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Get in there, Do a Polka, Get Out

Is the "no frills, be clear and concise" style advocated by Strunk compatible with:

  • The hope for deep recall, made by linking a concept or memory to as many different other memories or concepts as possible? (by this, Žižek should be the easiest philosopher on eartth to remember!)
  • Efforts to preserve meaning across the ages (e.g. if we were to write the Quran, knowing that subtleties of meaning are difficult but a number of very clever people will create schools of litereary analysis dedicated to try to pull as much meaning as possible from one's work)
  • Conveyance of the level of ease the author has with the particular ideas being expressed
As I may have mentioned before, I have a very tough time reading Hegel, and I've never been sure whether this is because I'm not smart enough, because I am not patient enough, because I lack enough background to understand the concepts (or started reading his works in the wrong place), because the translations are bad, or because it's a bunch of bs (even if Ego pushes me towards the last conclusion, it may very well be one of the first two). Could Hegel be Strunked? Is the complexity of his writing essential complexity? Perhaps even if it is, it's of the sort that one could create a "junior" version that misses a lot of the subtleties that'd be appropriate for reading a few times before one starts on the real thing? (Note: Would be interesting to have a word for classes of works that are amenable to such treatment - 「Juniorisable」? 「Demoable」?)

Stepping back a bit, I am unsure of the proper scope of Strunk, but hearing a long discussion on him in a group meeting (networking research group which I'm kinda-sorta associated with) at CMU that I happened to attend got me thinking about this. I'm not sure if one can make a principled distinction between the purported scope of sentence-level writing philosophy and paragraph/paper level, in that the broad writing philosophy might entail sentence-level decisions that are nonstrunkian.


Without having read Hegel or having anything more than anecdotal evidence to back this up, I think it is true that a) sentence complexity goes in and out of style and complex sentences are easier to read if you are used to them (see, for example in English, Washington's Farewell Address, which I find almost incomprehensibly complex, or the Federalist Papers, same but slightly less so, which were written to convince the average man on the street), and b) in German style has been traditionally sentence-complex.

Of course, the above sentence is (unintentionally, I swear!) almost ludicrously complex, so take from that what you will.