Monday, January 7, 2008


Style exists on so many levels.
Recently I was looking at a book on academic writing that seemed to be forwarding the argument that style is central to academic writing; that it is what defines academic writing. (I don't have the book handy, here at the cafe, so I can't cite it in proper academic form.)

On the one hand, I can see the point; without the proper style, a work won't be accepted as academic, and, indeed, many aspects of academic style serve a significant purpose in helping one express important ideas.

But on a deeper level, I feel like this is missing the main point: academic writing is academic because it has a certain intention--an intention to educate, to share knowledge, and to demonstrate as clearly as possible the foundations for the argument and conclusions. Style does not define academic work, but it is a necessary accoutrement. Ultimately, no matter the form, if the idea behind the writing is not well founded or clearly developed, then the work is not really academic.

We get into habits of thinking. And the way we write reflects those habits. If we let those habits define us, then we become hide-bound. And if we experiment with new forms, we may think differently. Style reflects intention.

I know that I am stylistically terribly academic--everything is a process of carefully setting up arguments. And usually, it is also a matter of avoiding the first person, except in the most careful ways. But blogging, this new world into which I keep dipping my toes (but gaining little momentum), has different styles and different forms. The informality and spontaneity of the form are things that I would bring to my writing. I may be hide-bound, but change is good.

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