Style No. 3: Litotes

Style No. 3: Litotes

Hey guys! So today we’re doing a new style called litotes — I’ve got an explanation for it in italics below.

You may have noticed I also posted the original anecdote in the right margin of the blog, so you can always compare the latest style to the genuine article by looking over there.

A little more on what this is all about. Raymond Queneau, a French novelist active from the ’40s till his death in 1976, was one of the founders of a movement toward experimental literature. He founded a group called the Potential Literature Workshop (Oulipo in French). The idea was not so much to come up with good stories, but to invent new literary forms that would challenge writers and readers to think in new ways.

This was all intended to spark creativity. When most of us try to write, we focus on shaping an engaging plot and an authentic voice. It’s pretty damn hard to do either one of these. But what Queneau and the members of his Potential Literature Workshop were trying to do was a bit different. They were playing with form, not story. And when they were doing this back in the 1940s, it was pretty revolutionary.

So I’m just humbly trudging along the trail Queneau’s blazed 65 years ago. Writing the same anecdote in 99 different styles in honour of the man in the glasses. Yeah.

A not unconfined ride on Bamako’s public transit. Clicked this in 2012.

From Wikipedia: In rhetoric, litotes is a figure of speech in which understatement is employed for rhetorical effect, principally via double negatives. For example, rather than saying that something is attractive (or even very attractive), one might merely say it is “not unattractive”.


A orange-dressed boy not too old blows his whistle, not unabsorbed in his own thoughts. His companion, a boy not unknown to him and whose arm was wrapped around him in a manner not unfriendly, notes the not insignificant congregation some ways ahead. A lady of no young age and not of untroubled character, goes by with an object not unconcealed by her head shawl. Meanwhile, behind them a not unserious man looks opposite without appearing unawares.

Thanks for reading. 

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Exercising Some Style « Epic Word Quest

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