Between Scylla and Charybdis

6 September 2009

6.  Do not overwrite.

Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.  If the sickly-sweet word, the overblown phrase are your natural form of expression, as is sometimes the case, you will have to compensate for it by a show of vigor, and by writing something as meritorious as the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

[…]

9.  Do not affect a breezy manner.

The volume of writing is enormous, these days, and much of it has a sort of windiness about it, almost as though the author were in a state of euphoria.  “Spontaneous me,” sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius.

The breezy style is often the work of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day.

– “The Elements of Style” (4th ed.) by Strunk and White,  pp. 72-73.  See here, generally.

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