A Sense for Style

Upon reading our class schedule for the day, I was a little shocked when I saw the words “style masquerade” listed as our activity. The word masquerade automatically made me think of costumes and masks – all things that are used to cover up.

I immediately thought to myself: “Why would we possibly want to cover up our style? Isn’t that what makes our writing/appearance unique?”

Little did I know how rewarding this activity would be. I used a very formal essay I had written about the novel, Emma, and took on the challenge of turning a paragraph into something that Ernest Hemingway would write.  Did I emphasize the word challenge enough? Good.

For anyone who knows how Ernest Hemingway writes, it definitely is a style of its own. He uses a lot of parallel structure and writes in a concise conversational tone that emulates a lot tension. Quite different from the lengthy complex sentences that generally overpower my essays.

Although it was difficult to reproduce his style from my writing sample, I was proud of my final product. In fact, the newer version was more playful in tone and had more drama.

So…what’s the point?

After this activity and talking about Style chapters in class, I ultimately realized where I can improve. What I learned was that this was not about covering up our style, per se. It was more about seeing another way.

I think of style as the phrase “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Sure, you can speed walk the mile to get back to your old ways. But, if you take a chance to look around, you will gain a new perspective that will only enhance your own uniqueness in the long run.

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Amanda Kemmer

Amanda (noun): Ross BBA senior. Avid puppy lover. Detroit International Half-Marathon runner.

4 thoughts to “A Sense for Style”

  1. Amanda,

    I really enjoyed your post. I actually thought the same thing when we started class last week. I didn’t understand how “masking” our writing style would serve any positive purpose. But after completing the activity, I realized how beneficial experimenting with other styles can be.
    For people who write, it’s so important to keep gathering new perspectives. There’s nothing worse than feeling bored with your own style of writing. Like you said, this activity helped me see other ways to write one thing (in my case, an application to being a writing tutor). I think the style masquerade definitely felt like a “walk in someone else’s shoes,” and I would love to try it again.

  2. I love the way you described the activity as a way to see our own styles in a different way, a way to gain new perspective to enhance our writing. Having read the excerpts of your original essay on Emma and the Earnest Hemingway styled one, I really understand the contrast in styles you’re explaining. I also think think that taking time to explore other writing styles can be beneficial. It illuminate to us what we do and don’t like, allowing us to use these preferences in our own writing.

  3. I have to agree that when we were originally asked to rewrite one of our own pieces in the style of someone else, I was very surprised. I had never been asked to examine style of another writer as in depth as I was in this writing exercise. However I was lucky. I had someone who wrote a tad bit more similar to the style I like to write. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would have been for me to try and read someone as complicated Hemingway. However, I wonder how different some of my papers would have sounded if I had to use Hemingway or Orwell. It is really surprising how unique the style of one writer can completely change the way a piece is read.

  4. I completely agree with your idea that “What I learned was that this was not about covering up our style, per se. It was more about seeing another way.” I had the same experience when trying to emulate George Orwell, who prides himself in being concise and to-the-point. I fall on the other side of the spectrum, as a writer who likes to use longs words and long sentences. My immediate reaction to reading Orwell was that my style was too wordy and I needed to “cover up” my style (as you alluded to). However, after reflecting more on the exercise and reading your post, it’s more clear that the exercise was just meant to get us thinking about style. By understanding and evaluating authors with a different style to our own, we can better understand our own style (which is easier said than done).

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