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By WILllAM SmUNK, jR. 





Cornell University Library 
PE 1421.S7 1920 

The elements of style. 

3 1924 014 450 716 













COPTRIGHT, 1918, 1919, BY 







I. Introductory 5 

II. Elementary Rules of Usage 7 

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. 7 

2. In a series of three or more terms with a single con- 

junction, use a comma after each term except the 

last 7 

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas . . 8 

4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a co- 

ordinate clause 10 

5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma. ... 11 

6. Do not break sentences in two 12 

7. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence 

must refer to the grammatical subject 13 

III. Elementary Principles or Composition 15 

8. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one 

paragraph to each topic 15 

9. As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; 

end it in conformity with the beginning 17 

10. Use the active voice 19 

11. Put statements in positive form 21 

12. Use definite, specific, concrete language 22 

13. Omit needless words 24 

14. Avoid a succession of loose sentences 25 

15. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form 26 

16. Keep related words together 28 

17. In summaries, keep to one tense 29 

18. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end . 31 

IV. A Few Matters OF Form '.'.'. 33 

V. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused. ; . . ^ ''." 36 

VI. Spelling 48 

VII. Exercises on Chapters II and III 50 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 


This book aims to give in brief space the principal re- 
quirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the 
task of instructor and student by concentrating attention 
(in Chapters II and III) on a few essehtials, the rules of 
usage and principles of composition most commonly vio- 
lated. In accordance with this plan it lays down three 
rules for the use of the comma, instead of a score or more, 
and one for the use of the semicolon, in the belief that 
these four rules provide for aU. the internal punctuation 
that is required by nineteen sentences out of twenty. 
Similarly, it gives in Chapter III only those principles of 
the paragraph and the sentence which are of the widest 
application. The book thus covers only a small portion of 
the field of English style. The experience of its writer has 
been that once past the essentials, students profit most by 
individual instruction based on the problems of their own 
work, and that each instructor has his own body of theory, 
which he may prefer to that offered by any textbook. 

The numbers of the sections may be used as references 
in correcting manuscript. 

The writer's colleagues in the Department of English in 
Cornell University have greatly helped him in the prepara- 
tion of his manuscript Mr. George McLane Wood has 
kindly consented to the inclusion under Rule 10 of some 
material from his Suggestions to Authors. 

The following books are recommended for reference or 
further study: in connection with Chapters II and IV, 
F. Howard Colhns, Author and Printer (Henry Frowde); 
Chicago University Press, Manual of Style; T. L. De 
Vinne, Correct Composition (The Century Company); 
Horace Hart, Rules Jor Compositors and Printers (Oxford 


University Press) ; George McLane Wood, Extracts from 
the Style-Book oj the Government Printing Office (United 
States Geological Survey); in connection with Chapters 
III and V, The King's English (Oxford University Press) ; 
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Art of Writing (Putnam), 
especially the chapter, Interlude on Jargon; George 
McLane Wood, Suggestions to Authors (United States 
Geological Survey); John Lesslie Hall, English Usage 
(Scott, Foresman and Co.); James P. Kelley, Workman- 
ship in Words (Little, Brown and Co.). In these will be 
found full discussions of many points here briefly treated 
and an abundant store of illustrations to supplement those 
given in this book. 

It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes 
disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, 
the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensat- 
ing merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he 
is certain of doing as well, he wiU probably do best to follow 
the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to 
write plain EngHsh adequate for everyday uses, let him 
look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters 
of literature. 


(^\V^' Eorm the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. 
Wf Follow this rule whatever the fiHal consonant. Thus 

Charles's friend 
Bums's poems 
the witch's malice 

This is the usage of the United States Government 
Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press. 

Exceptions are the possessive of ancient propgr names 
in -es and -4s, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as 
for conscience' sake, for righteoiisness' sake. But such forms 
as Achilles' heel, Moses' laws, I sis' temple are commonly 
replaced by 

the heel of Achilles 

the laws of Moses 

the temple of Isis 

The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and 
oneself have no apostrophe. 

2. In a series of three or more terms with a single con- 
junction, use a comma after each term except the last. 

Thus write, 

red, white, and blue 

gold, silver, or copper 

He opened the letter, read it, and made a note of its contents. 

This is also the usage of the Government Printing 
Office and of the Oxford University Press. 

In the names of business firms the last comma is omitted, 

Brown, Shipley & Co. 

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. 

The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is to 
travel on foot. 

This rule is difficult to apply; it is frequently hard to 
decide whether a single word, such as however, or a brief 
phrase, is or is not parenthetic. If the interruption to the 
flow of the sentence is but slight, the writer may safely 
omit the commas. But whether the interruption be slight 
or considerable, he must never insert one comma and omit 
the other. Such punctuation as 

Marjorie's husband. Colonel Nelson paid us a visit yesterday, 

My brother you will be pleased to hear, is now in perfect health, 

is indefensible. 

If a parenthetic expression is preceded by a conjunction, 
place the first comma before the conjunction, not after it. 

He saw us coming, and unaware that we had learned of his treach- 
ery, greeted us with a smile. 

Always to be regarded as parenthetic and to be enclosed 
between commas (or, at the end of the sentence, between 
comma and period) are the following: 

(1) the year, when forming part of a date, and the day 
of the month, when following the day of the week: 

February to July, 1916. 

April 6, 1917. 

Monday, November 11, 1918. 

(2) the abbreviations etc. and jr. 

(3) non-restrictive relative clauses, that is, those which 
do not serve to identify or define the antecedent noun, and 
similar clauses introduced by conjunctions indicating time 
or place. 

The audience, which had at first been indifferent, became more and 
more interested. 


In this sentence the clause introduced by which does not 
serve to tell which of several possible audiences is meant; 
what audience is in question is supposed to be already 
known. The clause adds, parenthetically, a statement sup- 
plementing that in the main clause. The sentence is vir- 
tually a combination of two statements which might have 
been made independently: 

The audience liad at first been indifferent. It became more and 
more interested. 

Compare the restrictive relative clause, not set off by com- 
mas, in the sentence, 

The candidate who best meets these requirements will obtain the 

Here the clause introduced by who does serve to tell which of 
several possible candidates is meant; the sentence cannot be 
spUt up into two independent statements. 

The difference in punctuation in the two sentences fol- 
lowing is based on the same principle: 

Nether Stowey, where Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient 
Mariner, is a few miles from Bridgewater. 
The day will come when you will admit your mistake. 

Nether Stowey is completely identified by its name; the 
statement about Coleridge is therefore supplementary and 
parenthetic. The day spoken of is identified only by the 
dependent clause, which is therefore restrictive. 

Similar. in principle to the enclosing of parenthetic expres- 
sions between commas is the setting off by commas of 
phrases or dependent clauses preceding or following the 
main clause of a sentence. 

Partly by hard fighting, partly by diplomatic skill, they enlarged 
their dominions to the east, and rose to royal rank with the possession 
of Sicily, exchanged afterwards for Sardinia. 

Other illustrations may be found in sentences quoted under 
Rules 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, and 18. 


The writer should be careful not to set off independent 
clauses by commas : see under Rule 5. 

4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a 
co-ordinate clause. 

The early records of the city have disappeared, and the story of its 
first years can no longer be reconstructed. 

The situation is perilous, but there is still one chance of escape. 

