Peculiarities of prose style
Peculiarities of prose style
THE MINISTRY OF HIGHER AND SECONDARY
SPECIAL EDUCATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
THE UZBEK STATE WORLD LANGUAGES
II ENGLISH PHILOLOGY FACULTY
ENGLISH STYLISTICS DEPARTMENT
OF PROSE STYLE
Written by the student of
STYLISTICS AS A SCIENCE
BASIC PROSE STYLE
1. Write in the Active Voice
2. Avoid Nominalizations
3. Express Parallel Ideas in Parallel Grammatical Form
4. Place the Emphatic Words at the End of the Sentence
5. Express Statements in Positive Form
6. Vary Sentence Patterns
7. Choose Your Words Carefully
8. Avoid Overusing Word Modifiers
9. Clarify the Logical Relationships between Your
10. Prune Deadwood
11. Avoid Redundancy
12. Use Metaphor to Illustrate
BASIC PUNCTUATION AND MECHANICS
6. Ellipsis Dots
12. Quotation Marks
13. Punctuating Quotations
14. Introducing Indented Quotations, Vertical Lists,
15. Punctuating Vertical Lists
16. Question Marks
17. Exclamation Points
18. Multiple Punctuation
THE LIST OF THE USED LITERATURE
is designed to introduce you to, or remind you of, the basic principles of
prose style and mechanics. The Prose Style Section describes twelve basic
principles of good prose style and illustrates most of these principles with
examples. Since most writers and editors agree about the importance of these
twelve basic principles, I have drawn from a wide variety of sources. However,
I would especially recommend two texts: The Elements of Style by William
Strunk and E.B. White and Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity & Grace by
principles described in the style section above are based on one overriding
principle—that the essence of good writing is rewriting. You may attend to some
of these principles spontaneously when you compose your first draft, but
stylistic considerations become more deliberate concerns when you work on
second, third, and fourth drafts. Remember that good writing is hard work, and
as Samuel Johnson said, "What is written without effort is in general read
Punctuation and Mechanics Section of the pamphlet presents rules that govern
the approximately fifty most common problems with punctuation and mechanics.
Most of these rules are illustrated with examples, and many are
cross-referenced with other rules with which they are frequently confused. This
section is based primarily on The Associated Press Stylebook and The
Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, generally considered the
definitive reference on questions of punctuation and mechanics.
AS A SCIENCE
devoted to the study of style can be found as early as Demetrius's On Style.
But most pre-twentieth-century discussions appear as secondary components of
rhetorical and grammatical analyses or in general studies of literature and
literary language. The appearance of stylistics as a semiautonomous discipline
is a modern phenomenon, an ongoing development in linguistic description that
is closely tied to the similar rise of literary criticism and linguistics as
academic subjects and departments. Modern stylistics, in general, draws much of
its analytical power from the analytical methods and descriptive intentions of
linguistics, while modern literary stylistics, in particular, draws upon that
area and adds to it the interpretive goals of modern literary criticism. In
both cases, the use of linguistic methodology has allowed stylistics to move
beyond earlier normative and prescriptive descriptions of "correct"
styles to a fuller analysis of language itself and the purposes to which
language regularly is put.
limits of previous approaches to style, or the difficulties that have arisen
from the practical application of linguistic methods to stylistic analysis, the
desire to begin with a set of well-defined terms and procedures lies at the
core of the initial formation of stylistics as a discipline. While all versions
of literary stylistics have dedicated themselves to the study and
interpretation of literary texts, it was the growing importance of European
historical linguistics during the mid-nineteenth century that produced the most
easily recognized component of early modern stylistics: a deeply rooted concern
with formal linguistic description of literary language. The methodological
benefits that stylistics gained by uniting literary interpretation and
linguistic analysis were matched by institutional gains as well.
Historical and general linguistics were well-established academic disciplines
at the turn of the twentieth century, and stylistics could expect to benefit
from that status. The use of linguistic procedures thus offered stylistics both
an affinity with an established discipline and the possibility of founding the
description and interpretation of style upon the bedrock of science. .
While its air
of scientific analysis made linguistics attractive, linguistic science was not
itself a monolithic entity. During the latter half of the nineteenth century,
linguistic study oscillated between a desire to define language through
efficient analytical methods (often requiring a-contextual descriptions) and
another, competing desire to define language as a social and cultural
phenomenon. The work of the neogrammarians, key figures in the formation of
linguistics as a modern scientific discipline, displays the tension well.
