Effective Sentences. Continued
3. His hand closed tightly on the coin, and without a word walked airily down the street
4. Two of his best paintings are portraits of Miss Annie Douglas Graham and the late Willis D. James. The latter was executed for the New York Chamber of Commerce.
5. The people who witnessed the scene were sure that a collision would take place and that the horse would be ground to pieces, but as the engine neared the animal it jumped from one track to another, running to the bend near the Keene Canning factory, where it was stopped.
It is clear that the word several does not always mean several persons; it is not a safe reference word in that sense. Nor does hundred always mean a hundred people.And former and latter are dangerous edge-tools to play with. And it - well, you can't expect a reader to be hunting all through a paragraph to find out what it means.
3. There is a fault called implied reference. In this the writer puts down an it or a they or a which or a this without supplying a word for it etc. to refer to. The thing referred to is in the writer's mind, but it has not found its way down the arm to the paper.
§ 48. Unity
1. Much is often made of unity of thought in the sentence, but if the writer has mastered the theory of the paragraph he will have small difficulty in this matter. Wilful divergence from the thought is not common in adult writers. We do not need to be told to avoid such sentences as "It is a fine morning, and the moon is made of green cheese." In fact, few third-year high school students make serious errors in point of unity of thought in the sentence.
2. But unity of form needs study. Try to carry the sentence through without unnecessary change of subject or voice or tense. The following sentence is clear enough, but its structure is topsy-turvey: "Wasn't it Dr. Johnson that Boswell used to copy down everything he said!"
§ 49. Proportion
Three general directions cover the essentials of a well-proportioned sentence.
1. Put your main thought as the main proposition. Do not carelessly relegate it to a subordinate clause, much less to a mere phrase.
2. Do not attach clauses or phrases to each other like needles suspended in a series from a magnet. Avoid the "This is the cat that caught the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built" construction.
3. If you have two reasons to give for your main statement, put them together. They may precede or follow, but don't treat the main statement like a slice of meat in a sandwich.
1. Every one who has studied bookkeeping will find it easy to appreciate the word balance as it applies to a sentence. Here is a typical balanced sentence:
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
What makes that so good from a literary point of view is that the two halves of the sentence have just enough difference in form. Way is balanced with way, and the two thoughts are balanced; but the sentence does not read,
The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the Lord knoweth not the way of the unrighteous.
That is too balanced, too formal. It is like two pages of a ledger where not only do the footings tally, but there are exactly the same number of lines all of the same length. A good bookkeeper rather enjoys drawing that oblique line which indicates that a short page balances with a long one.
So the door is open to skill in the making of balanced sentences. Nothing is more effective than such sentences properly done, for they have a way of flashing alternatives before the reader,
2. Unless the words both - and are carefully placed, the logical balance of phrases will be imperfect.
3. A wrong position of not only - but also upsets the balance of phrases or clauses.
4. Unity of form in the sentence prevents many of the minor errors in balance. The sentence, "Let us learn to do without luxuries and that we are better off without them" lacks unity of form. The writer did not try to keep one structure throughout. He should have written "Let us learn to do without luxuries and to know that we are better off without them."
5. Either - or, neither - nor should connect similar expressions, that is, words with words, phrases with phrases, and not words with phrases. We may go a' step further and say nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs.
He ate neither fish, flesh, nor fowl.
He neither ate fish nor allowed his son to do so.
I see either great success or great failure coming.
I either see great success coming, or I am blind.
He will neither go nor send.
He neither will go nor will he send.
He hopes either to win or to fail honorably.
Either he will win or his brother will.
Either he hopes to win or I am no judge of him.
6. Not - either is the same as neither, but it correlates with or.
He will not either go or send.
He would not eat either fish, flesh, or fowl.
I do not see either great success or great failure coming.