Exercises in Style – Multiple perspectives on a story

Word count: 1382

What is it?

Exercises in Style was a book written by Raymond Queneau, a French novelist and poet. In the book he writes about a situation that he observed in over 100 different written styles. Exercises in Style follows the narrator getting on a bus and witnessing an argument between two passengers.

Raymond Queneau author of Exercises in Style

Why is it useful?

Exercises in Style allows for the generation of many different perspectives with the same material. It’s an extremely unique book that gives us all lessons in style.

How to Use Exercises in Style 

There are plenty of different ways you can use Exercises in Style for your own design processes. Using the rules as found in the book, you will be able to add or take away elements to an existing product. The easiest way to use Exercises in Style is to take your subject matter and apply the rules below. For example, lets take ‘Surprises’ – you might take your product and try to make it more surprising or add more impact to it.

  • Notation – details, description, not full sentences.
  • Double Entry – Two ways to describe everything.
  • Litotes – Understatement and double negative – e.g. not bad = good. Not unlike = like.
  • Metaphorically = image, story or tangible thing to describe intangible thing.
  • Retrograde – looking back on the whole event from the last event in reverse order.
  • Surprises – statements and exclamations.
  • Dream – between conscious and unconscious, interspersed with strange unfathomable events, like blearing eyed sight.
  • Prognostication – as if you were predicting the future.
  • Synchysis – a confused arrangement of words in a sentence taken to extremes.
  • The Rainbow – including all the colours of the…
  • Word game – picking some words and then writing them into the story.
  • Hesitation – negation, question marks, postulating possibilities and reasons without making a decision.
  • Precision – going into extremely accurate detail.
  • Subjective – written from the point of view of the subject. Opinionated.
  • Another subjectivity – From a different point of view – e.g. the observer.
  • Narrative – a story told in a sequence of events.
  • Word-composition – playing with the make up of the words and using unusual words in place of normal ones.
  • Negativities – Saying what it wasn’t.
  • Animism – focussing on movements.
  • Anagrams – characters mixed up in the words.
  • Distinguo – Disambiguating every word.
  • Homeoptotes – Composition of sentences by morphologically similar words.
  • Official Letter – Written in the style of an official letter.
  • Blurb – As if describing the contents of a book.
  • Onomatopoeia – Emphasis on making sounds with words and the sound of words.
  • Logical analysis – Taking the main objects and events and drawing definitive conclusions. Cause and effect extrapolated from this. Reasoning.
  • Insistence – being overly elaborative and repetitive.
  • Ignorance – Avoiding being the subject, being ambiguous, affirming the existence of an imaginary know-all ‘other’ that happens to be in agreement. Being too brief. Being in a selective state of unawareness.
  • Past – Writing in the past tense.
  • Present – Writing in the present tense.
  • Reported speech – As if someone else had said it (with their name).
  • Passive – Removed from the action.
  • Alexandrines – Poetic meter of 12 syllables.
  • Polyptote – (masculine noun), from the Greek poly (“many”) and Ptot  (“cases”) in the grammatical sense) is a figure of speech, consisting in the repetition of several terms of the same root, or of the same verb different forms. Figure  plays the morpho-syntactic variations based on grammatical cases. It allows etymological games, close to the figura etymologica  and derivation. As if all the people were taxpayers.
  • Apheresis – is the loss of one or more sounds from the beginning of a word, especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.
  • Apocope – loss of one or more sounds from the end of a word.
  • Syncope – loss of one or more sounds from the interior of a word.
  • Speaking personally – As if having a gossip conversation or speaking to an other who is not widely public.
  • Exclamations – Statements and exclamation marks.
  • You know – inserting ‘you know’ before everything. ‘Sort of’. An indirect way of avoiding rebuttal by sitting on the fence.
  • Noble – Written as if an old lord wrote it, full of colonial overtones. Robert Louis Stephenson style. Prevalent use of metaphor. Overly ‘proper’ language.
