Style Shifting

I love run on’s. This is a revelation I have often. I notice it it when I count only 3 periods in a long paragraph I have just written, and when the most common feedback I receive in red pen is “split up your sentences!” Being concise in my writing has always been my biggest struggle, and the area I work on improving the most. The Style Masquerade activity forced me to ditch my long sentences and adapt Gertrude Stein’s style of writing. Her writing, in contrast with mine, is very concise and consists of all compound sentences that are parallel in structure. Because the piece of writing I chose for the activity was a formal research paper, Stein’s style probably wasn’t the most appropriate. Yet, being forced to eliminate fluff from my sentences and pick out the core ideas helped me in my struggle to mitigate my run ons.

On a different note, I have a few different ideas for my Why I Write Project. I contemplated this question as I applied for the writing minor, and tried to answer it in a briefer sense on the application. Essentially there are a few ways I could frame my answer. For one, my mom is a writer, and I might frame my essay around that premise, and on how her passion affected my childhood and early tendency towards writing. Another approach I could take would be to frame my essay around one of my favorite quotes regarding writing and story telling from the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This book fascinated me, as did O’Brien’s style of writing and his thoughts on the writing/story telling process.

 

Style-ish

Writers essentially distinguish themselves from one another through their style. All are given the same raw materials to experiment with; words and phrases with shared meaning. Like painters and their canvases, or dancers with a piece of music, it is up to each writer to determine how to utilize their blank slate.

When I write, I have a difficult time likening myself to a painter, a choreographer, a photographer. Some subconscious barrier prevents me from categorizing myself in the same creative realm as my peers. I realize that it’s all in my head, but sometimes I feel as if my worries about defining my writing style cloud the fact that my style is in fact existent, and is constantly in development.

I loved the style masquerade activity, because putting on the “mask” of someone else’s style was a useful way of comparing your style with someone else’s clearly defined POV. Upon seeing that I was tasked with mimicking Martin Luther King Jr’s style with my English 315 Final paper last semester, meager in persuasive power in comparison to MLK, I almost laughed out loud. But adopting his tone, word choice, and abstract/concrete language proved that embracing elements of style in my writing need not be laborious. Rather, style can be fun and easy. You could say I was surprised.

I think I want to tie in my “Why I Write” project into these realizations in some way. Most of the time, when I write, it’s because I have to. When I was younger, I was constantly sketching, writing in my diary, and writing letters and notes to family/friends. Somewhere in the sea of high school and college academic writing, I lost my creative spark and my passion for writing. I’m hoping that minoring in Writing, and being given the opportunity to explore Why I Write through different media, will enlighten that spark.

#STYLECHALLENGE: Navigation

From the very start of my remediation project, it was a goal of mine to incorporate the “journey”/”travel” feel that my repurposing project consisted of. After deciding to create a website for my remediation project, however, I knew this would be a bit more difficult than it was for a magazine spread. How was I going to incorporate this journey/travel aura on a multi-page website? I needed to find a way to string all my pages together, in a way that would allow the users of my site to feel as though they were traveling to different places in the world.

After meeting with Professor Silver, she gave me great insight into how to fix this problem. Instead of simply having a menu at the side of my site with different tabs, I figured out how to link the different pages under particular tabs together. For example, one of my tabs is a review of different restaurants in Ann Arbor that serve unique and tasty salsas. When you click on the tab, which is called “HOT” SPOTS, you are taken to an introductory page about Ann Arbor in general, and how it houses many Mexican restaurants. Then, instead of putting information about the three restaurants I chose to include (Isalita, BTB Cantina, and Chipotle) all on that same introductory page, I created hyperlinks that takes users to separate pages, each with information on just one of the restaurants. This also solved the problem of having too much text on a single page. The “HOT” SPOTS page now looks like this (the red words are the links):

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 4.39.38 PM

In addition, Professor Silver also mentioned that instead of forcing users to click on the tab menu each time they wanted to get back to the introductory page or read about a different restaurant, that I should string the pages together. At the bottom of each page, I put a link/button to help users navigate through, or “travel” to the next restaurant. This way, they can move back to the previous page they were on, or move ahead to the next page, without having to go back to the introductory “HOT” SPOTS page and search for the link for the restaurant they want to read about. An example of this new style feature on my site looks like this (the links are in yellow):

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 4.43.40 PM

Different Styles Different Writing

As Emily and I are working through our remediation, we’ve noticed how important it is to be flexible and willing to change. Working with a new medium and a new topic and way of presenting requires us to try different things and be willing to continually adjust to find the best combination.

