Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Writing well

One of the advantages of having a blog in English and suffering from an urge to be always correct is that, sooner or later, you feel compelled to do something positive about your writing skills. Even if you, like me, spend days and nights producing doubtlessly English content, when you start to write an article you find that a very different language competence is required.

As it is apparent to everyone reading this, I have not made so much progress as far as this competence is concerned, but at least I found some resources, namely two of them, which I can recommend. Both are quite dated. Fortunately time doesn?t matter much in this faculty.

Elements of Style, ?the little book? was originally written and published privately by William Strunk in 1918. Its age takes away little from its usefulness but allows to read the first edition free of charge, e.g. here. As Wikipedia notes, the value is not only in the rules it contains, but in the examples it provides to support them.

Donald Hall?s Writing Well is the second and the last position that the library of the Warsaw School of Economics is able to offer on the topic of style. I only started reading; this book is not so ?little?. Halls? description of a cliché helped me realized that most of what I read daily is composed exclusively of it:

?Little cinder blocks of crushed and reprocessed experience (…) familiar and seem to mean something, yet are meaningless (?) prevent true contact?

In contrast to Strunk, Hall takes a broader perspective to the act of writing. Of particular interest is the understanding of how good writing is distinguished by giving the reader impression that the author is truthful in what he communicates, as opposed to feeling of indecisiveness and dishonesty in bad writing. Technicalities aside, this point struck me as a key and in the same time probably the main difficulty in writing the way that people will find enjoyable to read.