The third concert of the subscription series was given last
evening, and a large audience was in attendance. Mr.
Edward Appleton was the soloist, and the Boston
Symphony Orchestra furnished the instrumental music.
The former showed himself to be an artist of the first rank,
while the latter proved itself fully deserving of its high
reputation. The interest aroused by the series has been
very gratifying to the Committee, and it is planned to give a
similar series annually hereafter. The fourth concert will be
given on Tuesday, May 10, when an equally attractive
programme will be presented.
Apart from its triteness and emptiness, the paragraph above is bad because of the
structure of its sentences, with their mechanical symmetry and sing-song. Contrast
with them the sentences in the paragraphs quoted under Rule 10, or in any piece of
good English prose, as the preface (Before the Curtain) to Vanity Fair.
If the writer finds that he has written a series of sentences of the type described, he
should recast enough of them to remove the monotony, replacing them by simple
sentences, by sentences of two clauses joined by a semicolon, by periodic sentences
of two clauses, by sentences, loose or periodic, of three clauses--whichever best
represent the real relations of the thought.
15. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form.
This principle, that of parallel construction, requires that expressions of similar
content and function should be outwardly similar. The likeness of form enables the
reader to recognize more readily the likeness of content and function. Familiar
instances from the Bible are the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the
petitions of the Lord's Prayer.
The unskilful writer often violates this principle, from a mistaken belief that he
should constantly vary the form of his expressions. It is true that in repeating a
statement in order to emphasize it he may have need to vary its form. For
illustration, see the paragraph from Stevenson quoted under Rule 10. But apart from
this, he should follow the principle of parallel construction.
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method,
while now the laboratory method is employed.
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method; now
it is taught by the laboratory method.
The left-hand version gives the impression that the writer is undecided or timid; he
seems unable or afraid to choose one form of expression and hold to it. The right-
hand version shows that the writer has at least made his choice and abided by it.
By this principle, an article or a preposition applying to all the members of a series
must either be used only before the first term or else be repeated before each term.
The French, the Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese
The French, the Italians, the Spanish, and the Portuguese
In spring, summer, or in winter
In spring, summer, or winter (In spring, in summer, or in
Correlative expressions (both, and; not, but; not only, but also; either, or; first,
second, third; and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical
construction. Many violations of this rule can be corrected by rearranging the
It was both a long ceremony and very tedious.
The ceremony was both long and tedious.
A time not for words, but action
A time not for words, but for action
Either you must grant his request or incur his ill will.
You must either grant his request or incur his ill will.
My objections are, first, the injustice of the measure;
second, that it is unconstitutional.
My objections are, first, that the measure is unjust; second,
that it is unconstitutional.
See also the third example under Rule 12 and the last under Rule 13.
It may be asked, what if a writer needs to express a very large number of similar
ideas, say twenty? Must he write twenty consecutive sentences of the same pattern?
On closer examination he will probably find that the difficulty is imaginary, that his
twenty ideas can be classified in groups, and that he need apply the principle only
within each group. Otherwise he had best avoid the difficulty by putting his
statements in the form of a table.
16. Keep related words together.
The position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their
relationship. The writer must therefore, so far as possible, bring together the words,
and groups of words, that are related in thought, and keep apart those which are not
The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated
by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.
Wordsworth, in the fifth book of The Excursion, gives a
minute description of this church.
In the fifth book of The Excursion, Wordsworth gives a
minute description of this church.
Cast iron, when treated in a Bessemer converter, is
changed into steel.
By treatment in a Bessemer converter, cast iron is changed
The objection is that the interposed phrase or clause needlessly interrupts the natural
order of the main clause. This objection, however, does not usually hold when the
order is interrupted only by a relative clause or by an expression in apposition. Nor
does it hold in periodic sentences in which the interruption is a deliberately used
means of creating suspense (see examples under Rule 18).
The relative pronoun should come, as a rule, immediately after its antecedent.
There was a look in his eye that boded mischief.
In his eye was a look that boded mischief.
He wrote three articles about his adventures in Spain,
which were published in Harper's Magazine.
He published in Harper's Magazine three articles about his
adventures in Spain.
This is a portrait of Benjamin Harrison, grandson of
William Henry Harrison, who became President in 1889.
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This is a portrait of Benjamin Harrison, grandson of
William Henry Harrison. He became President in 1889.
If the antecedent consists of a group of words, the relative comes at the end of the
group, unless this would cause ambiguity.
The Superintendent of the Chicago Division, who
A proposal to amend the Sherman Act, which has been
A proposal, which has been variously judged, to amend the
A proposal to amend the much-debated Sherman Act
The grandson of William Henry Harrison, who
William Henry Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison,
A noun in apposition may come between antecedent and relative, because in such a
combination no real ambiguity can arise.
