.

Videos can also use tropes and other ancient style techniques. After following rules of style for clarity and grace, videos can go further and apply metaphors, onomatopoeias, ect. These can be applied through text in a video, dialog, or even through the use of visuals. Video making takes as much, if not more, creative thinking, careful planning, and expert execution as writing.

YouTube videos present the opportunity for all levels of video “writers” to present their work. Just like with writing, creating an expert video takes time, planning, drafting, doing, editing, and practice.

YouTube: Is it writing?

Writing is multimedia, multimedia is writing. As we have read in this class, all writing technologies have been subject to questions when they first arrive (and for many years to come) in the writing and education “scene.” Computers, word processing, tablets, ereaders, smart boards, advertisements, video, and so on are all technologies. They are also ways to compose, or view composed, ideas and thoughts that start as jumbled words and pictures in our heads.

We can write about something we see, or some picture we imagine and that is writing. Why then are pictures we create from something we read or think not writing? It is writing. Pictures can make us think of words, so its the perception (not the actual product) that makes something writing. Multimedia could not be created without words, and many of the words we see (and hear) today would not exist without multimedia.

There is no divide between creating a video and creating text. They come from the same place, and both convey ideas to an audience. What would a picture be without the words we have to describe it? What would words be without the picture we see in them? Videos, just like text, go through a drafting process, then production, then editing, then the “final” product. Just because the software used may be different, doesn’t mean that they don’t coexist, or even exist as one. There are rules for writing through video, just like there are rules to writing through words.

As students of a world full of multimedia (and new technologies created all the time), it is inevitable that multimedia is part of our education and lives. It is acceptance of this that matters. Technology is what we make of it: there are effective ways to use textbooks (and ineffective) just like there are effective ways to use YouTube, iPads, Google, laptops, ect. The question should not be is multimedia writing, rather are we using these new ways of writing to their fullest potential?

Peer Review Recap, pt. 3

This peer review was my best one so far. I don’t know if it was because the project was a fun/ny one, or if it was the people in my peer review group, but this review was smooth. My two peers and I really got down to the nitty-gritty on this review, but I think that was because we all had really well-done drafts. I know at least for myself that my last two papers I was not as far along when the peer review came about. We all had really solid starts to our drafts this time, and really solid ideas as well. All of us chose topics that were fun, and that we enjoy, and that made me enjoy reading my peers drafts, and giving them feedback.

The google doc platform worked well for this project, and I drafted mine directly in Google Docs so that I wouldn’t have to worry about reformatting. It was also really good because it is so easy to see exactly what someone is commenting on, and that was important with this project, because there are so many different aspects. I also think the survey was better to fill out for this project. This project gave us the ability to go in so many directions, yet there were very clear guidelines (unlike thesis papers can be), so the survey was easier to fill out for me.

In my past few drafts I have gotten comments about my wording and my flow of ideas, but that was not the case with this draft. I felt much more confident going into this project to begin with, but another thing that I appreciated was that my reviewers commented in a different way than my last two experiences. First off, they gave as many positive comments as negative, which I did with them as well. I think these comments help just as much because they show us, as writers, what is really working well. The negative comments, or comments about improvement seem like they will help more this time. I can go back and fix (at least some) word choice and flow by myself, and when that is all that I get for comments, it doesn’t help very much. This time, my peers gave me comments about content, areas for expansion, ect. These comments are going to be very useful in my revision process.

As for my own comments, I also tried to comment on content as well as structure, word choice, and other aspects. I tried to give advice that was beyond fixing one sentence. My comments were both positive and things for improvement. In general, my feelings about this peer review were much better than the previous two. This is due to both the way my peers and I reviewed, and also having already had the experience twice. I hope that my peer review experiences keep going the way they have, because each one has led me to a more positive view on peer reviews.

What are others saying?

The first classmate’s blog that I read was Maxine’s blog, and a few things stuck out to me right away from what she was saying. Maxine said, “The main difference I noticed was Williams placed Usage, Style and Grammar at the end of his book whereas Strunk and White opened their book with this topic.” I didn’t even begin to think of the placement of the different elements to style in the two manuals. I focused mainly on the content from them. Her idea makes quite a bit of sense though, and as she goes on to talk about, the difference probably comes from what each author wants us as readers to focus on. We both had the similar opinion that S & W and Williams both discuss needless words in writing. Although the way Maxine and I wrote about these concepts differed, I will venture to say that we both agree that both guides to style were attempting similar things. S & W were concise, and Williams was detailed. 

A common theme through a few of my classmates’ blogs was that Williams’ book was more up-to-date than the guide from S & W. This was another concept I had not thought too much about. In my own writing and comparisons, I focused on one rule or concept compared to another, but my classmates’ offered some really insightful ideas. Tony wrote, “information offered in Williams was a little more timely than that of Strunk and White.” He is comparing the fact that S & W offered rules like writing “wildlife” instead of “wild-life,” (Strunk and White 35) where that was left out of Williams’ book.