  • Cockney – In the style of Cockney speech.
  • Cross-examination – As if being interviewed by police. Being careful of specific details. In a question-answer format.
  • Comedy – Split into acts, scenes and characters. Slapstick action. Exclamations. Characurtures.
  • Asides  -Descriptive but interjected with personal quips, and unspoken observations.
  • Parechesis – Repetition  of the same sound in words that are close together.
  • Spectral – Written from the perspective of an aloof other.
  • Philosophic – Written through philosophical terminology.
  • Apostrophe – an address to a person or personified object not present
  • Awkward – Self-effacing, self-conscious. Hesistant to write in a proper fashion. Avoiding the act of writing but doing it anyway half-heartedly.
  • Casual – Not really bothered with  the proper and in a relaxed fashion.
  • Biased – Written  with emphasis on one side of the story.
  • Sonnet – A Shakespearean, or English, sonnet consists of 14 lines, each line containing ten syllables and written in iambic pentameter, in which a pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable is repeated five times. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet.
  • Olfactory – Written through the smell senses.
  • Sustatory – Written through the taste sense.
  • Tactile – Written through the touch senses.
  • Visual – Written through the visual senses.
  • Auditory  – Written through the hearing senses.
  • Telegraphic – As if an old fashioned war – telegram.
  • Ode – An ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet’s interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode.
  • Permutations by groups of 2,3,4,5, 6,7,8,9,10,11,12.
  • Permutations by groups of 1,2,3 and 4 words.
  • Hellenisms – In proper Greek language.
  • Reactionary – Blaming the situation on the structure of society.
  • Haiku – A traditional Japenese poetry to do with cutting down.
  • Tree verse – Written in the shape of the tree – e.g. with a wide base.
  • Feminine – Written from the point of view of a woman’s struggle.
  • Gallicism – Direct translation from French. English with some French words written as if spoke with a very strong French accent and phonetically written.
  • Prosthesis – Addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word without changing the word’s meaning or the rest of its structure.
  • Epenthesis – Addition of a sound or syllable at the interior of a word without changing the word’s meaning or the rest of its structure.
  • Parogoge – Addition of a sound or syllable at the end of a word without changing the word’s meaning or the rest of its structure.
  • Parts of speech – Breaking it down into articles, substantives, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions.
  • Metathesis – is the re-arranging of sounds or syllables  in a word, or of words in a sentence.
  • Consequences- Stating the consequence of events.
  • Proper Names – Stating long names as if naming Lords.
  • Rhyming Slang – Cockney Rhyming slang.
  • Back Slang – an English coded language in which the written word is spoken phonemically  backwards.
  • Antiphrasis – Avoiding writing phrases.
  • Dog Latin – Writing in imitation Latin.
  • More or less – Using words that aren’t the corrent ones, but nevertheless get the message across.
  • Opera English- Written as if an opera. Acts, choruses, characters and conductor.
  • For ze Frrensh – Written as if English was spoken with a French accent.
  • Spoonerisms – Changing round the first letters of words.
  • Botanical – Written as if describing plants.
  • Medical – Written as if describing a medical situation.
  • Abusive – Written using many swearwords and being disagreeable to all parties.
  • Gastromical – Written using food metaphors (funny).
  • Zoological – Written using animal metaphors.
  • Futile – Written, vocalising the impossibility of writing it.
  • Modern Style – Properly written with pompous undertones. Like David Cameron was talking.
  • Probablist – Writing of the probabilities of events happening.
  • Portrait – An informative description of an actor within the chain of events.
  • Mathematical – As if all was reducible to mathes speak.
  • West Indian – Caribbean English.
  • Interjections – Exclamatory attention grabbers.
  • Precious – Descriptive and overly complementary.
  • Unexpected – As if written as if a group of men in a cafe were talking about it.

You can buy Exercises in Style (Oneworld Classics)Amazon

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau