Levels of Style

This week, we started thinking about the differences between the three classical levels of decorum or style — high/grand style, middle style, and plain/low style.  Our engagement with style was largely practical: students had to write paragraphs in the differing styles.  At the same time, they were asked to think about what writing strategies they used to try to impart that style to their paragraphs. Part of our project this week is to move from an “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” approach to style to a more thoughtful and reflective approach that helps you recognize the strategies writers use to best communicate in a given rhetorical situation.

Here’s a handout that I worked up to that provides a comprehensive overview on the different levels of style.  For more reflections on this, see Envision chapter 8.

Let’s start to sharpen these criteria by looking at more concrete examples.  Before class on Wednesday, October 26, all fall Rhetgamers should look at their sources and choose ONE excerpt (1-3 sentences long) that clearly represents either high, middle or plain style.  Then, as a reply to this post, they should post that quote (in quotation marks, with a proper citation), list what level of style it represents, and then briefly (in 1-3 sentences of their own) indicate what specific characteristics of that particular quote defines it as high/middle/plain style.  Feel free to read through the comments before yours to help you with your own analysis!

This entry was posted in Christine's Reflections, Fall 2016. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Levels of Style

  1. Jnani says:

    “The term “PK” (or “Player Kill”) is often used in games like World of Warcraft to describe destroying or killing an online opponent. Although my mom had never played an online role-playing game in her life, the word had somehow made its way into her vocabulary.”

    This, to me, seems like middle style. It has an argument, but the evidence is purely anecdotal. There’s a lot of discussion of the personal experience of the author’s mother using Chinese gaming lingo. I also think that the sentences use more accessible language than what I would have seen in detached, grand-style writing, but not as completely casual (no abbreviations, or slang) as what I would expect form low/plain style. What makes it feel a little more plain is the fact that there are absolutely no citations (not in this quote, at least). Still, there’s a clear argument and the evidence is anecdotal but still logic-based. (My mom uses these words, shes not a gamer, so not only gamers use these words.)

    • Christine Alfano says:

      Nice analysis of the sentence — I think even the use of “my mom” and the way it personalizes it takes it to middle style, or even plain to middle style. Think about how even the slight shift to “my mother” would have changed the feel of that sentence.

  2. akim5 says:

    “Michael Udall earned three years’ worth of tuition and a hefty medal when his college video game team won a national tournament in April. That haul marks the first of what the Arizona State junior hopes are many accomplishments in a storied e-sports career. But Udall covets one achievement not yet attainable by any professional gamer: An Olympic gold medal.” – Paresh Dave in his article “Video games in the Olympics? E-sports industry will have to get past some hurdles”

    This quote reflects middle style writing. The perspective is not grounded in the personal as Dave takes a more analytic and objective approach. The use of diction in the phrases “That haul marks,” “storied e-sports career,” and “covets one achievement not yet attainable” is less academic than that of high style but more sophisticated than diction found in plane style. Also, the sentence structure of the quote reflects middle style as it is more varied and complex than of plain style.

    • Christine Alfano says:

      I’m totally persuaded by your assessment. One thing that strikes me about this quote is the use of vivid language — haul, hefty, storied, covets — that vivid language, as well as the final sentence with its use of colon for reveal/emphatics shows a care in crafting the words and structures.

  3. pthao1000 says:

    “When each of us gets up in the morning, we start messing with what might as well be avatar customization tools to change our appearance. ”
    —. “Identity Transformation through Gaming: Avatars leading to the Ideal Self.” November 29, 2013. Web. October 18, 2016 .

    I feel that this is an example of a low or plain style because the author talks to the reader as if they were having a conversation that suddenly turned to be about avatars. The author uses simple and plain words to quickly and clearly express his views on how we dress ourselves is similar to creating our avatars.

    • Christine Alfano says:

      Two elements really strike me here: the use of first person plural (“we”) and a verb like “messing” that’s really colloquial. The narrative impulse of the sentence (When each of us gets up in the morning…) also seems to pull it toward everyday speech. I’m persuaded by your assessment of it as plain style — though I have to point out that a vargony term like “avatar customization tools” definitely situates it in reference to a particular community of people with some expertise or shared language/phrases. I’m not sure if that nudges it a teeny bit toward plain/middle style, but it certainly helps establish the author’s ethos.

