Friday, April 20, 2018

Tax Season and the Plain Style

Tax Season and the Plain Style
            Hearing the term “Plain Style” the idea is that it is a simple, easy, for all ages read. It would be assumed then that a website that specializes in anything for dummies would be plain style, that is quite the opposite. Tax season is a haze of confusion and stress and then add actually doing taxes and the confusion is through the roof. So, taxes for dummies, it would be assumed, would be dumbed down so that the average jo would understand it. Through a textual analysis and a contextual analysis, it shows that plain style is just as confusing as official style writing, and it brings up the question, is “for dummies” plain enough for plain style. 
            For Dummies is a platform, both website and novel form, that transforms “hard-to understand into easy-to-use.” The platform changes information that is confusing for the average person into basic information that any entry level learner would understand. They pride themselves that, “dummies make learning anything even easier.”
            The plain style of “taxes 101” is far from plain. While most of the article is based on For Dummies, the remaining of the article is within another website called LearnVest, already making it harder for the entry level learner. And something that is supposed to bring the topic to an easier level does not add active voices within the examples given and the breakdown of sections. That in general brings into question if “for dummies” is actually for dummies and in plain style and able to reach a larger portion of the population.
            One portion of the article is titled “taxes in a nutshell,” it essentially discusses the basics of why taxes exist and why citizens pay them. When plugging the following portion of the article,
“Taxes are compulsory contributions to the state you live in, and to the federal government, levied by the government to pay for things that society as a whole need but people can’t pay for individually. That includes everything from the roads you drive on to law enforcement to the salary of the President of the United States.
These taxes aren’t optional, and trying to hide or outrun them never really ends well. (Just Google “celebrity tax evasion.”) Plus, 96% of Americans believe it’s your civic duty to pay taxes, so the best thing to do is get a basic understanding of taxes so that you can pay them accurately and on time, with minimum stress and pain — financial or emotional.
in a readability calculator is comes out showing that the grade level of the article is 13th grade, looking at most high school, there is not a class that teaches the breakdown of taxes and what they are or do. So, it is leaving out a big portion of the population because the average college graduate does not know how to do their taxes, or has never done taxes before. Also, looking more deeply into the word choice, the use of like “compulsory contributions” is not going to make sense to most people when it could be more easily said as, required contribution would better branch to individuals of all kinds in society. Within that portion of the article there is also the discussion of “your civic duty,” it is a term that is thrown around, however people that are supposed to have a 13th grade level understanding won’t necessarily know what is meant by that because the basis of one’s civic duty is based in individual ideals.
            The author of the article, Alden Wicker, has written multiple other articles about taxes for the website LearnVest, such as taxes for a freelancer, taxes for a married couple, taxes for homeowner, etc. Due to the large number of articles pertaining to taxes it seems like Alden Wicker is a viable source when it comes to looking into taxes and getting tips and tricks on finishing taxes.
            Looking through a different lens, the overall discussion of taxes is nicely broken down and the easily accessible manner of which one can find it makes it more plain style. The author being an avid author that pops up on the website is beneficial for the plain style, each article about taxes is going to stick with the desire to keep the information accessible and flow in a similar manner to make it easy for the audience at hand.
            The author gives the article a more talkative, easy to read flow, starting right away with the first and second paragraph,
Nobody forgets the first time, whether it was at their high school job at the ice cream parlor or their first job out of college, that they eagerly tore open a paycheck, already planning a shopping spree . . . only to find that someone had stolen a huge chunk of their money! (If you haven’t felt this sinking feeling yet, prepare yourself.) / Yup, that big missing chunk went to taxes. But don’t think you’re not getting anything for it! Here are a few examples of what your taxes get you: the clean water running out of your tap, the police keeping your neighborhood safe, and the garbage that gets picked up on your curbside.”
Within the first two paragraphs there is a lot of use of “you” and more talkative language with the use of terms like, “huge chunks,” “yup.” Not only the simple terms but the author uses analogies with known real-world things to connect the reader with their taxes, the action of doing them, and what their taxes go towards with, “Here are a few examples of what your taxes get you: the clean water running out of your tap, the police keeping your neighborhood safe, and the garbage that gets picked up on your curbside.”
            Plain style is not cut and dry, just as with the official style, plain style still has a specific audience it is trying to reach. And plain style doesn’t necessarily mean that it is going to be dumbed down and “for dummies,” it means that it is going to be in more basic language in which a wider variety of people can benefit from. Looking specifically at the “for dummies” website, texts on the website are going to be easier to understand than their more official style counterparts, but it can also mean that there missing components of the deeper information that might need to be known. They  
Plain style skims the surface of topics and information, it makes information available to a broader audience, but that can come at the expense of information necessary to the topic because it was too hard to understand. With all of that too it can still be just as confusing as official style, when looking specifically at the topic of Taxes and the plain style that comes from “for dummies,” plain style doesn’t suddenly make a person with no expertise in a topic a master, it gives the basics, but can still lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
Jamie L