Although the neogrammarians began their work with the intention of
reintroducing behavior into linguistic description, the attractiveness of
scientific method dictated the slow elimination of the user as a complex part
of the description. The result for some linguists, notably the philologians,
was a sacrificing of the real heart of linguistics to a sterile formalism; for
many, however, the shift was the logical result of a move into the modern
scientific age. It was in terms of these separate views of the proper role of
linguistic description that the predominant approaches to modern stylistics
developed, and because of the strong Continental influence of Romance Philology
on historical linguistics, modern stylistics usually is seen as having begun
The roots of
modern stylistics can be uncovered in the work of Charles Bally (1865-1947) and
Leo Spitzer (1887-1960). Bally's Précis de stylistique (1905)
stresses the description and analysis of a language's generally available
stylistic properties. Literary texts, in Bally's formulation, are particular examples
of language use, and the analysis of their style is not a central part of the
general stylistics he emphasizes. Nevertheless, Bally's work, and its later
realization in the work of Jules Marouzeau (Précis de stylistique
française, 1946) and Marcel Cressot (Le Style et ses techniques,
1947), strongly influenced the formation of literary stylistics. Such
analytical work offered literary critics a relatively precise methodology for
describing the components and features of a text. In place of an open-ended and
evaluative interpretive process, linguistics both underwrote the need for a
more precise analytical attitude toward language study and provided specific
categories for characterizing sound, rhythm, and eventually syntax, as well as
points of comparison and contrast between registers, forms, and functions
within genres and literary periods.
In contrast to
the stylistique of Bally and his proponents, Leo Spitzer insisted upon
following the more philologically based tradition of textual (and often literary-textual)
analysis. Such work, while using the analytical techniques of modern
linguistics, strives to unite the analytical description with a critical
interpretation that relates the style to a larger conceptual or situational
frame. Style is seen as an expression of a particular psychological, social, or
historical sensibility or moment rather than as a general property of a
particular language. In undertaking these wider interpretations, critics such
as Spitzer did not, however, assume that they were defining their stylistics as
separate from, or even as a subset of, linguistic analysis. In both his
etymological studies and his more specifically literary-critical
interpretations, Spitzer insisted that he
was promulgating a general program of linguistic study, offering his stylistics
in opposition to what he saw as the more reductionist analyses of general,
scientific linguistics. Spitzer himself emphasized the split until the end of
his career, regularly referring to his work as Stilforschung (literary,
cultural interpretation of style--philology in his eyes) to set it apart from
that of Stilistik, or Bally's stylistique (e.g., "Les
Études de style et les différents pays" 23-39). At the same
time, he assumed--as did fellow critics of style such as Ernst Robert Curtius,
Karl Vossler, and Helmut Hatzfeld--that he was not reducing the scientific
aspect of linguistics but only offsetting a false, positivistic tone that was
becoming increasingly predominant in the field. The tension in linguistics
between general linguistic description and less formal sociocultural
interpretation thus was mirrored in this early separation in stylistics between
linguistic stylistic description and literary stylistic interpretation. It is a
separation, and a tension, that remains at the heart of modern stylistics.
Spitzer's and Bally's position as Continental rather than Anglo-American
linguists, and the popularity of Practical Criticism and New Criticism in
England and the United States all lay behind the relative lack of an organized,
Anglo-American literary stylistics during the first half of the twentieth
century. Literary stylistic analyses were occurring in England and in the
United States at this time, but they often did not contain the formal
linguistic orientation that characterizes the modern discipline of stylistics.
Instead, they drew support and procedures from the basic but less analytically
structured orientation of New Criticism and practical criticism. And while the
influence of Romance language study grew during the mid-twentieth century (due
in no small part to the presence in England and in the United States of many
expatriated scholars), the established strength of other, more empirical
linguistic methodologies reduced possible exchanges between linguistics and
appearance of modern stylistics in Anglo-American work repeated the earlier
Continental process, appearing most clearly when united with an interest in
linguistic analysis at mid-century and with the related interest in literary
Structuralism somewhat later. By the late 1950s, the general critical ambience
provided by the rise and fall of New Criticism and practical criticism, in
combination with a growing interest in comparative literary studies and a new
awareness of the increasing importance of linguistic science, provided the
needed impetus for a strong appearance of literary stylistics outside the
European continent. The processes behind the formation of American stylistics
are exemplified by work done by Michael Riffaterre on Romance languages.
