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Don’t Understand My “Big Grammar”? I’m Not Writing for You!

By Farooq Kperogi  Twitter: @farooqkperogi Each time I write, a class of Nigerian social media users routinely write to whine that my “gram...

By Farooq Kperogi 

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Each time I write, a class of Nigerian social media users routinely write to whine that my “grammar is too much” and to request that I write at their “level.” 

Well, if a piece of writing is above your intellectual paygrade— and you feel no urge to look up unfamiliar words and idioms that interfere with your understanding of it— it clearly isn’t meant for you.

 And that’s OK. Move on. Go read something else that’s meant for you. Don’t ask the writer to write at your level—unless you pay the writer to write for you.

It’s a well-worn cliché in literary studies that “style is the man.” The cliché owes debts to French theorist Georges Louis Leclerc Buffon who famously said in a 1753 lecture, “Le style c’est l’homme même,” that is, “The style is the man himself.”

 In other words, our style is an expression of our individuality, a reflection of our characteristics, an attribute of our personality. 

Oscar Wilde vernacularized it best when he wrote: “I don't wish to sign my name, though I am afraid everybody will know who the writer is: one's style is one's signature always.”

When people write, they are first of all giving expression to their thoughts before they are communicating with others. And their style of writing is as unique to them as their gait, their sartorial choices, their manner of smiling, their handwriting, etc. are. It’s unreasonable to ask people to change their style to suit your expectations.

Chinua Achebe wrote in limpid, accessible prose. But Wole Soyinka is turgid and impenetrable. You can’t tell either of them to be the other. That would be asking them to sign their stylistic death warrants. The same applies to me—and everybody who writes.

 Don’t like or understand my style? There are hundreds of people whose style you can understand. Go read them. Don’t ask me to be who I am not.😁

1 comment

  1. Professor, l love it having you be what you are if that means, or even if it does not mean, who you are. I would even love it more dearly if all else could change to be like you in terms of your style of writing, which I really love and enjoy.

    But Professor, when you say changing your style of writing to make yourself less incomprehensible to those who complain that they fing you turgid - when you say changing your style of writing would mean giving a different expression to your individuality, are you in a way saying that
    those with awkward or seemingly illiterate styles of writing should stick to those styles as doing so would wrongly define the person's of who they are?


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