[ExI] silly 'rules'

Dan danust2012 at gmail.com
Thu Sep 17 16:30:01 UTC 2015

> On Sep 16, 2015, at 5:51 PM, "spike" <spike66 at att.net> wrote:
> From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Dan
> >…Also, libertarians often use language as an example of a spontaneous order, where standardization arises (and alters) without the need of central planning. To wax Shakespearian: Why not cleave to that position? (To be sure, no one here is calling for enforcing standards of grammar, spelling, punctuation, or pronunciation at the point of a gun.;) Regards, Dan
> Cool post Dan, thanks.
> I am thinking about a couple things from what you said.  The reason why we tend to look to Shakespeare and other literary biggies as the basis for standardization is that these guys were so impressive in the way they stated things.  Wodehouse would take so little actual content and still somehow make you laugh just at the way he said things.  Steinbeck was another one: very simple language, sparse.  Hemmingway.  Consider the Hemmingway short story A Clean Well-Lighted Place, which is public domain now, so I pasted the whole story below.  Read it, it is very short.  Notice how that brilliant writer did all that with NOTHING.  There is no action, no conflict, nothing there.  But the story leaves a mental image that never goes away.  I first read this in high school, and I still get nada moments and shadows-of-leaves visions. 
> His is a clean well-lighted story.  The whole thing can fit on one page if printed in normal font.  Each word is chosen carefully.  It is so well crafted, if you changed even one word, it would diminish the work of art.  Now THIS is writing:

It's a kind if writing -- not the only kind and not the best kind. On the latter, I'm not knocking it because I don't think there's one best kind.

There's a tendency to confuse the way Hemingway and his myriad followers write with the correct way to write. There's also a tendency to not notice that Hemingway and some who are heavily influenced by him write pretty complicated and even long sentences. The opening paragraph of this story is an example, usually overlooked.

By the way, I don't know anyone today who seriously uses Shakespeare as a basis for standardization. I think some who make that comment haven't actually done any deep reading of Shakespeare. A problem for using him as a standard is that he's idiosyncratic. But an even bigger one is that he mainly wrote in verse, which is hard to codify as a standard for either writing or speaking in prose.

Like with grammar, etc., I would say the style of a piece has to match the goals of the piece and the writer -- and not follow the style of another work or author simply because that's judged to be superb. (There's a whole debate over what exactly style is too, though I imagine Anders will post on it.;) I'm not saying one can't learn from Shakespeare, Hemingway, etc. I'm saying one should limit oneself to trying to be like them in terms of writing -- as of something is writing that unlike Hemingway (or unlike a caricature of Hemingway) has missed the boat. (I'm not even getting into the issue of different ages here.)


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