Riffaterre's published dissertation, Le Style des Pléiades de Gobineau
(1957), is a self-described attempt to blend Spitzer's work with that of
contemporary structural linguistics, while the later, even more formal
stylistic methodology set forth in "Criteria for Style Analysis"
(1959) and "Stylistic Context" (1960) shifts away from interpretive
description and toward the general linguistic analysis that was beginning to
dominate academic study. .
Such work in
stylistics reflected a larger trend occurring within literary criticism as a
whole during this period. Riffaterre's particular interest in a systematic,
formal description of literary style mirrored a growing awareness among
literary critics in general of the possibilities provided to literary study by
trends and theories available from formal linguistic study. The discovery of
linguistic work by Ferdinand de Saussure,
Roman Jakobson, and structural linguistic theory in general all formed part of
the rapid flowering of critical work closely related to, if not directly based
upon, particular methods of linguistic analysis. It was not a link between
literary stylistics and structural linguistic analysis that marked the real
establishment of stylistics as a discipline within the United States, however.
It was the transformational-generative grammar of Noam Chomsky 
that signaled the arrival of stylistics as a discipline with independent,
self-defined goals, if not yet a real autonomy from either linguistic or
literary-critical approaches to language analysis. The rapidly established
importance of Chomsky's linguistics within his own discipline provided a strong
argument for the importance of transformational-generative grammar within
literary stylistics as well. But beneath that academic, institutional cause lay
particular features of the theory that explain further the explosion of
stylistic work using transformational-generative grammar. The grammar's focus
on syntax, its distinction between deep and surface structures, and the
resulting dynamism in its descriptive procedures all contributed to a
methodology that allowed for a much wider discussion of the possible forms (and
by implication styles) available to the user of language. At the same time, the
declared mentalism of Chomsky's grammar was seen by many as providing literary
stylistics with a means of uniting a still lingering Romantic sense of creativity
with the formal linguistic description needed to provide the analysis with a
now-requisite air of scientific study. Many critics found not only an implied
linkage between language and mind within Chomsky's grammar but an actual
justification for tying intention to structure. Whichever aspect of Chomsky's
grammar provided the impetus for a particular study, the general influence was
huge, and the numerous studies that appeared during the years 1965-75 testify
to the boost that Chomsky's thinking on language gave to the era, one of the
most hectic and dramatic in the formation and growth of stylistics.
1. Write in
the Active Voice
have a good reason to do otherwise, always choose the active, rather than the
passive, voice. With the active voice, the agent (the person or thing carrying
out the action expressed by the verb) is the subject:
There are two
types of passive voice constructions. In one, the agent is identified, but the
person or thing toward which the action is directed (rather than the agent) is
the subject of the sentence:
was opened by John.
In the second
type of passive voice construction, the agent is not identified at all:
verb "to be" [am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been] often flags
the passive voice.)
In addition to
being less natural, less direct, and less vigorous, sentences that fail to
identify an agent can raise ethical questions, since they fail to attribute
responsibility for the action they express. The passive voice can, however, be
an effective means of doing at least three things:
attention on the thing acted upon:
The bus was
destroyed by a freight train.
action when the agent is unknown or unimportant:
building was demolished over fifteen years ago.
c. Placing the
agent at the end of a clause where he, she, or it can more easily be modified
by a long modifier:
was built by John Hanson, who went on, years later, to become president of the
and technical writers once considered passive voice more objective than active
voice and, hence, more appropriate to their writing. As the quotations below
suggest, however, the traditional preference for passive voice in scientific
and technical writing is changing:
object to this use of the passive construction in itself. We can object
to its abuse—to use almost to the exclusion of all other constructions.
When the passive is used as a rule, not as an exception to obtain a particular
effect, writing soon begins to seem forced and uncomfortable.
