Thursday, August 9, 2007

Style Tips, Nonetheless

Kathy Henning has an excellent article at clickZ. It’s part of a series on writing for the web. I love the exercise she set herself of deconstructing the first sentence of Moby Dick. It serves as a reminder that extraneous phrases and description can slow your flow to a crawl.

I want to address two specific points raised in her top ten. Number four suggests using subheads for the sections of your text. I agree with this wholeheartedly, not least because people can skip the portions of your article they already know and get straight to the meat of the matter.

If someone sought out your article to learn more about a subject, the basics or review section you likely wrote for the beginning will lose their interest. Give that section a heading like “A Review” or “The Basics”. When you’ve finished giving background, insert another subhead to draw attention to the shift in subject. Subheads act as signposts for readers.

Rule seven commends transitional words and I agree with the rule itself. I took issue, however, with the note. Ms. Henning suggests that you ignore Misters Strunck and White by using “However,” at the beginning of a sentence rather than “Nonetheless”.

My reaction? What fault has she found with the word nonetheless? It’s a perfectly lovely word and widely understood. It is a rare sentence begun with nonetheless but I don’t believe it would be a stumbling point for readers. What do you think?