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Of an Inftructive Style.
HE most neceffary, and the most ufeful Character of a Style fit for Inftruction is, that it be plain, perfpicuous and eafy. And here I fhall first point out all thefe Errors in Style, which diminish or destroy the Perfpicuity of it, and then mention a few Directions, how to obtain a perfpicuous and eafy Style.
THE Errors of a Style which must be avoided by Teachers, are thefe that follow:
I. THE Ufe of many foreign Words, which are not fufficiently naturalized and mingled, with the Language which we speak or write. 'Tis true, that in teaching the Sciences in English, we must fometimes use Words borrowed from the Greek and Latin, for we have not in English Names for a Variety of Subjects which belong to Learning; but when a Man effects, upon all Occafions, to bring in long founding Words from the ancient Languages without Neceffity, and mingles French and other outlandish Terms and Phrafes, where plain English would ferve as well, he betrays a vain and foolish Genius unbecoming a Teacher.
2. AVOID a fantaflick learned Style, borrowed from the various Sciences, where the Subject and Matter do not require the Use of them. Don't affect Terms of Art on every Occafion, nor feek to fhow your Learning, by founding Words and dark Phrases; this is properly called Pedantry.
YOUNG Preachers just come from the Schools, are often tempted to fill their Sermons, with logical and metaphyfical Terms in explaining their Text, and feed their Hearers with fonorous Words of Vanity. This fcholaftick Language, perhaps, may flatter their own Ambition, and raife a Wonderment at their Learning among the staring Multitude, without any manner of Influence toward the Inftruction of the Ignorant, or the Reformation of the Immoral or Impious: These Terms of Art are but the Tools of an Artificer, by which his Work is wrought in private; but the Tools ought not to appear in the finish'd Workmanship.
THERE are fome Perfons fo fond of Geometry, that they bring in Lines and Circles, Tangents and Parabolas, Theorems, Problems and Poftulates, upon all Occafions. Others who have dealt in Aftronomy, borrow even their Nouns and their Verbs, in their common Difcourfe, from the Stars and Planets; inftead of faying, Jacob had twelve Sons, they tell you, Jacob had as many Sons as there are Signs in the Zodiac. If they defcribe an in
conftant Perfon, they make a Planet of him, and fet him forth in all his Appearances, Direct, Retrograde and Stationary. If a Candle be fet behind the Screen, they call it Eclipfed, and tell you fine Stories of the Orbit and the Revolutions, the Radii and the Limb or Circumference of a Cart-wheel.
OTHERS again drefs up their Senfe in Chymical Language, Extracts and Oils, Salts and Effences, exalt and invigorate their Discourses: A great Wit with them, is fublimated Spirit; and a Blockhead, is Caput Mortuum. A cer tain Doctor in his Bill, fwells in his own Idea when he tells the Town, that he has been Counsellor to the Counsellors of feveral Kings and Princes, that he has arrived at the Knowledge of the Green, Black, and Golden Dragon, known only to Magicians and Hermetic Philofophers. It would be well if the Quacks alone had a Patent for this Language.
III. THERE are fome fine affected Words that are used only at Court, and fome peculiar Phrases that are founding or gaudy, and belong only to the Theatre; thefe fhould not come into the Lectures of Inftruction: the Language of Poets has too much of Metaphor in it, to lead Mankind into clear and diftinct Ideas of Things: The Bufinefs of Poefy is to ftrike the Soul with a glaring Light, and to urge the Paffions into a Flame by fplendid Shews, by strong Images, and a pathetic Vehe
mence of Style; but 'tis another Sort of Speech, that is beft fuited to lead the calm. Enquirer into juft Conceptions of Things.
IV. THERE is a mean vulgar Style, borrowed from the lower Ranks of Mankind, the bafeft Characters and meanest Affairs of Life: This is alfo to be avoided; for it fhould be fuppofed, that Perfons of a liberal Education, have not been bred up within the hearing of fuch Language, and confequently they cannot understand it; befides, that it would create very offenfive Ideas, fhould we borrow even Similies for Illuftration from the Scullery, the Dunghil, and the Jakes.
V. AN obfcure and myfterious manner of Expreffion and cloudy Language is to be avoided. Some Perfons have been led by Education,
or by fome foolish ices, into a dark and
unintelligible Way of thinking and speaking, and this continues with them all their Lives, and clouds and confounds their Ideas: Perhaps fome of these may have been bleft with a great and comprehenfive Genius, with fublime natural Parts, and a Torrent of Ideas flowing in upon them; yet for want of Clearnefs, in the manner of their Conception and Language, they fometimes drown their own Subject of Difcourfe, and overwhelm their Argument in Darkness and Perplexity. Such Preachers as have read much of the mystical Divinity of the Papifts, and imitated their
manner of Expreffion, have many times buried a fine Understanding under the Obfcurity of fuch a Style.
VI. A long and tedious Style is very improper for a Teacher, for this alfo leffens the Perfpicuity of it. Some learned Writers are never fatisfied, unless they fill up every Sentence with a great Number of Ideas and Sentiments; they fwell their Propofitions to an enormous Size by Explications, Exceptions and Precautions, left they fhould be mistaken, and croud them all into the fame Period; they involve and darken their Difcourfe by many a Parenthefis, and prolong their Sentences to a tiresome Extent, beyond the Reach of a common Comprehenfion: Such Sort of Writers or Speakers may be rich in Knowledge, but they are feldom fit to communicate it. He that would gain a happy Talent for the Inftruction of others, must know how to difintangle and divide his Thoughts, if too many of them are ready to croud into one Paragraph; and let him rather fpeak three Sentences distinctly and perfpicuoufly, which
the Hearer receives at once with his Ears and his Soul, than croud all the Thought into one Sentence, which the Hearer has forgot before he can understand it.
BUT this leads me to the next Thing I propofed, which was to mention fome Methods, whereby fuch a Perfpicuity of Style may be obtained as is proper for Inftruction.