Do you have any advice on style?


 My most recent favorite bit of advice in relationship to writing style has to be the concept behind Jimmy Chen’s narrative analysis. Chen says all writing comes from three possible categories: the head, the mouth, and the heart. 


Chen sorted well known authors into the above venn diagram by the primary style of their writing. Each style has its own charms and failings. Chen’s explanation is pretty concise: 

I think of all writing being from the head (pros: cerebral, conceptual; cons: didactic, dry), the mouth (pros: language, poetics; cons: empty banter, pure form), and the heart (pros: empathic, intimate; cons: sentimental, emotional)

Ultimately, you need to first identify where your style falls in the trifecta. Develop that style, and then push your boundaries. Find, if you can, a comfortable meeting between two or all sections. 

This is a very interesting concept, and although I don’t completely agree with this argument (for one thing, is sentiment really a failure?), I still think it can be thought-provoking and productive to think about style in terms of the head, mouth, and heart.

Strunck & White’s Elements of Style has often been called the writer’s Bible. Its most famous instruction? Rule 17.

In our writing workshop on October 18th, we focused on concise writing. If a writer can make the same statement with fewer words, their brevity gives them power. 

An exercise: pull out an old piece of your writing. How many of these words actually convey meaning? How much can you cut out?