Tags:
  1. A.J. Pruitt
    Offline

    A.J. Pruitt Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2014
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    BC, Canada

    Style The classic english style of writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by A.J. Pruitt, Jul 29, 2015.

    I read a story last night that really re-vamped my love of the classic English style of writing. I was wondering if anyone of the writers, or want to be, writers in this forum bother to read this style of writing in this modern era. Is this style a lost form or is there still a place for it?

    A great example if one wants to read from an era of classic English writing.
    http://compositionawebb.pbworks.com/f/owl.pdf
     
    Gloria Sythe likes this.
  2. Gloria Sythe
    Offline

    Gloria Sythe Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2014
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    52
    Location:
    Nelson, BC
    I read them occasionally. We had to read them in our English classes. Some of them were a little difficult to follow at times because the style is so different than what we are accustomed to reading today. The story you supplied the link to was not all that difficult to read. Some of the older books, like say in during the 1500s to about 1910 or so, many authors were still using the old style of British English. Today's authors do not have the vocabulary to write like that.
     
  3. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,827
    Likes Received:
    7,353
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, I still read that style of writing. Some of my favourite stories have come from 19th century writers, both sides of the Big Pond. I am 66 years old, so have had a near-lifetime of reading, and the classics were what I read as a child. I like some modern writing as well, but the 19th century style is what I usually revert to when reading AND writing, to some extent. I love a slow story.

    Modern creative writing seems to teach that all extraneous detail should be axed from any story, and you should arrive at the conclusion of your story as fast as possible. An acceptable novel's word count today is approximately half to a third of what it was, say, 50 years ago.

    Any effect should have immediate effect. No slow buildup. That rather mirrors our travel today as well, doesn't it? Skim the surface, jump from rest stop to rest stop, pay no attention to what's outside the car, the train, the bus ...or the plane. That's all hurtling by too fast to see anyway. So.... just concentrate on 'getting there.' Journey over. Next.

    Older journeys were done much more slowly. People didn't expect to arrive immediately. At the same time, the pace of the journey didn't obscure landscape details either—even close-up ones. Instead, people focused on what was around them, thought about what they were seeing and experienced weather conditions as the conveyance trundled slowly along. Heck, folks even used to walk for miles in all weathers as a matter of course, in order to get somewhere (not purely for exercise.) The experience of travel was rich with sensory detail and thinking time.

    I think I'm still of that mindset, that slow is relaxing, enlightening and ...dare I say it ...fun, if you're prepared to take your time? I look forward to slow journeys, less so to fast ones these days. I love to meander, look around. Maybe that explains why I enjoy slow literature.

    Slow doesn't mean boring ...far from it. Slow means being attentive, alert, mindful, awake ...alive.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
    Gloria Sythe and A.J. Pruitt like this.
  4. A.J. Pruitt
    Offline

    A.J. Pruitt Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2014
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Jannert;....... I enjoyed reading your post. You have stated what I have believed for many years. Our modern day style of story writing has been simplified to the point that today's writers do not need to study English other than the changing world of grammar. I agree that we tend to skip over details that would strengthen a story tremendously. I was made acutely aware of this change in styles when I work for Woman's Day as an editor. "Get to the point as quickly as possible with limited use of multi-syllable words." I was also told that simple, every day verbal language was to be used in anything that appeared in the magazine.

    We have lost so much in the classic style of writing and a broad knowledge of our language.

    Thank you for your well thought out comment.

    A.J.
     
    Gloria Sythe likes this.
  5. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Absolutely not true. In fact, we have more words now than someone like Shakespeare did inside English. Shakespeare obviously knew Latin and French though, so there is that.

    Old styles are pretty nice, but it's condescending a bit to think modern writers can't write like that anymore. It's just the conventions of English expressions have changed. It happens all the time. I mean, take a look at these three extracts:

    The first two paragraphs of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, published 1722:
    Daniel Defoe's work shows another significant shift in the conventions of literary composition that I can't show here, the novels are just one continuous block of text with no chapter breaks.

    Here's the first two paragraphs of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published 1818:

    Here the language has changed, it's become much more focused on drama - as per the Romantic ideals it was written to conform to as opposed to the objective reporting style of Daniel Defoe.

    Here's the first two paragraphs of Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence published in 1913:

    Here the writing is focused on evoking the image of the West Midlands/Yorkshire landscape while giving you the world the novel is set in.

    The language of the text and general style is dicated by the general mood of the age. Modernist texts like Lawrence's are not focused on being 'pretty' like the Romantics or being written in a high language like the Neo-Classical text, but instead on depicting life. There is, which cannot be presented here, much more of a focus on dialogue than Frankenstein and Moll.

