Category Archive 'Strunk & White'

19 Jun 2020

Strunk & Black!

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Kyle Smith records a particularly impressive recent case of microaggression.

[A] particularly stupefying incident that may have escaped your attention illustrates how confidently race-based hysteria stalks the landscape. A young black employee at Condé Nast quit her job and stormed out the door after her white boss gave her a copy of America’s beloved writing guide The Elements of Style.

First published in 1918, the slender book was written by William Strunk Jr., then overhauled and expanded by E. B. White in 1959. Generations of students and writers have kept well-thumbed copies of Strunk and White, as the revised work is commonly known, by their desks. As of 2016, a database that tracks these things found that it was the single most-often-assigned text in college syllabuses. “I’ll tell you right now that every aspiring writer should read The Elements of Style,” Stephen King once wrote, failing to notice that the first six words of this sentence are superfluous, indicating neglect of Strunk and White’s famous injunction, “Omit needless words.”

Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch, who avers that he is making every effort to add racial and ethnic diversity to the famously snooty publisher of Vogue and The New Yorker, once gave his executive assistant, Cassie Jones, a copy of Strunk and White because he thought it would prove useful to her. White is strongly associated with the company, having written extensively for The New Yorker, where the clean, lucid Strunk-White style has always been the model. It was a New Yorker essay in praise of Strunk’s original book that led to White’s being commissioned to revise it. Half a century or so later, the collaboration has sold some 10 million copies. Any reasonable person would have replied with thanks rather than hostility.

Yet Jones quit days later in a huff, leaving the book on the CEO’s desk as she did so. She considered the gift “insulting,” according to a New York Times report. “With its suggestion that her own language skills were lacking, the gift struck Ms. Jones as a microaggression,” informed sources told the Times. Stunned, Lynch told the paper, “I really only had the intention — like every time I’ve given it before — for it to be a helpful resource, as it has been for me. I still use it today. I’m really sorry if she interpreted it that way.”

Assuming that’s all there is to this story, the young assistant looks like an unfortunate example of the kind of fragile, self-sabotaging young adult our colleges are sending out into the workplace. Our campuses turn young people into cultural hemophiliacs who, if someone bumps into them on the sidewalk, are likely to rupture a blood vessel and bleed out. Having spent four years being coached on the perniciousness and prevalence of “microaggressions,” with platoons of campus diversity guardians vowing to champion them in every micro-dispute, young people have learned to look for slights everywhere.

Cassie Jones quit the most prestigious magazine-publishing company in America because she was insulted by being given a common style guide. She was confident enough in her status as a victim that she told others about this. And on her way out the door, she dropped the book on her boss’s desk as a symbol of her grievance. A moment’s research would have provided her with ample evidence that millions of people have kindly given, and gratefully accepted, this elegant and useful little book.

RTWT

————
But he does not actually do the story full justice, as he stopped with the NYT’s account.

He really needed to dig deeper and read the Business Insider original story.

Lynch was brought on as Condé Nast’s CEO in the spring of 2019. Cassie Jones, a Black woman, worked for Lynch for four months during his tenure. Jones had over 10 years of experience as an executive assistant when she was hired in July 2019, but her position at Condé was her first time working for a global CEO.

“It was a really proud moment,” Jones told Insider of getting hired for the role.

But the position wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be. By the fall, Jones has reached what she described as a breaking point. “Little things had happened that made me question if this was the right fit for me,” she said, adding that she felt anxious every day at work.

Things came to a head on November 20, according to Jones. Lynch asked Jones to come into his office, and he gave her “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, a guide to standard English typically used for writing. Lynch said Jones could “benefit” from reading it, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to The Times.

As he gave her the book, Jones told Insider that Lynch referenced a few emails in which Jones had made minuscule grammatical errors. According to Jones, Lynch then told her that she represented him and his office, implying that her language skills needed improvement if she was going to continue to work for him.

According to The Times’ sources, the incident “struck Jones as a microaggression,” though she told Insider that she wasn’t familiar with the term until a week ago. “To say it was insulting is not even the right word,” Jones said of Lynch giving her the book. “I had lost my confidence as a person and as a worker. And I’ve worked for a lot of people. I’ve never had someone do something like that.”

Jones said she went to the company’s HR department the same day to complain about the incident. She then quit within a week of Lynch giving her the book, leaving it on his desk before she left the office. …

Jones also said she’s never had a manager complain about her communication skills until she started working for Lynch, adding that her coworkers often call her the “people whisperer” because of her way of making everyone around her feel at ease. …

Despite the negative aspects of her experience at the company, Jones told Insider she’s grateful for her time at Condé Nast. “I feel like it made me stronger and made me see my worth,” she said. “I’m more confident in myself and my work, and I thank him for that,” she added of Lynch.

There you have it. A normal person given The Elements of Style would read through it, and see the book as a helpful tool for improving their writing skills. An African American who has emerged from today’s American educational system loaded with entitlement and flowing over with self-esteem is liable to perceive suggested improvements in grammar, usage, and style as slights upon Ebonics and an insult to herself. No one would be surprised if all this leads to a lawsuit against Condé Nast.

One suspects Ms. Jones is going to find out her real worth to the business world the hard way.


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