I’ve been a student for a long time. Before I began this program last fall, I thought I had a solid understanding of what it means to write for an academic audience. But I had no idea of how much my writing would evolve over the past year. I’ve written a lot, read a lot of the literature, and received a significant amount of feedback about my writing from my colleagues. I imagine it was the sheer amount of writing I had to produce that helped improve my writing. Practice makes perfect (or at least reasonably good and possibly publishable). And also the comment on one paper, “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” No. No, I did not.
Earlier this summer, my major professor and I talked a bit about our writing styles. Sometime during the past semester, I had a friend who after reading some of my papers told me that my writing was very direct. I wasn’t sure if this should be taken as a compliment or a critique. Luckily I have a major professor who is a clear and direct writer herself. She recommended a writing style called Writing Degree Zero. I did a bit of research and found that this style comes from a book of the same name by Roland Barthes. He published Le degré zéro de l’écriture (it sounds better in French doesn’t it?) in 1953. In this books of literary criticisms, Barthes suggests neutral, or writing degree zero, as the ideal style. It is a freer style of writing, a release from clichés, over blown language, and metaphors. Exactly what I like. He also throws around words like bourgeois, revolutionary, and Marxist (which you can never have too much of).
I particularly liked this quote from the book. It’s very beautiful.
“Literature is like phosphorus: it shines with its maximum brilliance and the moment when it attempts to die.”