At this point in reading my classmates’ blogs, I feel as though I took a completely different approach to comparing the two style guides than most. This is not to say that my ideas are any worse or better than my classmates’ ideas, but it was interesting to see. Quite a few other students also discussed each books’ length. Everyone who discussed this said similar things, such as what Leeann said: “Strunk and White provide a short, concise guide to style,” compared to the length of Williams’ book. A few people talked about how they would use the S & W guide to style as a quick refresher, but to get further into their writing (for rewriting drafts and other things) they would use the book written by Williams. I agree with these ideas. S & W, although frustrating at times, gives an easy, concise guide to easy-to-forget rules of style; Williams offers a more thorough explanation of style. I may even end up using the S & W book as a guide for what to look for in the book by Williams.

Like pretty much all of my classmates, I agree that although dull at points (and long in the case of Williams), I did find the style guides useful. I said in my bp “Comparing S & W with Williams” that I will take these guides with a grain of salt, but this does not mean that I don’t find them useful. Like Lisa said in her comparison post, “both [books] contained a lot of information,” but it is information that will be useful.

emulee [Leeann J.]. “Comparing S&W to Williams.” WordPress.com. WordPress, 19 October 2011. Web. 26 October 2011.

fhsparty26 [Tony W.]. “Comparing Strunk and White with Williams.” WordPress.com. WordPress, 19 October 2011. Web. 26 October 2011.

kassiopia26 [Lisa M.]. “Blog Post 10: Comparing Strunk and White to Williams.” WordPress.com. WordPress, 19 October 2011. Web. 26 October 2011.

keyheatia [Maxine W.]. “Comparing Strunk and White to Williams.” WordPress.com. WordPress, 19 October 2011. Web. 26 October 2011.

Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Massachusetts: Pearson/Longman, 2000. Print.

Comparing S & W with Williams

In my blog on first impressions of Strunk & White, I discussed three rules in depth. The first of these rules was to use definite language, which is covered in Williams’ book as well. Unlike S & W though, Williams weaves his ideas of concrete language through many of his overall concepts. Instead of only giving a few examples and “rules” for using concrete language, Williams uses language in many of his concepts, including the use of nominalizations beginning in Chapter 2: Clarity.

 Strunk and White discuss wordiness through calling into questions commonly misused words. Williams does a similar thing by giving style tips about how to form language to avoid wordiness, and eventually gain clarity and grace. Williams gives many more examples (though sometimes TOO many) than S & W. S & W do a good job of giving some specific “rules” on the use and misuse of language, but Williams applies his rules in a way that demonstrates how to apply those rules in our own writing. With the two as a pair, they are even more effective.

 Now for the part that PISSED ME OFF in both books: in S & W’s style guide, the two rules that got on my nerves were (1) to avoid constructing what they called awkward words, and (2) to prefer the standard version of English. Similar concepts were presented in Williams’ last chapter “Usage.” In this chapter Williams describes why people who call Standard English better are wrong, which I agree with, but he says they are wrong in only their approach to why Standard English is better. One example was his comparison of the words “knew” and “knowed.” I understand, one is Standard English, but he goes on to say that those who use the word “knew” are educated, and those who use “knowed” are uneducated. What happened to dialects? Williams describes that language has been pruned to include on the best words and grammar, but if that is true, why do words such as “knowed” remain in dialects?

 Words that are not Standard have function, sometimes extremely complicated and intricate function, in English dialects. Think about the AAVE form to the word “be.” Standard English speakers do not have a simple, direct phrase to express habitual being, but AAVE does. Is “she is always at work during the day” more effective, concise, clear, ect. than “she be at work”?

 So, as you may be able to tell, I have come to appreciate both guides for what they offer, but only with a grain of salt. Being an ESL minor may be the reason that both of these books’ descriptions of Standard English really get under my skin, but those “rules” of Standard English presented by all of the authors make me second guess all of their ideas. I do appreciate S & W’s book for being concise and to the point, and Williams’ book I appreciate for expanding on familiar ideas and making them applicable. With my appreciation though, comes the realization that style guides, in no way, are the final say on what is good writing.

 

 

Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Print.

Revising with Williams

Description of BIO 110 – Introductory Biology I from the 2011 EMU Online Course Catalog:

 “The basic concepts of biology upon which students can begin to develop a conceptual framework of the discipline will be developed in this course and reinforced in upper-level courses. Cell structure and function, molecular biology, Mendelian and population genetics, evolutionary theory and ecology will be covered in this first semester of a two-semester sequence. Inquiry-oriented laboratory exercises and inquiry-oriented methods will be emphasized in lecture and discussion sections.”

My revision applying advice from Williams:

In BIO 110, students will be provided with basic concepts of biology. Those concepts, which are developed in this course and expanded in later courses, will enable students to create a conceptual framework of Biology. This framework consists of cell structure and function, molecular biology, population genetics (including Mendelian), evolutionary theory, and ecology. These subjects will be covered, emphasized in lectures and discussions, through inquiry-oriented laboratory exercises. 

