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In so far as EASE is affected by the number of words, it has more in common with clearness than with force; for it usually suffers from excessive conciseness rather than from redundancy. Authors noted for force-George Eliot, Browning, Emerson — leave gaps for their readers to supply: those noted for ease — Goldsmith, Irving, Cardinal Newman-are copious rather than compact.
From the point of view of ease, the shortest word, sentence, or paragraph is not necessarily the best. "Languor is," no doubt, the cause or the effect of most disorders ;" but “it is silly to argue that we gain ground by shortening on all occasions the syllables of a sentence. Half a minute, if indeed so much is requisite, is well spent in clearness, in fulness, and pleasurableness of expression, and in engaging the ear to carry a message to the understanding."
On the other hand, there is danger in making ease the primary consideration in determining the number of words. So long as a writer spends his time “in engaging the ear to
1 Landor: Conversations, Third Series ; Southey and Porson.
? Ibid. ; Johnson and Horne (Tooke). Quintilian has a sentence to the same effect: “quod intellexerit, ut fortasse ubique, in narratione tamen praecipue media haec tenenda sit via dicendi, quantum opus est et quantum satis est.' quantum opus est autem non ita solum accipi volo, quantum ad indicandum sufficit, quia non inornata debet esse brevitas, alioqui sit indocta ; nam et fallit voluptas, et minus longa quae delectant videntur, ut amoenum ac molle iter, etiamsi est spatii amplioris, minus fatigat quam durum aridumque compendium.”—Inst. Orator. iv. ii. xlv.
carry a message to the understanding,” to the heart, or to the imagination, he spends it well; but if, by multiplying words, he obscure; the meaning of the “message," or weakens its force, he purchases ease at the cost of things far more important.
SUCCESS in either spoken or written discourse depends even less upon choice or number of words than upon ARRANGEMENT.
In a theoretically perfect ar- The ideal rangement, the order of the language would arrangement. distinctly indicate the relative importance of each constituent part of the composition. Of such an arrangement no human language is susceptible; but a writer should come as near to it as is permitted by the peculiarities of the language in which he writes.
CLEARNESS requires that the words and the groups of words which are near to one another in thought shall be near in expression, and that those which are separate in thought shall be separate in expression. A writer who conforms to this principle will give to each word the position that shows its relation to other words, and to each part of a sentence the position that shows its relation to other parts.
Obscurity may be caused by an arrangement that puts a pronoun before the noun which it represents. Position of For example:
“ In adjusting his rate of wages for the future, the working man should realize that politics does not enter into the matter.” 1
1 American newspaper.
“ He had just failed in securing a house there, and Coleridge's company was a great temptation to him, as that of her sister was to his wife.” 1
Occasionally a pronoun may, without causing obscurity, be put before the noun which it represents :
“ illiterate writers, who seize and twist from its purpose some form of speech which once served to convey briefly and compactly an unambiguous meaning." 2
In this sentence, it would be hard to change the position of " from its purpose" without causing obscurity or clumsiness; “its," moreover, comes so near to 6 some form of speech," that the reader catches the meaning at once.
Obscurity is caused by neglect of the rule that connectives of the class known to grammarians as “corre
spondents" --such as not only, but also; either, correspond
or; neither, nor; both, and ; on the one hand, on the other hand should be so placed as to show what words they connect. For example:
“Lothair was unaffectedly gratified at not only receiving his friends at his own castle, but under these circumstances of inti
They were a family which not only had the art of accumulating wealth, but of expending it with taste and generosity." 4
“ This effeminate tone comes from the fact that the plays were written not to please the common people but the dissolute court.” 6 “ I neither estimated myself highly nor lowly.” 6
“he neither attempted to excite anger, nor ridicule, nor admiration.” 7
1 Mrs. Oliphant: The Literary History of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, vol. i. chap. viii.
2 J. S. Mill: A System of Logic, book iv. chap. v. sect. iii. Not in some editions.
8 Disraeli : Lothair, chap. xxxix.
5 Student's theme. 6 J. S. Mill: Autobiography, chap. i. ? Lord Dalling and Bulwer: Sir Robert Peel, part ii. sect ii.
Obscurity is caused by placing subordinate expressions where they do not show at once with what Position of words or groups of words they are connected.
In each of the following sentences an adverb is out of place:
“ All criminals are not guilty.” 1
“Whatever qualities he himself, probably, had acquired without difficulty or special training, he seems to have supposed that I ought to acquire as easily."
“he recovered his harquebuss without almost knowing what he did.” 8
“He was about to go on, when he perceived, from her quivering eye and pallid cheek, that nothing less than imposture was in. tended.” 4
“In painting and in sculpture it is now past disputing, that if we are destined to inferiority at all, it is an inferiority only to the Italians and the ancient Greeks; an inferiority which, if it were even sure to be permanent, we share with all the other malicious nations around us." 5
In each of the following sentences a phrase or a clause is out of place :--
“A strong man's will tends to create a will in the same direction in others.” 1
“The scale was turned in its favour by a speech which ranks among the masterpieces of Am rican oratory from Fisher Ames.” 6
“Miss Meadowcroft cearched the newspapers for tidings of the living John Jago in thc privacy of her own room.":7
“ Although Madame Clermont had, as I knew, lost most of the money which Shelley had left her in the Lumley's Italian Opera
1 Student's theme.
J. S. Mill: Autobiography, chap. i.