Schopenhauer's "On Style": the Do List of Suggestions for Writers
I just read Schopenhauer's essay on style. And while it is a lovely sort of a rant, good for a blog entry, it tends to focus mostly on the Don'ts and very little on the Dos. So I thought I would record all of Schopenhauer's Do List.
Schopenhauer says the source of the best writing is epigraphic and monumental. I had to look up epigraphic in the dictionary, on google, and in the encyclopaedia before I got insight into what Schopenhauer means by this.
Before paper, all the most important statements a nation used to make were written painstakingly on stone. Throughout the ancient world, then, the style used was spare, grand, round, full, rich, right and true, and it is this Schopenhauer means when he says "epigraphic" style.
Next: "An author should have sometime to say; no, this is in itself almost all that is necessary. Ah, how much it means!" This is his key piece of advice.
"Le Style Empese" means to pour out words like a flood, according to Schopenhauer - again, no hint of this from a google search - and this he contrasts with a prim polite style, both of which are deviations from the epigraphic ideal.
I like Schopenhauer's nice taste, derived from the French, where he says after Hesiod that the half is more than the whole. I learn the same lesson from Gide as a child when I read in his journals that the problem with the English is that they do not know what to leave out. Knowing what to leave out, however, remains the great problem of style.
Style must be objective - that is, directly forcing the reader to think the same thought as the author.
Always write with care, as if the words are to remain forever.
Always write one thought at a time, then link thoughts logically together into paragraphs, rather than interrupting a sentence with parentheses.
Write like an architect builds, sketching out the plan, and thinking it over down the smallest detail.
That's the sum of Schopenhauer's positive advice. There's much negative advice to of great use, and the essay is well worth a read.
Now, I wish I could only apply all this to my writing retrospectively!