The Elements of Style and the Word

This week I took time away from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to read The Elements of Style, again. I discovered new treasures, treasures that sparkled before my eyes in the light of my project: Finding Truth in the Story. Consider this jewel:

All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation – it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.

IMG_8301Creative writing is communication through revelation?! Indeed the creativity of God is communicated through the revelation of His Word!

Finding Truth in the Story stems from understanding that “all our words have their origin in the Word that was in the beginning with God, the Word that was God, the Word that had made all things (John 1:1-3)…” (Eugene Peterson). If this is true, and it is, then the above quote from The Elements of Style is a valuable gem in understanding why some words fail to maintain a connection to the John 1 source Word. Strunk helps us get at why there can be a disconnect between man’s word and God’s Word. Put simply, sin. Though all words find their source in the Creator Word, “not all words honor [their] origin and nurture their relationship with the Source Word, the Creator Word” (Peterson).


Sin. Because not all men – writers – honor their origin and nurture their relationship with God. Though Christ died to save all mankind, some men reject Him. When it comes to writing, this is revealed by the way writers use language – style. A writer’s style reveals his spirit, habits, capacities, and biases. God’s Word is a revelation of who He is. The human writer, as we’ve seen so far in Finding Truth in the Story, also reveals something about who he is in how he writes. Indeed the Self escapes into the open!  Another gem in Strunk’s book says it like this:

With some writers, style not only reveals the spirit of the man but reveals his identity, as surely as would his fingerprint.

A writer’s use of words – his style – speaks to who he is. The reader need only dust for fingerprints.

Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style.

Style is the writer. Writing is an act of faith, amen! Therefore, when we read one of Grimm’s fairy tales (or any work of fiction) we shouldn’t be surprised to discover Biblical themes. Some authors will embrace them, others will denounce them, but in either case the words will reveal a relationship to the source Word, be it one of honor and nurture or one of disconnect.


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