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Re: the elements of style



I suppose this is nitpicking about nitpicking about nitpicking.

HP Longrich said:
<Not to nitpick- okay, this is nitpicking, but that's one of the major
functions of this list- but the above paragraphs demonstrate bad writing at
its worst. In the first, the structure is convoluted, long words are used
where simple, everyday language will do, and language is not simply used
imprecisely- words and their meanings no longer have
anything to do with each other. For example, "defer" should be replaced with
"preclude"; "perceive" is nonsense in this context. We're forced to grope
for what this piece of writing intended to say.>

Or as HP Twain said:
<In addition to these large rules there are some little ones. These require
that the author shall
Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
Use the right word, not its second cousin.
 Eschew surplusage.
 Not omit necessary details.
 Avoid slovenliness of form.
 Use good grammar.
 Employ a simple and straightforward style.>
and
< When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a
literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say,
but you also perceive that he doesn't say it. This is Cooper. He was not a
word-musician. His ear was satisfied with the approximate word. I will
furnish
some circumstantial evidence in support of this charge... He uses ``verbal''
for ``oral''; ...' etc. etc. etc.>

You said:
<Well, now I'll get nitpicky, I understood what the writer of the first
paragraph is saying. You have to understand Osteology, which is one of the
reasons I think this list is needed. You have to describe the skeletal
elements in order to understand how they function and how they are formed.
If that is a problem....>

This is about communication as opposed to accuracy (which I am hardly in a
position to judge).  I can say that I came out of the quoted paragraph
knowing less than I might have.  If the list is going to teach me about
Osteology, which is in fact part of its value, and to introduce terminology
I won't immediately understand, then there is a particular obligation for
clarity.
Being right about the facts and thinking through your inferences is the
necessary first step.  The second step is determining who your readers are
and deciding how to get the response (understanding and even acceptance in
this case) you want from them.  Your style is your only means to accomplish
your intent, so that makes style important.
English major.