(ii) Its effect in poetry is sometimes very fine :

“ By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed;

By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed;
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned ;
By strangers honoured, and by strangers mourned.”

8. The device of Suspense adds to the weight and emphasis of a statement; it keeps the attention of the reader on the stretch, because he feels the sense to be incomplete.

(i) The suspense in the following sentence gives a heightened idea of the difficulty of travelling : "At last, with no small difficulty, and after much fatigue, we came, through deep roads, storms of wind and rain, and bad weather of all kinds, to our journey's end.”

(ii) This device is frequent in poetry. Thus Keats opens his “Hyperion” in this way :

Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon and eve's one star-

Sat grey-haired Saturn, quiet as a stone."
Here the verb is kept to the last line.

9. Antithesis always commands attention, and is therefore a powerful mode of emphasising a statement. But antithesis is not always at one's command; and it must not be strained after.

Macaulay employs this device with great effect. He has : “ The Puritans hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.” Swift was very fond of it. Thus he says : “The two maxims of a great man at court are, always to keep his countenance, and never to keep his word.” Dr Johnson has this sentence : He was a learned man among lords, and a lord among learned men.” “He twice forsook his party; his principles never.”

A very sharp, sudden, and unexpected antithesis is called an Epigram.

(i) Thus Lord Bacon, speaking of a certain procession in Rome, says that “The statues of Brutus and Cassius were conspicuous by their absence.” Macaulay says of the dirt and splendour of the Russian Ambassadors : “They came to the English Court dropping pearls and vermin."

(ii) The following are additional instances of truths put in a very striking and epigrammatic way : “Verbosity is cured by a large vocabulary” (because when you have a large stock of words, you will be able to choose the fittest). “We ought to know something of everything, and everything of something." " He was born of poor but dishonest parents.” “When you have nothing to say, say it.” “He

had nothing to do, and he did it." The better is the enemy of the good.” One secret in education,” says Herbert Spencer, “is to know how wisely to lose time.” * Make haste slowly.” “They did nothing in particular; and did it very well.”

(iii) But no one should strain after such a style of writing. Such an attempt would only produce smartness, which is a fatal vice.


1. One great secret of a good and striking style is the art of Specification.

Professor Bain gives us an excellent example of a vague and general, as opposed to a distinct and specific style :

(a) Vague. -“In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulation of their penal codes will be severe.

(6) Specific.—“ According as men delight in battles, bull-fights, and combats of gladiators, so will they punish by hanging, burning, and crucifying."

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2. Specification or distinctness of style may be attained in two ways: (i) by the use of concrete terms; and (ii) by the use of detail.

3. A concrete or particular term strikes both the feelings and imagination with greater force than an abstract or general term can do.

Old age.
Warlike weapons.
Rich and poor.

(i) Let us make a few contrasts :-


Building materials.

Bricks and mortar.
Grey hairs.
Sword and gun.

The palace and the cottage.
A miserable state.

Age, ache, and penury.
“I have neither the necessaries “I have not a crust of bread,

of life, nor the means of pro nor a penny to buy one."

curing them." (ii) Campbell says: “ The more general the terms are, the picture is the fainter; the more special, the brighter." They sank like lead in the mighty waters" is more forcible than “they sank like metal.”

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4. Details enable the reader to form in his mind a vivid picture of the event narrated or the person described; and, before beginning to write, we ought always to draw up a list of such details as are both striking and appropriate — such details as tend to throw into stronger relief the chief person or event.

The following is a good example from the eloquent writer and profound thinker Edmund Burke. He is speaking of the philanthropist Howard :

“He has visited all Europe to dive into the depths of dungeons; to plunge into the infections of hospitals ; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain; to take the gauge and dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, and to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries."


1. Avoid the use of threadbare and hackneyed expressions. Leave them to people who are in a hurry, or to penny-a-liners. INSTEAD OF

At the expiration of four years. At the end, etc.
Paternal sentiments.

The feelings of a father.
Exceedingly opulent.

Very rich.
Incur the danger.