The Duke of York, his brother, who was regarded with
hostility by the Whigs
Modifiers should come, if possible next to the word they modify. If several
expressions modify the same word, they should be so arranged that no wrong
relation is suggested.
All the members were not present.
Not all the members were present.
He only found two mistakes.
He found only two mistakes.
Major R. E. Joyce will give a lecture on Tuesday evening in Bailey Hall, to
which the public is invited, on "My Experiences in Mesopotamia" at eight P.
On Tuesday evening at eight P. M., Major R. E. Joyce will give in Bailey
Hall a lecture on "My Experiences in Mesopotamia." The public is invited.
17. In summaries, keep to one tense.
In summarizing the action of a drama, the writer should always use the present
tense. In summarizing a poem, story, or novel, he should preferably use the present,
though he may use the past if he prefers. If the summary is in the present tense,
antecedent action should be expressed by the perfect; if in the past, by the past
An unforeseen chance prevents Friar John from delivering
Friar Lawrence's letter to Romeo. Juliet, meanwhile, owing
to her father's arbitrary change of the day set for her
wedding, has been compelled to drink the potion on
Tuesday night, with the result that Balthasar informs
Romeo of her supposed death before Friar Lawrence
learns of the nondelivery of the letter.
But whichever tense be used in the summary, a past tense in indirect discourse or in
indirect question remains unchanged.
The Legate inquires who struck the blow.
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Apart from the exceptions noted, whichever tense the writer chooses, he should use
throughout. Shifting from one tense to the other gives the appearance of uncertainty
and irresolution (compare Rule 15).
In presenting the statements or the thought of some one else, as in summarizing an
essay or reporting a speech, the writer should avoid intercalating such expressions
as "he said," "he stated," "the speaker added," "the speaker then went on to say,"
"the author also thinks," or the like. He should indicate clearly at the outset, once for
all, that what follows is summary, and then waste no words in repeating the
In notebooks, in newspapers, in handbooks of literature, summaries of one kind or
another may be indispensable, and for children in primary schools it is a useful
exercise to retell a story in their own words. But in the criticism or interpretation of
literature the writer should be careful to avoid dropping into summary. He may find
it necessary to devote one or two sentences to indicating the subject, or the opening
situation, of the work he is discussing; he may cite numerous details to illustrate its
qualities. But he should aim to write an orderly discussion supported by evidence,
not a summary with occasional comment. Similarly, if the scope of his discussion
includes a number of works, he will as a rule do better not to take them up singly in
chronological order, but to aim from the beginning at establishing general
18. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.
The proper place for the word, or group of words, which the writer desires to make
most prominent is usually the end of the sentence.
Humanity has hardly advanced in fortitude since that time,
though it has advanced in many other ways.
Humanity, since that time, has advanced in many other
ways, but it has hardly advanced in fortitude.
This steel is principally used for making razors, because of
Because of its hardness, this steel is principally used in
The word or group of words entitled to this position of prominence is usually the
logical predicate, that is, the new element in the sentence, as it is in the second
The effectiveness of the periodic sentence arises from the prominence which it gives
to the main statement.
Four centuries ago, Christopher Columbus, one of the
Italian mariners whom the decline of their own republics
had put at the service of the world and of adventure,
seeking for Spain a westward passage to the Indies as a
set-off against the achievements of Portuguese discoverers,
lighted on America.
With these hopes and in this belief I would urge you,
laying aside all hindrance, thrusting away all private aims,
to devote yourselves unswervingly and unflinchingly to the
vigorous and successful prosecution of this war.
The other prominent position in the sentence is the beginning. Any element in the
sentence, other than the subject, becomes emphatic when placed first.
Deceit or treachery he could never forgive.
So vast and rude, fretted by the action of nearly three
thousand years, the fragments of this architecture may
often seem, at first sight, like works of nature.
A subject coming first in its sentence may be emphatic, but hardly by its position
alone. In the sentence,
Great kings worshipped at his shrine,
the emphasis upon kings arises largely from its meaning and from the context. To
receive special emphasis, the subject of a sentence must take the position of the
Through the middle of the valley flowed a winding stream.
The principle that the proper place for what is to be made most prominent is the end
applies equally to the words of a sentence, to the sentences of a paragraph, and to
the paragraphs of a composition.
IV. A FEW MATTERS OF FORM
Headings. Leave a blank line, or its equivalent in space, after the title or heading of
a manuscript. On succeeding pages, if using ruled paper, begin on the first line.
Numerals. Do not spell out dates or other serial numbers. Write them in figures or
in Roman notation, as may be appropriate.
August 9, 1918
Parentheses. A sentence containing an expression in parenthesis is punctuated,
outside of the marks of parenthesis, exactly as if the expression in parenthesis were
absent. The expression within is punctuated as if it stood by itself, except that the
final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point.
I went to his house yesterday (my third attempt to see
him), but he had left town.
He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of
(When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized, the final stop
comes before the last mark of parenthesis.)
Quotations. Formal quotations, cited as documentary evidence, are introduced by a
colon and enclosed in quotation marks.
The provision of the Constitution is: "No tax or duty shall
be laid on articles exported from any state."
Quotations grammatically in apposition or the direct objects of verbs are preceded
by a comma and enclosed in quotation marks.
I recall the maxim of La Rochefoucauld, "Gratitude is a
lively sense of benefits to come."
Aristotle says, "Art is an imitation of nature."
Quotations of an entire line, or more, of verse, are begun on a fresh line and centred,
but not enclosed in quotation marks.
Wordsworth's enthusiasm for the Revolution was at first
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
Quotations introduced by that are regarded as in indirect discourse and not enclosed
in quotation marks.
Keats declares that beauty is truth, truth beauty.
Proverbial expressions and familiar phrases of literary origin require no quotation
These are the times that try men's souls.
He lives far from the madding crowd.
The same is true of colloquialisms and slang.
References. In scholarly work requiring exact references, abbreviate titles that occur
frequently, giving the full forms in an alphabetical list at the end. As a general
practice, give the references in parenthesis or in footnotes, not in the body of the
sentence. Omit the words act, scene, line, book, volume, page, except when referring
by only one of them. Punctuate as indicated below.
In the second scene of the third act
In III.ii (still better, simply insert III.ii in parenthesis at the
proper place in the sentence)
After the killing of Polonius, Hamlet is placed under guard
(IV. ii. 14).
2 Samuel i:17-27
Othello II.iii 264-267, III.iii. 155-161
Titles. For the titles of literary works, scholarly usage prefers italics with capitalized
initials. The usage of editors and publishers varies, some using italics with
capitalized initials, others using Roman with capitalized initials and with or without
quotation marks. Use italics (indicated in manuscript by underscoring), except in
writing for a periodical that follows a different practice. Omit initial A or The from
titles when you place the possessive before them.
The Iliad; the Odyssey; As You Like It; To a Skylark; The
Newcomes; A Tale of Two Cities; Dicken's Tale of Two
V. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED
(Many of the words and expressions here listed are not so much bad English as bad
style, the commonplaces of careless writing. As illustrated under Feature, the proper
correction is likely to be not the replacement of one word or set of words by
another, but the replacement of vague generality by definite statement.)
All right. Idiomatic in familiar speech as a detached phrase in the sense, "Agreed,"
or "Go ahead." In other uses better avoided. Always written as two words.
As good or better than. Expressions of this type should be corrected by
rearranging the sentence.
My opinion is as good or better than his.
My opinion is as good as his, or better (if not better).
As to whether. Whether is sufficient; see under Rule 13.
Bid. Takes the infinitive without to. The past tense is bade.
Case. The Concise Oxford Dictionary begins its definition of this word: "instance
of a thing's occurring; usual state of affairs." In these two senses, the word is
In many cases, the rooms were poorly ventilated.
Many of the rooms were poorly ventilated.
It has rarely been the case that any mistake has been made.
Few mistakes have been made.
See Wood, Suggestions to Authors, pp. 68-71, and Quiller-Couch, The Art of
Writing, pp. 103-106.
Certainly. Used indiscriminately by some speakers, much as others use very, to
intensify any and every statement. A mannerism of this kind, bad in speech, is even
worse in writing.
Character. Often simply redundant, used from a mere habit of wordiness.
Acts of a hostile character
Claim, vb. With object-noun, means lay claim to. May be used with a dependent
clause if this sense is clearly involved:
"He claimed that he was the sole surviving heir."
(But even here, "claimed to be" would be better.) Not to be used as a substitute for
declare, maintain, or charge.
Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects
regarded as essentially of different order; to compare with is mainly to point out
differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order.
Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage, to a drama, to
Congress may be compared with the British Parliament.
Paris has been compared to ancient Athens; it may be
compared with modern London.
Clever. This word has been greatly overused; it is best restricted to ingenuity
displayed in small matters.
Consider. Not followed by as when it means, "believe to be." "I consider him
thoroughly competent." Compare, "The lecturer considered Cromwell first as
soldier and second as administrator," where "considered" means "examined" or
Dependable. A needless substitute for reliable, trustworthy.
Due to. Incorrectly used for through, because of, or owing to, in adverbial phrases:
"He lost the first game, due to carelessness." In correct use related as predicate or as
modifier to a particular noun: "This invention is due to Edison;" "losses due to
Effect. As noun, means result; as verb, means to bring about, accomplish (not to be
confused with affect, which means "to influence"). As noun, often loosely used in
perfunctory writing about fashions, music, painting, and other arts: "an Oriental
effect;" "effects in pale green;" "very delicate effects;" "broad effects;" "subtle
effects;" "a charming effect was produced by." The writer who has a definite
meaning to express will not take refuge in such vagueness.
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