Wallace's novels often combine various writing modes or voices, and incorporate jargon and vocabulary (sometimes invented) from a wide variety of fields. His writing featured self-generated abbreviations and acronyms, long multi-clause sentences, and a notable use of explanatory footnotes and endnotes—often nearly as expansive as the text proper. He used endnotes extensively in Infinite Jest and footnotes in "Octet" as well as in the great majority of his nonfiction after 1996. On the Charlie Rose show in 1997, Wallace claimed that the notes were used to disrupt the linearity of the narrative, to reflect his perception of reality without jumbling the entire structure. He suggested that he could have instead jumbled up the sentences, "but then no one would read it."
According to Wallace, "fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being," and he expressed a desire to write "morally passionate, passionately moral fiction" that could help readers "become less alone inside." In his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College, he describes the human condition of daily crises and chronic disillusionment and rejects solipsism, invoking compassion, mindfulness, and existentialism:
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.... The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't.... The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness."
David Foster Wallace
It's true. I use a lot of quotations and footnotes.
Though some of my writing is like
"Where License Reigns With All Impunity: An Anarchist Study of the Rotinonshón:ni Polity" and Blood Money: The Human-Capital Equation of the U.S. Occupation of Iraq
Bringing Class Struggle Up-to-Date
Supporting The Revolutionary Women Of Afghanistan (co-written with Red Sonja)
The Worst Mistake in Jared Diamond's History of the Human Race: The State
Random long-winded comments