Thursday, February 14, 2008

On the Importance of Writing Well

In a free republic, with the liberties of speech and of the press, there can be few things more important than writing well, as we are bound not only by right but by law to convince other men by reason and not be force. Writing must follow grammar but to it must be added art. Truth must not only be presented, it must be illuminated; that is to say made obvious by rational and elegant argumentation. The former so that it may conform to the truth, the latter so that it pleases and encourages further investigation of it by your audience.
Grammar teaches us how to write correctly but it does not teach us how to write well. It says that such a sentence is organized correctly but says nothing of its content - its truth or its elegance. A man who can arrange a sentence with the proper use of commas is not a good writer unless he can add to that a logical structure to the whole, truth in the particulars, and beauty in both. Dry language is unappealing, but so is ostentatious language; the use of meaningless words and artifice simply because they have the appearance of elegance is to be avoided just as much if not more so then the opposite vice, which at least does not deviate from the truth.
These then are my opinions on the subject of writing, a brief overview, but that is all the time I have available to me. I will try to write everyday, or at least every other day. By this I hope to attain to some elegance; hoping, but not likely to gain, that style which Samuel Johnson described in Joseph Addison, "familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious."

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