Keep it Plain and Personal: Plain Style in Personal Blogs

It's 2018. Forget your journals and your diaries; with today's technology, blogging is the way to go. But, if you write your journal entries with the vocabulary of a Shakespearean sonnet or the lengthiness of an iTunes user agreement, you might not be cut out for blogging. I love a good blog, and after analyzing a few of my favorites, I've discovered that writing in the plain style is one very important key to success. In this critique of the personal blog, I analyze a recent post from the fashion, travel, and lifestyle blog, Truelane. This blog, along with three more blogs with similar followings, illustrates that successful personal blogging relies on the use of plain style.

Before I get into my argument, I want to clarify that this critique is focused on personal blogs. A counter argument would be that a successful blog requires ethos and that plain style is not the best way to establish credibility. The official style, because it is formal and so thorough, may be believed to be the best way to establish credibility. In the case of the personal blog, credibility is established not through a show of knowledge, but through an honest revealing of personality and by being relatable.  If you’re reading about someone’s life, you want it to be conversational, not difficult to decipher. I want to make it clear that my argument isn’t that all blogs should be written in plain style (although I think most are), but that specifically the personal blog is more successful when written in plain style. 

Chelsea Lankford is the full-time blogger behind Truelane. Chelsea is a 26-year-old who blogs about everything from jewelry details to solo travel to life in the internet age. In this critique I will be analyzing her post "How to Make it as a Micro-Influencer," published on January 12, 2018. Before we really get into the aspects of plain style and the spheres of human activity, I offer some of Chelsea's readability statistics: 
Grade Level:
Average Sentence Length:
Long Sentences:
12 (26.09%)
Passive Sentences:
2 (4.35%)
Note: these findings are from the 674-word excerpt of the post that I analyzed.

There are many elements of plain style in this blog post. One of the main components of the plain style is active voice. While the official style is dripping with passive voice, the plain style avoids it—therefore making the writing more personal and easier to read. Needless to say, having a personal voice is crucial in a personal blog. This blog post is only 4.35% passive voice, which indicates that the writer is keeping a personal and active tone. 

Another thing this blog post lacks is difficult jargon. The longest word syllabically is "opportunity," while the longest word by letter count is "photographer," neither of which are particularly advanced. Difficult jargon is a staple of the official style, and the lack of it in this excerpt is further proof of Chelsea's use of plain style. Rather than being difficult to decipher, the language is plain and easy to understand, which contributes to the overall conversational tone. On a slightly different vocabulary-related note, this post includes a lot of hyphenation. Some examples include "blogger-turned-model, "full-time," "meet-up," and "big-name." These words strung together by hyphens are a more understandable alternative to challenging vocabulary. Instead, the hyphenation of smaller words helps paint a picture in simpler terms.

Finally, this blog post features a lot of repetition and emphasis, a couple key features in plain style. Chelsea makes a clear argument by reiterating important points in succession—what rhetoricians would call conduplicatio. For example, she mentions early on that blogging "is luck and being in the right place at the right time." In the next paragraph, she explains her experience and makes a clear tie back to the concepts of luck and timing: "Sincerely Jules and Sea of Shoes were just getting started—right place, right time. Another big blogger at the time, Natalie Off Duty, visited Seattle and we got together (my first blogger meet-up!). I was offered my first campaigns after brands that followed her blog found mine—luck." In addition to being clear by means of repetition in her language, Chelsea uses punctuation and bolding to emphasize her main idea. Additionally, Chelsea makes the post visually appealing--using images, shorter paragraphs, headings, and bold font to break things up.

