OpEd

The master of style

It is said that the French writer, Gustave Flaubert, used to go out the window and say his sentences out loud to test if they sounded good. Why is stylish writing important to everyone?

"I'd rather die like a dog than speed up a sentence for a second, which has not yet matured." The French writer, Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), was ruthless - first of all to himself. No other classical author of his stature speaks so much in his writings on style. On the importance of elegant writing. On dedication and passion to formulate a beautiful, precise, clear sentence.

"I suffer from stylistic boils and the sentences make me itch, without sticking to my head." A typical Flaubert sentence. Like this: "Style is achieved only through terrible work", he wrote in 1846. "The mania for sentences has withered his heart" - this was not written by Flaubert, but by his mother - she, close to him, worried, worried about her son. But Gustave Flaubert had warned his way since the age of 13, when he wrote: "We must devote ourselves even further to that which is greater than peoples, crowns and kings: the god of art."

It is said that Flaubert would go out to the window and say his sentences out loud to test if they sounded good. Travelers passing by on Seine river boats looked at this attraction with admiration. Another anecdote, told (and likely invented) by the German writer Daniel Kehlmann, tells of Flaubert attending a reunion with his former classmates. One of the friends did not participate because he was sick. Flaubert retreated to an alcove to write him some words - a battle that lasted several hours. Once he returned and handed the letter to his friends to sign. Flaubert had written these words on the letter: "Quick recovery".

On September 19, 1851 Flaubert wrote to his girlfriend Louise Colet: “Yesterday I started writing a novel. Now I feel stylistic difficulties, which are driving me crazy. Simply writing is not a small task". The novel that Flaubert had started was entitled "Madame Bovary" - a masterpiece of world literature. From July to November 1853 he worked on a single scene.

"Just writing is not a small task". What Flaubert thought more than 150 years ago still applies today, even more than ever. Even in the field of language, you reap what you sow. In the digital age, everyone has a profile somewhere. The urge to express oneself on various platforms is often unstoppable, especially among those people (including journalists) who feel the need to throw their thoughts at the public like a drunken rancher throws the tag at the animals after asking them all during the day through lawns and hills.

People often confuse language performance on social media with chatter on the beach, in a coffee shop or in a yard - without weighing it up. There the words can be taken away by the wind. What is written remains - so at least let it be written with respect for the language, regardless of the content. Respect for language is also respect for readers. An elegant wording, a word or sentence that arouses curiosity, a surprising word formation has the potential to delight the reader and be understood (at best, understood) by the reader. In this way, credibility becomes graspable and imaginable by the public.

Writing should not leave anyone indifferent. At least this is the ambition of everyone who writes (especially those who professionally deal with language - politicians, professors, journalists, clergy). Today, everyone is a "journalist" or - even worse - a "good seller": thanks to a YouTube profile, a blog, an "authorial" show, for example. In most cases, the lectures of the "good sellers" (especially the lectures disguised with religious fur) serve to entertain the masses. It's not humor what comes out of the mouths of "sellers of beans", it's abuse of letters and misuse of language. Saint Augustine, the Roman bishop, who lived between 354 and 430, recalled that God gave people language not to deceive each other, but to exchange thoughts among themselves. Words and language are signs of the soul.