Good Writing!

In terms of research writing, Serge Durflinger’s Fighting from Home: The Second World War in Verdun Quebec is an example of clear writing used to express ideas succinctly. His choice of vocabulary also contributes to my positive opinion of his writing. He uses appropriate words that express his ideas plainly, but also maintain a scholarly tone. The clarity of his writing can be seen in this passage:

Ottawa recognized early that the war eventually would cause a housing shortage and social distress. Federal authorities quickly began regulating the distribution of building material and the labour supply allotted to housing construction. Since the expanding defence industries received first priority, fewer residential structures were built and fewer still were of an adequate size and quality to meet market demands (Durflinger, 2006, 137).

Here, Durflinger manages to keep his prose tight without making his writing sound too clinical or stilted. He also avoids falling into that old trap of using language in a way that obscures what the writing is trying to express. The simplicity is truly admirable and something I aspire to since my writing tends towards the awkward and wordy.

Ernest Hemmingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” and William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” are two short stories that I think have something to contribute to research writing. I am a huge fan of well written short stories since it truly is an art form that requires an author to have a firm grasp of their craft. Writing short stories requires efficient use of effective language, which is something that both Hemmingway and Faulkner do in my chosen examples.

In Hemmingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” the dialogue is short, clipped and abundantly clear. The way he forms these sentences creates the perfect atmosphere for the piece and is a stunning example of the power of subtext and metaphors. His language is used to great effect to create a rich world that he allows us a glimpse into.

William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” also makes an incredible use of language. His ordinary choice in words and accessible writing is powerful and speaks directly to the reader, subtly effecting the way that they feel about the characters and events in the short story. Faulkner, like Hemmingway, is a writer that can express what he wants very quickly, clearly and subtly, in a way that conveys meaning to the reader exceptionally well and with no need of wordy, lengthy passages.


Durflinger, S. (2006) Fighting from Home: The Second World War in Verdun Quebec.       Vancouver: UBC Press. 312.

Faulkner, W. (1993) “Barn Burning.” Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner. New York: The Modern Library.1-25.

Hemmingway, E. (1987) “Hills Like White Elephants.” The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemmingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 129-131.


1 Comment

Filed under Blogging Question, Week 6

One response to “Good Writing!

  1. Hey Jesse,

    I attended an author talk yesterday, and one of the questions he was asked was for tips on writing effectively. He mentioned that the best thing to do was to read one’s work out loud because it would make it easier to discover when your writing is off point. He also mentioned that reading it out loud to someone provided instant feedback. As you notice their eyes begin to glaze over, you know that you have some tightening up to do with your work. Both of those sound like good things to do to express ones thoughts without obscuring them, as you mentioned good writing should be.

    I don’t remember where I heard Jeff Smith speak (so unfortunately I won’t be able to provide a reference) but he mentioned that as a graphic novelist the layout of each panel, images and text were important to the overall experience of reading his graphic novel BONE. He mentioned that the reader should be able to infer what was going one, through the pictures and layout even if they had not read the text. I mention this because when you described how Hemingway’s ability to create meaning quickly without lengthy passages, I began to think of reading in other contexts as well, reading pictures. In his book, Blah Blah Blah, Dan Roam talks about how using both visual and written symbols we are better able to integrate and present information. Many research articles also provide visual graphs, and charts to accompany the information, I wonder if they were more prominent, or placed within the body of the work instead of the appendix, if that would help create more meaningful forms of research writing.

    Smith, J. (1996). Bone: Out from Boneville. Columbus, Ohio: Cartoon Books

    Roam, D. (2011). Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work. New York: Portfolio/Penguin

    Toronto Public Library. (May 4, 2012). TCAF 2012 Opening Night[Video File]. Retrieved from

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