There are plenty of examples of the plain style in this blog post, but it's important to consider the audience and spheres of human activity this blog reaches in order to fully understand why the plain style is so important. As previously mentioned, Truelane is the personal blog of 26-year-old Chelsea Lankford, covering fashion, travel, and life. Chelsea has found enough success with Truelane to blog full-time. She started branding her blog as Truelane when she lived in Minneapolis, and has now returned to her hometown, Seattle.  Instagram is her most influential social media platform, where she has 66.4k followers. 

I know plenty of the Truelane audience is made up of people with backgrounds similar to my own: roughly-millennial, from the Midwest, with some level of interest in fashion, travel, or at least an aesthetically pleasing feed. The spheres of human activity this blog reaches include fashion, travel, social media, and can even be narrowed (although not explicitly) to people in the Seattle and Minneapolis areas. People who read Truelane have some kind of interest in fashion, travel, or the blogger lifestyle. What does that mean? It should be informative and entertaining, but it's also leisure reading—which means it should be easy to read. The audience is looking for something conversational and personal. First person, active voice, and conversational tone are key in personal blogging. It keeps the reading easy, interesting, and also establishes the blogger's credibility. What's a personal blog without a personal voice? Unsuccessful, I imagine. Plain style is a crucial component of success in personal blogging.

After analyzing Truelane, I made sure plain style isn't just a trend in this particular personal blog. I ran readability tests on three more personal blogs from similar micro-influencers. Here are the statistics:
Champagne and Macaroons (65.7k followers)
Grade Level:
Passive Voice:
The Styled Press (31K followers)
Grade Level:
Passive Voice:
On a Sugar Diet (16.7k followers) 
Grade Level:
Passive Voice:

The proof is in the readability tests: successful personal blogs, like those listed above, are all about plain style. Chelsea Lankford's recent blog post "How to Make it as a Micro-Influencer," illustrates the effective use of plain style in personal blogging. The spheres tied to this fashion, travel, and lifestyle blog suggest that the language should be upfront and conversational. Even Chelsea knows the value of plain style. Near the end of this post, which is all about the ins and outs of successful blogging, she writes: "I've tried to be as plainspoken as possible in this blog post, and I hope you find some of it helpful rather than discouraging." So, there you have it. The key to a successful personal blog? Plain style—it's as simple as that.

Rachel Bernard

Plain Styles: Are They Working Out?

Plain styles of writing are often thought of as opposites to official styles, which include dense academic, legal, and governmental texts. Often plain styles of text are thought of as more clear and approachable, and overall a better choice for reaching a large audience and for making sure all the information is easy to understand. There are even movements for increased requirement of plain style use, and current regulations like the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires clear communications in plain styles from federal agencies. However, does the plain style actually provide these supposed benefits? Is it always better than the official style’s dense, wordy text and heavy use of citations? To answer these questions, I’m going to critique a sample from a blog written in the plain style.

The sample I will critique is a blog post about why you should work out, written by Rob Sulaver, the CEO and Founder of a company called Bandana Training. The website for Bandana Training comes across bold and intense, and as a program that appeals to men who want to get in shape. Contributing to this effect, Sulaver describes himself as “your personal bandana-wearing lean muscle sherpa”, which is rather pretentious and self-aggrandizing, and probably supposed to appeal to men who wish they were like that. The website also depicts body images that would unattainable for most people and advertisements for supplements. The website I found this post on is called Greatest, and it is separate from Bandana Training, featuring Sulaver as a guest author. This website’s slogan reads, “Live a little healthier every day”. Greatest likely appeals to both men and women who want to incorporate healthier habits to their existing lifestyles. The audience is likely made up of people who lead busy lives and want to look for smll ways to live a healthier lifestyle.

