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Using and Remaking “Style” Guides – English 328: Writing, Style, & Technology
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Using and Remaking “Style” Guides

This writing project has two different but closely related parts:  the first asks you to actually “use” these style guides for their intended purpose of revising and improving your writing, while the second asks you to “re-use” (remake, redesign, remix, etc.) these books to create a “new style manual” of sorts targeted toward a specific audience and purpose.

Part 1: Revising with Strunk and White, and Williams (50 points)

Based on your reading and our discussions of The Elements of Style and Style:  Toward Clarity and Grace, revise either your first essay project, the Invent Your Own Writing Technology, or the second project, Ancient Style and YouTube Commercials.  Along with your actual revision (see below), you will write a 750-1000 word essay where you explain what changes you made to your essay based on our reading and discussion about the style manuals.

Here are a few more details:

  • As a result of this assignment, the original grade on your first or second project will improve because of the revision you will make.  How much it improves depends on the extent to which you applied the advice of Strunk and White and Williams to your revision. Also remember you will have yet another opportunity to revise your first essay for the end of the term if you are still not satisfied with your grade on that project.
  • There will be no peer review for this part of the assignment, though you are of course welcome to work with other students in the class or others whose opinions and judgments about writing you trust, and I am also happy to meet with you individually to discuss your draft.
  • The revisions you make to either of your first two projects will be applied to that project. In other words, if you earned 115 points (a mid-C) originally on the Ancient Style and YouTube Commercials project and it seems to me that your revisions as a result of applying the guidance of Strunk and White, and Williams seems significant, then I will adjust your grade, potentially all the way to an A.
  • While the essay explaining your changes only has to be a few pages long, it should be as detailed as possible. Don’t write vague things like “Strunk and White helped me a lot” or “Joseph Williams had some good ideas.”  Rather, cite specific examples of advice and passages from the books that really did impact the way you changed your first essay.  The more detail on this, the better.
  • Finally, the short essay portion of this assignment is worth 50 points.

Part 2: Remaking/Redesigning/Remixing Style (100 points)

Using the rules and writings from Strunk and White and Williams, write your own remake/remix/redesign/parody of a style guide which focuses on a specific cultural reference.  Your project will be the “Style of X” (see some examples below), where you will use some of the style rules from these books and examples from your cultural reference to both explain the stylistic conventions and the cultural reference itself.

Here are a few more details:

    • I think this is a better assignment to explain via examples and you’ll get the idea from some of our readings, too.Without being too specific, here are some ideas that I’ve seen in the recent past that I thought were very successful:
  • “The style of a favorite TV show or movie,” which focuses on the stylistic approaches of particular characters and in particular movies– cult movies work fairly well for this.
  • “The style of famous fictional/historic/mythical figures.”  Kind of similar to the style of a favorite TV show or movie, but perhaps extending to famous folks from books or the past.
  • “The style of a particular kind of job,” particularly ones where we don’t necessarily think of them in “stylistic” terms.  For example, “The Writing Style of Journalists” wouldn’t be a very good idea for this, but I did see a very successful project that was about “The Style of Landscape Workers.”
  • “The style of a particular kind of game.” I am thinking here of games like “World of Warcraft” (I read a great essay about this a couple of years ago), but I can imagine others, too.
  • “The style of some sort of special occasion.”  For example, I had a student a few years ago write a very effective essay on the style of being a bridesmaid.
    • Before we get to the peer review process on this project (some time in March), I will ask each of you to let me know what your style guide is going to be about, and if you have questions before then, just ask.
    • Your style manual has to have the following elements (no pun intended):
  • Some introduction that contextualizes the manual. Both Strunk and White and Williams include introductions that explain their goals and purposes, as does the less earnest Elements by the Marquis de Sade.  Your manual should also include such an introduction.
  • At least five “rules” and rules of some variety. In other words, don’t stick with just rules that look like Strunk and White’s section on “Elementary Rules of Usage” or that look just like Williams’ chapter on “Length.”
  • You need to have written examples of the rules. Rules in and of themselves are not enough.  Be warned! Writing good examples is harder than you might think.
  • At least 100o words of content. This includes the introduction, the rules themselves, examples, and any other supporting documents.
  • Some “non-text” elements. This could include images, simple graphics, audio– really, almost anything that is beyond words, that fits in with your goals and purposes, and is something you can easily do.  Whatever it is you decide to do, you must use elements that you have either created yourself or you know is legal to use.  Frankly, it’s probably easier (and more fun!) to create the non-text elements yourself, but if you want to borrow, check out Creative Commons as a way to get started on doing that right.
    • You will need to present your style guide as a Google doc– and it’s pretty easy to add images to Google docs, so that’s something we can talk more about.
    • Obviously, this assignment lends itself to the humorous and even somewhat absurd. However, you can’t make up “bad rules:” that is, a rule like CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING would be bad indeed.
    • As for the peer review process:  that remains “TBA” for this assignment, and largely based on how the peer assessment goes on the first two assignments.  Stay tuned!


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