Sentences of this type, isolated from their context, may 
seem to be in need of rewriting. As they make complete 
sense when the comma is reached, the second clause has 
the appearance of an afterthought. Further, and is the 
least specific of connectives. Used between independent 
clauses, it indicates only that a relation exists between 
them without defining that relation. In the example 
above, the relation is that of cause and result. The two 
sentences might be rewritten: 

As the early records of the city have disappeared, the story of its first 
years can no longer be reconstructed. 

Although the situation is perilous, there is still one chance of escape. 

Or the subordinate clauses might be replaced by phrases: ■ 

Owing to the disappearance of the early records of the city, the story 
of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. 

In this perilous situation, there is still one chance of escape. 

But a writer may err by making his sentences too 
uniformly compact and periodic, and an occasional loose 
sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and 
gives the reader a certain rehef. Consequently, loose 
sentences of the type first quoted are common in easy, 
unstudied writing. But a writer should be careful not to 
construct too many of his sentences after this pattern 
(see Rule 14). 

Two-part sentences of which the second member is 
introduced by as (in the sense of because), for, or, nor, and 
while (in the sense of and at the same time) likewise require a 
comma before the conjunction. 


If the second member is introduced by an adverb, a 
semicolon, not a comma, is required (see Rule 5). The 
connectives so and yet may be used either as adverbs or as 
conjunctions, accordingly as the second clause is felt to be 
co-ordinate or subordinate; consequently either mark of 
punctuation may be justified. But these uses of so (equiva- 
lent to accordingly or to so that) are somewhat colloquial 
and should, as a rule, be avoided in writing. A simple cor- 
rection, usually serviceable, is to omit the word so and begin 
the first clause with as or since: 

1 had never been in the place As 1 had never been in the 
before; so 1 had difficulty in find- place before, 1 had difficulty in 
ing my way about. finding my way about. 

If a dependent clause, or an introductory phrase requir- 
ing to be set off by a comma, precedes the second independ- 
ent clause, no comma is needed after the conjunction. 

The situation is perilous, but if we are prepared to act promptly, 
there is still one chance of escape. 

When the subject is the same for both clauses and is 
expressed only once, a comma is required if the connective 
is but. If the connective is and, the comma should be 
omitted if the relation between the two statements is close 
or immediate. 

1 have heard his arguments, but am still unconvinced. 

He has had several years' experience and is thoroughly competent. 

5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma. 

If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not 
joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound 
sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicelon. 

Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting 

It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark. 

It is of course equally correct to write the above as two 
sentences each, replacing the semicolons by periods. 


Stevenson's romances are entertaining. They are full of exciting 

It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark. 

If a conjunction is inserted the proper mark is a comma 
(Rule 4). 

Stevenson's romances are entertaining, for they are full of exciting 
It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark, 

A comparison of the three forms given above will show 
clearly the advantage of the first. It is, at least in the 
examples given, better than the second form, because it 
suggests the close relationship between the two statements 
in a way that the second does not attempt, and better than 
the third, because briefer and therefore more forcible. 
Indeed it may be said that this simple method of indicating 
relationship between statements is one of the most useful 
devices of composition. The relationship, as above, is 
commonly one of cause or of consequence. 

Note that if the second clause is preceded by an adverb, 
such as accordingly, besides, then, therefore, or thus, and 
not by a conjunction, the semicolon is still required. 

Two exceptions to the rule may be admitted. If the. 
clauses are very short, and are alike in form, a comma is 
usually permissible : 

Man proposes, God disposes. 

The gate swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up. 

Note that in these examples the relation is not one of cause 
or consequence. Also in the colloquial form of expression, 

I hardly knew him, he was so changed, 

a comma, not a semicolon, is required. But this form of 
expression is inappropriate in writing, except in the dia- 
logue of a story or play, or perhaps in a familiar letter. 

6. Do not break sentences in two. 
In other words, do not use periods for commas. 



1 met them on a Cunard liner several years ago. Coming home 
from Liverpool to New York. 

He was an interesting talker. A man who had traveled all over the 
World and lived in half a dozen countries. 

In both these examples, the first period should be replaced 
by a comma, and the following word begun with a small 

It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression 
:serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it 

Again and again he called out. No reply. 

The writer must, however, be certain that the emphasis is 
warranted, and that he will not be suspected of a mere 
blunder in syntax or in punctuation. 

Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles 
in the punctuation of ordinary sentences; they should be 
so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes 
second nature. 

m7. a participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence 
^must refer to the grammatical subject. 

Walking slowly down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by 
two children. 

The word walking refers to the subject of the sentence, 
not to the woman. If the writer wishes to make it refer 
to the woman, he must recast the sentence: 

He saw a woman accompanied by two children, Walking slowly down 
the road. 

Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a 
preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives, and adjective 
phrases coLxe under the same rule if they begin the sentence. 

On arriving in Chicago, his When he arrived (or, On his 
friends met him at the station. arrival) in Chicago, his friends 

met him at the station. 

A soldier of proved valor, they 
entrusted him with the defence of 
the city. 

Young and inexperienced, the 
task seemed easy to me. 

Without a friend to counsel him, 
the temptation proved irresistible. 

A soldier of proved valor, he 
was entrusted with the defence 
of the city. 

Young and inexperienced, 1 
thought the task easy. 

Without a friend to counsel 
him, he found the temptation 

Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous. 

Being in a dilapidated condition, 1 was able to buy the house very 

Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve. 



8. Make the paragraph the xrnit of composition: one 
paragraph to each topic. 

If the subject on which you are writing is of slight 
extent, or if you intend to treat it very briefly, there may 
be no need of subdividing it into topics. Thus a brief 
description, a brief summary of a literary work, a brief 
account of a single incident, a narrative merely outlining 
an action, the setting forth of a single idea, any one of these 
is best written in a single paragraph. After the paragraph 
has been written, examine it to see whether subdivision 
will not improve it. 

Ordinarily, however, a subject requires subdivision into 
topics, each of which should be made the subject of a 
paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a para- 
graph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The begin- 
ning of each paragraph is a signal to him that a new step 
in the development of the subject has been reached. 

The extent of subdivision wUl vary with the length of 
the composition. For example, a short notice of a book or 
poem might consist of a single paragraph. One slightly 
longer might consist of two paragraphs : 

A. Account of the work. 

B. Critical discussion. 

A report on a poem, written for a class in literature, 
might consist of seven paragraphs: 

A. Facts of composition and publication. 

B. Kind of poem; metrical form. 

C. Subject. 

D. Treatment of subject. 

E. For what chiefly remarkable. 


F. Wherein characteristic of the writer. 

G. Relationship to other works. 

The contents of paragraphs C and D would vary with the 
poem. Usually, paragraph C would indicate the actual or 
imagined circumstances of the poem (the situation), if 
these call for explanation, and would then state the subject 
and outHne its development. If the poem is a narrative in 
the third person throughout, paragraph C need contain no 
more than a concise summary of the action. Paragraph D 
would indicate the leading ideas and show how they are 
made prominent, or would indicate what points in the 
narrative are chiefly emphasized. 
A novel might be discussed under the heads: 

A. Setting. 

B. Plot. 

C. Characters. 

D. Purpose. ' 

An historical event might be discussed under the heads: 

A. What led up to the event. 

B. Account of the event. 

C. What the event led up to. 

In treating either of these last two subjects, the writer 
would probably find it necessary to subdivide one or more 
of the topics here given. 

