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Chapter 19. What Is Style, and How Do I ... > The 3C's: Consistency, Coherence, Cl... - Pg. 193

What Is Style, and How Do I Get Some? 193 Some twentieth-century American writers celebrated for their lucid writing style include Truman Capote, James Thurber, Dorothy Thompson, Joan Didion, John McPhee, Tracy Kidder, and E. B. White. The late Mr. White, a long-time essayist and short story writer for The New Yorker, oozed so much style that he even co-authored a famous little writing manual called The Elements of Style . It's the ne plus ultra of writing style guides. But good writing style is not restricted to professional writers. People like you get ahead in part because of your ability to write clearly and effectively. For example ... · · · · · · · · · Lawyers need to make their briefs logical. Accountants must write clear cover letters for audits. Retail workers often write letters of recommendation and promotion. Insurance brokers write letters soliciting business. Educators write observations of staff members and reports on students. Computer specialists write proposals. Marketing personnel write sales reports. Engineers must write reports, e-mails, and faxes. Stock and bond traders write letters and prospectuses. And who among us doesn't write resumés, cover letters, memos, faxes, and business letters? We all need to develop good writing style. The 3C's: Consistency, Coherence, Clarity As I mentioned in the opening of this chapter, effective writers adapt their style to suit their audience and purpose for writing. You'll learn all about audience and purpose in Chapter 20. Now, let's start with the basics: All good writing shares the following three qualities: consistency, coherence, and clarity. Consistency Consistent writing delivers a single effect. The "effect" may be comedic or horrific, sorrowful or joyous, businesslike or personal. The document maintains the same tone or mood throughout. That tone suits the topic, too. The tone is also well suited to your readers. For example, you would use a friendly tone in a memo to a colleague about a meeting, but a more formal tone in a letter to a customer about a problem with a product. Quoth the Maven The more difficult your ideas, the easier you must make it for your reader to follow your ideas. Consider using shorter sentences, more transitions, and precise figures of speech (especially comparisons such as metaphors and similes). You can also define difficult words in context to help your readers more readily grasp abstract concepts. Edgar Allan Poe (1809­1849) is famous because he created the modern short story, the modern detective story, and the modern horror story. (He was also a whiz-bang literary critic.) In a classic review, Poe gave some advice to short story writers that holds true for all writers. His advice con- cerns consistency in style and tone. Here's what Poe had to say: