Grace is in a great measure a natural gift; elegance implies cultivation; or something of more artificial character. A rustic, uneducated girl may be graceful, but an elegant woman must be accomplished and well trained. It is the same with things as with persons; we talk of a graceful tree, but of an elegant house or other building. Animals may be graceful, but they cannot be elegant. The movements of a kitten or a young fawn are full of grace; but to call them "elegant" animals would be absurd.
There is a great deal of emotional satisfaction in the elegant demonstration, in the elegant ordering of facts into theories, and in the still more satisfactory, still more emotionally exciting discovery that the theory is not quite right and has to be worked over again, very much as any other work of art-a painting, a sculpture has to be worked over in the interests of aesthetic perfection. So there is no scientist who is not to some extent worthy of being described as artist or poet.
Ralston looked down his long, elegant nose at the vile creature at his feet, and said, 'You just impugned the honor of my future marchioness. Choose your seconds. I will see you at dawn.' Leaving Oxford sputtering on the ground, Ralston spun on one elegant heel to face Benedick. 'When I am done with him, I am coming for your sister. And, if you intend to keep me from her, you had better have an army at your side.
Ralston looked down his long, elegant nose at the vile creature at his feet, and said, "You just impugned the honor of my future marchioness. Choose your seconds. I will see you at dawn." Leaving Oxford sputtering on the ground, Ralston spun on one elegant heel to face Benedick. "When I am done with him, I am coming for your sister. And, if you intend to keep me from her, you had better have an army at your side.
For us to deem a work of architecture elegant, it is hence not enough that it look simple: we must feel that the simplicity it displays has been hard won, that it flows from the resolution of demanding technical or natural predicament. Thus we call the Shaker staircase in Pleasant Hill elegant because we know-without ever having constructed one ourselves-that a staircase is a site complexity, and that combinations of treads, risers and banisters rarely approach the sober intelligibility of the Sharkers' work. We deem a modern Swiss house elegant because we not how seamlessly its windows have been joined to their concrete walls, and how neatly the usual clutter of construction has been resolved away. We admire starkly simple works that we intuit would, without immense effort, have appeared very complicated. (p 209)
Alain de Botton
What is especially striking and remarkable is that in fundamental physics, a beautiful or elegant theory is more likely to be right than a theory that is inelegant. A theory appears to be beautiful or elegant (or simple, if you prefer) when it can be expressed concisely in terms of mathematics we already have. Symmetry exhibits the simplicity. The Foundamental Law is such that the different skins of the onion resemble one another and therefore the math for one skin allows you to express beautifully and simply the phenomenon of the next skin.
Complexity has and will maintain a strong fascination for many people. It is true that we live in a complex world and strive to solve inherently complex problems, which often do require complex mechanisms. However, this should not diminish our desire for elegant solutions, which convince by their clarity and effectiveness. Simple, elegant solutions are more effective, but they are harder to find than complex ones, and they require more time, which we too often believe to be unaffordable
The instruction here is not for every kind of writer - not for the writer of nurse books or thrillers or porno or the cheaper sort of sci-fi - though it is true that what holds for the most serious kind of fiction will generally hold for junk fiction as well. (Not everyone is capable of writing junk fiction: It requires an authentic junk mind. Most creative-writing teachers have had the experience of occasionally helping to produce, by accident, a pornographer. The most elegant techniques in the world, filtered through a junk mind, become elegant junk techniques.)