As a rule, single sentences should not be written or 
printed as paragraphs. An exception may be made of 
sentences of transition, indicating the relation between the 
parts of an exposition or argument. Frequent exceptions 
are also necessary in textbooks, guidebooks, and other 
works in which many topics are treated briefly. 

In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is a 
paragraph by itseK; that is, a new paragraph begins with 
each change of speaker. The application of this rule, 
when dialogue and narrative are combined, is best learned 
from examples in well-printed works of fiction. 


9. As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, 
end it in conformity with the beginning. 

Again, the object is to aid the reader. The practice here 
recommended enables him to discover the purpose of each 
paragraph as he begins to read it, and to retain this purpose 
in mind as he ends it. For this reason, the most generally- 
useful kind of paragraph, particularly in exposition and 
argument, is that in which 

(a) the topic sentence comes at or near the beginning; 

(b) the succeeding sentences explain or establish or 
develop the statement made in the topic sentence; and 

(c) the final sentence either emphasizes the thought of 
the topic sentence or states some important consequence. 

Ending with a digression, or with an unimportant detail, 
is particularly to be avoided. 

If the paragraph forms part of a larger composition, its 
relation to what precedes, or its function as a part of the 
whole, may need to be expressed. This can sometimes be 
done by a mere word or phrase (again; therefore; for the 
same reason) in the topic sentence. Sometimes, however, 
it is expedient to precede the topic sentence by one or more 
sentences of introduction or transition. If more than one 
such sentence is required, it is generally better to set apart 
the transitional sentences as a separate paragraph. 

According to the writer's purpose, he may, as indicated 
above, relate the body of the paragraph to the topic sen- 
tence in one or more of several different ways. He may 
make the meaning of the topic sentence clearer by restating 
it in other forms, by defining its terms, by denying the 
contrary, by giwg illustrations or specific instances; he 
may establish it by proofs; or he may develop it by show- 
ing its implications and consequences. In a long para- 
graph, he may carry out several of these processes. 

•Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be gone upon 
alone. "If you go in a company, or even in pairs, it is no longer a walk- 
ing tour iu anything but name; it is something else and more in the 


nature of a picnic. 'A walking tour should be gone upon alone, be- 
cause freedom is of the essence; because you should be able to stop 
and go on, and follow this way or that, as the freak takes you; and be- 
cause you must have your own pace, and neither trot alongside a 
champion walker, nor mince in time with a girl. *And you must be 
open to all impressions' and let your thoughts take colour from what 
you see. ^You should be as a pipe for any wind to play upon. ' I 
cannot see the wit," says HazHtt, "of walking and talking at the 
same time. 'When 1 am in the country, 1 wish to vegetate like the 
country," which is the gist of all that can be said upon the matter. 
*There should be no cackle of voices at your elbow, to jar on the 
meditative silence of the morning. ^Aud so long as a man is reason- 
ing he cannot surrender himself to that fine intoxication that comes 
of much motion in the open air, that begins in a sort of dazzle a;nd slug- 
gishness of the braiQ, and ends in a peace that passes comprehension. — 
Stevenson, Walking Tours. 

^Topic sentence. 'The meaning made clearer by denial of the con- 
trary. 'The topic sentence repeated, in abridged form, and supported by 
three reasons; the meaning of the third ("you must have yovu: own 
pace") made clearer by denying the contrary. *A fourth reason, stated 
in two forms. 'The same reason, stated in still another form. ^''The 
same reason as stated by Hazlitt. 'Repetition, in paraphrase, of the 
quotation from Hazlitt. ^Final statement of the fourth reason, in 
language amplified and heightened to form a strong conclusion. 

'It was chiefly in the eighteenth century that a very different con- 
ception of history grew up. ^Historians then came to believe that 
their task was not so much to paint a picture as to solve a problem; 
to explain or illustrate the successive phases of national growth, 
prosperity, and adversity. 'The history of morals, of industry, of 
intellect, and of art; the changes that take place in manners or beliefs; 
the dominant ideas that prevailed in successive periods; the rise, fall, 
and modification of political constitutions; in a word, all the condi- 
tions of national well-being became the subject of their works. *They 
sought rather to write a history of peoples than a history of kings. 
'They looked especially iu history for the chain of causes and effects. 
^They undertook to study in the past the physiology of nations, and 
hoped by applying the experimental method on a large scale to deduce 
some lessons of real value about the conditions on which the welfare 
of society mainly depend. — Lecky, The Political Value of History. 

iTopio sentence. 'Xhe meaning of the topic sentence made clearer; 
the new conception of history defined. 'The definition expanded. ^The 
definition explained by contrast. 'The definition supplemented: another 
element in the new conception of history. 'Conclusion: an important 
consequence of the new conception of history. 


In narration and description the paragraph sometimes 
begins with a concise, comprehensive statement serving to 
hold together the details that follow. 

The breeze served us admirably. 

The campaign opened with a series of reverses. 

The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious set of entries. 

But this device, if too often used, would become a man- 
nerism. More commonly the opening sentence simply 
indicates by its subject with what the paragraph is to be 
principally concerned. 

At length I thought I might return towards the stockade. 

He picked up the heavy lamp from the table and began to explore. 

Another flight of steps, and they emerged on the roof. 

The brief paragraphs of animated narrative, however, 
are often without even this semblance of a topic sentence. 
The break between them serves the purpose of a rhetorical 
pause, throwing into prominence some detail of the action. 

10. Use the active voice. 

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than 
the passive: 

I shall always remember my first visit to Boston. 
This is much better than 

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me. 

The latter sentence is less direct, less bold, and less concise. 
If the Avriter tries to make it more concise by omitting 
"by me," 

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered, 

it becomes indefinite: is it the writer, or some person 
undisclosed, or the world at large, that will always remember 
this visit? ' 

This rule does not, of course, mean that the writer should 
entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently 
convenient and sometimes necessary. 


The dramatists of the Restoration are little esteemed to-day. 
Modem readers have little esteem for the dramatists of the 

The first would be the right form in a paragraph on the 
dramatists of the Restoration; the second, in a paragraph 
on the tastes of modern readers. The need of making a 
particular word the subject of the sentence will often, as 
in these examples, determine which voice is to be used. 

As a rule, avoid making one passive depend directly upon 

Gold was not allowed to be It was forbidden to export gold 
exported. (The export of gold was pro- 


He has been proved to have It has been proved that he was 
been seen entering the building. seen to enter the building. 

In both the examples above, before correction, the word 
properly related to the second passive is made the subject 
of the first. 

A common fault is to use as the subject of a passive 
construction a noun which expresses the entire action, leav- 
ing to the verb no function beyond that of completing the 

A survey of this region was This region was surveyed in 

made in 1900. 1900. 

Mobilization of the army The army was rapidly mo- 
was rapidly effected. bilized. 

Confirmation of these reports These reports cannot be con- 

cannot be obtained. firmed. 

Compare the sentence. "The export of gold was prohi- 
bited," in which the predicate "was prohibited" expresses 
something not impUed in "export." 

The habitual use of the active voice makes for forcible 
writing. This is true not only in narrative principally 
concerned with action, but in writing of any kind. Many 
a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made 
lively and emphatic by substituting a verb in the active 


voice for some such perfunctory expression as there is, or 
could be heard. 

