Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Writing: "Grace Always Trumps Pedantry"

I came across the quote in the title of this article while deciding whether to use "then" or "and then" in one sentence in Small Magics (I didn't use either. I changed the sentence). It comes from Jack Lynch's Guide to Grammer and Style (the actual quote is here under "Grace") and it sums up what good writing is as neatly as I have ever seen.

Good writing is graceful.

And graceful doesn't mean short or long or beautiful or grammatically correct. And it doesn't matter whether the language is elegant or foul, or if author uses short, choppy sentences in three line paragraphs or long, languishing sentences that make paragraphs run pages.

What matters is that the writing flows; that it takes the reader from one moment to the next, one character to the next, one scene to the next. And it doesn't matter if the writing guides the reader gently along or hauls the reader like a bouncer tossing a drunk. What matters is that the reader comes along for the ride.

You can always tell when the writer's grace has failed them. It's the moment when you suddenly find yourself stepping back from the book; from the moment and the characters and the scene and the world they inhabit. It's the moment when you actually think about what you are reading, rather than being swept away by it all.

So back to editing. Here's hoping for grace.


My mother caught a typo in the third paragraph (thanks Mom!).

And in answer to your other note, you are correct, it was intentional. Using the plural "them" to the singular "the writer" is a graceful way of being gender inclusive while avoiding the awkward "him or her."

(See how I worked "graceful" in there, relating this update back to the subject of the post? Slick, eh?)


Anonymous said...

Who's a clever little writer?
You are!
You know, you could have just said the mistake was there to test your readers...


Erik Buchanan said...

Who's supposed to be studying?
Who is?
You are!

And how could I keep my spotless reputation for honesty unbesmirched if I didn't admit my mistakes?

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