Sound writing style

A friend recommended Jason Zweig’s series on writing better. I started with the first post recently and loved it. There were two notes that stood out.

First, he cautions against writing in the first person – i.e., using phrases like “I think.” I’m not sure how much of this advice is relevant to writing a personal blog. But, it is advice I’ve heard before and I can see why it detracts from the content.

The second note that resonated was a quote on sound writing style from essayist H L Mencken –

“the essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules — that it is a living and breathing thing, with something of the demoniacal in it — that it fits its proprietor tightly and yet ever so loosely, as his skin fits him. It is, in fact, quite as securely an integral part of him as that skin is…. In brief, a style is always the outward and visible symbol of a [writer], and it cannot be anything else. To attempt to teach it is as silly as to set up courses in making love.”

This hit home as I’ve wrestled a bunch with myself over the years on my writing style. For example, I’ve gone through phases where I made a concerted effort to avoid writing in the first person. On some days, I manage to do that. On others, I don’t.

Over time, I’ve just attempted to keep focused on improving my ability to synthesize what I’m learning and ship every day. That often means making trade-offs on the “right way to write.”

I’ve come to make peace with those trade-offs and begun to accept this eclectic mix as my own.