Classic style

I’ve been studying a writing style called classic style. It’s different than the plain style and practical style (my default styles) that are presented by Strunk and White and Joseph Williams.

I came across a paragraph that I thought would be interesting to rewrite in this style.

The original:

Recent advances in deep learning have made it possible to extract high-level features from raw sensory data, leading to breakthroughs in computer vision [11, 22, 16] and speech recognition [6, 7]. These methods utilise a range of neural network architectures, including convolutional networks, multilayer perceptrons, restricted Boltzmann machines and recurrent neural networks, and have exploited both supervised and unsupervised learning. It seems natural to ask whether similar techniques could also be beneficial for RL with sensory data.


Convolutional networks, multilayer perceptrons, restricted Boltzman machines, and recurrent neural networks are now all being used to extract high-level features from raw sensory data and have lead to state-of-the-art performance in computer vision and speech recognition. [6, 7, 11, 16, 22] Can we also use these methods for reinforcement learning with sensory data?

Why do I think this is more like classic style than the original?

  • I direct the reader’s attention towards a truth that I want to present. The original talks about advances, which lead to breakthroughs, then methods (are those the advances or the breakthroughs?), then architectures, and techniques. I’m not sure what the object of attention is supposed to be. I focus the reader on a list of methods and what they’ve been used for. I then ask whether we can use those methods for a new task.
  • I rely on nuance, so that the subordinate message does not obscure the main object of attention. I don’t want to focus the reader on history, or how recently researchers have discovered how to use these methods. I have chosen to wrap up the concept of recency in a single word: “now”. Classic style takes the stance that the reader is intelligent and interested. The reader can infer that these methods weren’t all being used some time before “now” and can look to the references if they want more precise dates.
  • To keep the focus on the list of methods, I use the passive voice in the opening sentence.
  • I’ve tried to make the nouns concrete things rather than abstract concepts. Instead of advances and breakthroughs: convolutional networks and features. This is more a feature of plain style, though.
  • It hides the effort. I thought about this for over a day, and had several false starts, but I don’t think any of that comes through in the final product.

There are surely other improvements and alternatives. If you identify a different truth, you’ll write a different paragraph. I haven’t thought about how this paragraph links up with its neighbors. There are also entirely other styles that you could use. How would you rewrite this?

More info:

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