Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Defense of the Plain Style

Itinerant writer Robert Louis Stevenson, battling TB, wandered into a merchant’s stall in San Francisco one day in 1879. 

He bought a used copy of Some Fruits of Solitude, a collection of maxims published 176 years earlier by the American Quaker William Penn.

Stevenson later told a friend that he had “carried the book in my pocket all about the San Francisco streets, read it in streetcars and ferryboats when I was sick unto death, and found in all times and places a peaceful and sweet companion.”

Among the things Stevenson admired was Penn's defense of the “plain style” of writing.

The plain style was characterized by clarity and simplicity.

Plain-stylists like Penn believed affected writing was the product of vanity and served only to confuse people.

He hated especially the “laboring of slight matter with flourished turns of expression,” calling it “worse than the modern imitation of tapestry.”

Imagine how Penn would respond today to this crazy-quilt (quoted in full from the Home page of an IT firm):

_______ is an industry leader in the development of both Hosted and On Premise based call center solutions and predictive dialers for industry-specific applications ranging from financial services to home remodeling and other related companies that utilize the services of Predictive Dialing and Contact Center Management & Customer Interaction. We offer both premise based and hosted solutions to small to medium-sized inside sales organizations to larger call centers. Our goal is to provide a seamless cost- effective call center solution which involves the cohesive blend of computer telephony integration (CTI) applications, Web-centric applications, customer relationship management (CRM), agent interaction and other channels of communications such as Web call back, Web chat, email, fax and Web collaboration.

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