There were a great number of 
dead leaves lying on the ground. 

The sound of a guitar some- 
where in the house could be heard. 

The reason that he left college 
was that his health became im- 

It was not long before he was 
very sorry that he had said what 
he had. 

11. Put statements in positive form. 

Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesita- 
ting, non-committal language. Use the word not as a 
means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion. 

Dead leaves covered the 

Somewhere in the house a 
guitar hummed sleepily. 

Failing health compelled him 
to leave college. 

He soon repented his words. 

He usually came late. 

He thought the study of Latin 

The women in The Taming of 
the Shrew are unattractive. Kath- 
arine is disagreeable, Bianca in- 

He was not very often on time. 

He did not thiuk that studying 
Latin was much use. 

The Taming of the Shrew is 
rather weak in spots. Shakespeare 
does not. portray Katharine as a 
very admirable character, nor does 
Bianca remain long in memory as 
an important character in Shake- 
speare's works. 

The last example, before correction, is indefinite as well 
as negative. The corrected version, consequently, is 
simply a guess at the writer's intention. 

AU three examples show the weakness inherent in the word 
not. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader is dis- 
satisfied with being told only what is not; he wishes to 
be told what is. Hence, as a rule, it is better to express 
even a negative in positive form. 

not honest dishonest 

not important " trifling 

did not remember forgot 

did not pay any attention to ignored 

did not have much confidence in distrusted 


The antithesis of negative and positive is strong: 

Not charity, but simple justice. 

Not that 1 loved Caesar less, but Rome the more. 

Negative words other than not are usually strong: 
The sun never sets upon the British flag. 

12. Use definite, specific, concrete language. 

Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, 
the concrete to the abstract. 

A period of unfavorable weather It rained every day for a week, 
set in. 

He showed satisfaction as he He grinned as he pocketed the 
took possession of his well-earned coin, 

There is a general agreement All who have tried surf-riding 
among those who have enjoyed agree that it is most exhilarating, 
the experience that surf-riding is 
productive of great exhilaration. 

If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord 
on any one point, it is on this, that the surest method of 
arousing and holding the attention of the reader is by being 
specific, definite, and concrete. Critics have pointed out 
how much of the effectiveness of the greatest writers, Hom- 
er, Dante, Shakespeare, results from their constant definite- 
ness and concreteness. Browning, to cite a more modern 
author, affords many striking examples. Take, for in- 
stance, the lines from My Last Duchess, 

Sir, 'twas all one! My favour at her breast. 
The dropping of the dayUght in the west. 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule^ 
She rode with round the terrace — all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech. 
Or blush, at least, 

and those which end the poem, 

Notice Neptune, though. 
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity. 
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me. 

These words call up pictures. Recall how in The Bishop 
Orders his Tomb in St. Praxed's Church "the Renaissance 
spirit — ^its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, 
ignorance of itseK, love of art, of luxury, of good Latin," 
to quote Ruskin's comment on the poem, is made mani- 
fest in specific details and in concrete terms. 

Prose, in particular narrative and descriptive prose, is 
made vivid by the same means. If the experiences of Jim 
Hawkins and of David Balfour, of Kim, of Nostromo, have 
seemed for the moment real to countless readers, if in reading 
Carlyle we have almost the sense of being physically present 
at the taking of the Bastille, it is because of the definiteness 
of the details and the concreteness of the terms used. It is 
not that every detail is given; that would be impossible, as 
well as to no purpose; but that all the significant details are 
given, and not vaguely, but with such definiteness that the 
reader, in imagination, can project himself into the scene. 

In exposition and in argument, the writer must likewise 
never lose his hold upon the concrete, and even when he is 
dealing with general principles, he must give particular 
instances of their appHcationl 

" This superiority of specific expressions Is clearly due to 
the effort required to translate words into thoughts. As 
we do not think in generals, but in particulars — as whenever 
any class of things is referred to, we represent it to ourselves 
by calling to mind individual members of it, it follows that 
when an abstract word is used, the hearer or reader has to 
choose, from his stock of images, one or more by which he 
may figure to himseK the genus mentioned. In doing this, 
some delay must arise, some force be expended; and if by 
employing a specific term an appropriate image can be at 
once suggested, an economy is achieved, and a more vivid 
impression produced." 

Herbert Spencer, from whose Philosophy of Style the pre- 
ceding paragraph is quoted, illustrates the principle by the 
sentences : 


In proportion as the manners, 
customs, and amusements of a 
nation are crael and barbarous, 
the regulations of their penal code 
will be severe. 

13. Omit needless words. 

Vigorous writing is concise. 

In proportion as men delight 
in battles, bull-fights, and com- 
bats of gladiators, will they 
punish by hanging, burning, and 
the rack. 

A sentence should contain 

no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sen- 
tences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no 
unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. 
This requires not that the writer make all his sentences 
short, or thafc he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only 
in outline, but that he make every word tell. 

Many expressions in common use violate this principle: 

whether (the question whether) 

no doubt (doubtless) 

used for fuel 



this subject 

His story is strange. 

In especial the expression the fact that should be revised out 
of every sentence in which it occurs. 

since (because) 

the question as to whether 
there is no doubt but that 
used for fuel purposes 
he is a man who 
in a hasty manner 
this is a subject which 
His story is a strange one. 

owing to the fact that 
in spite of the fact that 
call your attention to the fact 

I was unaware of the fact that 

the fact that he had not suc- 
the fact that 1 had arrived 

though (although) 
remind you (notify you) 

1 was unaware that (did not 
his failure 

my arrival 

See also under case, character, nature, system in Chapter V. 
Who is, which was, and the like are often superfluous. 

His brother, who is a member 
of the same firm 

Trafalgar, which was Nelson's 
last battle 

His brother, a member of the 
same firm 

Trafalgar, Nelson's last battle 


As positive statement is more concise than negative, and 
the active voice more concise than the passive, many of 
the examples given under Rules 11 and 12 illustrate this 
rule as well. 

A common violation of conciseness is the presentation of 
a single complex idea, step by step, in a series of sentences 
or independent clauses which might to advantage be 
combined into one. 

Macbeth, was very ambitious. 
This led him. to wish, to become 
king of Scotland. The witches 
told him that this wish of his 
would come true. The king of 
Scotland at this time was Duncan. 
Encouraged by his wife, Macbeth 
murdered Duncan. He was thus 
enabled to succeed Duncan as 
king. (51 words.) 

There were several less import- 
ant courses, but these were the 
most important, and although 
they did not come every day, they 
came often enough to keep you in 
such a state of mind that you 
never knew what your next move 
would be. (43 words.) 

Encouraged by his wife, Mac- 
beth achieved his ambition and 
realized the prediction of the 
witches by murdering Dimcan 
and becoming king of Scotland in 
his place. (26 words.) 

These, the most important 
courses of all, came, if not daily, 
at least often enough to keep one 
under constant strain. (21 

14. Avoid a succession of loose sentences : 

This rule refers especially to loose sentences of a particu- 
lar type, those consisting of two co-ordinate clauses, the 
second, introduced by a conjunction or relative Although 
single sentences of this type may be unexceptionable (see 
under Rule 4), a series soon becomes monotonous and 

An unskilful writer will sometimes construct a whole 
paragraph of sentences of this kind, using as connectives 
and, hut, so, and less frequently, who, which, when, where, and 
whUe, these last in non-restrictive senses (see under Rule 3). 


