Tag Archives: StrunkNWhite

What I’m reading 15 Jan 2017 through 24 Jan 2017

  • Getting Started on Academic Twitter v2.0 – A current introduction and advice. – (twitter en3177 )
  • Editing wars at London Bridge Street – When procedures are offered up as irony, it's art. – (strunknwhite grammar )
  • The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear – The New Yorker – The New Yorker weighs in on authoritarianism in the 21st century: "at that terrifying first press conference of Trump’s, on Wednesday, we saw the looming face of pure authoritarianism. Rewards are promised to the obedient: those good states that voted the right way, the “responsible” press. Punishments are threatened to the bad: “They’re going to suffer the consequences!” Intimidation is the greeting to any critic. And look! There’s a claque alongside to cheer the big boss and deride his doubters. This is what was once called Bonapartism: I won and I can now do anything I choose. Victory, however narrow, is license for all. Autocracy, after all, has always been compatible with plebiscitary endorsement. The point of constitutional government is to make even the victors subject to the rules." – (authoritarianism politics trump )

What I’m reading 12 Jul 2015 through 15 Jul 2015

  • Technology Fails Plagiarism, Citation Tests – "plagiarism detection software is being unmasked as not as effective as using browser search engines." But with Turnitin, you don't actually have to read the paper. Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm thinking we don't trust our own judgements. But the better argument is this,

    "Both plagiarism detection and citation software are harbingers of the dangers of seeking shortcuts for teaching students any aspect of writing; spending school or university funds on these inadequate technologies, I think, is hard to defend, but the greater pedagogical problem is how technology often serves to impede, not strengthen our roles as educators—especially as teachers of writing. – (plagiarism fyw )

  • Fear and Loathing of the English Passive – Geoffrey Pullum – Pullum clarifies use of the passive in English. Makes one glad to be alive. – (grammar usage syntax strunknwhite )
  • Human Resources and Thought Control – Lingua Franca – Geoffrey Pullum – Another strike at the gramma and umbrage gang. This time it's a matter of getting a focus: Don't try to change the language – change the damn HR policies.

    "My point is that either it’s right to try to reshape people’s thinking by sculpting their phraseology or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then Orwell shouldn’t have been trying to manipulate our political perception through linguistic revision. But if it is, then HR people are not doing anything wrong by following Orwell’s example.

    You can’t have it both ways: Thought control through word or phrase eradication… can’t be uncritically regarded as right when Orwell does it but automatically condemned as wrong when your employer does it. That’s begging the question." – (grammar standards strunknwhite )

bookmarks for August 11th, 2010

elements of styles

thefiveclocks-1.jpgHere’s an observation from Jonathan Yardly at the Washington Post that pinpoints exactly where appeals to StrunkNWhite go wrong:

As White writes: “Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.” As both Strunk and White were aware, this is hard advice to follow, for it is much more difficult to be concise than to be verbose. Consider, if you will, the Gettysburg Address on the one hand and the rhetoric of William Jefferson Clinton (or, to be bipartisan, George W. Bush) on the other. It is the difference between eloquence and bloviation …

[From Jonathan Yardley – A ‘Little Book’ Bursting With The Write Ideas – washingtonpost.com]

The comparison is spurious: Compare one of Lincoln’s speech with one of Clinton’s or Bush’s and you might begin to illustrate something. But more on point, the Gettysburg Address does not follow StrunkNWhite’s advice. The GA is eloquent and it was when it was delivered. SNW suggest being plain, not eloquent.

(Yardly’s paper, too, slips under the SNW radar. The cutline – “A ‘Little Book’ Bursting With The Write Ideas” – is a cliché, and forced, and calls attention to itself as being clever. And blovation? C’mon. Isn’t that an attempt at a $20 word? A little more thought and Yardly might have found the Right Word. Or not.)

While Strunk might have told told Yardly, “That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I meant at all,” StrunkNWhite never can. The book has to be silent on the more complex matters of when to be elaborate and when to be plain.

ElementsOfStyle is a book of advice for writing at an East Coast University (from 1945 for all that), most of it obvious, most presented as coming from on high and without the rhetorical principles on which it rests. Without those principles, the reading writer is stuck doing little more than following the advice blindly – and winding up in muddles. I’d bet that Yardly knows better than what he says, but nostalgia can get the better of all of us.

I believe that one of the StrunkNWhite Rules is “Don’t inject opinion.” I’d check my old copy of SNW (circa 1975), but I’m using it to level my bookcase of Plato and Burke, Richards and Perelman.

If you really must have a slim book written Back in the Day to help you understand writing, try Martin Joos, The Five Clocks, 1961. Harvest/HBJ. $1.50. It puts StrunkNWhite in context. And it has jokes.