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rally best convey this thought to others; this is especially the case, when a writer's views of his subject are clear and well defined. But the laboured writer is not willing to use this obvious and easy form of expression. He must stop to select less common words, less simple and obvious phrases, to invert his clauses and remodel his sentences. A habit of writing with greater rapidity, will tend to correct this propensity and the consequent faults of style.
2. There are some kinds of composition, the frequent practice of which will aid in attaining ease of style. Epistolary writing may particularly be mentioned. He who often communicates his thoughts to his friends in the easy, artless style of letter writing, will insensibly be led to use the same forms of expression on other occasions. The writing of a journal, or the noting down of our casual thoughts and feelings, or the sketching of short descriptions of scenes and occurrences presenting themselves to our notice, when done simply for our own amusement and benefit, without any intention of submitting what we write to the inspection of others, will be of service in the same way.
3. Aid will be obtained in the correction of a laboured style from a familiarity with those writers, who are distinguished for their easy and idiomatic manner of writing. Goldsmith, Addison, Steele, Swift, and many of their contemporaries, are of this class.
The epithets conCISE AND DIFFUSE are often applied to style. It may be said generally, that these qualifying terms refer to the number of words used by a writer for conveying his thoughts : but these different kinds of style merit a more particular description.
writer whose style is concise, expresses his thou in few words. There is a vividness and distinctness in his views, and he endeavours by a single and sudden effort to exhibit these views to others. His words are
well chosen, and his turns of expression are short and bold. No unnecessary expletive, no redundant phrase is found. Grammatical ellipses are common, and his sentences are usually short. The thought is presented in one light only, and much is left to be inferred. As to ornament, there is no room for it. Sometimes a short, plain comparison, or a bold metaphor is found. These however are always highly illustrative, and seem designed to save the necessity of a fuller statement.
A diffuse style is the opposite of the concise. The thought is expressed in comparatively many words. It is not meant by this, that a diffuse writer employs more words than are of use in conveying his thoughts. A writer may be diffuse, and yet be free from the charge of Tautology and Pleonasm, but he does not, as in the former case, leave any thing to be supplied. The statement is not only clear, but full. He dwells on the thought presented, exhibits it in different lights, and enforces it by repetition in different language, with many and varied illustrations. His words are poured forth in a full and uninterrupted stream, and his sentences, though long, are usually harmonious and flowing.
These different kinds of style are respectively suited to different subjects and occasions. The concise style is often used in short biographical notices, or what is sometimes called character painting-in the detail of facts, and in proverbs and sententious remarks. The diffuse, on the contrary, is used in the statement and discussion of novel opinions, especially on subjects that are uncommon. It is also well suited to discourses, which are designed to be delivered, and not to be read. Still it is often difficult to determine the degree of conciseness or diffuseness which is desirable. On the one hand, an excess of conciseness endangers the perspicuity of the style ; on the other, an excess of diffuseness renders it heavy and tiresome. Archbishop Whately recommends the student to combine the two-to state the thought first in a diffuse manner, expanding the sense so that it may be distinctly understood, and then to convey the same idea in a more compressed and sententious form. This expedient produces the effect of brevity and at the same time what is said, is fully comprehended, or as he has well expressed it, “ the reader will understand the longer expression, and remember the shorter." Passages in the writings of Burke and Johnson illustrate this remark.
The epithets BARREN and LUXURIANT are applied to style, to denote defective modes of writing nearly allied to conciseness and diffuseness. The former epithet implies a nakedness and want of connexion in the thoughts and expressions. The trains of thought which are started, are but partially followed out, and the production has in this respect a half finished appearance. The expressions also want fulness and flow. Repetitions of the same words and phrases are frequent, and all that pertains to the use of words and the forms of expression, is common place.
What is thus described as barrenness of style, may owe its origin, either to a want of fertility of invention, or to a deficiency of ideas or of words. Where there is a deficiency of ideas, and when the subject is within the compass of the writer's powers, further research and reflection are needed. When barrenness of style arises from want of copiousness of expression, or command of language, it is a defect which much reading of good English authors and persevering efforts after improvement, will overcome. This defect is most frequently found in those whose acquaintance with literature has commenced late in life, and such persons must make persevering efforts to supply the deficiencies of their early education. In other instances, barrenness of style arises from a want of fertility of invention. The writer is unable to trace the relations between his thoughts, to make inferences and draw conclusions, to explain and exhibit his views. Barrenness of style, when arising from this source, will be remedied by increased maturity of the mind and improved discipline of its powers. It may be of service also to direct the attention to the modes of amplification used by those who excel in this respect.
A luxuriant style, which is the opposite of that just described, is characterized by a redundancy of words and phrases, especially by a profusion of imagery and exuberance of figurative language. The writer, instead of selecting that which is choice and best fitted to the subject and occasion, seems to give us all his thoughts, and the different conceits, both as to form of expression and ornament, which have offered themselves to his mind. Sometimes, also, there is an attempt to write in a commanding and imposing manner, which manifests itself in many and extravagant epithets and figures, and an affected fulness and flow of expression.
Luxuriance of style in young writers, is ascribed to the glow and excitenient of mind natural to the early period of life. It is looked upon as the overflowing of youthful feelings, and often pronounced to be ominous of good ; for it is anticipated, that when more maturity of mind shall have been obtained, and the ardour of youthful feeling cooled, what is exuberant and extravagant will give place to richness and force of expression.
Another cause, to which this mode of writing is sometimes ascribed, is the temperament of the individual writer. He belongs to a class of men who are wont to be easily and strongly excited. Hence, whatever may be the subject or occasion on which he writes, he becomes at once impassioned in his style.
In other instances, and those in which perhaps a remedy may most easily be applied, luxuriance of style may be traced to some erroneous impressions as to the nature of a good style. An undue importance is ascribed to figures and ornaments, and the writer prides himself on his command of language and the rapid and ready flow of his expressions. Having been struck with the fervency and imposing character of some admired passages in his favourite authors, he endeavours on all occasions and subjects to manifest an equal warmth and power of expression. Thus the rules and principles of good taste are violated, and the writer becomes extravagant and verbose.
To correct the faults of a luxuriant style, a strict and careful revision is enjoined. Not only should all unnecessary words and phrases be struck out, but in some instances it may be required to recast the whole sentence. Particular attention should also be given to whatever is of a figurative nature in the composition. Nothing of this kind should be introduced, which is not strictly chaste and fitted to the subject and occasion. It may further be recommended to the luxuriant writer, occasionally to select some familiar and common topic as the subject of his composition. In this way the impropriety of any uncommon ele ion and luxuriance of style, will become obvious to the writer himself.
FORCIBLE AND VEHEMENT. We apply the epithet forcible to a style of writing, which in a plain, distinct, and irresistible manner, urges upon us the opinions and views of the writer. It is an evidence of excitement. The writer is interested in his subject, and is desirous that others may have the same feelings with himself. But it more especially implies a full persuasion of the truth and importance of what is said, and such an exhibition of the reasons of this persuasion, as cannot fail to produce conviction on the part of the reader. Hence it is dependent in a great degree on the intellectual habits, and implies a well disciplined mind—a mind