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 in- 
strumental 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 gratify- 
ing 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 weak 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 9, or in any piece of good EngUsh prose, as the pre- 
face (Before the Curtain) to Vanity Fair. 

If the writer finds that he has written a series of sen- 
tences 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 semi- 
colon, by periodic sentences of two clauses, by sentences, 
loose or periodic, of three clauses — whichever best repre- 
sent 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 Hkeness of form enables the read- 
er to recognize more readily the likeness of content and 
function. FamiHar instances from the Bible are the 
Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the petitions of 
the Lord's Prayer. 

The imskillful 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 Formerly, science was taught 

by the textbook method, while by the textbook method; now it 

now the laboratory method is is taught by the laboratory 

employed. 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, Span- The French, the Italians, the 
ish, and Portuguese Spanish, and the Portuguese 

In spring, summer, or in winter In spring, summer, or winter (In 

spring, in summer, or in winter) 

Correlative expressions {both, and; not, hut; not only, 
hut also; either, or; first, second, third; and the hke) should 
be followed by the same grammatical construction, that is, 
virtually, by the same part of speech. (Such combinations 
as "both Henry and I," "not silk, but a cheap substitute," 
are obviously within the rule.) Many violations of 
this rule (as the first three below) arise from faulty arrange- 
ment ; others (as the last) from the use of unlike constructions. 

It was both a long ceremony The ceremony was both long 

and very tedious. and tedious. 

A time not for words, but A time not for words, but for 

action. action. 

Either you must grant his re- You must either grant his re- 
quest or incur his Ul will. quest or incur his ill will. 

My objections are, first, the My objections are, first, that 

injustice of the measure; second, the measure is unjust; second, 

that it is imconstitutional. 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 difficiilty 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 so related. 

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 In the fifth book of The Excur- 

of The Excursion, gives a minute sion, Wordsworth gives a minute 

description of this church. description of this church. 

Cast iron, when treated in a By treatment in a Bessemer 

Bessemer converter, is changed converter, cast iron is changed 

into steel. into steel. 

The objection is that the interposed phrase or clause need- 
lessly interrupts the natural order of the main clause. 
Usually, however, this objection does not 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 deUberately 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 In his eye was a look that 

boded mischief. boded mischief. 

He wrote three articles about He published in Harper's 

his adventures in Spain, which Magazine three articles about his 

were published in Harper's Maga- adventures in Spain. 


This is a portrait of Benjamin This is a portrait of Benjamin 

Harrison, grandson of William Harrison, grandson of William 

Henry Harrison, who became Henry Harrison. He became 

President in 1889. President in 1889. 

If the antecedent consists of a group of words, the rela- 
tive conies at the end of the group, unless this would cause 

The Superintendent of the Chicago Division, who 
A proposal to amend the Sher- A proposal, which has been 
man Act, which has been variously variously judged, to amend the 
judged. Sherman Act. 

A proposal to amend the much- 
debated Sherman Act. 
The grandson of William Henry William Henry Harrison's 
Harrison, who grandson, who 

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 

All the members were not Not all the members were 

present. present. 

He only found two mistakes. He found only two mistakes. 

Major R. E. Joyce will give a On Tuesday evening at eight 

lecture on Tuesday evening in p. m.. Major R. E. Joyce will give 

Bailey Hall, to which the public is in Bailey Hall a lecture on "My 

invited, on "My Experiences in Experiences in Mesopotamia." 

Mesopotamia" at eight p. m. 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 ex- 
pressed by the perfect; if in the past, by the past perfect. 

An unforeseen chance prevents Friar John from delivering Friar 
Lawrence's letter to Romeo. ^Meanwhile, owing to her father's 
arbitrary change of the day set for her wedding, Juliet has been com- 
pelled to drink the potion on Tuesday night, with the result that 
Balthasar informs Romeo of her supposed death before Friar Lawrence 
learns of the non-delivery of the letter. 

But whichever tense be used in the summary, a past 
tense in indirect discourse or in indirect question remains 

The Friar confesses that it was he who married them. 

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 hke. 
He should indicate clearly at the outset, once for all, that 
what follows is summary, and then waste no words in 
repeating the notification. 

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 Uterature 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 quahties. 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 begin- 
ning at establishing general conclusions. 

/Is. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end. 
The proper place in the sentence for the word, or group 
of words, which the writer desires to make most prominent 
is usually the end. 

Humanity has hardly advanced Humanity, since that time, has 

in fortitude since that time, advanced in many other ways, 

though it has advanced in many but it has hardly advanced in 

other ways. fortitude. 

This steel is principally used Because of its hardness, this 

for making razors, because of its steel is principally used in making 

hardness. razors. . 

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 example. 
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 repubUcs 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 Portu- 
guese discoverers, lighted on America. 

With these hopes and in this beUef I would urge you, laying aside all 
hindrance, thrusting away all private aims, to devote yourself im- 
swervingly and imflinchiQgly to the vigorous and successful prosecu- 
tion of this war. 

The other prominent position in the sentence is the 
beginning. Any element in the sentence, other than the 
subject, may become 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 predi- 

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. 



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 

Numerals. Do not spell out dates or other serial num- 
bers. Write them in figures or in Roman notation, as may 
be appropriate. 

August 9, 1918 (9 August 1918) Chapter XII 
Rule 3 352nd Infantry 

Parentheses. A sentence containing an expression in 
parenthesis is punctuated, outside of the marks of paren- 
thesis, 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 success. 

(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 quota- 
tion 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. 


1 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 centered, but need not be enclosed in 
quotation marks. 

Wordsworth's enthusiasm for the Revolution was at first tm- 

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 marks. 

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 refer- 
ences, 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 In iii.ii (still better, simply 
act insert iii.ii in parenthesis at the 

proper place in the sentence) 

After the killing of Polonius, Hamlet is placed under guard (rv.ii. 

2 Samuel i:17-27 

Othello ii.iii. 264-267, ni.iii. 155-161. 

Syllabication. If there is room at the end of a line for 
one or more syllables of a word, but not for the whole word, 
divide the word, unless this involves cutting off only a 


single letter, or cutting off only two letters of a long word. 
No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. The 
principles most frequently applicable are: 

(a) Divide the word according to its formation: 

know-ledge (not knowl^^dge); Shake-speare (not Shakes-peare); 
de-scribe (not des-oribe) ; atmo-sphere (not atmos-phere) ; 

(b) Divide "on the vowel:" 

edi-ble (not ed-ible); propo-sition; ordi-nary; espe-cial; reli-gious; 
oppo-nents; regu-lar; classi-fi-ca-tion (three divisions allowable); 
deco-rative; presi-dent; 

(c) Divide between double letters, unless they come at 
the end of the simple form of the word : 

Apen-nines; Cincin-nati; refer-ring; but tell-ing. 

(d) Do not divide before final -ed if the e is silent: 
treat-ed (but ndt roam-ed or nam-ed). 

The treatment of consonants in combination is best 
shown from examples: 

for-tune; pic-ture; sin-gle; presump-tuous; illus-tration; sub-stan- 
tial (either division); indus-try; instruo-tion; sug-ges-tion; incen-diary. 

The student will do well to examine the syllable-division 
in a number of pages of any carefully printed book. 

