Friday, April 28, 2006

Lesson Ten: The Ethics of Style

There are certain ethical issues that both writer and reader must observe when dealing with style. Readers must acknowledge the benefits of complex language and sentences when they are appropriate to a paper. Writing in simple clear language does not always get across the complexity of ideas. At the same time, writers must acknowledge that a reader’s time is precious and filling that time with unbearably difficult wording is disrespectful and obnoxious. Those who claim that complexity is good for us have no evidence supporting their declaration. In the world of complex styles, there is innocent ignorance and intended misdirection. Innocent ignorance produces obscurity in a work without the writer’s knowledge of his or her mistake. Intended misdirection, however, must be identified by the reader as a stylistic measure of self-interest for the writer. Certain questions, concerning the motivation and audience of the work, must enter the reader’s mind soon after reading suspicious work in order to analyze its ethics. Clarity, in this respect, lies in the ability of the reader to recognize unethical use of style and language. Clarity in and of itself, however, should be strived for in most work, because clarity alone is not unethical.

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