How to Write, How to Write Badly and How to Write Well by C. E. M Joad
Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad (1891-1953) was a prominent figure of Great Britain whose BBC Radio programme "The Brains Trust" won marvellous fame. It was a wartime discussion programme launched in January 1940 (World War II). Joad's controlled and superb discussion techniques. his treasure of anecdotes supplemented by his refined humour entertained millions of listeners in the world. He soon became a celebrated figure of the United Kingdom and was regarded along with Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell a very eminent British social thinker of the 20th century. He was mainly interested in philosophy and wrote books and delivered lectures to popularize this subject.
C.E.M Joad was one of those lucky fellows who became popular during their own lifetime. He was invited as a guest of honour to distinguished gatherings and was involved in numerous lead discussions. In short. he was once the centre of the attention of the general public. It was expected that he would be knighted, but unfortunately he was involved in a scandal that destroyed his reputation and all hopes of a peerage: In 1948, he was convicted ofgtravelling on a train without a valid ticket. This matter became the talk of the town and brought dismal results. This humiliation put an end to his broadcasting career. Consequently, his health started deteriorating and he developed cancer in 1952. Within a year, his life came to an end.
The present article is an excellent piece of advice to those who want to acquire the skill of writing. C.E.M. Joad rose to eminence mainly because he knew the art of using words effectively. He has described certain pitfalls that trap the new writers and they make an effort to make their style look more impressive. This, in fact, brings artificialrty to their style and consequently spoils it. Joad asks them to avoid such practices. He is of the view that the contents of the writing must have the force of judgment while the expression must be simple, accurate and natural.
What are the faults in our writing?
Most of the faults of writing arise from our misconceptions. Mostly. People think that writing is a specialized held. They forget the fact that writing is actually 'talking on paper'. Over-awed by this misconception. they commit faults and the result is bad writing, Instead of using plain expressions. they try to make their style impressive.
For example. they would prefer to say 'a tensorial artist' when they, in tact mean a barber.
The other thing that causes bad writing is the poison of journalese -i.e., language of journalism. The characteristic of journalism is constant overemphasis.
For example, the cricket reporter will like to say 'the sphere struck the ‘uprights'. when he wishes to report that the ball hit the stumps.
Some authors also mislead the common people by declaring that style is very difficult to acquire C E. M. Joad rejects this false notion He is of the view that ideas behind the words should be forceful. The style should be clear and free from tricks and dodges.
How can we write well?
C.E.M. Joad declares in the beginning that the object of writing is something we want to say. Anyone who has this object in mind can write well. For this purpose. due consideration should be given to the following:
First of all. A writer should feel genuinely on a subject. Then he should think clearly on it as to what he wants to say. After this he should determine.
If that he will say no more than the ideas that he has in his mind.
After thoughts. come the knowledge of grammar and the laws of sentence construction.
If ideas are logical. clear and convincing. they will automatically express themselves' In the mould which we call good writing There should be no conscious effort (May!) to create music and beauty of style Simplicity of expression has its own beauty.
If any writer follows the above-mentioned instructions, he can write well. He will be able to convey his ideas to others quite convincingly.
What does beauty in style depend on?
CE M load of the View that------ snould be like his dress. It should attract as little attention as possrble. He refers to Samuel Butler's famous work "Notebooks". Butler says that he has never made any conscious effort to acquire a style. All his life he believed in simple straightforwardness.
C EM. Joad quotes another similar example of GB. Shaw. Shaw is famous for his true. original and effective style. But Shaw is of the opinion that such a style is never achieved for its own sake. He further says that effectiveness of assertion is the beginning and end of style. He who has nothing to assert has no style. From this discussion. C.E M. Joad draws the conclusion that beauty in style depends on effective ideas and straightforward way of saying things. Only and only these two things deterrnine the beauty of style.
What is the difference between the style of Meredith and Hazlitt?
C E.M. Joad lays stress on the fact that writers should avoid using tricks and dodges. When they make a deliberate effort to bring beauty to their style. they became artificial and unimpressive. Joad gives the example of George Meredith. a famous writer of fiction who flourished during the nineteenth century. At times, his style rises to heights of nobility, but sometimes his style becomes unbearable because it is showy and full of affectation. Most of the time his object is to produce a striking effect by an unusual phrase. Contrary to this approach is the approach of Hazlitt. He is one of the masters of English prose. Hazlitt himself deciares that to write a true style is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation. A writer should have a complete command and choice of words His priority should be to use as simple words as is possible This will render force and flow to his style.