Titles. For the titles of hterary works, scholarly usage 
prefers italics with capitaHzed initials. The usage of 
editors and publishers varies, some using italics with 
capitaHzed initials, others using Roman with capitalized 
initials and with or without quotation marks. Use itaHcs 
(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 New- 
comes; A Tale of Two Cities; Dickens's Tale of Two Cities. 



(Some of the forms here Hsted, as like I did, are down- 
right bad English; others, as the split infinitive, have their 
defenders, but are in such general disfavor that it is at 
least inadvisable to use them; still others, as case, factor, 
feature, interesting, one of the most, are good in their place, 
but are constantly obtruding themselves into places where 
i they have no right to be. If the writer will make it his 
purpose from the beginning to express accurately his own 
individual thought, and will refuse to be satisfied with a 
ready-made formula that saves him the trouble of doing 
so, this last set of expressions wUl cause him Httle trouble. 
But if he finds that in a moment of inadvertence he has 
used one of them, his proper course wUl probably be not to 
patch up the sentence by substituting one word or set of 
words for another, but to recast it completely, as illustrated 
in a number of examples below and in others under Rules 
12 and 13.) 

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 My opinion is as good as his, or 
than his. better (if not better). 

As to whether. Whether is sufficient; see under Rule 13. 
Bid. Takes the infinitive without to. The past tense 
in the sense, "ordered") is bade. 
But. Unnecessary after doubt and help. 

I have no doubt but that I have no doubt that 

He could not help see but that He could not help seeing that 


The too frequent use of but as a conjunction leads to the 
fault discussed under Rule 14. A loose sentence formed 
with buv can always be converted into a periodic sentence 
formed with although, as illustrated under Rule 4. 

Particularly awkward is the following of one but by 
another, making a contrast to a contrast or a reservation 
to a reservation. This is easily corrected by re-arrange- 

America had vast resources, but America seemed almost wholly 

she seemed almost wholly unpre- unprepared for war, but she had 

pared for war. But within a year vast resources. Within a year 

she had created an army of four she had created an army of four 

million men. million men. 

Can. Means am (is, are) able. Not to be used as a sub- 
stitute for may. 

Case. The Concise Oxford Dictionary begins its defi- 
nition of this word: "instance of a thing's occurring; usual 
state of affairs." In these two senses, the word is usually 

In many cases, the rooms were Many of the rooms were poorly 

poorly ventilated. ventilated. 

It has rarely been the case that Few mistakes have been made, 
any mistake has been made. 

See Wood, Suggestions to Authors, pp. 68-71, and Quiller- 
Couch, The Art o] Writing, pp. lOa-106. 

Certainly. Used indiscriminately by some writers, 
much as others use very, to intensify any and every state- 
ment. 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 Hostile acts 

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 

Clever. This word has been greatly overused; it is 
best restricted to ingenuity displayed in smaU matters. 

Compare. To compare to is to point out or imply re- 
semblances, 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 a battle; Congress may be compared with 
the British ParHament. Paris has been compared to 
ancient Athens; it may be compared with modern London. 

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 "discussed." 

Data. A plural, like phenomena and strata. ' 

These data were tabulated. 

Dependable. A needless substitute for reliable, trust~ 

Different than. Not permissible. Substitute different 
Jrom, other than, or unlike. 

Divided into. Not to be misused for composed of. The 
line is sometimes difficult to draw; doubtless plays are 
divided into acts, but poems are composed of stanzas. 

Don't. Contraction of do not. The contraction of 
does not is doesn't. 

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 preventable fires." 

Folk. I A collective noun, equivalent to -people. Use the 
singular form only. 


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;" "eifects 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. 

Etc. Equivalent to and the rest, and so forth, and hence 
not to be used if one of these would be insufficient, that is, 
if the reader would be left in doubt as to any important 
particulars. Least open to objection when it represents 
the last terms of a list already given in full, or immaterial 
words at the end of a quotation. 

At the end of a list introduced by such as, for example, 
or any similar expression, etc. is incorrect. 

Fact. Use this word only of matters of a kind capable 
of direct verification, not of matters of judgment. That a 
particular event happened on a given date, that lead melts 
at a certain temperature, are facts. But such conclusions 
as that Napoleon was the greatest of modern generals, or 
that the climate of California is dehghtful, however incon- 
testable they ma ybe, are not properly facts. 
On the formula the fact that, see imder Rule 13. 
Factor. A hackneyed word; the expressions of which 
it forms part can usually be replaced by something more 
direct and idiomatic. 

His superior training was the He won the match by being 
great factor in his winning the better trained, 

Heavy artillery has become an Heavy artillery has played a 
increasingly important factor in constantly larger part in deciding 
deciding battles. battles. 

Feature. Another hackneyed word; hke factor it usu- 
ally adds nothing to the sentence in which it occurs. 


A feature of the entertainment (Better use the same number of 

especially worthy of mention was words to tell what Miss A. sang, 

the singing of Miss A. or if the programme has already 

* been given, to tell how she sang.) 

As a verb, in the advertising sense of o^er as a special 
attraction, to be avoided. 

Fix. Colloquial in America for arrange, prepare, mend. 
In writing restrict it to its literary senses, fasten, make firm 
or immovable, etc. 

Get. The colloquial have got for have should not be used 
in writing. The preferable form of the participle is got. 

He is a man who. A common type of redundant expres- 
sion; see Rule 13. 

He is a man who is very ambi- He is very ambitious, 

Spain is a country which 1 have I have always wanted to visit 

always wanted to visit. Spain. 

Help. See under But. 

However. In the meaning nevertheless, not to come 
first in its sentence or clause. 

The roads were almost impassa- The roads were almost impas- 
ble. However, we at last sue- sable. At last, however, we suc- 
ceeded in reaching camp. ceeded in reaching camp. 

When however comes first, it means in whatever way or 
to whatever extent. 

However you advise him, he will probably do as he thinks best. 
However discouraging the prospect, he never lost heart. 

Interesting. Avoid this word as a perfunctory means of 
introduction. Instead of announcing that what you are 
about to tell is interesting, make it so. 

An interesting story is told of (Tell the story without pream- 

In connection with the antici- Mr. B., who it is expected wiU 
pated visit of Mr. B. to America, soon visit America 
it is interesting to recall that he 


Kind of. Not to be used as a substitute for rather (be- 
fore adjectives and verbs), or except in familiar style, for 
something like (before nouns). Restrict it to its literal 
sense: "Amber is a kind of fossil resin;" "I dislike that 
kind of notoriety." The same holds true of sort of. 

Less. Should not be misused for jewer. 

He had less men tlian in the He had fewer men than in the 
previous campaign previous campaign 

Less refers to quantity, Jewer to number. "His troubles 
are less than mine" means " His troubles are not so great as 
mine." "His troubles are fewer than mine" means "His 
troubles are not so numerous as mine." It is, however, 
correct to say, " The signers of the petition were less than a 
hundred," where the round number a hundred is some- 
thing like a collective notm, and less is thought of as mean- 
ing a less quantity or amount. 

Like. Not to be misused for as. Like governs nouns and 
pronouns; before phrases and clauses the equivalent word is 

We spent the evening like in the We spent the evening as in the 
old days. old days. 

