SARGE: In Search Of Style

“You see, there’s a difference between style and class, Mr. Griffin. You got class and I got style. And before we eeeeever get to the courthouse, you’re going to know the difference between the two.”
Larry Flynt (Falwell Deposition)

I recently spoke with my editor (a young man with experience and wisdom far beyond his years) concerning why our little, hometown newspaper did so dismally in the last state-wide competition when once, we were highly competitive. He explained the newspapers’ categories were changed. We were moved into a category having more newspapers enrolled and responding to the competition. The judges look more critically at the efforts of the individual writers and the newspapers they represented. This closer scrutiny will stress closer adherence to the writers’ (and newspapers’) accepted “Style Guides”.

I guess that means appearances must take a back seat to content and the subject matter under discussion. Because of this I’m seriously thinking about developing, writing and publishing my own “Style Guide” for people more interested in getting something said but without regard for the greatest word-count available.

I don’t adhere to any style guide. I seek little advice concerning my personal thought processes. The old saw of: “when I want your opinion I’ll give it to you” was long ago rejected and been fought against vociferously and enthusiastically. I follow no edict issued by impersonal/detached entities such as churches, synods, governments or fatuous individuals believing they know all. They shall forever be met with derision. That includes judges feeling the illusory superiority of their temporary position during competitions.

The problem is none of the “judges” and “experts” consulting on these journalistic efforts and commentary can agree on any specific style as being the best. It’s deliberatively subjective.

Take, as an example, the fact I contracted the words “it is” and condensed it to “it’s”. This would be a colloquialism. I feel it’s more friendly and acceptant of the way people actually communicate with each other in modern, spoken American idiom.

Does that make the statement worthy of dismissal out-of-hand because it violates a “style”? Does it make the statement less acceptable overall? Does it make the statement false? Or is it a matter of the arbitrary deduction of an appointed “expert” (?) in the field and how he feels it applies to the competition?

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler Magazine, isn’t a person I’d want my kid to model himself after; but Flynt makes a point. There’s a major difference between having “class” and having “style”. The one fits into a constraining mold, the other moves beyond the conventional and may (more boldly) make the statement the writer desires. Force filtering your thoughts through a “style filter” can prevent you from saying what needs to be said because you’re more worried about how you say it to impress some random authority. Things get lost in translation.

That lacks integrity while promoting insincerity and dishonesty; something politicians do regularly and now we’re seeing some partisan and prejudiced members of the press ascribe to as well.

The questions we must ask are; what’s more important-the message or the “acceptable” packaging in which it’s delivered? Is it better to couch our protest in vacuous statements stylistically stumbling around the issue; or should we cut to the chase and approach the matter with righteous (though maybe stylistically impure verbiage) and a grammatical decorum bordering on the tedious?

There’s a lot of controversy been ginned up concerning the “mainstream media’s” pandering to Obama and his administration. Is it real? You decide. But, while making the decision remember: there’s been a lot of news and commentary “sculpting” done as networks and print media alike shade their news (and opinions) according to the political ideologies of their target audiences. Add the managements’ personal theories on social development and government’s participation in trimming and creating that topiary and we see deepening opacity where there should be clarity.

I’ve been blessed to have been awarded for my writing in the past. I don’t expect it to happen again.

I just can’t play nice with narrow-minded people and their concepts.

Thanks for listening.

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