Making Beautiful Sense with “Writing Well”

Writing Display by Pesky Library

My primary aim in this blog is to write well.  My secondary aim is to enourage others to write well.

Today, I picked up a copy of Writing Well: The Essential Guide by Mark Tredinnick.  I was only 3 pages into the prologue before I was hooked. Tredinnick writes –

“My book is about making beautiful sense.”

Beauty and meaning are two essential ingredients of good writing.  If beauty is sacrificed, you can end up with a poorly written instruction manual instead of a fine essay.  If meaning is lost, you can wind up with purposeless polemic instead of poetic prose that makes a difference.  Beauty and meaning are conjoined twins (at the heart) that must co-exist if common language is to be transformed into life-giving art.

Making beautiful sense is what Writing Well is about – but why is it written?  On this, Tredinnick launches into an almost run-on rant –

I’m writing this book because I’m losing patience with pedestrian prose: with loose constructions; with techno-babble and psycho-babble; with babble of all kinds; with the dreary, dumbed-down, polysylabic diction of public and corporate life; with the desiccated abstractions and cliches and with the group-think of too many bureaucracies and professions and businesses.

Whew!

Bad language – not just vulgarity, profanity, and blasphemy (though these could be included when used thoughtlessly) – is in vogue these days.  Countless books, articles, posts, e-mails, texts, and tweets are devaluing the precious commodity of our rich language, pawning it off as family treasures strewn along the information highway.

But isn’t this inevitable, you might ask?  The price of progress.  Language certainly evolves, and it evolves more rapidly with technological changes such as we see today.  Yet, I’m not without hope.  Beauty never ceases to be beautiful. Precision isn’t improved by sloppiness.  To freely paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, “Good language doesn’t cease to be good language when we fail to appreciate it.”

Over the next several weeks, I will produce periodic posts outlining concepts and including quotes (perhaps even writing exercises) from Writing Well and reflect on how these might improve my own writing (as well as yours).  I hope you’re up for the journey.

(image “writing display” from Pesky Library, some rights reserved)

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