 

Editing this passage, I focused on Clarity, Cohesion, and Coherence. These elements are lacking in the description of the BIO 110 course, and because of that, the passage is unclear and “turgid.” I don’t know why anyone would want to take the BIO 110 course by its description in the first passage (or why they would want to take it at all, but that is beside the point).

 By changing nominalizations to verbs, the second passage does not “merely… state that an action exists,” but “express[es] action” (30). Action then fits the subjects in the second passage. Changed from the first passage, those subjects represent the students who may take the course and the course itself.

 Cohesion did not exist in the first passage; each sentence jumped from one topic to another with no real “flow.” To create flow, Williams says to “use the beginning of your sentences to refer to what you have already mentioned” and “move complex information to the end of your sentence” (64, 65). This was partially done by moving and changing the subjects and verbs. Beyond that, I had to find connections between the information in the sentences from the first paragraph to create a paragraph that would flow.

 Going along with Cohesion, the first paragraph was lacking Coherence. Coherence is created by an “issue,” which is the “introductory segment,” followed by the “discussion,” which is the development of the issue (92). If the discussion does not fit the issue, then there is a problem. To create Cohesion in the first paragraph, I edited it using principles of Clarity and Cohesion, but also had to make sure that there was an “issue.” To do that, I had to edit out a sentence, and change quite a bit around.

 

Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. United States of America: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1990. Print

First Impressions of S & W

Often times, meaning pretty much all of the time, I struggle with the “Principles of Composition” rule number “16. Use definite, specific, concrete language” (21). I tend to be vague in my writing, not purposely, but because I am afraid to use a word inappropriately. I’ve read extensively, and speak with a large vocabulary, but something holds me back from using my knowledge of words in writing: fear. This rule is not helpful to me because it is a new concept, but because I need to remind myself to apply this rule. In speaking of great writers, Strunk and White say “their words call up pictures” (21); this is what I want to do with my writing.

In avoiding concrete language, I can often become too wordy. I will go overboard with unneeded words, so the section of Strunk and White’s book “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused,” hit me hard. I know that my language can go overboard and sometimes even sound precocious. This section was once again a good reminder for me to be more aware of my word choices in writing. Three examples of misused phrases that I know I am at fault for using are: “as to whether,” “as yet,” and “each and every one” (41, 45).

I think by this point, through my thread posts on the class website, I have made it entirely clear that I am not the biggest fan of style guides and rules. Although I see the point, reasoning, and explanation for style guides, I have yet to get the displeasurable thoughts from my mind when I read them. Although my use of the word “displeasurable” in the past sentence is use of an adjective and not an adverb, I disagree with the concept of rule “12. Do not construct awkward adverbs” from the section “An Approach to Style” (75). There is nothing awkward about creating new words if the meaning is clear. If there isn’t a word that I want to use more, why not make a word to suit my purpose?

The rule that struck my funny bone the hardest though, was from “Approach to Style.” This rule states “21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat” (81). Strunk and White explain that language grows and changes, as well as becomes outdated. They are writing about slang terms they believe do not belong in writing. I do believe that if I were composing a thesis paper, I would not casually use the words “fuck” or “dude,” but there can be a time and a place- even in acedemic writing- for the use of slang. All language becomes outdated, not just slang. Just think of the struggles we face when reading Chaucer or even Shakespeare (and Shakespeare used slang, damnit!).

 

Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Massachusetts: Pearson/Longman, 2000. Print.

Peer Review, recap pt. 2

This being the second of our peer reviews for ENGL 328, I felt better going into the process than I did for the first review. That being said, there were things I liked both more and less than the last peer review. I enjoyed the use of Google Docs for commenting, reviewing, and revising last peer review, and liked it even more this time.

The questionnaire threw me off a little bit though; I didn’t want to answer the rating questions too harshly, but I didn’t want to be dishonest. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I know these were rough drafts (the point of peer review for improvement), but it has been my experience in the past that people take comments that are meant to be helpful, as personal insults. I hope this will not be the case this time around, and I hope my peers see that I put my best effort into giving them feedback that I believe was both reflective and helpful.

On both my first and second essay, in my comments from both my peers and Krause, I have been told that my ideas are good, but my use of quotes and citations in my analysis needs to be done more effectively. I see where I have faltered, and know techniques I can use to improve. My peers this time around gave me some good tips as to HOW to make those improvements, and I truly appreciate that.

I know that one of my peers was upset because before today I had barely looked at her draft, but I hope my explanation to her was enough to clear the air. I do attempt to get my reviewing done at least one day ahead of when the peer review is “due,” so that my peers have adequate time to work on their blogs and their drafts. I did complete her review today, and hope that my comments were in time enough for her, and will also help with her revisions; I hope that my comments on both peers drafts will help with their revisions.

My comments tend to fall into one of two categories: grammatical and content. Grammatical comments that I leave are about things like word choices that could be narrowed down to create better effect, sentence structures that make meanings unclear, and awkward wording. The content comments I leave encompass a bit more. One thing I have found that I make a lot of comments about are people connecting their analysis and quotes to their ideas. Another content comment I have found is that I have asked people to explain things more clearly. Generally, I don’t comment outside of those realms, unless something is glaring at me.