We started off with wix since it seemed to have a very fluid interface that allowed us to manipulate many components of the site. As we’ve worked, however, we’ve realized the formatting doesn’t quite suit our needs in the way that we would like and have now shifted to tumblr. As I’ve been adding captions to our pictures I’m also struggling with how to preserve our site theme of simplicity and visuals, while still capturing the scene and the quote with selectively chosen words. Originally, I had literally laid it out question followed by direct answer. Now, as I try to make the site flow together more, I’ve realized that I can use my writing to set a tone. I can bring in the setting of that person speaking and all of a sudden, the story comes alive. We had an incredible time interviewing people and heard amazing responses. For readers of our site, I want them to have a glimpse of what it was like to be there and how the words were spoken. Sometimes, I’ve realized, it’s not just what people say, but how they say it.

Twitter Style

For my remediation project, I’m working on creating a successful, anonymous advice twitter. In the beginning, I thought that all it would take was for me to tweet a lot about a certain topic. After researching advice for twitters in class today, I have realized that the style or vibe that I give off in my twitter is something of importance.

Community. It’s a word you don’t often think about when typing on a keyboard to a cold screen. However, being active in the community your twitter applies to is an important factor in being an advice/anonymous twitter. Nobody wants to read what you have to say all of the time.

So while I have worked on my own content, today I have worked on my interaction with other twitters as well. I’ve followed twitters that are for fashion, writing, business, advice and recently found a few that are aimed towards  young professionals. Most of the young professional twitters I found are area specific and more about a certain job type or city, but I think they will be great to connect with.

So while my design challenge isn’t exactly like everyone else’s, I’ve challenged myself to do research and learn how to be a successful twitter. The main goal I have is to be an extrovert online, seems contradictory huh? But I’ve learned its important to be interactive with the community so I’m going to challenge myself to change my style in that way.

 

Here’s the link to the site where I got most of my advice: http://www.blackbeardesign.com/10-tips-for-twitter-success/

What’s my style?

The most recent thing I’ve written was a cover letter for an application to a part-time job, so it’s not exactly a paper, but nonetheless it was easy to find my style throughout the entire page. I’m not one to go for the simplistic. I think this is always because I feel that I’m not explaining enough or that people won’t understand what I want to say if I make my sentences simple. It’s no secret that I love detail and that I love rambling. Almost every single sentence in the cover letter is either a compound or a compound-complex sentence. I’m finding it uncomfortable, even now, trying to write in any other sentence shape. Is simple better? (Yeah, that was hard.)

I’d say that my diction is quite captivating. I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I do have a tendency to write with the intent of capturing my audience and making them feel a certain emotion while reading. And I feel that I accomplish that much of the time when writing for purpose other than reflection as I am now. The chapters on style that we read made me realize that semi-consciously I usually choose one word over another with similar meaning in order to provoke the reader. My word choice falls closer to the abstract side of diction where the words are broad and emotional rather than exact and defining. My writing over dramatizes simplistic ideas a lot of the time and now that I’ve read the chapters on style I’m wondering if this is only confusing my readers instead of achieving my real purpose of invoking emotion. I think that I do this simply to play up my essays, to dress up my obvious lack of ornate vocabulary, and to convince my readers via emotion rather than facts. My inner self-conscience little being is always afraid that people will see through my writing and come to the conclusion that I have no idea what I’m talking about. So I try to make them feel emotion toward my topic rather than spit facts that are probably only half true at best.

I’m guessing that a mix of abstract and concrete diction would make the best argument, but it’s something I’d have to work on in my writing because I don’t think I’m confident enough to go off factual, hard, definite information instead of my gut and my emotions. I think maybe I’m afraid of being proven wrong. . .

 

 

Analyzing Style

First of all, this exercise was a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated. I figured my go-to sentence structure would jump out at me and follow all the conventions from the reading but…language is hard. I think I’ve taken for granted speaking and reading English my whole life and the natural sense of  “oh, that sounds good,” because although I’ve absorbed years of English classes and all their wisdom, I never considered the real implications of periodic sentences and latinate diction and all these Important Writing Concepts until now. Anyway. I took a look at a recent essay I wrote this past spring term for English 325 (creative nonfiction) about running (the prompt was to write a meditation/reflective piece).