  4. jacielemos says:

    “New technologies, in particular virtual reality and robotics, will have major impact on health care in the next decade. Clinically validated, powerful medical simulators are now available and in use across the world. General surgery leads in the use of simulators, and neurosurgery leads with augmented reality and image guided surgery. Robotics are used in orthopedics and cardiology.” – Clinical review of virtual reality in surgery, by Rory McCloy and Robert Stone

    I think this is a moderately high style of writing. It is found in the abstract of the clinical review, which shows the intense structure of the writing employed by the authors. It’s vocabulary is of a high level and objective- it is assumed that the reader understands terms such as “neurosurgery,” “augmented reality,” and “robotics.” Also, directly to the left of this excerpt is a miniature bio of the authors (both renowned professors), highlighting their Ethos.

    • Christine Alfano says:

      One other thing that nudges it toward high style for me are the fact that there’s less of an emphasis on the authors. The subjects are “simulators’, “surgery”, “robotics.” Sometimes we look at this occlusion of the author as an indicator of a more high style, though, as we talked into class, it’s totally possible to use this technique in plain style as well. There is definitely a move toward specialized language and knowledge. I might consider this to be middle/high style only because the sentence structures are so straightforward here and don’t necessarily exhibit the level of “crafting” that we often see in high style.

  5. “Through participation in virtual worlds, children are given an introduction to the development of a persona, a unique identity that reflects their growing sense of self. The flexibility to create a personal (malleable and disposable) online style that mimics or contradicts the physical self permits children the opportunity for low-stakes identity play. This projection of the real self in virtual space has tremendous potential for learning, and could be a building block in the constructing of the social self (Thomas & Brown 2009).” – From “Virtual Worlds, Real Learning” by Eric Meyers, published in School Library Monthly.

    This quote seems to exemplify a high style of writing. While other parts of Meyers’ essay drop to middle style, this excerpt contains some key aspects of high style–the sentences are complex and nuanced, and the vocabulary used is fairly sophisticated (especially the use of “malleable” and the second sentence in general). The direction citation of Thomas & Brown also signifies a well-researched academic piece of writing, which lends itself to high style. Finally, there is no use of “I” or “we” in this excerpt; it’s written in the detached, scholarly third-person perspective.

    • Christine Alfano says:

      I think your assessment and analysis makes a lot of sense to me. I like the gentle way that the author defines persona through a modifying clause, making sure the audience is on board with this important definition that has specific meaning in his research or disciplinary context. The parenthetical is also interesting because it interjects this moment of specificity — as if he couldn’t control himself about parsing out what types of online styles he means.

  6. alms1021 says:

    “The classic Peter Molyneux game Dungeon Keeper, where you create a dungeon to thwart invading heroes, was rereleased by EA Games in a virtually unplayable state that required you to purchase the ability to do anything at all without a 24-hour wait. It’s also burdened with ads. A recent iOS release of the classic Japanese RPG Tales of Phantasia had the difficulty jacked up to ridiculous levels that rendered it nearly unbeatable without in-game bonus items purchased with real-world money. Both are respected games turned into offensive cash-grabs. ” – Microtransactions Are Breaking Mobile Gaming by J.J. Ulm, published by the Columbus Free Press.

    The quote above lands strongly in the lower end of Middle Class writing. The use of references to specific games and their widely agreed upon flawed nature, as well as the excerpt’s use of intermediate level diction in words lie “burdened” and “thwart” allow it to land its spot in middle class. I didn’t place this into lower class because of its lack of contractions and extremely casual ploys for a pathos connection with the audience. The quote however, does use the words unbeatable, ridiculous and cash-grabs in order to add some emotion into the writing another characteristic of the happy intermediate that is middle style writing.

