If he would inform, he must advance regularly from Things known to things unknown, distinctly without Confusion, and the lower he begins the better. It is a common Fault in Writers, to allow their Readers too much knowledge: They begin with that which should be the Middle, and skipping backwards and forwards, ’tis impossible for any one but he who is perfect in the Subject before, to understand their Work, and such an one has no Occasion to read it.
Oh yes, this is like geeky to the umpteenth power… on my part.
At first, I thought the quote was just cool… something in which two of my worlds collide… “History, meet Thoughts on Cohesion and Coherence… Thoughts on Cohesion and Coherence, meet History“. I borrow the Franklin quote (though I wish I knew exactly where I can find it in Franklin’s works) from Joseph M. Williams‘ Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace… (it is the leading quote for Lesson 5, “Cohesion and Coherence”). Then, I started looking at this as a blogger.
If he would inform, he must advance regularly from Things known to things unknown…
I think this is what many bloggers set out to do. They find something that they think is important within the context of their lives, and they want to share that, in the hopes, perhaps, that someone else… hopefully more than a few… will share excitement over the thing that the blogger finds important. But then…
…distinctly without Confusion, and the lower he begins the better.
Hmmm, o.k., I get it, I think… keep the focus, and begin at the baseline… the basics; building up from the bottom. Then too, maybe this is where Ben is telling us to not mix it up so much. Keep focused on the subject of interest. Maybe he IS telling us here that less is more. Maybe he’s telling us to “KISS” (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Sure… that makes sense, and less is more takes us back to simplicity and clarity (and it’s funny, but Williams’ book has an epilogue titled “Clarity and Coherence”, taking us back, full circle, to Lesson 5).
…and the lower he begins the better
Ha… yes, emphasis was mine here. We’ll say nothing about the sexist language. After all, Ben was writing not for today, but based on the context of the 18th century… something worthy of discussion in another blog post. So, without digressing too much… more importantly, I think Ben goes back, once again, to the KISS concept… if not the concept of chunking. Ben knows how to reach the largest possible audience… “are you sure you haven’t written for the Web, Ben?”
It is a common Fault in Writers, to allow their Readers too much knowledge.
Yup… and I’ve been guilty of this in blogging. I have packed a lot in some posts, and, at times, have moved away from my beliefs (somewhat) in the basic idea behind chunking. It’s likely a reflection of the difficulties I have with unleashing my brain from writing history under standards of academia… and struggling to break the gravitational chains of writing for print. Again, maybe less is more, even though this might be a huge challenge to some who are more familiar with writing in academia. Perhaps an argument can be made in little more than a paragraph or two, followed by subsequent posts with chunks of information in support, but able to stand alone, one post not necessarily dependent on the other. In so doing, perhaps we build on ideas without paining the reader, who isn’t necessarily an academic in the first place. Then too, when faced with some who are absolutely unmovable in their personal perception of historic personalities or events… perhaps this is the less threatening approach; keeping in mind, of course, that it is not the intent to change the reader to our point of view, but to engage the reader enough to open his/her eyes enough to recognize that other possibilities exist.
They begin with that which should be the Middle, and skipping backwards and forwards, ’tis impossible for any one but he who is perfect in the Subject before, to understand their Work, and such an one has no Occasion to read it.
There are two points to be made in this quote. First, Ben focuses on content and the manner in which the writer manipulates it. Let’s think about it this way… is what you write, efficient? What is the purpose of your taking the time to write? What do you hope to do to the reader? Are you looking at changing his/her mind, looking for others who agree with you, or simply wanting to share information?
With that in mind, and considering the closing lines of this quote… this is where Ben tries to change hats, and understand the text from the standpoint of the reader… or maybe he’s telling the readers that this is where they need to change hats as writers. In other words, this is Ben’s effort to discuss usability in the writer’s architecture of words. He recognizes the fact that, well… if you want to be heard… no, not just for your message, but for your perspective, and in a larger, deeper sense… you need to architect your words more carefully. Incidentally, being “heard”, therefore, has a more complex meaning than reflective of a sensory occurrence.