Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, Steven Pinker

Pinker's accessible guide suggests that there are some writing "rules" that are made to be broken. Rather than obsessing over split infinitives and the like, Pinker counsels readers to take an approach that recognizes the broader view: "... for all the vitriol brought out by matters of correct usage, they are the smallest part of good writing. They pale in importance behind coherence, classic style, and overcoming the curse of knowledge, to say nothing of standards of intellectual conscientiousness."

It's a worthy contribution to the near-endless literature on the subject, and one that I suspect I'll return to again. And in the ongoing fight for clear, effective writing, what can we do? Well, he says:

We can share our advice on how to write well without treating the people in need of it with contempt. We can try to remedy shortcomings in writing without bemoaning the degeneration of the language. And we can remind ourselves of the reasons to strive for good style: to enhance the spread of ideas, to exemplify attention to detail, and to add to the beauty of the world.