He thought like I did. He thought as 1 did (like me)_ 

Line, along these lines. Line in the sense of course oj 
procedure, conduct, thought,, is allowable, but has been so 
much overworked, particularly in the phrase along these 
lines, that a writer who aims at freshness or originality had 
better discard it entirely. 

Mr. B. also spoke along the Mr. B. also spoke, to the same 
same lines. effect. 

He is studying along the Ime of He is studying French litera- 
French literature. ture. 

Literal, literally. Often incorrectly used in support of 
exaggeration or violent metaphor. 

A literal flood of abuse. A flood of abuse. 

Literally dead with fatigue Almost dead with fatigue (dead 


Lose out. Meant to be more emphatic than lose, but 
actually less so, because of its commonness. The same 
holds true of try out, win out, sign up, register up. With a 
number of verbs, owi and up form idiomatic combinations: 
find out, run out, turn out, cheer up, dry up, make up, and 
others, each distinguishable in meaning from the simple 
verb. Lose out is not. 

Most. Not to be used for almost. 

Most everybody Almost everybody 

Most all the time Almost all the time 

Nature. Often simply redundant, used like character. 

Acts of a hostile nature. Hostile acts 

Often vaguely used ia such expressions as a "lover of 
nature;" "poems about nature." Unless more specific 
statements follow, the reader cannot tell whether the 
poems have to do with natural scenery, rural life, the sun- 
set, the untracked wilderness, or the habits of squirrels. 

Near by. Adverbial phrase, not yet fully accepted as 
good English, though the analogy of close by and hard by 
seems to justify it. Near, or near at hand, is as good, if 
not better. 

Not to be used as an adjective; use neighboring. 

Oftentimes, ofttimes. Archaic forms, no longer in good 
use. The modern word is ojten. 

One hundred and one. Retain the and in this and 
similar expressions, in, accordance with the unvarying 
usage of EngHsh prose from Old English times. 

One of the most. Avoid beginning essays or para- 
graphs with this formula, as, "One of the most interesting 
developments of modern science is, etc.;" "Switzerland is 
one of the most interesting countries of Europe." There is 
nothing wrong in this; it is simply threadbare and forcible- 

A common blunder is to use a singular verb in a relative 
clause following this or a similar expression, when the 
relative is the subject. 


One of tte ablest men that has One of the ablest men that 
attacked this problem. have attacked this problem. 

Participle for verbal noun. 

Do you mind me asking a ques- Do you mind my asking a 

tion? question? 

There was little prospect of the There was little prospect of the 
Senate accepting even this com- Senate's accepting even this com- 
promise, promise. 

In the left-hand column, asking and accepting are present 
participles; in the right-hand column, they are verbal nouns 
(gerunds). The construction shown in the left-hand 
column is occasionally found, and has its defenders. Yet 
it is easy to see that the second sentence has to do not with 
a prospect of the Senate, but with a prospect of accepting. 
In this example, at least, the construction is plainly illogical. 

As the authors of The King's English point out, there are 
- sentences apparently, but not really, of this type, in which 
the possessive is not called for. 

I cannot imagine Lincoln refusing his assent to this measure. 

In this sentence, what the writer cannot imagine is Lincoln 
himself, in the act of refusing his assent. Yet the meaning 
would be virtually the same, except for a slight loss of 
vividness, if he had written, 

I cannot imagine Lincoln's refusing his assent to this measure. 

By using the possessive, the writer will always be on the 
safe side. 

In the examples above, the subject of the action is a single, 
unmodified term, immediately preceding the verbal noun, 
and the construction is as good as any that could be used. 
But in any sentence in which it is a mere clumsy substitute 
for something simpler, or in which the use of the possessive 
is awkward or impossible, should of course be recast. 

In the event of a reconsidera- If it should become necessary 
tion of the whole matter's becom- to reconsider the whole matter 
ing necessary 


There was great dissatisfaction There was great dissatisfaction 
with the decision of the arbitrators that the arbitrators should hav* 
being favorable to the company. decided in favor of the company. 

People. The people is a political term, not to be con- 
fused with the public. From the people comes political 
support or opposition; from the pubhc comes artistic 
appreciation or commercial patronage. 

Phase. Means a stage of transition or development: 
"the phases of the moon;" "the last phase." Not to be 
used for aspect or topic. 

Another phase of the subject Another point (another ques- 


Possess. Not to be used as a mere substitute for have 
or own. 

He possessed great courage. He had great courage (was very 

He was the fortunate possessor He owned 

Prove. The past participle is proved. 
Respective, respectively. These words may usually be 
omitted with advantage. 

Works of fiction are listed under Works of fiction are listed 

the names of their respective under the names of their authors, 

The one mile and two mile runs Th'e one mile and two mile runs 

were won by Jones and Cummings were won by Jones and by Cum- 

respectively. mings. 

In some kinds of formal writing, as geometrical proofs, 
it may be necessary to use respectively, but it should not 
appear in writiag on ordinary subjects. 

Shall, Will. The future tense requires shall for the first 
person, will for the second and third. The formula to 
express the speaker's belief regarding his future action or 
state is / shall; I will expresses his determination or his 

Should. See under Would. 


So. Avoid, in writing, the use of so as an intensifier: 
"so good;" "so warm;" "so delightful." 

On the use of so to introduce clauses, see Rule 4. 

Sort of. See under Kind of. 

Split Infinitive. There is precedent from the fourteenth 
century downward for interposing an adverb between to 
and the infinitive which it governs, but the construction is 
in disfavor and is avoided by nearly all careful writers. 

To diligently inquire To inquire diligently 

State. Not to be used as a. mere substitute for say, 
remark. Restrict it to the sense of express fully or clearly, 
as, "He refused to state his objections." 

Student Body. A needless and awkward expression 
meaning no more than the simple word students. 

A member of the student body A student 

Popular with the student body Liked by the students 

The student body passed reso- The students passed resolu- 

lutions. tions. 

System. Frequently used without need. 

Dayton has adopted the com- Dayton has adopted govem- 
mission system of government ment by commission. 

The dormitory system Dormitories 

Thanking You in Advance. This sounds as if the writer 
meant, "It wiU not be worth my while to write to you 
again." In making your request, write, "Will you please," 
or "I shall be obHged," and if anything further seems 
necessary write a letter of acknowledgment later. 

They. A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural 
pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression 
such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man, 
which, though implying more than one person, requires the 
pronoun to be in the singular. Similar to this, but with 
even less justification, is the use of the plural pronoun with 
the antecedent anybody, any one, somebody, some one, the 
intention being either to avoid the awkward "he or she," 


or to avoid committing oneself to either. Some bashful 
speakers even say, "A friend of mine told me that they, 

Use he with all the above words, unless the antecedent 
is or must be feminine. 

Very. Use this word sparingly. Where emphasis is 
necessary, use words strong in themselves. 

Viewpoint. Write point oj view, but do not misuse this, 
as many do, for view or opinion. 

While. Avoid the indiscriminate use of this word for 
and, but, and although. J^smy writers use it frequently as 
a substitute for and or but, either from a mere desire to 
vary the connective, or from uncertainty which of the two 
connectives is the more appropriate. In this use it is best 
replaced by a semicolon. 

The office and salesrooms are on The office and salesrooms are 
the ground floor, while the rest of on the groimd floor; the rest of 
the building is devoted to manu- the building is devoted to manu- 
facturing, facturing. 

