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e. Is it concise?
f. Does it contain all needful words?
KINDS OF SENTENCES. As to quantity, sentences are long or short; as to structure, they are simple, compound, or complex; loose, periodic, or balanced.
In the writings of the best authors, long and short sentences are duly intermingled. A long succession of sentences of nearly the same length is wearisome. The proportion in which long and short sentences should be combined cannot, however, be determined by rule. The discretion and taste of the writer must determine this question. He must be on guard to keep his sentences from running to extremes on either side.
Every subject of discourse contains thoughts that lend themselves naturally to short sentences; others, to long sentences. When all or nearly all the sentences are short, the rhythm is impaired, and the style becomes flippant, jerky, abrupt, and the reader experiences a sense of unsatisfiedness. On the other hand, when long sentences largely preponderate, the style becomes lumbering and heavy, and interpretation more difficult. The effect produced by a duc proportion of short sentences is to give to a passage lightness, vivacity, emphasis, and ease of apprehension; a due proportion of long sentences gives to it dignity, completeness, rhythm, and cadence. The feelings, and the decisions of the will, naturally flow into short sentences; weighty and complex reasonings, into long sentences.
A succession of short sentences may be employed sometimes for a special kind of emphasis "the successive, condensed assertions being like so many hammer strokes." The following illustration is from Macaulay:
We have had laws. We have had blood. New treasons have been created. The press has been shackled. The habeas corpus act has been suspended. Public meetings have been prohibited. The event has proved that these expedients were mere palliatives. You are at the end of your palliatives. The evil remains. It is more formidable than ever.. What is to be done?
It should be remembered that brevity is not opposed to many words, but to useless. words - to verbiage. A writer whose sentences are generally short, may be tautological and prolix; another whose sentences are, in the main, long, may be brief and forceful. It is safer, however, for writers of little experience to couch their thoughts in sentences comparatively short. It requires a practiced pen to construct a long sentence that is at the same time clear and consistent throughout. A writer must grow into long sentences; but he needs to guard against growing into too many.
The advantage of the long sentence lies in the fact that by it we are enabled to state in the same grammatical unity in the same breath, as it were - a whole thought with all its necessary modifications. "One can also get by it," Professor Genung
says, "better effects of sound and rhythm, as it has a capability of flow that the short sentence lacks." He says further: "For vigor and emphasis, use short sentences. For detail and rhythm, use long sentences." In the words of Prof. A. S. Hill: "In unbroken succession, long sentences fatigue the eye and the mind; short sentences distract them. The skillful writer alternates the two, using the former for the most part to explain, the latter to enforce his views."
The following passage from Ruskin illustrates the value of the long sentence for expressing a complex thought as a unit:
The work of the great spirit of nature is as deep and unapproachable in the lowest as in the noblest objects; the divine mind is as visible in its full energy of operation on every lowly bank and moldering stone, as in the lifting of the pillars of heaven and settling the foundations of the earth; and to the rightly perceiving mind there is the same infinity, the same majesty, the same power, the same unity, and the same perfection, manifest in the casting of the clay as in the scattering of the cloud, in the moldering of the dust as in the kindling of the daystar.
LOOSE, PERIODIC, AND BALANCED SENTENCES.The loose, the periodic, and the balanced structure of sentences afford opportunity not only to secure variety of sentence form, but also to enhance the beauty and to promote the energy of style.
DEFINITION. A periodic sentence is a sentence so constructed as to keep both the sense and the grammatical construction incomplete until the end is reached; as:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil. 4: 8.
Observe that this sentence would not express a finished thought at any point before its close.
DEFINITION.- A loose sentence is a sentence so constructed as to express a complete thought at one or more points before the end is reached; as:
Language is a dead letter till the spirit within the poet himself breathes through it, gives it voice, and makes it audible to the very mind.
Note the several points at which the foregoing sentence might be ended, and still express a complete thought.
At what points could the following loose sentence be brought to a full stop, and yet embody a complete thought?
Milton's nature selected and drew to itself whatever was great and good from the parliament and from the court, from the conventicle and from the cloister, from the gloomy and sepulchral circles of the Roundheads and from the Christmas revel of the hospitable Cavalier.
In a loose sentence the essential idea is given before the subordinate elements are given. It is easy in most cases to change a periodic sentence to a loose, and a loose sentence to a periodic. For example: "Milton always selected for himself the boldest literary services, that he might shake the foundations of debasing sentiments more effectually," is a loose sentence. By giving it the following cast, it is made periodic: "That he might shake the foundation of debasing sentiments more effectually, Milton always selected for himself the boldest literary services."
The sentence, "We came to our journey's end at last, with no small difficulty, after much fatigue, through deep roads and bad weather," is loose. By giving it the following mold, it becomes periodic: "At last, with no small difficulty, and after much fatigue, we came, through deep roads and bad weather, to our journey's end."
Again: "His actions were frequently criticized, but his character was above criticism," is a loose sentence. By changing the structure as follows, it is made periodic: "Though his actions were frequently criticized, his character was above criticism."
As a succession of related thoughts may be expressed in a series of short sentences, or in a series of long sentences, or in sentences which are now long, now short; so, too, the same thoughts may be expressed in loose or in periodic sentences, or in a combination of both. The essential flexibility and