1. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    Are we diminishing the beauty of words?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ghosts in Latin, May 15, 2009.

    Hello again, guys.

    I can not help but to think that many people are missing an important factor in writing: the beauty of the words themselves, not just what they mean. I was reading this. . .

    Do things like this seem to be going a bit too far? I find, "His superior training was the great factor in his winning the match," to be a far more. . . satisfying sentence. It's my personal belief that good writing should contain a certain poetry to it, if you know what I mean. There is a difference between drowning one's self in purple prose, though — I do not advocate that, either.

    Does anyone else agree?
     
  2. chandler245
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    chandler245 Banned

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    I agree in someways, I can see what you are saying, Once someone told me that my writing is too surgical, needs to be more raw. :D So the sentence is needing poetry behind it.
     
  3. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    The beauty in words is in its clarity and understanding.
     
  4. Manutebecker
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    Manutebecker Member

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    I don't always agree with Strunk (and White) myself, the example you pose is one of the instances. I think saying that we're "diminishing the beauty of words" is going a little bit overboard, but do agree that people may be a little obsessive with omitting words.
     
  5. chandler245
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    chandler245 Banned

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    What type of flow should go with words?
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Yeah, I don't see the point in cutting the word factor out of those sentences...it doesn't contribute anything, and the different sentences holdmarkedly different connotations.
    I dunno, I read The Elements of Style and to be honest, threw most of it away....the advice on the basics of the usage of language and grammar are helpful but the "style" they advocate seems more and more obsolete in my opinion...
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    "His superior training was the great factor in his winning the match."

    [Should be. . . ]

    "He won the match by being better trained."

    The second sentence is better IMO. It doesn't have the weak "to be" verb "was" in it. It is active. It tells us exactly what he did. It is quickly understood even before you finish reading it.

    "Heavy artillery is becoming an increasingly important factor in deciding battles."

    [Should be. . .]

    "Heavy artillery is playing a larger and larger part in deciding battles."

    In this example, the second version doesn't add anything. It's not easier to read. It's not more active. Both are fine sentences, though.
     
  8. But take heart!
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    But take heart! Senior Member

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    Ngh, I don't know. Everyone has a different style of writing. Some people may write stories that are sopping with purple prose, and others may write so simply that you may as well be reading 'Run, Spot, run'. The point is, you can't really say one way is THE ONLY way. Everyone writes so differently, and... who knows? Purple prose might work for some people. Simplicity may work better for others. I mean, it's whatever works for you, right? Whatever floats your boat.
     
  9. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    Exactly! Although if you want to sell it, it needs to work for your perceived audience. ;)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Regarding the specific example: I can imagine a context in which the first example might fir better. However, in general it is sloppy, overblown writing, and the second version fits better more often than not.

    The problem is that we have been inundated with meandering crap sentences and have become numb to them. Exactly what does was a factor in say? Are there other factors? Or is it just turning a direct assertion to mush? It sounds like legalese, so that if someone determines another reason for the victory, the speaker won't be sued for making a false statement.

    He won the match due to his superior training. Period. No escape clause. Nothing wishy-washy.

    This is the point Strunk and White is trying to make.

    In the artillery example, the use of factor is merely noise. It adds nothing to the sentence other than word count.

    What has beauty to do with it? There is nothing beautiful about throwing in words that add nothing to the sentence.

    Beauty lies in elegant simplicity.
     
  11. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Well, Ghost, I obviously agree with you. In fact, I seem to recall saying something like this. . . somewhere.

    Ah, yes, I remember! I said that we dismiss poetic or image-inducing wording in favor of 'concise' and pointed wording.
    And, coming from me, that is almost odd, because I have a weak comprehension level and HATE needlessly poetic wording.

    Yet, on this website, everyone - for some reason I have as yet been unable to fathom - loves blunt wording. When I say 'blunt,' I mean it in much the same manner as the handle of a gun dropping upon one's skull.

    Would you rather, "He fought and won," or do you want the juicy details of the fight? Is this a documentary or a yarn weaved of, and for, entertainment?


    Both of the second sentences in your first post seem almost clumsy, particularly the second.

    That's like the difference between:

    The house was built for giants, and thus, was enormous.

    and

    The house was really, really big because it was made for giants.


    Everyone knows that the word 'thus' is obsolete, and why use 'enormous' when we can just say that it was really, really big? Seems like using an obscure word for no other reason than to show off an excellent-- oh, excuse me; a very, very good vocabulary.


    Of course, I understand the differences, but ultimately it means the same thing. Someone doesn't like the word 'factor' and therefore clumsily omitted it.

    Bah, humbug.
     
  12. Ghosts in Latin
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    Ghosts in Latin Senior Member

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    The most functional, efficient, and capable of vehicles are still painted.

    You're right, Cogito, there's nothing beautiful about "throwing in words that add nothing to the sentence" — but there is also more to writing than pure denotation and simply getting the point across. To claim that a word that can be removed should be removed, I think, diminishes writing to a descriptive police report.

    Also, hello, Atari. :) It's been a while.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Atari, once again, concise and terse are two different things.

    If it requires 100 words to describe the moment, use 100 words. Not 120, not 80.

    No one is advocating leaving out relevant details. The issue is words that add nothing to the sentence or paragraph.