Run the risk.
Accepted signification.

Usual meaning.
Extreme felicity.

Great happiness.
A sanguinary engagement.

A bloody battle.
In the affirmative.


2. Be very careful in the management of

pronouns. (i) Cobbett says: “Never put an it upon paper without thinking well what you are about. When I see many it's in a page, I always tremble for the writer.” See also 2 Kings, xix. 35 : “And when they arose early in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses.”

(ii) Bolingbroke has the sentence: “They were persons of very moderate intellects, even before they were impaired by their passions.” The last they ought to be these.

(iii) The sentence, “He said to his patient that if he did not feel better in half an hour, he thought he had better return,” is a clumsy sentence, but clear enough ; because we can easily see that it is the patient that is to take the advice.

3. Be careful not to use mixed metaphors.

(i) The following is a fearful example : “This is the arrow of conviction, which, like a nail driven in a sure place, strikes its roots downwards into the earth, and bears fruit upwards."

(ii) Sir Boyle Roche, an Irish member, began a speech thus : “Mr Speaker, I smell a rat, I see him floating in the air ; but, mark me, I shall yet nip him in the bud.” A similar statement is : "Lord Kimberley said that in taking a very large bite of the Turkish cherry the way had been paved for its partition at no distant day.”

4. Be simple, quiet, manly, frank, and straightforward in your style, as in your conduct. That is : Be yourself!


1. Avoid tautology.

Alison says: “It was founded mainly on the entire monopoly of the whole trade with the colonies." Here entire and whole are tautological ; for monopoly means entire possession, or possession of the whole. “He appears to enjoy the universal esteem of all men.” Here universal is superfluous.

2. Place the adverb as near the word it modifies as you


“He not only found her employed, but also pleased and tranquil.” The not only belongs to employed, and should therefore go with it.

3. Avoid circumlocution.

“Her Majesty, on reaching Perth, partook of breakfast.” This should be simply breakfasted. But the whole sentence should be recast into :

“On reaching Perth, the Queen breakfasted in the station."

4. Take care that your participles are attached to nouns, and that they do not run loose.

“Alarmed at the news, the boat was launched at once. Here alarmed can, grammatically, agree with boat only. The sentence should be: “The men, alarmed at the news, launched their boat at once.”

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5. Use a present participle as seldom as possible.

(i) “I have documents proving this” is not so strong as this."

" to prove

(ii) “He dwelt a long time on the advantages of swift steamers, thus accounting for the increase,” etc. The phrase "thus accounting” is very loose. Every sentence ought to be neat, firm, and compact.

6. Remember that who = and he or for he; while that introduces a merely adjectival clause.

“I heard it from the doctor, who told the gardener that-works-forthe-college." Here who=and he; and that introduces the adjectival sentence.


7. Do not change the Subject of your Sentence.

(i) Another way of putting this is : Preserve the unity of the sentence!

(ii) “Archbishop Tillotson died in this year. He was exceedingly beloved both by King William and Queen Mary, who nominated Dr Tenison to succeed him.” The last statement about nominating another bishop has no natural connection with what goes before.

(iii) “After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was welcomed by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kind

This sentence ought to be broken into two. The first should end with on shore; and the second begin “Here I was met and, etc.” 8. See that who or which refers to its proper antecedent.

"Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a yeoman, to whom he left his second-best bed." Here the grammatical antecedent is yeoman ; but the historical and sense-antecedent is certainly daughter. 9. Do not use and which for which.

(i) “I bought him a very nice book as a present, and which cost me ten shillings.” The and is here worse than useless.

(ii) If another which has preceded, of course and which is right. 10. Avoid exaggerated or too strong language.

Unprecedented, most extraordinary, incalculable, boundless, extremely, awfully, scandalous, stupendous, should not be used unless we know that they are both true and appropriate.

11. Be careful not to mix up dependent with principal sentences.

“He replied that he wished to help them, and intended to give orders to his servants." Here it is doubtful whether intended is coordinate with replied or with wished. If the former is the case, then we ought to say he intended.

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