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G.K. Chesterton [Reformatted)

A Writings of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Reformatted for the Internet

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Why does this community exist?

To present the nonfiction writings of G.K. Chesterton afresh, keeping the words unchanged, but modifying the formatting and presentation to better fit the medium of the world-wide web. Every journal entry in this community is an article or essay written by Chesterton.


You’re changing the formatting? What’s wrong with the original formatting?

It is known that Chesterton wrote a number of his works by dictation. Which is to say, he would start speaking aloud, his secretary would write down what he was saying, and in the end it would become an article, or an essay, or a book. The fact that his writings are of very high quality with this writing style is, quite frankly, astonishing. Especially to those of us who write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and still can’t quite get things the way we want them!

In any event, as a result of this style of writing, there are times I find the punctuation in his writings to be not as helpful as it could be. Perhaps it’s the result of hurried editing, I’m not sure. (By all accounts, he wrote quickly.) The words themselves are fine, but there is, from time to time, a feeling that some punctuation has been left out. Certain pauses for thought, or tangential interludes, are not always set off with commas or dashes in a way conducive to clear reading.

Secondly and far more importantly, reading on the computer (and particularly on the internet) is a very different experience from reading a book, or an article in a newspaper or magazine. In the WorkZ article Writing For The Internet: 17 Simple Rules, rules 3 and 5 take note of the fact that shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences are easier to read and digest.

While the primary aim of that particular article is to offer advice for business sites (and it perhaps goes to an extreme level to demonstrate the aforementioned rules), it nevertheless seems to be a truism that shorter is clearer when writing on the internet. This helped me understand why I often found it more difficult to read Chesterton’s works online, compared to reading the printed versions of the same works.

Therefore, to facilitate improved comprehension of Chesterton’s writing on the internet, I’ve found that breaking his large paragraphs into smaller, meaningful, more manageable chunks, significantly increases my comprehension of what he wrote. And if I find that to be the case, then most likely many others will, too.


So what is the purpose of reformatting Chesterton’s writings?

The sole purpose of reformatting his writings is to improve the clarity and comprehension of the words which are already there. I realize that Chesterton purists will not approve of such an approach to his work, but the bottom line for me is, communication.

The whole purpose of public writing is to communicate something. Chesterton wrote literally thousands of communications in his time — newspaper articles, essays, books — using the printed media of his day. And what he had to say then is still worth communicating today, here in this new world-wide medium. So, as long as I change only the formatting, for purposes of better communication in this particular medium, and leave his words intact, then I’m confident that I am in no way altering what it was he had to say.

And if I can help just one person to find an appreciation of Chesterton’s works, who may not otherwise have done so, then this community has achieved its purpose.


I’m not familiar with G.K. Chesterton’s writing. Where should I start?

There are many, many places you could start — this community covers only the nonfiction side of Chesterton’s output. The following are my own recommendations.

If you’d like a taste of his storytelling, I recommend his Father Brown mystseries — the very first story, “The Blue Cross” (from The Innocence of Father Brown) would be the best place to start, I think.

For nonfiction, he wrote about anything and everything. A good taster would be to start with the first essay I reformatted for this community, linked here. If you enjoy reading that, chances are you’ll enjoy most of his nonfiction output. (And, not so coincidentally, this community as well.)

When you’re ready to tackle his nonfiction masterworks, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man get to the heart of his philosophy, beliefs, and outlook on life.


Where can I find more information about G.K. Chesterton?

A good starting point is http://www.chesterton.org/. Additionally, Martin Ward has an excellent site, which includes a brief biography and substantial online collection of Chesterton’s writings. Project Gutenberg also has a number of Chesterton’s writings online as well.


Who can post to this community?

Currently only I, spadeaceman, can post entries to this community. Everyone is of course free to post comments in response to the entries.


Um, that still doesn’t sound very interactive. Is there a G.K. Chesterton community somewhere that I can actually post journal entries to?

Yes, such a community can be found here: gkchesterton


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