Fullness And Brevity. Continued
The following sentences seem to need the words which are printed in italics.
1. There was not one of them who came.
2. The night was so dark that we had to use a lantern.
3. Getting off early was lucky for them, because if they had not done so they would have been caught in the rain.
4. Several accidents occurred. One was that the spark-plug got wet
6. These goods are different from and better than those. (But it is better to write, These goods are different from those, and better.)
7. I am very much pleased to meet you.
8. We shall certainly continue our journey, even if it rains cats and dogs.
9. Tobacco doesn't seem to affect him as it does affect other people. (But affects is obviously better than does affect.)
10. I am not going to raise the question of whether everybody should have some education. (There is no "question of education"; make it in some way specific)
11 If at any time he was at fault, he admitted it
12. Let us not get into the predicament we were in yesterday.
13. I drove to town, a distance which was three miles.
14. The wives and husbands of the members of the club were there.
15. "When yer boasts as I'm yer brother, I'll say yer ain't mine." (But I apologize to Mr. J. M. Barrie for spoiling his sentence.)
16. The roof was like that of any house.
17. His voice was as fine as that of any professional singer.
18. 'These things come not by birth but by education.
19. He cares more for golf than for anything else.
20. He is very angry, if I may judge by the way he speaks.
21. My boy has entered the grammar school, not the university.
22. He has been busy all the morning, not all day.
23. He worked all the month, all night most of the time.
24. He worked all the spring, but not all summer.
25. The secretary and the treasurer both resigned.
26. The cashier and the teller are both involved.
27. He was elected secretary and treasurer. He combines the offices.
28. A large and a small order demand equal courtesy.
29. France, England, and the United States are friendly.
30. A black and tan dog and a black and a tan dog were all three seen running together.
The foregoing examples seem to make it clear that ellipsis is a commoner fault than pleonasm or tautology. The important little words get left out. That after verbs of saying is needed except in the most colloquial sentences. That of is a phrase often carelessly omitted. With, of, by, the, and - such words are the important trifles which fail to get repeated when the construction really demands their repetition. Even the word and (in a series) is often carelessly omitted.
§ 70. Turning now to the paragraph and the whole composi-tion, we are again reminded that the purpose is the first consideration. The purpose and the available space must determine the scale of composition. Any subject can be treated on any scale.
That seems a hard saying. And indeed it does not mean that a short treatment is always adequate to the intrinsic importance of the topic. It simply means that necessity is the mother of invention. Some sort of treatment can be given, no matter how small the available space. That is the first lesson that the journalist and the advertiser have to learn.
It is a good lesson, for untrained writers always demand more space than they need. They say they can't boil their staff down, and often they can't. But the man at the office can. The bine pencil can and does.
There are two methods of reduction, namely abridgment and summary. Abridgment is accomplished by cutting out the less important words, phrases, or sentences, and making slight changes to secure connection. Sometimes, indeed, no such changes of phraseology are required. Summary is rewriting on a smaller scale, without much regard to any of the original phraseology except such key-words as are essential to the thought.
Let us take some article, abridge it, then summarize it. First the original passage. Let us take a brief editorial from the Saturday Evening Post, an editorial which is already terse.
Protection For Women Workers
Often nobody makes much profit out of the most wretchedly-paid and worst-"sweated" labor. Petty employers or middlemen sell the product of this labor, each in competition with the others. The cheaper they get the labor, the cheaper they sell the product. If the laborers were able to force wages up to a decent living level everybody, employers included, would be better off. But many of these laborers - women sewing at home, children making artificial flowers, and others - are not able to organize. They are poor, detached, unknown to one another. The same condition exists in Great Britain. A report published by the Bureau of Labor over a year ago says, "In some British industrial towns women work from sunrise until late into the night for the equivalent of one or two dollars a week."
But, in social organization, England is much ahead of the United States. In 1907 and again in 1908 the House of Commons appointed a committee to study this subject and propose a remedy. And last fall - almost unnoticed here on account of the great contest over the budget - Parliament passed an act providing that in certain industries the Board of Trade - a department of the Government-should establish wage boards consisting of an equal number of employers and employees with one or three members appointed by the Board of Trade. These boards are empowered to fix a minimum rate of wages for timework and piecework, and any employer paying less than the rate so fixed is subject to a fine of twenty pounds for each offense. Moreover, in case of prosecution, the burden of proof is on the employer.
There was opposition, of course. But the pay of many of these women was so small, even though they worked hard for long hours, that it alone would not support life on the scantest terms. In the interests of public health and of society in general Parliament had already established certain conditions of sanitation, ventilation, and so on, and it was considered quite as legitimate, in the interests of society, to establish a wage scale that would at least support life in some tolerable fashion.
Nobody could call that verbose. But suppose that the editor found himself desperately in need of a little more room somewhere on that page, and decided to take it out of this editorial. Suppose he needed one hundred and fifteen words. Perhaps he would not cut out the same words as you or I, but here is what he might do to get exactly one hundred and fifteen words. Observe that not a single word is changed; the abridgment is simply a matter of omitting words here and there.
Protection For Women Workers
Often nobody makes much profit out of "sweated" labor. Petty employers or middlemen sell the product. The cheaper the labor, the cheaper the product. If the laborers were able to force wages up to a living level everybody would be better off. But women sewing at home, children making artificial flowers, are not able to organize. They are poor, detached, unknown to one another. The same condition exists in Great Britain.
But, in social organization, England is much ahead of the United States. In 1907 and again in 1908 the House appointed a committee to study this subject and propose a remedy. And last fall Parliament passed an act providing that in certain industries the Board of Trade - a department of the Government - should establish wage boards consisting of an equal number of employers and employees with one or three members appointed by the Board of Trade. These boards are empowered to fix a minimum rate for timework and piecework, and any employer paying less than the rate is subject to a fine of twenty pounds. In case of prosecution, the burden of proof is on the employer.
There was opposition. But the pay of these women was so small that it would not support life. In the interests of public health and of society Parliament had already established certain conditions of sanitation, and it was considered as legitimate to establish a wage scale that would at least support life.
Now suppose that we needed the substance of this article for some purpose, and had room for only one hundred and fifteen words all told. We should have to write something like this:
Protection For Women Workers
"Sweated" labor often profits nobody much. Women and child workers are too poor and detached to combine and force wages to a decent level England is far ahead of us in protecting such workers. In 1907 and 1908 the House appointed a committee to study the matter, and last fail Parliament empowered the Government Board of Trade to establish certain wage boards. Each includes an equal number of employers and employees, and three members appointed by the Board of Trade. They fix minimum wages for timework and piecework. Employers paying less are heavily fined. There was opposition, but Parliament, having established conditions of sanitation, now considered it legitimate to establish wage-scales that would support life.
One thing more. In making a summary, you are for the time being the author himself. Do not strew your page with such expressions as "The author says," "He writes," "The writer thinks."