Chapter 4: Style

4


Translated from the online collection catalogue of the Rijksmuseum:

Girl in a large hat, Caesar Boëtius van Everdingen, circa 1645-circa 1650. The half figure of a young woman stands against a light sky in bright sunlight. She is wearing a hat with a very wide brim, woven from stripes of pink and white cloth. The hat casts a shadow over the top half of her face; her eyes, beneath the hat’s shade, are directed at the viewer. She wears a white satin robe, leaving the shoulder bare. A rose ribbon falls from the hat onto her bare shoulder, another wider ribbon of the same color serves as a belt. The girl is holding up with both arms a basket filled with violet plums. The horizon is quite low, so at the bottom of the picture only the tops of trees are visible.

The girl with her exotic, broad-brimmed sun hat and suggestively exposed shoulder offers the viewer her basket with fruit: the erotic message is unmistakeable. The painting was originally intended to hang high up on the wall, above a door or mantelpiece. This explains why the girl looks down on us.

For all information provided in the online catalogue, click here, or on the picture above.

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On a sunny, summery day such as the one on this painting, a hat is a useful accessory. But this hat does more than protect its wearer against the bright sunlight. Together with the white dress and the basket the girl is holding in her hands, the hat gives her a stylish, exotic look.

Style is about a characteristic, specific way of doing things: the way in which someone dresses, how a building is designed, or how writers express themselves in a text. Choosing a certain style also means choosing a certain effect. All writers - and speakers, of course - who want to achieve their goals, need to carefully consider the appropriate the style for their audience and for the context in which the communication takes place.

Chapter 4 offers a number of tools for writing texts in a style that suits the text genre, the purpose of the text and the audience that the writer or speaker wants to reach. Style is mainly about word choice and sentence construction. A good style is created by a deliberate use of techniques meant to increase the comprehensibility, instructiveness, persuasiveness, and/or attractiveness of a text.

A good style ensures that the message reaches the audience without readers or listeners having to waste valuable time deciphering opaque prose. Moreover, an appropriate and carefully chosen style increases the audience’s trust in a message. Finally, style makes reading or listening a pleasure.

Just like the outfit with the broad hat contributes to the girl's captivating style, so does a choice of words and sentence construction that suits the context and communicative goals entice the audience and encourage them to continue reading or listening. A sharp sentence, a striking image, a humorous note and an elegant turn of phrase make reading and listening a pleasure. Style is important in communication. Style creates effect. Style makes the world a bit more beautiful.