I'm Talking About Style by Scott Hinkle

posted Mar 7, 2017, 9:30 AM by Writing Center
My typical style involves a billowy scarf and a pencil-thin mustache. Sometimes when I’m feeling extra fancy, I’ll add a beret and shiny pantaloons.

Just kidding. I don’t wear these things, and I’m not talking about that kind of style.

Although we consultants are able to apply a certain level of adaptability when necessary, we all tend to employ a basic approach or default style during our Writing Center consultations. For example, while I’ve noticed some of us really dive in at the sentence level (some won’t budge until each one is “right”), I’ve tended to be a bit less prescriptive there.

I am always primarily concerned with the soundness of the thesis and whether the body paragraphs follow through with it, but when it comes to the sentences themselves, other than correcting grammar issues that obscure meaning or hinder readability (such as comma splices and run-ons), I tend to leave them alone.

To clarify, I guess you can say that I tend to focus more on content (or “ideas”) than on style; on what is being said rather than how it is being said. For example, I’d focus more on eliminating unnecessary repetitions or irrelevant information (as it affects content) rather than, say, the rhythm and flow based on the length of the sentences, or even vocabulary (as long as the word is not entirely incorrect to the intended meaning). This sometimes means letting a few awkward phrases slip through, as well as some of those dreaded “passive” sentences. However, if they leave with solid ideas and logical organization, I consider the session a success, the time well spent.

But like the seasons, styles change. For me, that season is this coming Fall, when I will be working at the Writing Center’s Journalism Satellite. This change means I’ll need to be all about style. Associated Press Style, that is. Soon I’ll be required to focus on exactly how things are written at the sentence (and even at the word) level, because AP Style calls for some very specific guidelines in addition to its general guiding principles of “consistency, clarity, accuracy, and brevity” (Purdue OWL). I’m very much looking forward to the change, and am learning as much as possible in the meantime. I’m looking forward to becoming stylish.

Maybe I should trade in my beret for a newsboy cap.