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What is style?

This was an easy question to answer at the beginning of the semester. My original definition, as I remember it, was something related to whatever someone or someone’s editor thinks is correct. I still think that’s true, but there is more to it than I originally thought.

Before starting the course, I really had no idea that stylistic aspects were around going  back to ancient Greece. Things like clarity, while most definitely important in today’s style, was just as important then. While their writing and conversation wasn’t as… simplified?… as it is now, learning how aspects like that were utilized in such a primitive time was very interesting.

Style can be what you make of it. For example, look at our creation of a writing technology assignment. Everyone’s “style” was drastically different, and it proved how different the word is to everyone. While I think of style as a guide for writing, style is how you talk, how you communicate with someone, how you write, and even how you make a cheap online video for a project.

Everything we do has its own style. It’s what differentiates us from someone else. Where a style guide is different based on publication, each person’s style differs on a plethora of different factors (age, upbringing, friends, etc…)

If someone asked me what I learned in the class, I’d probably say something like, “I learned that style goes far beyond the AP Style Guide.” I say this because of all the different guides we read, some relating to sex, some relating to vampires, and some so old they’re barely useful today. Even when we made our own guides (which I had a blast doing, by the way), everyone’s take on it was so different — but they were all accurate.

Every way we talk, every way we write, every way we communicate utilizes what we think style is. There’s no one specific answer, none right or wrong, which is why I think the best answer is that style is what you want it to be.

I learned way more in this class than I thought I would. While my essays might not do the best job explaining how things relate to a reading, I feel I did do a fairly good job explaining how my thoughts and interpretations of what style is changed from project to project. It was a fun class to take, and one where I’ll actually take something and apply it to my life outside of the classroom.

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Final peer review…um… review

For mine, I didn’t get a lot of comments, and that’s okay with me. I’m confident in myself as a writer, so I know I shouldn’t get an overwhelming amount of comments in regard to my paper. But since mine are usually a “scaled down” version of what I normally turn in, I get a lot of comments like “just write more about the readings and you’ll be fine!” I think I’ve gotten one of those with every review.

What I really look for in peer review is grammatical stuff. I’ve said before you can never have enough eyes on your work, and I find that true. But it’s when people are wrong that I get irked. It doesn’t happen that often, but I can recall having to comment on someone else’s comment that they were wrong.

Overall, I find peer reviewing to be helpful. If you can make only one fix to your work as a result of it, why not keep on with it? Yes, it can be annoying to do, but all reviewing is at one point. I’m all for people looking at my work and suggesting things. If I don’t like a suggestion, I just won’t use it. But someone might have a good idea or point out something obvious that I’ve missed, so in that aspect I’ve found it beneficial.

Looking forward, looking back…

Looking back on the ancient styles and the like from the earlier parts of the semester, it’s not that difficult to find correlations between the movie we’re currently working on and some of the ancient styles we read.

When reading about the Ancient Greeks styles, they talked about things like clarity, which can be found in just about every style guide we look at. Even some of those “off-the-wall” style guides, about vampires most notably, made us look at different aspects of writing and how they relate to real life.

Creating out own writing technology had us relate letters, words, and writing in general to the world around us. No matter what we looked at, it relates to what we’re currently working on in that we’re applying our style to a practical real-life situation.

Our video is going to be about commonly misused phrases. Many of the phrases I hear all the time, and while I noticed, I never applied that to any sort of style. But people have been applying things like that to styles throughout generations. As long as there is writing, there will be commonly misused words and phrases.

I don’t see a ton of correlation between how we analyzed the YouTube commercials only because we’re not making a YouTube commercial. Yes, we’re making a video to post on the site, but it’s not a commercial with any underlying styles or anything to really analyze from that standpoint.

We’re simply producing an instructional video regarding commonly misused words and phrases to show our viewers when to properly use some of these terms. From an analysis standpoint, it’s pretty cut-and-dry.

Overall, though, some of the things we looked at in past readings helped us formulate our ideas. When we were discussing, we were thinking about what aspect of style we should use. Had we not utilized Ong and Barron and Manguel, we wouldn’t have had so many diverse ideas.

Peer Review 3

For this round of peer review, I didn’t think it was as productive from an idea standpoint as the others. And that’s nothing against the reviewers, it’s just how the project went. Everyone’s ideas for this are similar because they’re pulled from the same text. So most people will have similar things to talk about, just tweaked based on their direction.

It was helpful because the more eyes on your paper the better from a grammatical standpoint. Everyone will miss a period or a comma, and it’s nice to have people find those types of things in your paper. Overall, I got what I wanted out of it — a couple people finding my mistakes and pointing them out.

