I have just read and will soon review Steven Pinker’s latest book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, published by Viking/The Penguin Group (September 2014).
Steven offers three reasons why, in communications and especially in writing, style sill matters:
“First, it ensures that writers will get their messages across, sparing readers from squandering their precious moments on earth deciphering opaque prose. When the effort fails, the result can be calamitous — as Struck and White put it, ‘death on the highway caused by a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of a traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not being met because of a slipshod telegram.’
“Second, style earns trust. If readers can see that a writer cares about consistency and accuracy in her prose, they will be reassured that the writer cares about those virtues in conduct they cannot see as easily.”
“Style, not least, adds beauty to the world. To a literate reader, a crisp sentence, an arresting metaphor, a witty aside, an elegant turn of phrase are among life’s greatest pleasures.”
Steven Pinker is one of the world’s leading authorities on language and the mind. His popular and highly praised books include The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching, books, and scientific research, Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He also writes frequently for The New York Times, Time, The New Republic, and other magazines.