    As for writing in the antiquated style of Defoe or Shelley, it does have it's place, and if you are interested in modern novels in that style check out Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (which is written rather like Frankenstein) or Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (which is written much more like Moll Flanders). Both of those novels are set in a time that reflects their writing style though, so I guess that is the key - context for the writing style you pick.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
    jannert and Kingtype like this.
  6. Gloria Sythe
    Offline

    Gloria Sythe Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2014
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    52
    Location:
    Nelson, BC
    I was not meaning "more" words. The English language has evolved with the times. What I was trying to convey was the use of words that were commonly used in the era of the classical English writers and/or those who studied that type of English. The use of single or double syllabic words does not make a better writer. It's the type of words that are being used how they fit the story that makes a writer.

    As Jannert stated, the general idea or criteria now in writing is to say it as quick as you can and as simple as your can. I doubt very little if a modern day publisher would even look at a classical English (middle English) written manuscript.
    Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) was much criticized for his earlier writings (ex..The True-Born Englishman) as being being written in what was then known as "lower English". He returned to an upper English academy of the day to learn proper writing form. I am not going to get into details of this form of writing; however, the academies required a very board use of English terminology of the time and were required to use that language in their writing. In fact, the early English language (Upper Middle English) was the cause of a 6400 page dictionary (the first Oxford English Dictionary). Most writers of the day wrote in that style using a very broad vocabulary.

    As both AJ Pruitt and Jennert stated, the modern writer are required to get from opening page to the end, as quickly as possible. Also, as Mr. Pruitt stated, when he worked for Woman's Day Magazine, they wanted very simple words that "all" readers could easily understand. Most modern publishers have the same criteria for works published.
     
  7. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Middle English isn't Defoe, middle English is Chaucer. Defoe wrote in middle diction.

    Modern writers do have the vocabulary to write in those styles, as my examples of Pynchon and Clarke illustrate, and it will even be looked at by a publisher, but it has got make sense in the context of the novel.

    And no, not all modern writers need to get from one cover to the other very quickly. Pynchon again is an example of that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2015
    jannert likes this.
  8. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,827
    Likes Received:
    7,353
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think what I said is getting misread a bit. What I said was Modern creative writing seems to teach that all extraneous detail should be axed from any story, and you should arrive at the conclusion of your story as fast as possible. I probably didn't say that as well as I could have done.

    Obviously some modern authors ignore this advice, and write in a slower, more comprehensive style. But this 'quick' writing does seem to be what most writing books now teach is 'good' writing— the kind of writing that will 'sell.' And the accepted first novel length is MUCH shorter than it used to be. I mean, Gone With The Wind was a first-time novel by an unknown writer, it topped 245,000 words, and nobody turned a hair back in the 1930s.
     
    Lemex likes this.
  9. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yes, we do. The tools are not lacking. Its more a matter of demand shaping supply as @jannert has already lamented. Think of as owning a Bugatti Veyron. It can do over 250 mph. Gobsmacking, that. But where? Rare is the strip of pavement that allows a Veyron to really stretch its legs.
     
    Lemex and jannert like this.
  10. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    Yeah, I see your point. I would not pay much attention to 'how to write' books and such, a lot of them are very subjective. I mean, Katie Moss's first novel was 500 pages, and her length has not impeded her popularity in any way. You still can write like that and publish it, but its rarer due to conventions after Modernism.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    A quick Google gives me this as a sample of middle English:

    Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
    The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
    And bathed every veyne in swich licour
    Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

    (Canterbury Tales)

    I'm fairly sure that you're referring to something else?
     
    Lemex likes this.
  12. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    ^this is right.

    Old English is Anglo Saxon - like Beowulf
    Middle English is Chaucer and Sir Gawain
    Modern English is Shakespeare to now.
     
  13. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    Chaucer is a lot of fun in middle English. I have not tried Sir Gawain.
     
  14. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    It's fantastic, I'll send you a section via PM.

    But I think what Gloria Sythe meant was 'Middle diction'. The language we speak is split into three levels, and it's use depends on the social situation or goal of the use of language. Low diction is heavy use of colloqualisms, like the Geordie expression 'Ai mate, ya alreet?' Middle diction is 'Hello, how's it going?' and high diction would be 'Hello sir, I trust you are well'.

    Those might be bad examples, but I trust everyone gets the point.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  15. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    I think I'm having trouble figuring out what people are seeing that distinguishes the original writing sample from whatever they are reading or finding in bookstores. Am I reading particularly complex books, or am I just not understanding something? Because I'm not finding it all that elaborate or complex or whatever people are seeing in it. Is it the vocabulary? The sentence structure? The paragraph structure? The long, meandering exploration of the original scene?
     
  16. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yes! :) And if one is willing to let go of one's inner pedant, and read his work knowing that it was written before the printing press, before standardized spelling, you come to see that Chaucer's English isn't as off as all that from what we speak today. As a linguist, Chuacer's work gives a fascinating window into how the standardized English of today might have been spelled had the printing press found its first home in a different part of England. :agreed:
     
  17. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I have a question for you relating to this post, I'll PM you.
     

Share This Page