    Please stop misrepresenting the argument for concise writing.
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    According to my dictionary, 'concise' means:

    concise >adjective giving a lot of information clearly and in few words.


    Anyway, that's irrelevant.

    I'm talking about having a feel, or atmosphere to the writing that is sometimes lost when one is concise, terse, brief, curt, or pointed.
    (Just so we're no longer arguing about the meaning, because no one is disputing that)

    If we're using the first example as the subject for our debate, then we already have two people who prefer the first, and I strongly suspect that some people only like the second because 'technically' it is correct. As you know, the active voice IS the only voice in literature. (And I only use mild sarcasm to make a point, not to be insulting, mind you. That point being that the 'technicality' is based solely on people's misled bias.)

    And, we all have our little prejudices, of course. The trick is to either comprehend the other person's point or to disagree in a friendly manner. So I suppose I could say that I agree with you, after a manner, but the situations I think of wherein your advice would be useful seems so obvious that I am not even sure we are talking about the same thing.


    Edit: Oh, and, hello Ghost. You seemed to have ABANDONED ME. Not that I'm bitter. *Puts knife in sink*
     
  15. Lavarian
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    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agreed, but I also think that "requires" needs to be put into context.
    Those requirements shouldn't be the bare minimum (in some cases) of what the reader needs to understand what's happening. Often in writing, I want them to understand the action- and then some.

    This isn't a disagreement, I'm just expanding on "requires."
     
  16. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, the examples in the book in this case are kind of boring, but can you think of a better way of saying the exact same sentence without having far more words than you need? Besides, that book is designed to teach technical skills, not creative writing.
     
  17. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    All of the sentences listed as examples read terribly imo. Maybe it's because they are isolated and out of context? You can't really judge a writing style with just one sentence. For example, the word 'factor' might be appropriate if the author elaborates on some other factors that influenced the outcome of the race.
     
  18. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I agree with you. Remember that unlike the Romance Languages, English has no official ruling body possessed of the authority to make definitive declarations on style or use. Every book you read on style for English consists of opinions only, as concerns when to use one set of words over another. Under no circumstance do I consider the word factor such an enigmatic or opaque word that its use should be suspect. Perhaps for a newspaper article, this kind of direction might be kosher. Newspapers are notorious for using 3rd grade reading level diction, and even then they tend to use it poorly.
     
  19. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Well, if my guess is correct, then the type of sentences are definitely not written for fantasy stories.

    It sounds similar to something you would hear on a television show like 'Future Weapons'.

    As a sentence in and of itself, though, I don't see this as poorly written:

    "Having a tight reservoir of oil was a factor in going so short a distance as we did."

    It's just-- a statement.
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    People have different accents and use different words when they speak, and so novelists have different writing styles: some are naturally concise and choose more modern words, others do not.
    Why not? I mean, who wants everything they read to be the same? We don't read only for the story, do we?
    Sometimes I'm in the mood to read something lazy and poetic, with long words, which I can meditate on--other times, I want a more punchy, modern style. I also enjoy switching between US and British authors.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just one more blip on my part then I am out.

    To the OP -

    A question like the one you pose may cause you frustration because, by definition, the only kind of answers that can be had are opinions. They are the only answers that exist. Just keep in mind three things when you are writing as concerns your question:

    1) Who is your audience? Does your choice in level of diction suit them?

    2) Is the word appropriate for the context? Have you chosen a rare and unused meaning for a word to apply?

    3) Does the word fit the style of what you are writing?

    I love 50 cent words as much as the next wordsmith, but when writing the narrative to a story I would not obfuscate or occlude the meaning I am trying to get across by using the words obfuscate or occlude within the narrative. I like these words, but they are not appropriate for what I am writing or to whom I am writing it.
     
  22. Romendacil
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    Romendacil Member

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    I do think that there is no fixed amount of word necessary to give a description of an action/event/character or the plot itself.
    Somebody said - use 100 words if you have to use 100 words, no more nor less. I find that it is impossible to know how many words you have to use exactly. For example I can give a very, very detailed description of a person... or I can say: "The man with the mustache..."
    It's a stylistic take other than anything else. And either can work in a certain setting. It would be very surprising for me to find a very short description of a main character who is important in the plot in a book written by V. Hugo... Also it would be out of context to focus on details of some place in the plot more than you do with other scenery.
    And I think there are no limitations to what style one can absolve....
    After all, this is the post-post modernistic era. :cool:
     
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  23. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use both types of sentence, especially in dialogue. In description, I use the shorter sentences first, then gradually change to using longer and longer ones before an action breaks the long bit of writing. It helps with suspense in description and with the depth of characters in dialogue.
     
  24. Lavarian
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    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course you can't know ahead of time, that's not the point. He's saying not to construct overly flowery sentences that have words with no real substance or meaning behind them just to make it look pretty. If you feel that it is necessary to use a sentence because it helps guide the reader in the direction that you want them to go, then so be it. But there's no sense in showing off. Usually readers can tell.
     
  25. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Late to the conversation as usual but my 2C.

    First learn how to write like the second example, than take your crack at writing like the first example.

    Or

    First study all the rules that Elements proposes, then you can try to break all the rules.
     

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