Style isn’t everything

August 13, 2015

Yellowlees Douglas’ plea for a “scientific” approach to teaching writing skills is understandably a plug for her new book, which may be very good (“Unlocking the black box”, Opinion, 6 August). Judging from her article, however, its practical prescriptions are a mixture of common sense and what good writing guides have long advised, given additional authority by the invocation of neuroscience.

Although Douglas talks dismissively about the “watered-down remnants of Aristotelian rhetoric”, what is this if not an example of establishing Aristotelian ethos by association – “conveying your credibility”, as Douglas puts it? Writing clearly and correctly is crucial, but it is only part of what students need to learn: style was only one of the five canons of Roman rhetoric. Among other things, students also need to learn how to construct – and critique – arguments (Aristotle’s logos). Nobody would look to an ancient Greek for practical guidance on writing clearly in English, but clarity of expression is only part of the picture: studying and practising rhetoric gives you the whole.

Neil Foxlee
Lancaster

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations