Go Beyond Clarity to Eloquence and Grace
by Tamara Passey
Meet my friends, Eloquence and Grace. They've worked hard all year to learn the steps to the dance they need to perform. They've learned periodic sentences, the long-short combo, using an appropriate level of formality. They've covered modifiers, strong verbs, active voice and they've expanded their sentence repertoire. They've mastered metaphors and similes and have avoided cliches (like the plague.) And so much more. They can dance with clarity. But now is the time to showcase their talent with eloquence and grace.
When you watch a couple like this on the dance floor, do you see power, refinement, and dignity? Can you sense the authority with which they convey the message of their art?
If we want to create beauty through language and share our message with power and refinement, we have to know the rules, understand how to put words on the page, and allow our writing style to shine through.
Here's a few more thoughts on eloquence and grace:
"Elegance cannot be forced. It cannot be purchased and slipped into like fine clothes. Writing with elegance comes naturally and gradually. It comes from making the right assumptions about language and from following certain principles of writing." 1
"Elegance need not be complicated. It can be as simple as E.B. White's sentence in The Elements of Style: "These [questions of style] are high mysteries, and this chapter is a mystery story, thinly disguised." A simple shift in word order destroys the effect of that sentence: "These are high mysteries, and this chapter is a thinly disguised mystery story." Without the grace notes at the end of the sentence, it becomes ordinary." 2
"Elegance depends more on sound than content. Elegance requires a precise, robust vocabulary. It also requires an ear for language and attention to the cadence, rhythm, and flow of sentence structure."
"More than two centuries ago Samuel Johnson, described the most desirable English style as "familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious." My, how times don't change." 3
1. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p. 286
2. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p. 286
3. Mastering The Craft, Wilbers, p 287