It is generally good for a laugh to say that a professional writer has no rules. It’s not true, of course, and a number of great writers have made lists of rules which they follow with varying degrees of faithfulness. The lists might be summed up by saying that the One Great Rule of Writing is to communicate clearly. Therein lies the rub, for communication involves much more than conveying data from one brain to another; a laundry list can do that. Writers, especially fiction writers, have a host of associations connected to those data, ranging from subtle or not so subtle implications to the deepest emotions, and conveying those is a real challenge.
Available tools for that deeper and broader communication vary with the language, which partially accounts for the difficulty of translation. English has an especially wide vocabulary and variety of idioms to aid in the task (and to confuse the foreign learner). This is reflected in differences in style and usage from one English speaking country to another, American versus British for instance, and in changes over time; the writing of Hawthorne is strikingly different from Hemingway, or even Twain, though all worked in American English. Quite different products, each well communicated.
I recently ran across an excellent discussion of the uses and abuses of language, specifically referencing political writing, authored by none other than George Orwell, one of the best writers of the 20th century. He includes some egregious examples which may evoke great groans of laughter. A link to his essay is below, but first, his list of rules:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Good rules. Let us pledge to follow them more fully. And here’s that link:
The summer season of the wonderful Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City is well underway, but there is plenty of time to add it to your vacation itinerary. This year’s selection includes Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all perennial favorites. You may also enjoy Shakespeare in Love, an adaptation of the movie and a regional premier. Other regional premiers are Treasure Island and William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged).
On the musical side of the house is the great Guys and Dolls, subtitled A Musical Fable of Broadway. Finally, there are two world premieres, The Tavern, a comedy by George M. Cohan adapted and directed by Joseph Hanreddy, and How to Fight Loneliness by Neil LaBute, characterized as “for mature audiences”. Two of our favorites return as directors, Brian Vaughn with Shakespeare in Love and David Ivers with How to Fight Loneliness.
The Utah festival produces consistently excellent theater. You cannot go wrong in this beautiful mountain setting, about a 50 minute drive from St. George or three and half hours from Salt Lake City. The summer season goes through September 9th, with a shorter fall season running from September 13th through October 21st.
For schedule details and to reserve tickets, go to:
Also an enticing peek at next year:
2018 will see performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Othello, as well as Big River, a musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn with music by Roger Miller, bound to be a delight.
Language is not only a key instrument of memory (in addition to visual, auditory, muscular, and other forms of memory), it is essential to the characterization and comprehension of the world around us. In a very real sense, we come to understand a subject only when we have learned the vocabulary, the language that describes it. This is true not only with mundane subjects like math, mechanics, or physics, but also complex matters of the heart and spirit. Understanding then leads to application. Right words have great power to help us focus our thinking, our minds, our lives, even our faith. The following recent talk is inspiring and well worth reading: