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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Style Summary, lesson 10: Ethics of Style

In this lesson, Williams emphasizes the importance of clarity and mentions that "good" writing does not always produce clear and concise writing. The example of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is used extensively to show that although a great deal of Lincoln’s manipulation of his text is complex, he is not wrong in shaping his text this way. Lincoln was not clear with many of the points in his address, which Williams points out is intentional to make his reader/listener think for themselves about what he is trying to convey. Thus, it is not an easy task to define what constitutes “good” writing because there is not one absolute definition.
Williams advises to “write to others as you would have others write to you” (179). It is important to maintain a reliable ethos, which is the character that readers infer from your writing. Several potential defenses of writing with complexity are highlighted. Salutary complexity states that the harder one must work to understand what we read, the more deeply one must think to understand a concept. Williams quickly refutes supporting such a concept. Subversive clarity states that clarity is a device that sometimes oversimplifies concepts for readers, not allowing them to form conclusions independently. Williams essentially refutes both of these claims and suggests that a compromise between these two extremes is ideal.

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