Sulaver uses many plain style strategies in his post. These include short sentences and paragraphs, first and second person, the active voice, an informal tone, minimal use of jargon, and a list structure with several step by step instruction sections. Take this section of Sulaver’s post for example:

"Being stronger, leaner, happier, and more capable can make for a better life. Case in point: Your boss needs you to lift that heavy box? Yes, ma'am, you can. Your neighbor needs help rearranging furniture? Damn right, buddy, you'll move that couch. Your friend needs to be carried home from the bar? Saddle up, cowboy.
Training increases your capabilities. That's the law of progressive overload—lift something a little bit heavier each day, get a little bit stronger. Run a little faster each day, get a little bit, um, faster"

The plain style is evident in this excerpt. Phrases like “Damn right, buddy” and “get a little bit, um faster” are obviously very informal, and when combined with sentences written in first person like, “Your boss needs you to lift that heavy box” it creates a conversational tone that suits an audience looking to get information quickly.  In addition to this casual tone, this post includes minimal instances of jargon. The most jargon-esk example is in the excerpt above, where Sulaver mentions the concept of “progressive overload”. However, the impact of this term is negated by the super approachable definition provided directly following the term. Throughout the rest of the post, Sulaver sticks to non-jargon words, using easier alternatives like, “feel-good hormones”, which once again make the post more accessible for general audience, but may also be too reductive and detract from the overall credibility of the post. The list structure and parallelism between all six sections of the post also make it more approachable. The first title reads, “Because it makes you happy”, and each subsequent title follows the same “Because it…” structure introducing the next point. These titles make it possible for a reader to get all six of the post’s main points without reading each individual section and as a time-saver, would likely appeal to the website’s target audience.

The downside of these strategies that make this post quick and easy to comprehend is that it is reductive. In his first point, Sulaver mentions two studies that support his argument, but does not elaborate on what form those studies took or what kind of data was found as evidence. Leaving this type of information out is a plain style strategy, because the author eliminates unnecessary technical information and instead states just the conclusion from the study that supports his argument. This omission aids the ease of comprehension and accessibility of the text for someone with limited time who can’t read the study themselves or who couldn’t get through a dense text like that, but it also eliminates detail that could enrich the Sulaver’s point, provide important background information, and increase his credibility.

Another thing Sulaver leaves out is any discussion about how to stay safe while working out. While the goal of this article is to promote frequent exercise as a lifestyle, it doesn’t even hit this topic, which is a vital aspect of any new workout regimen. Furthermore, this piece targets people who don’t already work out, and most of these people likely to have little background or formal training that would help them work out safely. For this audience, general safety information, learning how to correctly do different types of exercise, and knowing how to choose intensity or duration of the exercise, is critical. Without this type of information, a beginner is much more likely to overwork themselves, use equipment wrong, or even hurt themselves.

In one sense, Sulaver almost seems to encourage unsafe practices; in the introduction section Sulaver asks, “Why do they [people who love the gym] suffer through injuries, through misery?”. This question glosses over and oversimplifies injuries that occur while working out. While injuries do happen at the gym and shouldn’t keep people from exercising, someone new to working out could read this question and conclude that injury is normal and that they should “suffer through injuries”. This type of reduction is typical of the plain style, and could potentially have negative effects on its audience, in the form of physical injury. This shows that the plain style is not necessarily a better option than the official style, and that while there are definite benefits to the plain style, it is not always a better option than official styles.

Overall, the use of the plain style is partly effective here. On one hand, strategies like short sentences and paragraphs, first and second person, the active voice, an informal tone, minimal use of jargon, and the list structure create a conversational tone and makes the information presented quick, accessible, and easy to understand. These benefits exactly match the target audience, who are likely people with limited free time and busy schedules. However, the success is only partial because the article ultimately is too reductive in its word choice, evidence, and discussion of key aspects of the topic such as safety considerations. These issues show that although there are movements with widespread support in favor of plain styles, the plain styles themselves are not without their own weaknesses that can have considerable effects on its audience.

Link to Bandana Training:
Link to Greatest:
Link to Blog Post:

-Maria Dresen

From Complex to Plain: Language in The Wheel of Time

The following piece is an examination of Richard Littauer's work "Old and New Tongues: Constructed Language and The Wheel of Time." Here, I examine his use of Plain Style in order give his audience understanding of a complex and abstract topic. 

