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clearly perceive the connexion of the several parts; and short ones are apt to break the sense, and weaken the connexion of thought. Yet occasionally they may both be used with force and propriety.
A train of sentences, constructed in the same manner, and with the same number of members, should never be allowed to succeed one another. A succession of either long or short sentences should also be avoided; for the ear tires of either of them when too long continued. A proper mixture of long and short periods, and of periods variously constructed, not only gratifies the ear, but imparts animation and force to style.
The properties most essential to a perfect sentence, are the four following:
The first requisite of a perfect sentence is clearness. This implies that the sentence should be so constructed as to present the meaning intelligibly to the mind, and without ambiguity.
The faults in writing most destructive to clearness are two, namely: a wrong choice of words, or a wrong collocation of them.
“ From the nature of our language,” says Dr. Blair, “a capital role in the arrangement of our sentences is, that words or members most nearly related should be placed as near to each other as possible, that their mutual relation may clearly appear. This rule is frequently neglected, even by good writers. Thus, Mr. Addison says,
“ By greatness, I do not only mean the bulk of any single object, but the largeness of a whole view.”
Here the place of the adverb only makes it limit the verb mean I do not only mean. The question may then be asked, “What does hs more inan mean?”. Had it been placed after bulk, still it would have been wrong, for it might then be asked, “ What is meant beside the bulk ?” Is it the color, or any other property? Its proper place is after the word object.
“By greatness, I do not mean the bulk of any single object only." For then, when it is asked What does he mean more than the bulk of a single object? the answer comes out precisely as the author intends,
the largeness of a whole view.”
This extract shows the importance of giving the right position to Hverbs and other qualifying words. Particular attention must be given viso to the place of the pronouns who, which, what, whose, &c., and of all hose particles which express the connexion of the parts of speech. The ollowing sentence is faulty in this respect.
" It is folly to pretend to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, by Deaping up treasures, which nothing can protect us against, but the goou providence of our Heavenly Father.”
Which, as it here stands, grammatically refers to the immediately pre ceding noun, which is treasures, and this would convert the whole period into nonsense. The sentence should have been constructed thus :
"It is folly to pretend, by heaping up treasures, to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, against which nothing can protect us but the good providence of our Heavenly Father.”
The unity of a sentence implies its oneness. The sentence may consist of parts; but these parts must be so closely bound together as to make an impression of one object only upon the mind.
There is generally in every sentence some person or thing which is the governing word. This should be continued so if possible from the begin ning to the end.
Another direction or rule to preserve the unity of a sentence may be thus stated : Never crowd into one sentence ideas which have so little connexion that they might well be divided into two or more sentences It is the safer extreme to err rather by too many short sentences, than by one that is overloaded or confused.
A third rule for preserving the unity of a sentence is, keep clear of pa rentheses in the middle of it.
In general their effect is extremely bad, being a perplexed method of disposing of some thought, which a writer has not art enough to introduce n its proper place.
The fourth rule for the unity of a sentence is, bring it to a full and perfect close.
In conformity with the first rule stated above, it may be observed, that if there are a number of nominatives, or subjects which cannot be connected by a conjunction, or thrown into some other case or form, the sentence must be divided, and the parts constructed in independerit
To show the manner in which the rules now stated should be applin, the following extract is presented from “The Quarterly Review."
“The youth who had found the cavern, and had kept the secret to him self, loved this damsel; he told her the danger in time, and persuaded her to trust herself to him.” In this sentence there is perfect unity. The word youth is the governing word, and the pronoun he, its representative, to prevent tautology, is substituted, to avoid the repetition of the conjunction and. But the writer continues, “They got into a canoe; the place of her retreat was described to her on the way to it, these women swim like mermaids, — she dived after him, and rose in the cavern ; in the widest part it is about fifty feet, and its medium height is guessed at the same, the roof hung with stalactites."