Its use as a virtual equivalent of although is allowable in 
sentences where this leads to no ambiguity or absurdity. 

While I admire his energy, 1 wish it were employed in a better cause. 

This is entirely correct, as shown by the paraphrase, 

I admire his energy; at the same time I wish it were employed in a 
better cause. 


WhUe the temperature reaches Although the temperature 
90 or 95 degrees in the daytime, reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the 
the nights are often chilly. daytime, the nights are often 


The paraphrase. 

The temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime; at the 
same time the nights are often chilly, 


shows why the use of while is incorrect. 

In general, the writer will do well to use while only with 
strict literalness, in the sense of during the time that. 

Whom. Often incorrectly used for who before he said 
or simUar expressions, when it is really the subject of a 
following verb. 

His brother, whom he said His brother, who he said would 
would send him the money send him the money 

The man whom he thought was The man who (that) he thought 
his friend was his friend (whom he thought 

his friend) 

Worth while. Overworked as a term of vague approval 
and (with not) of disapproval. Strictly apphcable only to 
actions: "Is it worth while to telegraph?" 

His books are not worth while. His books are not worth read- 

ing (are not worth one's while to 
read; do not repay reading; are 

The use of worth while before a noun ("a worth while 
story") is indefensible. 

Would. A conditional statement in the first person 
requires should, not would. 

1 should not have succeeded without his help. 

The equivalent of shall in indirect quotation after a verb 
in the past tense is should, not would. 

He predicted that before long we should have a great surprise. 

To express habitual or repeated action, the past tense, 
without would, is usually sufficient, and from its brevity, 
more emphatic. 

Once a year he would visit the Once a year he visited the old 
old mansion. mansion. 



The spelling of English words is not fixed and invariable, 
nor does it depend on any other authority than general 
agreement. At the present day there is practically unani- 
mous agreement as to the spelling of most words. In the 
list below, for example, rime for rhyme is the only allowable 
variation; aU the other forms are co-extensive with the 
English language. At any given moment, however, a 
relatively small number of words may be spelled in more than 
one way. Gradually, as a rule, one of these forms comes 
to be generally preferred, and the less customary form comes 
to look obsolete and is discarded. Prom time to time new 
forms, mostly simplifications, are introduced by innovators, 
and either win their place or die of neglect. 

The practical objection to unaccepted and over-simplified 
spellings is the disfavor with which they are received by the 
reader. They distract his attention and exhaust his pati- 
ence. He reads the form though automatically, without 
thought of its needless complexity; he reads the abbrevi- 
ation tho and mentally supplies the missing letters, at the 
cost of a fraction of his attention. The writer has defeated 
his own purpose. 



































































Note that a single consonant (other than v) preceded by 
a stressed short vowel is doubled before -ed and -ing: 
planned, letting, beginning. (Coming is an exception.) 

Write to-day, to-night, to-m,orrow (but not together) with a 

Write any one, every one, some one, some time (except in 
the sense oi formerly) as two words. 



I. Ptinctuate: 

1. In 1788 the King's advisers warned him that the nation was 
facing bankruptcy therefore he summoned a body called the States- 
General believing that it would authorize him. to levy new taxes. 
The people of France however were suffering from burdensome taxa- 
tion oppressive social injustice and acute scarcity of food and their 
representatives refused to consider projects of taxation until social 
and economic reforms should be granted. The King who did not 
realize the gravity of the situation tried to overawe them collecting 
soldiers in and about Versailles where the sessions were being held. 
The people of Paris seeing the danger organized militia companies to 
defend their representatives. In order to supply themselves with 
arms they attacked the InvaHdes and the Bastille which contained 
the principal supplies of arms and munitions in Paris. 

2. On his first continental tour begun in 1809 Byron visited Portugal 
Spain Albania Greece and Turkey. Of this tour he composed a 
poetical journal ChUde Harold's Pilgrimage in which he ascribed 
his experiences and reflections not to himself but to a fictitious char- 
acter Childe Harold described as a melancholy young nobleman 
prematurely familiar with evil sated with pleasures and embittered 
against humanity. The substantial merits of the work however lay 
not in this shadowy and somewhat theatrical figure but in Byron's 
spirited descriptions of wild or picturesque scenes and in his eloquent 
championing of Spain and Greece against their oppressors. On his 
return to England in 1811 he was persuaded rather against his own 
judgment into allowing the work to be published. Its success was 
almost unprecedented in his own words he awoke and found himself 

II. Explain the difference in meaning : 

3. 'God save thee, ancyent Marinere! 
'From the fiends that plague thee thus — 

Lyrical Ballads, 1798. 
'God save thee, ancient Mariner! 
From the fiends, that plague thee thusi — 

Lyrical Ballads, 1800. 

III. Explain and correct the errors in punctuation : 

4. This course is intended for Freshmen, who in the opinion of the 
Department are not qualified for military drill. 

5. A restaurant, not a cafeteria where good meals are served at 
popular prices. — Advt. 

6. The poets of The Nation, for all their intensity of patriotic 
feeling, followed the English rather than the Celtic tradition, their 
work has a political rather than a literary value and bears little upon 
the development of modem Irish verse. 

7. We were in one of the strangest places imaginable. A long and 
narrow passage overhung on either side by a stupendous barrier of 
black and threatening rocks. 

8. Only a few years ago after a snow storm in the passes not far 
north of Jerusalem no less than twenty-six Russian pilgrims perished 
amidst the snow. One cannot help thinking largely because they made 
little attempt to save themselves. 

IV. Point out and correct the faults in the following sen- 
tences : 

9. During childhood his mother had died. 

10. Any language study is good mind training while acquiring 

11. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land, 
having given a hundred pounds for my predecessor's lease. 

12. Prepared to encounter a woman of disordered mind, the appear- 
ance presented by Mrs. Taylor at his entrance greatly astonished 

13. Pale and swooning, with two broken legs, they carried him into 
the house. 

14. Count Cassini, the Russian plenipotentiary, had several long 
and intimate conversations during the tedious weeks of the con- 
ference with his British colleague, Sir Arthur Nicholson. 

15. But though they had been victorious in the land engagements, 
they were so little decisive as to lead to no important results. 

16. Knowing nothing of the rules of the college or of its customs, 
it was with the greatest difficulty that the Dean could make me 
comprehend wherein my wrong-doing lay. 

17. Fire, therefore, was the first object of my search. Happily, 
some embers were found upon the hearth, together with potato- 
stalks and dry chips. Of these, with much difficulty, I kmdled a 
fire, by which some warmth was imparted to our shivering limbs. 


18. In this connection a great deal of historic fact is introduced 
into the novel about the past history of the cathedral and of Spain. 

19. Over the whole scene hung the haze of twilight that is so 

20. Compared with Italy, living is more expensive. 

21. It is a fundamental principle of law to believe a man iimocent 
until he is proved guilty, and once proved guilty, to remain so until 
proved to the contrary. 

22. Not only had the writer entree to the titled families of Italy 
in whose villas she was hospitably entertained, but by royalty also. 

23. It is not a strange sight to catch a glimpse of deer along the 

24. Earnings from other sources are of such a favorable character 
as to enable a splendid showing to be made by the company. 

25. But while earnings have mounted amazingly, the status of 
affairs is such as to make it impossible to predict the course events 
may take, with any degree of accuracy. 





mil F 

^ri 200/