What is The Wheel of Time?

In order to understand this work we need a background on the context that it exists within. Here, we will be taking a closer look at the short piece "Old and New Tongues: Constructed Language and The Wheel of Time.” This piece was written by Richard Littauer and published to If you expected Littauer to be a journalist, you were wrong. Richard Littauer works in website development and writes as a hobby. For a work such as this, Littauer's lack of credentials isn’t a problem. Throughout the piece, Littauer demonstrates knowledge in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time and linguistics.

This work was published online at Tor on March 19, 2018. Here is the purpose of the site: is a site for science fiction, fantasy, and all the things that interest SF and fantasy readers. It publishes original fiction, art, and commentary on science fiction and related subjects by a wide range of writers from all corners of the field; both professionals working in the genres and fans. Its aim is to provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and between its readers.

              Along with that, is part of Tor Books- the largest fantasy and science-fiction publishing house in the United States. Some of the famous series published through Tor include: Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive and Mistborn, Stephen Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, and (of course) Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time.

              A constantly important factor to understand any text is the audience. While this work focuses heavily on linguistics, the main audience is probably just fans of fantasy works. Specifically, fans of The Wheel of Time. The series began in 1990 with the release of The Eye of the World. After the passing of Robert Jordan, the remaining three books of the series were co-authored by Brandon Sanderson with the series being completed by A Memory of Light in 2013. The Wheel of Time rests as one of the best fantasy series of all-time. Richard Littauer's work offers fans of the series an opportunity delve deeper into their favorite world.  


A vital aspect of Plain Style is its informality. In contrast with Official Style, Plain Style is written similar to how people think. Our thoughts are often simple, jumbled, humorous, and beyond all else NOT formal.

Here, I will examine the use of Plain Style in “Old and New Tongues: Constructed Language and The Wheel of Time.” The author of this piece, Richard Littauer, uses the informality of Plain Style in order to engage the reader. Littauer’s writing feels like a having a conversation. This use of Plain Style allows a reader to follow Littauer’s work on a complex subject in a simple way.

One of the key things we see throughout the work is Littauer’s use of hypophora- the writing technique of asking questions and then immediately answering them. Littauer’s first use of hypophora comes early on when he states “what can we make of the Old Tongue? Not much. We can say it sounds pretty, and we can learn by rote some of the grammar rules and intricacies that Robert Jordan invented it for.” By just reading the headline of this article, we can assume that it deals with made up languages from The Wheel of Time. From there, there could be a variety of content: learning grammar, phrases, origin. However, Littauer shatters any of those expectations through his use of hypophora. What will we learn? Not much, but we can enjoy our time spent with Littauer. He follows that use of hypophora with another, “Again, who am I to judge? A persnickety, entitled, and small-minded linguist, that’s who.” He gives answer to his own question with a bit of attitude, offering a glimpse of personality that comes with Plain Style.

Along with Plain Style, Littauer mixes in a bit of the creative style. Once again, this adds to Littauer’s informal writing throughout. Writing for a fantasy/sci-fi website, Littauer cannot help but add references to other popular works. Look at this line, “But there’s a small percentage of us who want more: Those of us who try and learn Quenyan, those who translate Facebook into our favorite conlang.” Littauer uses the creative style her to make a joke, referencing the language of Elves in Lord of the Rings and social media. Adding in Creative Style, Littauer continues to showcase his personality in an informal way.

Littauer continues to guide and help readers into understanding a complex topic. Look:

Another example, within a single word, is from Towers of Midnight, where Faile mentions one of her ancestors: “Nikiol Dianatkhah was a drunkard, despite being known as one of our greatest kings.” This is decidedly weird. I couldn’t find any other character or name in all of the books with a <kh> phoneme in their name, and that’s not for lack of trying. They appear in other fantasy languages—who could forget the keen edge of a Dothraki arakh, for instance—but we never see it in the Old Tongue. But here it is in a name. This suggests that the name was either a result of subtle language change in Saldaea, or it was misspelled by the publisher (sorry Tor), or Sanderson couldn’t read Jordan’s handwriting, or Sanderson made it up (which would also be OK, I think, as he did a fantastic job with the series), or it was a one-off and no one could spell Niki’s name throughout his life—or it was simply an example of poor language planning on the part of the author. I’m much more inclined to think it is that last one.

