As you might notice, both of these have to do with the flow of the sentence — that’s why they’re called grammar styles. But what about the flow of an entire piece? Well, in that case we’ll turn to our structure styles.
We’ll start with comprehensive. Comprehensive is exactly what it sounds like — we want to make sure our writing covers all the bases, which means extensive research, citations, and the like. A guide on technical writing put it well, when they said that comprehensive structure is “continuing to write until the imaginary audience stops raising their hands”.
Now, you might be guessing that — based on my description of comprehensive structure, as well as my mention of a guide on technical writing — the comprehensive and technical types go hand in hand. For the most part, that’s correct. However, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, books by writers such as Walter Isaacson and Bill Bryson are comprehensive but not technical. On the other hand, many introductory texts are technical but not comprehensive. So while technical and comprehensive styles are often matched up, one doesn’t necessitate the existence of the other.
Iterative, on the other hand, is very much the opposite. Popular among self-published works and blog writing, it takes the “build fast and break things” approach to heart. Rather than focusing on making sure everything is right the first time, iterative writers treat their pieces as living documents — they rely on feedback and new information to change their viewpoints over time. Iterative writing sometimes gets a bad rap for the “iterative journalism” phase that popularized fake news and internet misinfo, but this is more so that journalism is more appropriate for the comprehensive approach. Most iterative writing is based on opinions rather than facts, or thoughts from the author. This newsletter, for example, is iterative — I translate the knowledge that I learn into an episode, but if new knowledge comes in, I bring that change up in future episodes. It’s very convenient, and without a doubt the fastest way of publishing!
Speaking of future episodes, we’re not quite done with writing as it stands. After all, we haven’t even gotten into what most people see writing as — grammar! Well, to be honest, I… uh… don’t think I have this whole grammar thing down myself yet. So it’ll need a bit more research before I turn it into a full episode, which means it’ll be coming later in the stack. But don’t worry… this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of the writing topic!