Linear Simplicity in Writing

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I used to think I was too dumb to read the classics. Eh, who am I kidding? I probably am. But besides that point, I think I know why I’ve taken a pass on them after I worked up the courage for punishment. It was their style. It is unnecessary. I know I am walking on thin ice when I make such a claim. Many of you out there love the classics. So please don’t mistake my honesty for arrogance.

Let me tell you about writing even if I don’t know much about it. But I think I’ve recently graduated from one level to a higher one after having the opportunity to read Mark Twain’s “Roughing It.”

This is my conclusion.

Mark Twain gets everything right the first time. What I mean by that is that the reader never has to go back to the beginning of a paragraph or thought. There are no distractions. Twain takes advantage of the freedom his easy style of writing offers. Unlike many of the great American writers, Twain takes a pass on rhetorical-poetic excesses. We should thank him for that.

To Twain, I’ve gathered, writing isn’t so much about grammar. It is about language, which requires a steady rhythm that is almost unnoticeable to the reader. I say unnoticeable because it’s natural to the ear. In other words, there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Twain’s writing is practically speech: Simple and direct thoughts with short sentences that don’t explain too much by themselves. Instead, they feed the one coming after. This amazing understanding allowed Twain to create some of the most memorable and classic prose in American literature.

So I call this a linear style, without actually knowing the proper term for it. Maybe a Literary Man would know.

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5 thoughts on “Linear Simplicity in Writing

  1. Pingback: Mark Twain: a simple, straightforward style | Total Perspective

  2. He “Americanized” literature. Back in the day there weren’t many writers other than historians and playwrights; plus who would want to venture too far from Shakespeare after he had been so successful? I totally agree with you about his flow, too. It’s like the caramel of literature.

    • Yes. That’s it. Americanized literature. I would say constructed the bridge from the land of the classists over to the land of modern American literature.

      Thank you for pointing that out.

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