Kirkman, Good Style: Writing for Science and Technology
The active is
the natural voice, the one in which people usually speak or write, and its use
is less likely to lead to wordiness or ambiguity. The passive of modesty, a
device of writers who shun the first-person singular, should be avoided. I
discovered is shorter and less likely to be ambiguous than it was
discovered. The use of I or we. . .avoids dangling
participles, common in sentences written in the third-person passive.
— Council of
Biology Editors, CBE Style Manual, 5th ed.
voice] implies that events take place without any one doing anything. Moves
files, desks, and ideas without any assistance from a human being. Makes
readers wonder whether they should be doing something or just sitting there
waiting for the system to perform. It turns actions into states of being. It's
somewhat mystical, but tends to put readers to sleep. . . .
To get more
active, say who does what. Assign responsibility to the system or to the
program or, if necessary, to the reader. If you have to tell readers to do
something, don't pussyfoot around—tell them. (Are you slipping into the passive
because you don't dare to order readers around?)
Price, How to Write a Computer Manual
have a good reason to do otherwise, avoid nominalizations. A nominalization is
a noun derived from and communicating the same meaning as a verb or adjective.
It is usually more direct, vigorous and natural to express action in verbs and
qualities in adjectives.
expectation was that we would be rewarded for our efforts.
expected to be rewarded for our efforts.
was a stuffiness about the room.
room was stuffy.
frequently crop up in noun strings. A noun string, a series of nouns that
modify one another, is often concise but ambiguous. If the noun string is
short, it can usually be tamed with a few judicious hyphens:
test area probes were delivered last week.
test-area probes were delivered last week.
Longer noun strings,
however, are often confusing, and it is generally best to unstring them by
converting nominalizations back to verbs or by adding a few strategic articles
guidance center office equipment maintenance is performed weekly.
office equipment in the missile guidance center is maintained weekly.
voice, nominalizations can serve some useful purposes:
Nominalizations can facilitate smooth transitions between sentences by serving
as subjects that refer back to ideas in previous sentences:
refused to accept the five-stroke handicap. Ultimately, this refusal cost her
Nominalizations can be effective when you choose to desensitize a statement by
converting the more vigorous and direct verb form into the less vigorous and
direct noun form. Thus,
scheduled to be executed on Monday.
execution is scheduled for Monday.
c. Since nouns
often name material things, they have a certain status in our culture, where
the concrete often seems more real (hence, more credible) than the abstract.
Therefore, although nominalizations often result in pompous and convoluted
prose, they occasionally can be used to make the abstract seem more concrete
and, perhaps, more convincing. Thus,
colonists would not tolerate being taxed.
colonists would not tolerate taxation.
Williams neatly sums up these first two principles (write in the active voice
and avoid nominalizations): "Try to state who's doing what in the subject
of your sentence, and try to state what that who is doing in your verb. . . . Get
that straight, and the rest of the sentence begins to fall into place" (Style,
1st ed., p. 8)
Parallel Ideas in Parallel Grammatical Form
the principle that units of equal function should be expressed in equal form.
Repetition of the same structure allows the reader to recognize parallel ideas
could be a problem for both the winners and for those who lose.
could be a problem for both the winners and the losers.
from VM appears in the output display area. The input area is where commands
typed by the user are displayed.
from VM appears in the output display area. Commands typed by the user appear
in the input display area.
Note that any
two (or more) units of discourse—words, phrases, clauses, sentences,
paragraphs, chapters—can be made parallel with one another. Note also that,
although it is a powerful rhetorical device, parallelism is only one of many
factors writers must consider as they compose. Hence, parallelism is
occasionally overridden by other, more pressing considerations, such as clarity
the Emphatic Words at the End of the Sentence
Williams offers two complementary principles of order and emphasis (Style,
possible, express at the beginning of a sentence ideas already stated, referred
to, implied, safely assumed, familiar—whatever might be called old, repeated,
relatively predictable, less important, readily accessible information.
2. Express at
the end of a sentence the least predictable, least accessible, the newest, the
most significant and striking information.
Laslett writes about how family structure has changed in his article, "The
World We Have Lost."
yes: In his
article, "The World We Have Lost," Peter Laslett writes about how
family structure has changed.