              The letters "kh" are not found anywhere else throughout the entire series. Littauer ponders as to why Dianatkhah is a special case. Littauer continues to use plain style in order to help readers along. Littauer uses amplification- restating that this is a strange occurrence multiples times in this paragraph. Once again, Littauer adds the creative style, making multiple jokes in the last sentence, including; "…was misspelled by the publisher (sorry Tor), or Sanderson couldn’t read Jordan’s handwriting…" He also uses Apocope, subtracting from the end of the name "Nikiol" to "Niki." This gives an especially informal sense considering Niki was a king.

Discussion of the Old Tongue- a created language in a fantasy novel- could easily leave the average person behind. Yet somehow, Littauer manages to keep an informal approach, despite a difficult topic. Take a look:

First, let’s briefly talk about how names are useful when trying to understand languages. Onomastics is the study of the origin and use of proper names. By looking at how people and places are named, you can get a pretty good idea of what the language looked like when spoken by those people or in that area. Normally, this is pretty clear: Paris, Lyon, Marseilles all sound French, which makes sense, because they are French cities. Boston, New Hampshire, and Manchester all sound English, largely because New England was settled by the English; similarly, Connecticut, Nantucket, and Massachusetts are harder for English speakers to pronounce because they aren’t English words at all, they’re Wompanoag.

In the first sentence Littauer uses a strategy called distinctio. Littauer addresses a complex idea- the importance of names when trying to understand a language. He recognizes that many people may not understand what he’s talking about so he goes on to define onomastics. Littauer then follows up that idea with the use of exemplum when he says “Normally, this is pretty clear: Paris, Lyon, Marseilles all sound French, which makes sense, because they are French cities.” Littauer takes into account the complexity, and continues to use Plain Style in order to help his readers.

Implications Beyond

              Despite addressing a complex and abstract topic, Littauer does a good job of using Plain Style writing in order to make a complex and abstract topic easier to understand. The rhetorical strategies deployed do two key things: clarify ideas and show the author's personality.

              Littauer knew that the ideas he was presenting were fairly complex. He was focusing on the linguistics of a fake language- no small task. However, by using rhetorical strategies such as distinctio and exemplum Littauer was able to present a clear piece that was easy to follow along with. Along with that, Littauer presents his personality. He uses references to other major works of fantasy and science-fiction throughout. Along with that, he used humor countless times. By doing so, Littauer was able to keep his audience active and engaged in the writing.

              This is a post for fantasy and science-fiction website, but Littauer's implementation of Plain Style writing has implications beyond. This work is a great example of how to make a complex topic simple. IN order to educate the masses on complex issues, Plain Style writing could potentially be incredibly impactful. Specifically useful strategies include those to clarify ideas. Providing emphasis and repeating complex ideas multiple times-in multiple ways- will provide clarity to audiences.

Hmm, Should I Be a Vegetarian Today?

