Style and Niche

One thing I hadn’t really thought much about before was the idea of modern stylistics and finding one’s own stylistic niche in the world.

I have taken a lot of classes where we discuss how ancient authors (or a few modern ones) discovered and developed their style, and often how it innovated the literary world at the time.

Cicero was an innovator at his time in developing Latin to its peak, and his style became very distinctive and imitated for hundreds of years after his death. Then you had writers like Seneca and Lucan who wrote in a more terse, less flowery style. There was a constant interchange of styles, and each author developed his own distinct voice.

Nowadays, much of our intellectual output appears to have more to do with ideas than style. Most of the modern history books I read are written in a plain, uninspiring style that is meant to get bare information across. Most of what you read on the internet is designed to get information and ideas across. College students are taught to write in a homogeneous fashion, often in imitation of other writers (Never use the passive voice! Avoid split infinitives at all costs!). College students even come to think in a homogeneous fashion, shaped more by the bland research papers they read rather than the great literature.

I contend that there is tremendous value in knowing different styles and even using a good style to your advantage, especially when paired with genuinely good ideas. It is like torture to read a research paper that has no consciousness of style, even if its ideas are sound and useful.

Language is a tremendous gift, and learning to use it well and beautifully is a worthwhile pursuit. I have tried to cultivate my own style that is clear and concise when it needs to be, but also pleasant to read. Because of my background in public speaking, I tend to think a lot about how something sounds when said aloud, which makes the writing flow a little more easily.

Eventually, I would like to find my own niche in the world of writing, but I am not sure what my style is yet, or what its characteristics are. My writing is very much influenced by my studies in Latin, which have made me far more conscious of the practicality behind language, such as the arrangement of clauses, introduction of new information, etc. Sometimes it seems very mechanical. But even the mechanics of a language can be beautiful, if used properly and with good understanding of how it affects the reader.

I think my goal is to develop a “modern” style that is not unsophisticated or “dumbed down,” being conscious of modern English use and its peculiarities, rather than trying to imitate older, less-relevant styles, which many people do. It works in some cases, but not always. Imitating other styles in fiction is an acceptable thing to do, depending on the purpose of the fiction, but I am not writing fiction, or as anyone other than myself, so I will use my own recognizable persona.

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