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Author Topic: Let's have a grammer nazi party!
Callipygous
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted May 28, 2007 18:06      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Welcome one and all! Leave your prepositions by the door, and keep your subjunctive clauses under control, we don't want the neighbours complaining.

For today's main course we have this guide to writing well. If you find that a bit too much to digest in one sitting, perhaps George Orwell's 5 Rules might be to your taste.

I remember the first time someone discussed Orwell's rules with me. It crystallised my own feelings about writing, and I still think they are a good starting point when trying to get some stubbornly incoherent thoughts into better shape.

Do you find rules such as these helpful or restricting when composing yourself, or do you just rely on your instinct and inner ear? What particular writers do you admire for their style as much as what they are communicating? Douglas Adams is an obvious choice, but I also admire Vonnegut's deceptively loose informal style. Of older writers I love Lytton Strachey's elegantly waspish writing, and the supreme stylist is perhaps Gibbon.

There is something both flattering and comforting in reading these writers, flattering because by communicating complex ideas simply with such aplomb they make you the reader feel cleverer than you perhaps are, and comforting because they also seem to bring things into balance, and make the world seem for a while to be a more ordered place.

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"Knowledge is Power. France is Bacon" - Milton

Posts: 2922 | From: Brighton - UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Grummash

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Icon 1 posted May 29, 2007 12:21      Profile for Grummash     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Callipygous - I'll admit that I found the first writing guide too lengthy, so I skipped it and had a look at Orwell's rules.

As a starting point they seem reasonable but, as with most sets of guidelines, they are appropriate most of the time but the occasions when they are not appropriate tend to be the significant ones.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
I'm happy with this one - it doesn't do to slide into cliche.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
...unless the long word has a particular technical definition or a nuance which the shorter alternatives cannot accomodate.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
I'm ok with this one, too. Economy can add great polish to a basically sound writing style.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
I've never yet heard a decent reason why this should be a 'rule'. They have different functions and it is only necessary to know which is the more suitable.
The letter was posted in Leningrad.
Someone, but don't ask me 'who?', posted the letter while he or she was in Leningrad.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
This is reasonable, although in fiction these devices can set a mood or help to define a character.

And who would I suggest as having an admirable style? John Wyndham - for his effortless precision and economy, which sometimes leads me to just read his English, rather than his stories.

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...and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes...

Posts: 2335 | From: Lancashire,UK | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged
garlicguy

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Icon 1 posted May 29, 2007 13:42      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Could vie hav eine Nazi grammar party instet?

Achtung! Und jetzt vie gesingen die geschwien-hund, Snoopy! Ja, wohl!

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Posts: 3752 | From: Pluto, no matter what you call it, is still my home. | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted May 29, 2007 16:36      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I like the links, Calli. Orwell's full essay was quite interesting as well. I've been thinking about my writing a lot lately.

I think the author whose style I most admire is Norman Maclean. Many authors would probably have intentionally expanded the same stories, while he was masterfully succinct in his writing.

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

Posts: 1590 | From: Fresno, CA | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged
Callipygous
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted May 30, 2007 05:57      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Grummash:
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
I've never yet heard a decent reason why this should be a 'rule'. They have different functions and it is only necessary to know which is the more suitable.
The letter was posted in Leningrad.
Someone, but don't ask me 'who?', posted the letter while he or she was in Leningrad.

I think it's because the passive tense can sound circumlocutory whereas the active tense sounds simpler and more direct. This "rule" like the others, has plenty of exceptions. He is only suggesting you think about it when revising your prose, so that you don't use the passive tense where it is inappropriate.

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"Knowledge is Power. France is Bacon" - Milton

Posts: 2922 | From: Brighton - UK | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
spungo
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted May 30, 2007 06:34      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I struggle to see how anyone could be passively tense. [Wink]

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Shameless plug. (Please forgive me.)

Posts: 6529 | From: Noba Scoba | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
quantumfluff
BlabberMouth, a Blabber Odyssey
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Icon 1 posted May 30, 2007 06:48      Profile for quantumfluff     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
QF's rule: Don't write an essay after you've been drinking.
Well, maybe you can write, just don't send it...

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fs

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Icon 1 posted May 30, 2007 08:07      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Lately I've been enjoying Raymond Chandler for style.

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I'm in ur database, makin' moar recordz.

Posts: 1973 | From: The Cat Ship | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
business attire
Highlie
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Icon 1 posted June 13, 2007 07:05      Profile for business attire     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm one of those instinct and inner ear people...
But (not to brag here) I'm often told that I have a fluid writing style, which flows exactly how I speak. I think its a good thing.

I blame my rampant use of ellipses...

The rules are interesting though. And shocking how some of them seem "common knowledge" for me, and yet some people just don't get it.

Posts: 619 | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged


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