In The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White, style is defined as “the sound ‘words make on paper’.” I love this definition! Of course, in our world today, our “paper” ranges from digital books, social media, texts and Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Our style labels us. The question I have for today is… are you in control of your style?
Every time we type something on our “paper” of choice, we set our style, our logo, our “sound.” We affect our audience, and oft times, narrow our readers. Thin our herd, so to speak, for better or worse.
Now, far be it from me to define right or wrong regarding opinions of… well, anything. I mean, who the hell am I, anyway? Just a person. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have opinions. And opinions on writing, I’m willing to voice sometimes, but I have some degree of knowledge on the topic and therefore my opinions have a least some validity. Yet, they’re opinions… not facts. So this post really is an opinion… but as much, a point for your consideration.
So, my opinion is, as a writer, I think it’s best to have some idea how I want people to see me since I try to promote my books using social media. I need to be in control of my style.
I see others who step right off the political cliff and wave their party’s flag all over the internet. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. Everyone can do whatever they want to do… I’m happy to live and let live. My question is, are they aware they’re labeling themselves? Are they in control of their style… or as we’ve become accustom to saying… their brand… like we’re cattle, or candy bars… “Now with Extra Caramel!”
At the same time, we can ask if broad appeal is the be-all-end-all to marketing, or can we break the barriers and just go balls-out with our social media, tell the world just how we feel about every little thing like it’s our job, and damn the torpedoes… “like me or don’t!” Shrug. What-ever.
For me, posting my opinion on any social media forum, whether it be about politics, parenting, fashion, movies, religion, sexual orientation… anything really, in our ultra sensitive climate, is as good as flipping the bird to those who don’t agree with my opinion.
Is that who I am? The kind of person who walks around saying whatever I think regardless of the company I’m in? It’s something for me to consider. It’s something for all of us who write books to consider.
And what about manners?
There was a time when manners were a big deal. Do you recall the clichés used to help us remember our manners? Don’t put your elbows on the table. Never discuss politics or religion in polite company. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t chew with your mouth open, or talk with your mouth full. Don’t interrupt. These were things my mother taught me. We can go back a bit further in time to more rigid manners, such as when men stood if a lady left the table or room. Gentlemen would open doors for ladies, or help them with heavy loads they were trying to carry. Children gave up their seats to elderly. Women went to the restroom to powder their noses.
The more I think about “manners,” they aren’t such a mystery. They’re just acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others.
A lot of these rules have gone the wayside, such as not wearing white after Labor Day. Many old-time manners were stuffy, and certainly, life is different now… I mean women can open their own doors and carry heavy things, and wearing white shouldn’t offend anyone. That’s a good example of why manners got a bad name. Wearing white had nothing to do with kindness or consideration for others. Goodness, if that offends you, just going to Wal-Mart would cause you to have a mental breakdown!
I’m fine with silly rules going out the window. But manners… in their true sense of being considerate of others… I think it would be nice to start thinking about those more. Which takes me back to establishing our style on social media. Is it really our moral responsibility to school others about our opinions on politics and religion on Facebook or Twitter? I mean, sure, if that’s one’s job… if I wrote books on politics, then yes, that would totally be the style I wanted to establish. But if we write mystery or romance or young adult fiction… poetry, memoirs, plays… or hey, how about if we just run a business? Is that the style we want people to associate with us? Is that our label? Maybe people who do this don’t consider social media as their marketing tool. Should they? I guess that’s the question I’m asking.
If I truly felt I couldn’t possibly keep my opinions to myself, and believed it was my responsibility to educate people about my opinions on whatever topic, I’d want to use appropriate methods for persuasive argument.
I’ve been reading a book called, Keys for Writers; one of those college books kids pay too much money for when they take creative writing or journalism classes. It’s a useful little guide. There’s an entire section about writing an argument—the point of doing so is to persuade. Not force… persuade. In this section of the book, there are many great points about how to argue a topic in writing, such as making a clear claim, and supporting it with specific evidence, but here’s another point they give about how to make a good argument: One should establish common ground with their listeners or readers, and avoid confrontation.
Establishing common ground and not being confrontational is a style I’d like to be known for. It’s not my job to wag a finger or marshal other people’s opinions. I don’t believe doing that would make me a better-selling author, and I do believe social media colors my style.
Again, if that’s your style, that cool, as long as you’re in control of how you “mind your manners” in public. On paper, whatever paper our era recognizes, make your “sound” count. Your sound is your style. I’d say it’s best to be in charge of it.
But that’s just my opinion.