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Chiefly selected from Murray.
The following observations are intended to inspire young persons with a taste for the study of Perspicuity and Accuracy of expression in speaking and writing.
STYLE Is a particular manner of expressing our thoughts in language. It relates to the author's peculiar manner of thinking. It is the manner of expression which his thoughts assume. His words may be proper; and so constructed as to violate no rule of syntax ; yet, even then his style may have great faults.
PERSPICUITY Is a fundamental quality of style : a quality so essential in every kind of writing, that for want of it nothing can atone. We are pleased with an author who frees us from all fatigue of searching for his meaning.
To promote excellence of style, early attention should be given to the following Rules.
The things most essential to an accurate sentence, appear to be the four following.
1. - Clearness.
1. The first requisite of a perfect sentence is, Clear
Whatever leaves the mind in any sort of suspense as to the meaning, ought to be carefully avoided. Obscurity arises from two causes ; either from a wrong choice of words, or a wrong arrangement of them.
The relations of words, or members of a sentence, are chiefly ascertained, in English, by the position in which they stand.
Hence, a capital rule in the arrangement of sentences is, that the words or members, most nearly related in a sentence, should be placed as near to each other as possible. The following examples manifest the importance of this rule.
An author says, “ Theism can only be opposed to polytheism, or atheism." Does he mean that theism is capable of nothing else besides being opposed to polytheism, or atheism This is what the words literally import, through the wrong placing of the adverb only. It should have been, “ Theism can be opposed only to polytheism, or atheism."
An author in his dissertation on parties, thus expresses himself : “ Are these designs which any man, who is born a Briton, in
in any situation, ought to be ashamed or afraid to avow ?” Here we are left at a loss, whether these words, “ in any circumstances, in any situation,” are intended to qualify the verb“ born” or “ to avow.” As it is probable that the latter was intended, the arrangement ought to have been conducted thus : “ Are these designs which any man, who is born a Britton, ought to be ashamed or afraid, in any situation, in any circumstances, to avow ?"
The following is another instance of a wrong arrangement. “A great stone that I happened to find, after a long search, by the sea shore, served me for an anchor." One would think that the search was confined to the sea shore : but as the meaning is, that the great stone was found by the sea shore, the period ought to have run thus : “A great stone, that, after a long search, I happened to find by the sea shore, served me for an anchor.”
2. The second requisite of a perfect sentence, is its Unity. The very nature of a sentence implies that one proposition is expressed. It may consist of parts, indeed, but these parts must be so closely bound together, as to make the impression, of one object, not of many, upon the mind.
1. The mind should not be hurried by sudden transitions from person to person, nor from subject to subject.
The following sentence is a departure from this rule. “After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was welcomed by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness."
The sentence is much better express
ed as follows: “Having come to anchor, I was put on shore, where I was welcomed by all my friends, and received with the greatest kindness.”
2. Things which have so little connexion that they may be divided into distinct sentences, should not be crowded into one.
The violation of this rule tends so much to perplex and obscure, that it is safer to err by too many short sentences.
3. All unnecessary parentheses should be avoided. On some occasions, when the sense is not too long suspended by them, and when they are introduced in a proper place, they may add both to the vivacity, and to the energy of the sentence. But the following sentence is an example of the improper use it. “ If your hearts secretly reproach you for the wrong choice
have made, (as there is time for repentance and retreat ; and a return to wisdom is always honourable,) bethink yourselves that the evil is not irreparable.” It would be much better if the thoughts expressed in this parenthesis were expressed in a separate sentence.
STRENGTH. 3. The third requisite of a perfect sentence, is Strength.
By this is meant such a disposition and management of the several words and members, as shall bring out the sense to the best advantage, and give every word and every member, its due weight and force.
1. Redundant words should be carefully avoided. Words which do not add to the meaning of a sentence, injure it.
Ex. An author expresses himself thus : “ They returned back again to the same city from whence they came forth ;" instead of, they returned to the city whence they came.”
2. Particular attention should be given to the proper use of particles employed for transition and connexion.
3. A weaker assertion or proposition should never come after a stronger one ; and, when our sentence consists of two members, the longer should, generally, be the concluding one.
4. Avoid concluding a sentence with an adverb, a preposition, or any inconsiderable word. For instance, it is better to say,
Avarice is a crime of which wise men are often guilty,
16 Avarice is a crime which wise men are often guilty of.”
This is a phraseology which correct writers shun : and
is' than to say,
with reason. For the mind naturally rests a little on the import of the word which closes the sentence : and it must be disagreeable to be left pausing on a word which does not, by itself, produce any idea.
5. Attend to the harmony and easy flow of the words and members of a sentence. This is of considerable importance : yet, perspicuity, precision, or strength of sentiment, should in no instance, be sacrificed to sound.
FIGURES OF SPEECH.
4. The fourth requisite of a perfect sentence, is a judicious use of the Figures of Speech.
In general, Figures of Speech imply some departure from simplicity of expression, to render the impression more strong and vivid.
There are few sentences of considerable length, in which there does not occur some expression that may be termed a figure.
The most important Figures of Speech are the following: Metaphor, Allegory, Comparison, Metonymy, Synecdoche Personification, Apostrophe, Antithesis, Interrogation, Exclamation, and Amplification or Climax.
For a definition of the nature and use of these, the inquisitive learner is referred to the Appendix to Murray's Grammar ; which contains much useful information. Murray's Grarnmar is particularly recommended to his atten, tion, if he has acquired a taste for grammatical study.
GRAMMAR Is the art of speaking, writing, and reading a Language with propriety.
English Grammar is the art of using the English language with propriety. It is divided into four parts ; viz. Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.
1. Orthography teaches the nature and power of letters, and the just method of spelling words.
2. Etymology treats of the different sorts of words, their various modifications, and their derivation.
3. Syntax treats of the agreement, government, and construction of words in a sentence.
4. Prosody teaches the true pronunciation of words, and the laws of versification.