GLS 592: Writing With Style
“All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, their habits, their capacities and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable.”-William Strunk jr. & E.B. White -
Through a study of grammatical rules and stylistic principles and an examination of style in others’ writing, this course focuses on analyzing qualities in writing in order for the students to ¹develop an understanding of what makes an effective writing style and ² incorporate the lessons from this class to their own writing. Recognizing the fact that the vivacity and beauty of the English language owe a lot to its complex grammar and immense, ever-changing vocabulary, we will examine English grammar and syntax to understand the boundaries in our use of the language and the opportunities the knowledge of grammatical rules presents to us. With the 2012 Presidential elections coinciding with our class, we will also look at political writing, and news reporting on political topics, and examine the rhetoric, methods, choices and styles of writing both by the candidates (or their staff writers) and journalists covering their campaigns.
In addition to revisiting the rules of English grammar and syntax, we will examine various types of texts throughout the course. These texts vary from creative prose, speeches and newspaper articles that the instructor will introduce to you, to your own selections of various texts from “real life.” Among our class activities, we will
- discuss reasons for writing in the first person,
- look at ways of using adjectives and adverbs carefully and effectively (less is more),
- consider the difference between showing and telling, and
- examine proper register (formal/informal) and code-switching (colloquial language/standard English) as part of the writing process.
While the day-to-day focus of this class is on studying style through others’ writing, it is an ongoing process for everyone in class to take note of any useful rules, techniques and advice that you may learn and recognize as a result of our course of study – whether it be from our class readings, discussions, or your peers’ writing. This class will not specifically instruct you in writing a novel, a poem, or an academic essay for that matter, but it will help you use language effectively, with an awareness for style. Finally, rather than expecting the students to gain a merely objective understanding of the elements of style, I encourage the students to seek relevant points of contact between themselves as writers and any activities we have as a class, and work on their own writing style along the way. As a result, students should learn more about themselves as writers during the course.
The class structure is based on in-class discussions of assigned readings and relevant in-class and homework writing assignments.
Assessment criteria: short homework writings, class discussions and analyses, a final writing project.
Tentative Course Texts:
- Hale, Constance: Sin and Syntax - How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
- Strunk, William & E.B. White: Elements of Style
- Assigned readings in Language—Introductory Readings
Last Update: June 25, 2012