Since no one has written anything like this, no one really has any experience “grading” something like this for content, so I think most reviewers would be more apprehensive about making content changes. That’s mostly because the “styles” we chose were almost verbatim from Strunk and White or Williams.

From my other reviews from past assignments, the trend has been that I don’t elaborate enough. I suppose that’s true, but in my eyes, I think I did a good job of explaining. But I’m sure someone has done a way better job than me, making it appear I didn’t explain enough.

I also think that I don’t explain enough because I don’t like being wordy. I think meeting word limits can sometimes lead to bullshitting, which isn’t good writing or good analysis. So it’s probably my own fault for not elaborating enough with my past assignments, but sometimes I think explaining too much waters down the original points.

What the Others are Saying…

I checked out Maxine’s blog, where she was discussing the topic of “overwriting”, which she found in Strunk and White. Maxine says, ” Often time when I am trying to get a point across I repeat what I said just in a different manner or I tend to give too much information at one time.”

I think this can be true of my writing, as well. It comes out when I’m not overly educated on a topic. I will sometimes use it — I’ve probably used it in this class — when I don’t feel comfortable expanding on a topic. I saw it in some of my peer reviews, too.

I also like the advice she mentions when going back and re-reading work to eliminate unnecessary words. This is a great topic when you’re aiming for conciseness, but not when you’re trying to hit a word count. That is, if you’re out of topics to discuss. Overall, though, I felt that going back to re-read does make the writing flow better and eliminate any sources of confusion.

At the “Kassopia26” blog, I looked over her Strunk and White first impressions section. There, I saw a note about putting emphatic words at the end. While I didn’t discuss this in my posts, I think that this does make for better reading and put more “umph” in the sentence.

I do think that it could be difficult to restructure every sentence this way, though I don’t think it’s necessary. If a paper is lacking having the emphatic words at the end, it would be wise to restructure some of the sentences this way, but in my opinion, the writer should pick and choose the spots.

Overall, it was interesting to see what other classmates had to say about the readings. It did, in fact, make me wonder about my own style — the aforementioned re-reading part the most — and I will apply what they think to my own.

Comparing Strunk and White with Williams

I enjoyed reading these — I enjoyed the length of Strunk and White better, but that’s beside the point.

Both of these were helpful in their own ways. Strunk and White was a fantastic at-a-glance book, full of useful tips that a writer can slip through  in a short amount of time. Williams offered great info, too, but it was with a LOT more detail and wasn’t quite as “pick up and read”.

I thought that the information offered in Williams was a little more timely than that of Strunk and White — it didn’t include things like using “to-day” which is completely irrelevant. It did, however, discuss with great detail on things more relevant like keeping writing concise, ensuring writing has cohesion, and discussing a system of clarity. For things like our writing projects, I feel like this was very beneficial reading.

Overall, I don’t think one is more valuable than the other. I think they both offer great information, and while one is more of an at-a-glance and the other is more detail-oriented and could use a little more “mental marinating”. But if I had to pick one, I’d probably pick Williams because it discusses more about writing, and, I thought, was more timely. It discusses things like drafting. When I write a draft, I think of it as just a shell of my real paper. But after reading that section, I realized there’s a lot more to it.

If I had one major complaint is that they’re boring! But that’s to be expected. I’ve been writing for a long time, and while a lot of this stuff seems like I’m going through the motions. But if I were to pull a couple useful things out of the reading, it couldn’t have been more worth it.

Revising with Williams

To be honest, I found it rather difficult to find good examples of poorly written sentences in the catalog. It’s tough when skimming, but I probably could if I sat down and read a lot of it. But who really wants to do that??

Anyway, below are my examples.

From the catalog:

EMU’s COB endeavors to develop business leaders to understand and use innovative approaches to address the forces shaping their environment as they create and manage businesses with the highest ethical standards.

From Williams Chapter 2 titled “Clarity”, they mention eliminating unclear language precisely.  I took that as to make sure that the information contained in the sentence stays the same. From Williams: “To correct those problems, we need not avoid impressionistic language; but you have to use it precisely, and then move beyond it.

After reading that, my revised sentence is as follows:

EMU’s COB aims to develop business leaders who will create and manage businesses with the highest ethical standards through the use of innovative approaches addressing the forces shaping their environment.

It might not seem like the biggest change, because it’s not. The sentence was clear before, but it was rather wordy in my opinion. As a journalism guy, conciseness is the way to go, and it’s tough to throw this much information into one sentence while keeping clarity. The way I rewrote it goes from point A to point B to point C, all in order. To me, that sticks with the “Clarity” discussed by Williams.