Here, every one of the rules of unity is violated. The nominative is changed six different times. Ideas having no connexion with each other, namely: Their getting into a canoe, - the description of the place of her retreat, -the swimming of the women, - her diving and rising in the cavern, — the dimensions of the cave, and the ornaments of its roof, are all crowded into one sentence. The expression, “These women swim like mermaids,” is properly a parenthesis, occurring in the middle of the sentence; and the clause, “ the roof hung with stalactites," does not bring the sentence to a full and perfect close. The same ideas intended to be conveyed, may be expressed as follows, without violating either of the laws
“ As they got into a canoe, to proceed to the cayern, the place of her retreat was described to her. Like the rest of her countrywomen, she could swim like a mermaid, and accordingly diving after him, she rose in the cavern ; a spacions apartment of about fifty feet in each of its dimen sions, with a roof beautifully adorned with stalactites."
The unity of a sentence may sometimes be preserved by the use of the participle instead of the verb. Thus: “The stove stands on a platform which is raised six inches and extends the whole length of the room." This sentence is better expressed thus: “The stove stands on a platform, six nches in height, and extending the whole length of the room."
OF THE STRENGTH OF A SENTENCE.
The third requisite of a perfect sentence is strength.
By this is meant such a disposition of the several words and members as will exhibit the sense to the best advantage ; as will render the impression which the period is intended to make, most full and complete, and give every word, and mem ber its due weight and force.
To the production of this effect, perspicuity and unity are absolutely necessary; but more is requisite. For, a sentence may be clear; it may also be compact, or have the requisite unity; and yet, by some unfavora ble circumstance in the structure, it may fail in that strength or liveliness of impression, which a more happy collocation would produce.
The first rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, take from it all redundant words.
Thus it is better to say,
“ Called to the exercise of the supreme command, he exerted his author. ity with moderation,” &c., than “Being called to the exercise," &c.
It is a most useful exercise, on reviewing what we have written, to con tract that circuitous mode of expression, and to cut off those useless ex crescences, which are usually found in a first draught. Care must be taken, however, not to prune too closely. Some leaves must be left to shelter and adorn the fruit.
As sentences should be cleared of superfluous words, so also must they be of superfluous members.
Thus, speaking of beauty, one of the most elegant writers in the Eng. lish language says,
“The very first discovery of it strikes the mind with inward joy and spreads delight over the faculties."
In the latter member of this sentence, scarcely anything is added to what was expressed in the first. .
The second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, Fay particular attention to the use of copalatives, relatives, and particles employed for transition and connexion.
The separation of a preposition from the noun which it governs, is to be avoided. Thus,
Though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may often be arcom panied by, the advantages of virtue."
It would be better to say.
* Though virtue borrows no assistance from the advantages of fortune in may often be accompanied by them.” Or, “ Though virtue may often be accompanied by the advantages of fortune, it borrows no assistance from them."
The strength of a sentence is much injured by an unnecessary multi plication of relative and demonstrative participles.
In conversation, and in epistolary writing, the relative pronoun may be omitted; but in compositions of a serious, or dignified kind, it should always be inserted. Thus we may say, in familiar language,
“He brought the books I requested.” But in dignified discourse, the pronoun which should be inserted. “ He brought the books which I requested.”
With regard to the conjunction and, it should not be unnecessarily re peated. Whenever, however, we wish objects to appear as distinct from each other as possible, the and may be repeated; thus,
“Such a man may fall a victim to power, but truth, and reason, and liberty, would fall with him.”
IN. B. In such cases, the comma must precede each repetition of the conjunction and.)
The third rule for promoting strength is, dispose of the principal word or words in that part of the sentence, where they will make the most striking impression.
In general, the important words are placed at the beginning of a sen. tence. Sometimes, however, when we propose giving weight to a sen tence, it is useful to suspend the meaning a little, and then bring it out fully at the close. Thus,
"On whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us 18 his wonderful invention."
The fourth rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, make the members of them go on rising in importance one above another. This kind of arrangement is called a climax, and is ever regarded as a beauty in composition..
A weaker assertion should never follow a stronger one; and when a sentence consists of two members, the longer should in general be the concluding one. Thus, the following sentence admits two arrangements, of which the latter is the better, for the reasons stated above.
We flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken our passions when they have forsaken us."
" When our passions have forsaken us, we flatter ourselves with the be. lief that we have forsaken them."
The fifth rule for constructing sentences with strength is, avoid con cluding them with ar adverb, a preposition, or any insignificant word.
Sometimes, however, when words of this kind arv particularly emphat ical, this rule may be disregarded; as in the following sentence, and others like it in which thev present an antithesis