Monday, October 18, 2004

What is style?

Style: my 1st definition

Style is writing in a way to reinforce the intended meaning of the words. This means making choices in diction and punctuation and syntax that goes beyond just content.

Styling with Joos: Sit Down and Make Yourself at Home

For Martin Joos, author of The Five Clocks, style is about keeping the reader or listener interested. He classifies style into different modes of “English usage”: intimate, casual, consultative, formal and frozen. Each level requires, with unspoken rules and societal and relational expectations, a different way of communicating according to the relationship between writer and reader (or speaker and listener). Consistent use of the rhetorical style within a mode results in a clarity of communication, with style’s goal to “keep the reader feeling at home” and coming back for more.

Revitalizing with Rankin: A New Theory

For Elizabeth Rankin, author of Revitalizing Style: Toward a New Theory and Pedagogy, style has gone out of style (374) and needs to be reborn in a new theory and brought back into the composition classroom. This new teachable theory, she writes, should define style as:
• a product and a process of harmony “by which the writer achieves his or her purpose.” (382)
• choices in composition that are influenced by complex and fascinating psychological operations: linguistic, intellectual, situational. (382)
• connected to language and reality: a theory that regards the individual self as much as the meaning constructed. (382)

Teaching with Weathers: An Admonition for Demonstration

For Winston Weathers, author of Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy, style is something the writing instructor spends time searching for and showing to his students. Style is something we work on in front of our classes, on the board. Style is something we try to convince students is important because it enhances:
• communication
• individuality
• attitudes and values
• personal freedom
• democracy
• flexibility
Style becomes relevant to the student when we show it at work in our own writing.

After the Readings: Rethinking Style

Well, if I could and to revise my definition, I’d like to be able to name of some of the “measurable, identifiable, describable” material that Weathers mentions as being available (369) in his rather compelling essay. But, sadly, I don’t know what different styles are called, how they are measured or are described. So, I stick with my rather blah definition and go instead to:

Style: 2nd definition in the required sentence

Forming content with an audience in mind by choosing words, punctuation and syntax, in order to enhance the meaning of the words themselves, is style: succinct for rhetorical theory with an audience of graduate students and the professor (who happens to be an expert in rhetoric) as compared to my blog where I write for an invisible audience I don’t have to face across a conference table; where I write letting thoughts flow from my mind to the keyboard; where I sometimes type in a stream of consciousness, playing around with a naturalness . . . not always logical because my mind isn’t logical (Ha! as if I needed to tell you that, by the way, did I tell you about my dog’s new trick and did you know that Zoë is blackmailing Charity?) . . . with my raw thoughts shifted about in blogger compose mode, rather than a formal kind of prose – my writing that says, this is me.


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