Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Style: The Art of Writing Well

With the Value Investing Conference having wrapped up (see notes here), investors will be pouring over the ideas offered up by some of the premier thinkers in attendance. The ideas that appear to gain the most traction appear to come from those who know how to communicate well.

But most of us are poor communicators. Fortunately, better communication is something that can be learned, to some extent. I recently had the opportunity to read Style by F.L. Lucas, a book that teaches certain tricks and follies of the communication trade.

Lucas makes no false promises: he cannot necessarily teach you to be a great writer. Some raw talent is necessary. Unfortunately for most of you (and me), few possess such talent according to Lucas. But for those who do, this book is meant to help them reach the next level.

For example, Lucas tackles subjects ranging from how an author can convey sincerity to the best methods of writing to what makes a metaphor great/terrible. In so doing, Lucas employs examples from the worst and best authors of his day, offering the reader a clear illustration of what one should and shouldn't do.

One criticism I have of the book, however, is that the author did not always follow his own advice. For example, it took Lucas some 15 pages to stress the importance of brevity...how's that for irony?

In addition, a lot of it was over my head. That can hardly be considered a criticism of the book, however; instead, it probably says something (or not very much) about the critic. But the book was first published in 1955, and so some of the "famous" works/authors that Lucas draws reference to have not been heard of studied by yours truly. In addition, Lucas draws examples from a large range of languages of which I know not a single word.

The literature-inclined among you, however, will enjoy this book. Mixed among the writing advice is a good dose of humour, especially when Lucas berates an author for poor style (a frequent occurrence). Reading Style: The Art Of Writing may be able to help you avoid the same fate!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saj,

Have you ever read "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White?

http://www.cs.vu.nl/~jms/doc/elos.pdf

It's a classic.

- aagold

P.S. I see the version I linked has just Strunk as the author... don't know what happened to White.

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