The Art of Expression

“It is not enough that a man has clearness of vision, and reliance on sincerity, he must also have the art of expression, or he will remain obscure.” ~ George Henry Lewes

You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t package it correctly, it will be lost in the crowd. Likewise, you can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t present it well, it, too, will be lost in the sea of ideas that tend to slosh around in human consciousness.

Style concerns the artful expression of ideas and according to Hermogenes of Tarsus (c. 155-225) in his influential treatise On Style (Peri Ideon), there are seven virtues of style:

  • Clarity
  • Grandeur
  • Beauty
  • Rapidity
  • Character
  • Sincerity
  • Force

It is easy to see the vices that tend to corrupt an otherwise virtuous expression. Whether you consider the antonym of any of the above or a lighter shade in between, you are wise to spend time each day considering the style with which you presented your ideas, especially if you generate a lot of ideas on a regular basis. Watch for these stylistic vices:

  • Confusion, illogic, obscure references, jumping around from point to point
  • Understating or treading overly lightly on the important and often uncomfortable points
  • Coarse or vulgar language
  • Circumlocution, long-winded descriptions, big words where smaller ones would suffice
  • Poorly formed, disjointed or incomplete presentation
  • Insincerity, talking to cover the uncomfortable silences, selling something you don’t believe in
  • Flaccid, namby-pamby expression devoid of passion

Take time this week to take note of and improve upon your expression. Package your ideas as carefully as you would wrap a valuable gift for a precious friend, regardless of your audience. And have fun with it!

7 thoughts on “The Art of Expression

  1. Kai Newell

    It is fantastic that you are able to unearth and breathe life into these forgotten, or at least lesser known, texts. It takes the arduousness out of the seeking many do for a firmer foundation. So many of the principles have already been defined and eloquently documented, and your modern day application is much appreciated!


  2. Fernando

    Indeed these are very good tools for more effective communication! Who wouldn’t want to communicate their ideas more effectively and efficiently? There is something about efficiency in function, and communication is no exception. Great post!


  3. Kimberly

    Great post. This is an area I find I can always work on. In my teaching career, inspiring and influencing are primary competencies. More important than reaching my students with my ideas is teaching them to clearly convey theirs, but it always starts with the teacher leading the way.


  4. Joshua

    A subject with which we work, starting invisibly. I love the refining opportunity you have expressed this morning!
    Will certainly engage in this process actively!
    Thanks Gregg, you ROCK!


  5. Kolya

    Great topic – I will certainly be more aware of how I present my ideas. I have seen so many lost as I have blurted out a list, without packaging them properly, only to see them passed by or not even seen. I will also be more aware of those who may have trouble expressing their ideas not to disregard them because of the way they are delivered as a perfect gem might be missed.


  6. Colin

    I had no idea that there was an ancient treatise on style, that’s pretty neat. Unfortunately, ideas that have these attributes will sometimes be successful where better ideas that don’t have them fail. The presentation of ideas is crucial to them being adopted, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the points listed above or the timing of the presentation. There have been historical cases where an idea that had been shunned a few years earleir was suddenly embraced as enlightened! This should be important to anyone who wants to amel an impact on their world, big or small. With good presentation, you can save your energy for actually creating the important ideas, and not fighting the system.


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