How to write the perfect sentence - Joe Moran
Posted: 21 September 2018 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Orwell doesn’t come out of this well and I remember Dave not much liking his judgements on style. When George says “Good prose is like a windowpane” it is figurative like charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam. Other writers are covered. Gary Lutz (me neither) says, “The sentence is a lonely place...the sentence is a complete, portable solitude, a minute immediacy of consummated language” through a windowpane darkly.

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Posted: 21 September 2018 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Writers, especially good writers, are often not good at conveying what makes good writing. I think it has to do with what Steven Pinker calls “the curse of knowledge.” They have forgotten what beginning and mediocre writers struggle with. As a result, they give advanced writing advice to newbies. (Orwell is a special case. He is blissfully unaware that he routinely violates all the rules of “good” writing he espouses. One is advised to follow what he does, not what he says.)

Case in point: this nonsense about the sentence being the basic building block of writing. Poetry and certain highly stylized literary genres aside, the basic building block of good writing is the paragraph. Sentences rarely exist in isolation; they must work with what comes before and after them. Learn to write a good paragraph first, only then worry about a good (as opposed to grammatically correct) sentence. Good sentences are about art and style, and that’s varsity-level stuff.

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Posted: 24 September 2018 09:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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venomousbede -

“Good prose is like a windowpane”

The gaps one discovers in one’s education.  Isaac Asimov wrote an essay comparing writing like a plate glass window versus writing like a stained glass window, taking the simile to the extent of pointing out that clear plate glass is actually the more difficult technology, and was the much later development.  I was very impressed by this essay in my youth.  I grew less so as my reading broadened.  I had always assumed the simile was his own, but he undoubtedly borrowed it from Orwell.

As for the substance of the claim, I am currently going through a William Faulkner phase.  Am I to take his prose as being bad?

As for that clear-glass prose, when I first got a Kindle I went through a cycle of re-reading old favorites from my early adulthood:  books that I certainly would have considered to be of the clear-glass rather than the stained-glass prose style.  Reading them today, I often find the prose instantly recognizably dated.  Perhaps the simile should not be clear glass, but clear plastic that yellows as it ages.

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