Discovery: I’m kind of a rambler. I like adding qualifiers to the end of my sentences, letting them linger on and on, adding more and more details that I really don’t need sometimes, like really Margot, end the sentence now, seriously, please, thanks. (see what I did there)

Okay, they’re not all that bad but I definitely noticed a pattern. A ton of my sentences were compound and simple – “Swimmers in designated lanes rush from one end of the pool to the other and the only word that comes to my mind is confined” and “I used to turn into a noodle a few times a week at a yoga studio in my hometown,” respectively. I found myself rarely using complex sentences – I think because this was a more personal essay, I used more independent clauses and tried to expand on specific details rather than use more formal cause/effect methods of argument. My syntax was closer than anything else I’ve written (at least for school) to the way I naturally speak, although the way I talk and the way I write are pretty distinct. My writing might very well be painful to read were it to resemble my speech in real life exactly. Yikes.
Given the subject and the style of essays we wrote in the class, I tried to find a balance in style somewhere between how I’d write a term paper and how I’d text my best friend. I do wonder how the changes in the way we communicate today (texting, twitter, facebook, even these blogs) and the ease with which we write short messages to each other will shape the way we write not only those messages but more formal pieces as well…

Analyzing My Writing Style

I analyzed an essay I wrote in English 125 that dealt with the motif of water in the book “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers. The first thing that I noticed was my tendency to begin sentences with a qualifying, dependent clause. Examples include “The youngest in a lineage of sailors,…” and “In his telling of Katrina’s action and aftermath,…”. Though often effective for establishing comparisons/opposing ideas, reading the essay again there were times when this habit got tiresome. Nevertheless, I do try to mix compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences and mix those that start with dependent clauses and those that do not. I often find myself keeping a sense of “rhythm” in my head as I write, and this helps mix up my sentence length and construction. One variety of sentence that was rare in this piece was the shorter, simple sentence, and this could be employed to curb especially wordy passages.

Apparently I am also fond of using periodic construction i.e. “Then in 1964, while driving on the highway in Egypt, Mohammed was killed in a car crash.” I think this stylistic habit goes hand-in-hand with the dependent clause at the beginning of sentences and contributes to a building suspense. Also adding to the momentum of the essay was my use of the active voice, a stylistic move that I have tried to incorporate more in the past couple years. Overall, I found the tone of my writing to be very formal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I think it comes across as clear and concise, but experimenting with different tones, maybe similar to how I speak, is something I want to try in future writing.

Rosenwasser & Stephen – Analyzing Style

While analyzing a final exam paper I wrote last semester for HJCS 277 The Land of Israel/Palestine Through the ages, I found it hard to decipher one “go to” sentence shape. I assume this is because after years of English class I have been taught to be cognizant of my sentence structure and vary it as much as possible. One thing I did notice is that I start many sentences with the word “however” (Ironically, I was about to write this sentence as ‘however, I did notice that I start many of my sentences with…”). The use of “however” seems to serve as a way to introduce several ideas within complicated topics. I’ll state one thing, but then use however to show that it’s not necessarily so simple and there are other sides to the argument or other important factors to acknowledge. In this paper in particular I noticed that my diction and tone were definitely more formal. While this make sense for the specific assignment, I do notice myself using a more formal tone in the majority of my writing. It simply feels less risky. I don’t have to worry about constructing a poor narrative or trying to add in a failed attempt at a beautiful metaphor.  Yet at the same time, I don’t want my writing to fall in to Rossenwasser and Stephen’s category of “tone deaf”. It is important to remind myself that casual, humorous, or elegant writing all have their place, and to be conscientious of where I can incorporate them into my day to day writing. 

What Does My Writing Look Like?

“Some say, despite this overwhelming evidence, that the income and wealth disparities do not matter as long as GDP continues to grow, but this does not take into account that this inequality threatens the fundamental incentive structure that drives our economy; when workers do not have the opportunity to move up the socio-economic ladder, there is little reason for them to invest in their future with higher education, and therefore they will not have the opportunity to advance in our economy.”

This is an excerpt from a recent paper that I wrote about income inequality in America. Though this particular sentence is slightly long-winded for me, it does give a pretty accurate representation of my writing in terms of shape and diction. This sentence seems to be compound-complex, which is fairly common for my papers because I feel that, as long as my wording is accurate, this style can really illuminate the subject matter. I am very aware of the stigma associated with the use of semi-colons, but I use them reasonably frequently because it gives me an opportunity to further explain my theses in a way that flows more easily than a period would.

In terms of diction, I have noticed that my wording can often be vague, but at the same time vague can be relatable to certain audiences and in certain media. For example, in news media you may find specific details about conflict in Syria but you won’t find sentences like, “Their eyes flickered the mirror image of the incendiary rebellion that raged before them.” This sentence does give me a picture of the conflict in Syria, but it’s imagery is melodramatic to the point of discrediting the author. This is possibly the fine line I am trying to walk as a writer: I want accurate argumentative style and reporting, yet I appreciate the stylistic choices of creative fiction. I just don’t know how to reconcile the two.