Elements of Style

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Papabravo, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. Papabravo

    Thread Starter Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,135
    1,786
    A long time ago, my English teacher handed me a book titled "The Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. The book is about effective writing. After reading a fair number of posts, and writing a few responses I'd like to start a thread to offer advice on how to construct a post to maximize the chance of getting the response you need. Here are my initial thoughts.

    1. If English is your second language, ask a friend to help you construct your post.
    2. Do not waste time and space on apologies -- for anything.
    3. Limit the number of questions in a single post.
    3. State clearly your attempts to solve the problem.
    4. Express your emotional states, like irritation and desperation, very carefully.
    5. Don't ask the members of this group to do your job or assignment for you. It is both rude and presumptuous.
    6. Avoid the one sentence post asking for a complete design. It is equally rude and presumptuous.

    The people who take the time to respond to your post expect to answer basic and fundamental questions. Most answers should require more than one sentence, and less than a term paper. A paragraph should cover the majority of cases. If the answer requires more than a couple of paragraphs you should think about breaking the problem up into smaller pieces.

    That's my opinion. What do you think?
     
  2. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
    5,072
    6
    I have a neice who's second languge is English. (Her third is French - she was educated in France. She has fluency with about a dozen languages.) She is a more eloquent English writer and speaker than I.

    To the converse, I've read many posts by Americans and Brits (both here and otherwhere) that are difficult to wade through. Poor spelling and bad grammer are hardly the ambit of the outlander.

    I do take the point. If one cannot make one's intent or idea plain, then one is encouraged to seek assistance.



    Thanks for the resource - I'll be sure to check it out!
     
  3. CoulombMagician

    Active Member

    Jan 10, 2006
    37
    0
    Considering the title of this thread I felt obligated to respond, I'm not sure how but I just feel like responding. :)

    Seriously though, sincere effort in composing the question is worth effort in an answer. Why waste a joule of an answer on an ergsome question? Watt's the point?
     
  4. Papabravo

    Thread Starter Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,135
    1,786
    Well spoken Masters, Magician and maker3

    It is certainly true that native speakers of English can butcher the language with equal skill, and they are more culpable for they have no excuse. I'm not looking for perfect command in every detail, but honest effort and consideration. In short the style of the post.

    If this board was conducted in French, I might be able to construct a rudimentary post, but L'academie Francaise would recoil in horror at my Franglais. Pick another of the world's many languages and constucting a greeting would be next to impossible.
     
  5. pebe

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 11, 2004
    628
    3
    I would add just one more point. That is, have the courtesy to acknowledge a reply to your question. There is nothing more frustrating than to spend considerable time and effort replying to a questioner, only to get no feedback from him.
     
  6. Papabravo

    Thread Starter Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,135
    1,786
    An excellent point. Politness can never be the wrong thing to do.
     
  7. thingmaker3

    Retired Moderator

    May 16, 2005
    5,072
    6
    I bought Elements of Style yesterday and began reading. So far, its really good stuff!

    This metaphore from White's introduction stuck with me:

    All through Elements of Style one finds evidences of the author's deep sympathy for the reader. Will felt that the reader was in serious trouble most of the time, a man floundering in a swamp, and that it was the duty of anyone attempting to write English to drain this swamp quickly and get his man up on dry ground, or at least throw him a rope.
     
  8. Papabravo

    Thread Starter Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
    10,135
    1,786
    Next time you see a document, do a search for "the fact that". I forget the rule number but that one always stuck with me, along with "use the active voice" and "write with nouns and verbs"

    BTW E.B. White is the author of "Charlotte's Web": a great story for all ages. I should read it to my grandchildren soon.
     
Loading...