            Being someone who just recently took the leap towards vegetarianism myself, extensively researching and taking advantage of my available resources, I see multiple issues arise throughout the article My Journey To Being A Vegetarian. In the article, Jessica Dupee—a Theatre and Business Management student at Ashland University takes her readers through a personal account of her conversion to a vegetarian lifestyle. With its’ appearance on the Odyssey—an online media publication with over fifteen million writers and users, My Journey To Being A Vegetarian offers an amateur perspective on vegetarianism (e.g. influence/sway, loose expectations, relativity) with plenty articles alike falling close behind. The abundance of them featured on the website, allows audiences to read about varying experiences and stances on the same topic. The Odyssey runs as a volunteer based site, receiving thousands of submissions a day with the convenience of “no barriers and approvals” or subscription fee(s). With the ease of this online publication, as well as the words “Hear People” provided on their homepage, it’s evident that quantity over quality is valued.
Without grounded credentials or proof of expertise on the subject at hand, Dupee’s motives appear as a desire to share her experience and an effective outlet to do so. By writing the text in plain style, the author is allowing inclusivity through high readability and low grade level. While providing [assumed] sufficient understanding seems well intentioned within this context, it oversimplifies the complexity that exists within the realm of vegetarianism. Like a majority of plain styled text, simplicity pulls away from a full comprehension and presents topics in a more “scratch of the surface” type of way. If you’re looking for one individual’s overview of a pick and choose diet, this article may be for you.
            Before diving into the problematic issues that arise in this article, it’s important I acknowledge my own lack of credentials in dietary nutrition. I present this critique as a means to challenging the function of plain style within this article and similar contexts. While the author is unsuccessful in providing grounded evidence, she does present her own personal truth in the form of experience.
 From the very beginning of the article, Dupee states “I’ve always been a picky eater. And like many people, I grew up eating all sorts of animal products.” However, almost immediately after, she contradicts herself by mentioning “I wasn’t much of a meat eater and I don’t like eggs…” Right away, this brings up questions—if she did indeed grow up eating animal products than what does that leave after meat and eggs? The plain text she uses generalizes her statements to the point of confusion or lack of specificity and understanding. Audiences who aren’t familiar with the concept of “animal products” would be left uninformed and likely unsure. Additionally, the author often uses veganism and vegetarianism interchangeably—without stopping to differentiate the two. Without the appropriate knowledge—knowledge that general readers may not have, the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet may not be apparent. For example, within the second paragraph of the article, Dupee states “My first interest sparked after two of my friends had stopped eating meat and could only say good things about their experience”, however the next reference mentions her research on veganism—something very much separate from vegetarianism. While it’s most common for individuals to adapt to vegetarianism (no meat) first as a transition to veganism (no animal products), Dupee presents the opposite. Although this is very well acceptable, her explanation demonstrates a lack of knowledge in her dietary decisions and in turn a reduced understanding for readers. Not only this, but it leaves room for potential misunderstanding as well.
The author illustrates vegetarianism more so as a choice that falters weekly, monthly, and yearly instead of one that comes from a variety of ethical, environmental, and purposeful lifestyle choices. There is little to no reference to other pathways to arriving at this dietary decision. The rather direct quote “So now you might ask- why? For the animals. For the environment. For my health. Because I care, that's why”, we’re left with more questions of why than what she claims to have answered throughout her article. In addition, Dupee encourages readers who are considering a vegetarian or veganism diet to keep on trying despite the difficulty, however the author completely dismisses the health challenges and risks that come with involving your body into such a drastic change. This is an example of how plain style has downplayed the intricacy of the subject. Even though this can be argued as harmless within the context of the Odyssey, the simplification of text in specific contexts can be used to withdraw information, manipulate (through a lack of explanation), and/or neglect a reader’s existing knowledge. Without informing her audience on the body’s potential reaction to the diet, not only is there risk for individuals to enter vegetarianism or veganism with wrongful motives, but they may be putting their own health in danger.
Regardless of my own views on My Journey To Being A Vegetarian, it would be wrong to say there isn’t benefit to this offhand resource. It allows individuals with accessibly to the internet to read one person’s experience in a way that’s considerably clear and concise. I would believe this article would function better when paired with scientific or academic research on vegetarianism. With that being said, my argument brings up the question of whether firsthand accounts or expert advice is more effective in providing individuals on the fence information (and can veganism be considered vegetarianism?). Also, it’s good acknowledge the controversy that comes with one’s own personal definition and guidelines of a meatless and/or animal product free diet. Keeping this in mind, it’s difficult to critique Dupee when there’s a very personalized element to this topic and no set standards.

As other styles also demonstrate, plain text brings up questions of moral, ethical, and political implication. Morally and ethically, the clarification and accessibility of plain style creates opportunity for those without the privilege of a higher education. However, this clarification may not be enough, and there may be a need for further comprehension to make sense of the text beyond it’s singular existence. This may also mean pulling out bits and pieces of information that constructs a deceptive, simplified, and washed version of text. Broadly speaking, plain style exchanges credibility for clearness—essentially presenting a “dumbing down” of words. This may be used to purposely maneuver individuals away from the significance of words or water them down altogether. Politically, this style can be seen positively as it can widen its audience for participation and inclusion or negatively by generalizing complex issues.

-Abby Walkush