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Structure of Sentences.


man's “ avowing his designs.” If the latter, as seems most likely, was intended to be the meaning, the arrangement ought to be this, " Are these designs, which any man who is born a Briton, ought to be ashamed or afraid, in any circumstances, in any situation, to avow ?”

Still more attention is requisite to a proper disposition of the relative pronouns who, which, what, whose ; and of all those particles which ex. press the connexion of the parts of speech. As all reasoning depends upon this connexion, we cannot be too accurate with regard to it. A small error may obscure the meaning of a whole sentence; and even where the meaning is apparent, yet if these relatives be misplaced, we always find something awkward and disjointed in the structure of the period. The following passage in Bishop Sherlock's Sermons will exemplify these observations : “ It is folly to pretend to arm our. selves against the accidents of life, by heaping up treasures which nothing can protect us against, but the good providence of our heavenly Father.” Which grammatically refers to the immediately preceding noun, which here is “ treasures ;” and this would convert the whole period into nonsense. The sentence should have been thus constructed : “ It is folly to pretend by leaping up treasures to arm ourselves against the accidents of life, against which nothing can protect us, but the good providence of our heavenly Father."

We now proceed to the second quality of a wellarranged sentence, which we termed its Unity. This is a capital property. The very nature of a sentence implies one proposition to be expressed. It may consist of parts; but these parts must be

Structure of Sentences.

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so closely bound together, as to make an impression of one object only upon the mind.

To preserve this unity, we must first observe, that during the course of the sentence the subject should be changed as little as possible. There is generally in every sentence some person or thing which is the governing word. This should be continued so, if possible, from the beginning to the end of it. Should a man express himself in this manner : 66 After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was saluted by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness." Though the objects in this sentence are sufficiently connected, yet, by shifting so often the subject and person, we, they, I, and who, they appear in so disunited a view, that the sense and connexion are nearly lost. The sentence is restored to its proper unity by constructing it thus: “ Having come to anchor, I was put on shore, where I was saluted by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness."

The second rule is, never crowd into one sentence ideas, which have so little connexion, that they might well be divided into two or more sentences. Violation of this rule never fails to displease a reader. Its effect indeed is so disgusting, that of the two it is the safest extreme, to err rather by too many short sentences, than by one, that is overloaded and confused. The following sentence, from a translation of Plutarch, will justify this opinion : “ Their march," says the author, speaking of the Greeks, “ was through an uncultivated country, whose savage inhabitants fared liardly, having no other riches than a breed of lean sheep, whose flesh was rank and unsavoury


Structure of Sentences.

by reason of their continual feeding upon

sea-fish. Here the subject is repeatedly changed. The march of the Greeks, the description of the inhabitants through whose country they passed, the account of their sheep, and the reason of their sheep being disagreeable food, make a jumble of objects, slightly related to each other, which the reader cannot, without considerable difficulty, comprehend in one view.

The third rule for preserving the unity of a sentence is, keep clear of parentheses in the middle of it. These may on some occasions have a spirited appearance, as prompted by a certain vivacity of thought, which can glance happily aside, as it is going along. But 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 in its proper place. It is needless to produce any instances, as they occur so frequently among incorrect writers.

The fourth rule for the unity of a sentence is, bring it to a full and perfect close. It needs not to be observed, that an unfinished sentence is no sentence with respect to grammar. But sentences often occur, which are more than finished. When we have arrived at what we expected to be the conclusion; when we are come to the word, on which the mind is naturally led to rest; unexpectedly some circumstance is added, which ought to have been omitted, or disposed of elsewhere. Thus, for instance, in the following sentence from Sir William Temple, the adjection to the sentence is entirely foreign to it. Speaking of Burnet's Theory of the Earth, and Fontenelle's Plurality of Worlds: “ The first," says he, “could not end

Structure of Sentences.

his learned treatise without a panegyric of modern learning in comparison of the

ancient ; and the other falls so grossly into the censure of the old poetry, and preference of the new, that I could not read either of the strains without some indignation; which no quality among men is so apt to raise in me as self-sufficiency." The word « indignation” concludes the sentence ; for the last member is added after the proper



We now proceed to the third quality of a correct sentence, which we termed 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 every member 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 unfavorable 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. Whatever can be easily supplied in the mind, is better omitted in the expression, thus, “ Content

Structure of Sentences.

with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it,” is better than “ being content with deserving a triumph, he refused the honour of it." It is one of the most useful exercises, on reviewing what we have written, to contract that circuit. ous mode of expression, and to cut off those useless excrescences which are usually found in a first draught. But we must be cautious of pruning so closely, as to give a hardness and dryness to the style. Some leaves must be left to shelter and adorn the fruit..

As sentences should be cleared of superfluous words, so also of superfluous members. Opposed to this is the fault we frequently meet, the last member of a period being only a repetition of the former in a different dress. For example, speaking of beauty, “The very first discovery of it,” says Addison, " strikes the mind with inward joy, and spreads delight through all its faculties.” In this instance scarcely any thing is added by the second member of the sentence to what was expressed in the first. Though the flowing style of Addison may palliate such negligence, yet it is generally true, that language divested of this prolixity, is more strong and beautiful..

The second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, pay particular attention to the use of copulatives, relatives, and particles, employed for transition and connexion. Some observations

. on this subjeet which appear useful, shall be mentioned.

What is termed spliting of particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, ever to be avoided.

For example, “Though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may of


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