  7. alecthedouglas says:

    “One time, when I was at a subway station, I saw a pigeon that kept sticking its head over the edge of the platform. Repeatedly. And I thought to myself ‘it looks like it’s trying to commit suicide.’ And at that moment, I knew that my next piece would have to be about my sister-in-law, who had committed suicide the year before.” – Jennifer Kanary in the Motherboard video titled “Experiencing Psychosis with Digital LSD”

    This is an example of low or plain style: the language Kanary uses is simple and she doesn’t use complex sentence structures. The content of this quote also indicates it is plain style, as it is an informal anecdote about the inspiration for a project she made. And, obviously, the transitions between sentences sounds conversatiinal because she was having a conversation.

  8. jliljenwall says:

    “In terms of the direction of feedback, negative online reviews are found to be more
    critical in the decision-making process than positive online reviews due to the
    overall risk aversion among consumers [35]. This is consistent with the results of
    previous research demonstrating that in the traditional brick-and-mortar stores,
    negative word of mouth more strongly decreases the willingness to purchase than
    positive word of mouth increases the willingness to purchase”

    This excerpt from Liu’s peer-reviewed article is a great example of high-style. This style can be seen through the diverse vocabulary. Additionally, this excerpt is entirely about previous studies discussing “negative online reviews” and their predecessors, which gives the excerpt an academic feel. Finally,it’s citation in the middle of the excerpt cements its station in high-style, as it gives a source for it’s data and implies that it has an extensive bibliography.

  9. jwang98 says:

    “The property rights to possess, use, enjoy, transfer, and exclude are exactly the sorts of protections that video gamers require to secure their virtual goods from theft. Yet, intellectual property cannot secure these rights for virtual goods. Instead, theft statutes protect against interferences with use, enjoyment, and possession.Once virtual goods are classified as personal property and video-game players are granted the right to use, possess, enjoy, and exclude others from the use of such virtual goods, then, and only then, will current theft statutes satisfactorily protect video gamers from the theft of their virtual goods.”
    – “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of swords and armor: regulating the theft of virtual goods” Arias, Andrea, Emory Law Journal September 2008.

    This excerpt serves as an example of high-style, as it utilizes sophisticated vocabulary and structure. The argument was very logical and formatted in a way to persuade the reader about the legal status of virtual goods. This article was also posted on a law journal, and this fact adds to the ethos of the author and the style of the article.

  10. nicholasseay says:

    “Yet one important lifesaving skill that all healthcare providers must stay current on is CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. CPR has generally been taught in large classes using mannequins, with instructors demonstrating technique and proper form. Students read and attempt to memorize algorithms in preparation for classes. Newer electronic approaches involve online portals to view CPR or BLS and integrate online test taking. Whether this more modern approach is useful and sustainable is unclear at this time.”

    I would consider this to be middle style. The writing is clean and avoids falling into an informal voice. At the same time, it is not an overly complicated, nor does it use very verbose or “thesaurus-y.” Some specialized abbreviations are also defined, such as “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” for CPR. Finally is a use of narration how a class may go, but it is somewhat removed from the writer and simply factual rather than being laden with opinion or excessive detail.

  11. inthekeyofchaz says:

    “Well, it wasn’t long before I was shouting, “Just kill something, you idiots!” at my fellow Spartan squadmates in Halo 5. Instead of helpfully annihilating enemies, they mostly just ran around yelling things and occasionally revived me. I thought that dumb NPCs would be a thing of the past by now, but clearly, video game AI still has a long way to go. So why then, I wondered, do gaming companies keep talking about “true” AI, when the computer-controlled characters they create are still so infuriatingly stupid?”

    I would consider this to be plain style. There is a focus on the narrative aspect of the author, which is a prevalent theme in plain style. Phrases that are colloquial are sued more such as “but clearly”, and “has a long way to go”. Pearson also is expressing more emotion-based opinions than factualy content int his example of plain style text. Another indicator of plain style is the assumption of the knowledge of the scronym NPC (non-playing character). NPC is a gamer-specific terms that appeals to his audience of gamers and game developers.

    Source: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/why-true-ai-in-video-games-is-a-marketing-gimmick

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