Irreconcilable Logics (4)

That brings me to the last of my three passions, writing. All my writing is in English, so all I have to say here applies to that language.

English is by far the richest language I have ever studied with more words, in its present form, than any other language. That means that the writer has many synonyms to choose from in expressing his thoughts. The wide choice allows shades of meaning to an almost infinite degree.

We English speakers are fortunate to have two superb dictionaries at our disposal, the Merriam-Webster Unabridged and the Oxford English Dictionary. The latter, in printed form, is twenty volumes. I have both on my computer and consult them regularly.

For common understanding, the writer needs to conform to rules of grammar and syntax. Our grammar allows us a precision in expression to say exactly what we mean. Violation of the rules confuses the reader and renders the meaning murky.

Syntax is an invaluable tool for conveying subtle emotional distinctions. Note the slight difference in meaning between “Quietly, she left the house” and “She left the house quietly.”

Beyond grammar and syntax, I work in two different writing styles, journalistic and literary. The journalistic style is used for most nonfiction. The source for accepted writing conventions in this style is The AP Stylebook. It is this style that dominates writing in newspapers and periodicals.

The literary style is for any literary writing, including fiction. Its two guidebooks are The Chicago Manual of Style and William Strunk’s Elements of Style. I use the literary style for this blog. If I followed the journalistic rules here, the names of the books just listed would not have been in italics. The AP Stylebook specifies, “AP does not italicize words in news stories.” I suspect that the no-italics rule results from the fact that so many newspapers can’t print italics.

Differences between the two styles are subtle. My preference for the literary is that it is more varied and specific and allows more clear expression.

More tomorrow.

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