I wish I understood this

Talking about the style I use:

Tim Worstall uses jovial tone, litotes and syllogism to reason that the hesitance towards this globalization is hypocritical, contradicting the humanitarian policies and values previously established.
Through his almost homey diction, Worstall charms his audience with his text’s cheerful tone. It is unprecedented for an economics article proposing solutions to end poverty to use words like “lovely” or state “the most delicious part of this argument…” With a varied audience, from economic majors to high school students, the affable diction makes Worstall’s text more approachable and the readers are therefore more open to his viewpoint on a controversial subject.
Worstall uses shrewd understatements to undermine opposition’s view on the integration of poorer nations. If words were placed on a spectrum, Worstall would only use words on either of the extremes like “best,” or “worst.”

I know I write for a living and I understand jovial, can work out (I think) what syllogism is but what in buggery is a litote when its at home?

On a more serious level this is from an AP English course (or readings for it or something) and it’s hugely in advance of anything that a secondary school student would be taught here. It also gives us something of an insight into the difference between American and UK journalism. Over there they’re incredibly keen on the tiniest details of style and grammar. Write a piece (well, one that’s going to be edited at least) and you’ll end up having long and earnest conversations with an editor about sentence structure, active v passive and so on. Here, in the few places where people worry about that sort of thing, it’s left to the subeditors to impose the house style.

There’s a further implication of all this too. Those who are “trained” as journalists in the US are trained in all of these details of language variation. Which is great, why shouldn’t people who work with language understand it? But that leaves us with one very large question: why in hell do they use that training to end up producing the same leaden prose in every damn piece that’s written?

33 comments on “I wish I understood this

  1. Litotes = understatement for effect.

    As for leaden writing — I know from painful experience how easy it is to fall into “report writing” or “academic paper” style because that’s what you’ve becore accustomed to reading. The best piece of advice I was ever given on the subject, yet the hardest to actually apply in writing is to write it just like you’d say it.

  2. Is “AP English” American for O Level English?

    Nope. AP are low-college-level courses made available to high school students. It can gain you exemption from some subjects once you arrive as well as signalling that you are academically serious. Sits between SAT and CLEP.

  3. I think she’s saying that you use an informal, British-style of writing which allows you to express yourself and attract all manner of people. I’m not sure what her problem is with this, but I suspect she thinks it is deliberate, and therefore insincere. My guess is that – like a lot of British bloggers – you simply write how you speak, which would annoy “professional” journalists if they discovered it is popular.

    You’re the equivalent of the amateur porn video displacing the requirement for a scene with professionals.

  4. The best piece of advice I was ever given on the subject, yet the hardest to actually apply in writing is to write it just like you’d say it.

    Funny, I can do this like ringing a bell. I always thought everyone could do this.

    Tim adds: No, not everyone can do it. Very few in fact. I certainly had to work at it. Although, obviously, not by knowing the grammar or rhetoric of what I was doing, just trying to write so that it sounds like me.

  5. I always thought everyone could do this.

    I generally can’t. This is because I would usually say it well-manured with Anglo-Saxon which doesn’t work nearly as well in print (or pixels.)

  6. I do write things as I would say them. I find it difficult to write in any other way – so “ghosting” in someone else’s writing style (which I’ve had to do once or twice) is really hard. But writing “as you would speak” implies that you speak with correct English. Presumably that’s why people who’ve heard me speak describe me as ” posh”. Not bad for a girl from Sarf Larnden.

    I didn’t know what a litote was either.

  7. Tim Newman – “You’re the equivalent of the amateur porn video”

    One for Timmy’s vainglory quotes section.

  8. I dissent. Tim is not the equivalent of an amateur pornographer; he gets paid for it.

  9. It is an over-analysing, supposing practiced, artifice for literary effect in what is just a plain, conversational account.

  10. “Tim Worstall uses jovial tone, litotes and syllogism…”

    Sounds like you’re one of the Dinsdale brothers.

  11. I don’t know what a litote is but I think the short version is that you’re a silver tongued devil.

  12. Tim is not the equivalent of an amateur pornographer; he gets paid for it.

    Actually, I think the method by which Tim makes money for his work overlaps considerably with how amateur pornographers make theirs. 🙂

  13. You discussing the rooting around in slags or the writing stuff, here?

    Ah, that’d be the method of putting stuff online and making money through the surrounding advertising.

  14. The best piece of advice I was ever given on the subject, yet the hardest to actually apply in writing is to write it just like you’d say it.

    Funny, I can do this like ringing a bell. I always thought everyone could do this.</blockquote

    I thought the same thing. When I was writing academic papers, the only way I could avoid being *too* conversational was to consciously attempt to write in a parody of the academic style.

  15. i) Not know what litotes is? Shoulda gone to Ampleforth.

    ii) “Through his almost homey diction…” sounds to me to be some sort of racial “slur”.

    iii) At 07:00 he eased himself, troubled, into his red Jaguar, his homage to famed Inspector Morse, storied detective, and driven forcefully yet cautiously, eastwards towards the rising sun and his office in downtown …. blah, blah, blah. That’s how you do American journalism. It’s wordy, it’s verbose, it adopts a sesquipedalian loquaciousness that’s as grey as old, oft-washed underpants; like them, it has little elastic left.

    iv) And, yeah, that stuff looks to be about the standard of O-level in my day.

  16. There’s no such thing as a litote .
    Understatement for effect = meisosis= “The recent difficulties”(for First World War).
    Litotes=understatement for effect via double negatives particularly “not un-“> “The wine was not unpalatable”.
    Still these misapprehensions are what is to be expected when so much of the Net has been taken over by scientists and technicians .Who have moreover turned the key subject of Economics , once sensibly discussed by classicists like Enoch Powell,into a complete shambles and academic laughing-stock.
    (Must admit I’d never heard of meisosis)

  17. If “academics” laugh at you then you are doing very well.

    As for those nasty scientists and technicians–well DBC you need to be dumped on a nice island somewhere with your fellow leftists where you can exist in a pre-industrial stone age Eden, digging in the dirt with your hands like some former Chicom “academic” being re-educated back in the 60s. That is where socialism will take the human race in the end–so as a “progressive” you should progress there first.

  18. Ah, English as she is spoke.

    Internet writing is naturally discursive; I find it hard to write any other way. Hence the acceptability of informal grammar. And sentence fragments.

    My favourite poncey word is “synecdoche”. Post-modernists seem to like it. It is one of those words that, no matter how many times I look up the definition, I can never remember what it means.

    My favourite word I can actually remember the meaning of is “mondegreen”.

  19. “it’s hugely in advance of anything that a secondary school student would be taught here”: do you mean Portugal or Czechia?

  20. @deareme
    “Not know what litotes is? Shoulda gone to Ampleforth.
    Is that the butchers? Never tried their litotes but their sausages are quite good.

  21. I think the writer means to compliment: litotes was one of the feared weapons of the great Dinsdale Piranha.

  22. I thought litotes were John Major’s speciality – “I am not inconsiderably annoyed” kind of thing…

  23. Those who are “trained” as journalists in the US are trained in all of these details of language variation. Which is great, why shouldn’t people who work with language understand it? But that leaves us with one very large question: why in hell do they use that training to end up producing the same leaden prose in every damn piece that’s written?

    Tim, I’m surprised at you for even writing this. The thing about journalists being trained in the US is that it is extremely difficult to get into journalism in the US without a journalism degree. Therefore, the journalists come from a smaller pool and there is less variation between them, as they’ve all had the same training. Are you really baffled that a market with less supply and less variety produces worse quality than a market with more supply and more variety?

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