In the first
version, the emphasis is on the title of the article; in the second version,
the emphasis is on the substance of the article. Note that according to the two
principles above, what justly needs emphasis in a sentence generally depends
upon what has already been said or what is already known; that is, upon the
given information. When the given information is placed at the beginning of a
sentence, it is understated and serves as a transition or introduction to the
new information in the sentence, which is thereby emphasized.
and Clark call the "Given-New Strategy" not only creates proper
emphasis within a sentence, it also creates cohesion between sentences since
the new information of one sentence often becomes the given (or old) information
of the next. Schematically, the movement of given to new information in a
series of sentences might look like this:
AB. BC. CD. DE
example, at the following pair of sentences:
contain printer-control characters will not look right-justified on your
screen. They will be right-justified, however, when you print them.
In the first
sentence, the given information is lines (A), and the new information is
right-justified (B). In the second sentence, the given information is
right-justified (B), and the new information is when you print them (C).
end of the sentence is generally the most emphatic position, as Strunk and
White point out in The Elements of Style, "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 not forgive."
A little bit
of this inverted style, however, goes a long way-use it sparingly.
Statements in Positive Form
form of a statement is generally more concise and straightforward than the
write in the negative.
in the affirmative.
of the gears is not possible without locking mechanism release.
disengage the gears, you must first release the locking mechanism.
Williams points out, "To understand the negative, we have to translate it
into an affirmative, because the negative only implies what we should do by
telling us what we shouldn't do. The affirmative states it directly"
(Style, 1st ed.).
on to point out that we needn't translate every negative into an affirmative,
for (as this sentence illustrates) we sometimes have a special reason to
emphasize not, no, or never. The negative is especially effective when used as
a means of denial, contradiction, or antithesis:
what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
A series of
sentences that follow the same general pattern (e.g., a series of three or four
simple sentences or a series of three or four compound sentences) can be
tedious. Avoid monotony by varying sentence patterns.
One of the
best ways to avoid a tedious series of simple sentences is to use subordination
(or embedding) to combine the information presented in these sentences into a
single, complex sentence. For example,
FLIST is a
utility program used to assist in file management. FLIST displays a scrollable,
full-screen list of selected files. The user may execute any CMS command from
utility program used to manage files, displays a scrollable, full-screen list
of selected files from which the user may execute any CMS command.
Another way to
avoid a series of simple sentences is to use coordination (the tying together
of language elements that have equal rank, such as independent clauses) to
combine several of these sentences into a single, compound sentence. For
initialize CADAM from any System E terminal. You can invoke CADAM only from the
initialize CADAM from any System E terminal, but you can invoke CADAM only from
the 3178 terminals.
complex sentences can themselves, however, become tedious. And sometimes,
they're just plain awkward or confusing. Don't overload your sentences or your
readers. If you find a sentence is becoming too long and confusing, or if
you've used three or four complex sentences in a row, reverse the process
described above and break your sentence up into several shorter sentences.
although sentence variety is illustrated here only in terms of sentence type,
this same principle applies to other sentence features, such as sentence openings
and sentence length.
One of the
best ways to discover problems with sentence variety is to read your writing
aloud. Human language is primarily oral/aural and only secondarily
graphic/visual; hence, most of us have a better ear for language than we have
an eye for it. In fact, reading your writing aloud can help you discover
problems not only with sentence variety but also with order and emphasis,
parallelism, coherence, redundancy, syntax, rhythm, and grammar.
Your Words Carefully
estimate that the English language includes over one million words, thus
providing English speakers with the largest lexicon in the world. From this
vast lexicon, writers may choose the precise words to meet their needs. The
list below describes some of the factors you might consider in choosing, from
among a number of synonyms or near synonyms, the word or phrase most
appropriate to your purpose. Notice that the distinctions between these factors
are not always sharp; some might properly be considered subsets of others. For
example, tone, formality, and intensity might be considered subsets of
Connotation: While the literal or explicit meaning of a word or phrase is its
denotation, the suggestive or associative implication of a word or phrase is
its connotation. Words often have similar denotations but quite different
connotations (due to etymology, common usage, suggestion created by
similar-sounding words, etc.); hence, you might choose or avoid a word because
of its connotation. For example, although one denotation of rugged is
"strongly built or constituted," the connotation is generally
masculine; hence, you might choose to describe an athletic woman as athletic
rather than rugged. Likewise, although one denotation of pretty is "having
conventionally accepted elements of beauty," the connotation is generally
feminine; thus, most men would probably prefer being referred to as handsome.
b. Tone: While the denotation of a
word expresses something about the person or thing you are discussing, the tone
of a word expresses something about your attitude toward the person or thing
you are discussing. For example, the following two sentences have similar
denotations, but very different tones:
showed himself to be incompetent.
showed himself to be a fool.
c. Level of
Some dictionaries indicate whether a word is formal, informal, vulgar, or
obscene; most often, however, your own sensitivity to the language should be
sufficient to guide you in making the appropriate choice for a given context.
