Thursday, May 04, 2006

Style Summary 3

Lesson 3: Actions

We began in this chapter to go over the principles of clarity. There isn't really a quantifiable number to go by to judge "clarity" and Williams states that it comes down to how the sentence "feels."

What was really helpful, useful, and just all-around entertaining to read was the interpretation of sentences into categories of "characters" and "actions." It was refreshing to think about my sentences asn paragraphs as minature stories, and it's an analogy I find very helpful.

Also helpful were the tips for identifying dense writing. Williams diagnoses dense writing as abundant in abstact nouns--that is to say, nouns ending in --tion, --ence, and --mat, especially when such nouns are the subjects of verbs. The process for diagnosing a sentence of this malady is to underline the first six or seven words in a sentence. If no verb has made an appearance by this point, the sentence is too dense. From this point, one must find the "main characters" of the sentence, so to speak, and identify their actions. After that, all one needs to do is eliminate the nominalizations and make the characters the subjects of the sentences.

The ultimate result of this process is a sentence that is more concrete, more consise, clearer, and more coherent. Williams reminds us, though that some nominalizations are in fact useful. He stresses that one shoudl strive for clarity but not simplemindedness.

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