In writing a report about the symptoms of radiation sickness, for example, you
would probably want to talk about "nausea and vomiting" rather than
"nausea and puking."
however, that achieving an appropriate level of formality is as much a question
of choosing less formal as it is of choosing more formal words. As Strunk and
White point out, "Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the
cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy,
ready, and able." And Joseph Williams adds, "When we pick the
ordinary word over the one that sounds more impressive, we rarely lose anything
important, and we gain the simplicity and directness that most effective
writing demands" (Style, 1st ed.).
You might, for
example, replace initiate with begin, cognizant with aware,
and enumerate with count. Williams offers the following example
and translation of inflated prose:
the recent memorandum issued August 9, 1979, because of petroleum exigencies,
it is incumbent upon us all to endeavor to make maximal utilization of
telephonic communication in lieu of personal visitation.
As the memo
of August 9 said, because of the gas shortage, try to use the telephone as much
as you can instead of making personal visits.
Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time,
and you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool
all of the people all of the time." The more sophisticated your audience,
the more likely they are to be put off, rather than impressed, by inflated
Intensity is the degree of emotional content of a word—from objective to
subjective, mild to strong, euphemistic to inflammatory. It is common, for
example, for wildlife managers to talk about harvesting deer rather than
killing them. Choosing a less intense word or phrase can avoid unnecessarily
offending or inciting your readers; however, it can also be a means of avoiding
responsibility or masking the unsavory nature of the situation. As George
Orwell says in "Politics and the English Language": "In our
time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.
. .. Thus, political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question
begging, and sheer cloudy vagueness."
appropriate level of intensity is as often a question of choosing the more
intense as it is of choosing the less intense word. Ultimately, you must rely
upon your own sensitivity to the language, to your topic, and to your audience
to guide you in making the appropriate choices for a given context.
e. Level of
Abstraction: According to Strunk and White,
If those who
have studied the art of writing are in accord on anyone point, it is on this:
the surest way to arouse and hold the attention of the reader is by being
specific, definite, and concrete. The greatest writers. . .are effective
largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter.
Their words call up pictures.
if we move down in the hierarchy of abstraction from thing to plant
to tree to birch to gray birch, we can see that each step
offers the reader a clearer picture of what's being discussed.
and the abstract do have their place. There are times, for example, when
we want to talk about "humankind" or "life on Earth," but
it's often wise to support the general with the specific, the abstract with the
concrete: "Carl Sagan's research suggests that a nuclear winter would
destroy all life on Earth—every tree, every flower, every child."
f. Sound: All other things being
equal, you may want to choose one word rather than another simply because you
like its sound. Although what you're writing may never be read aloud, most
readers do "hear" what they read via an inner voice. Hence, the
"sound" of your writing can add to or detract from its flow and, thus,
influence the reader's impression of what you've written.
g. Rhythm: Although rhythm is
quantifiable, most writers rely on their ear for language to judge this aspect
of their sentences. Like sound, rhythm in prose is often an
"all-other-things-being-equal" consideration. That is, you wouldn't
want to choose the wrong word simply to improve the rhythm of your sentence.
However, rhythm can contribute to the flow of your writing, and a sudden break
in rhythm can create emphasis. Hence, you may choose one synonym over another
simply because it has more or fewer syllables and, thus, contributes to the
rhythm of your sentence. Even an occasional bit of deadwood may be justified if
it contributes to the rhythm of your sentence.
that rhythm is especially important in parallel structures and is often a
factor in sentence-to-sentence flow; that is, you must read a sequence of
sentences in context to judge their rhythm.
Repetition: Using the same word to refer to the same thing or idea is desirable when
it contributes to transition and coherence. For example, substituting commands
for translators in the second pair of sentences below provides a smoother
section describes the commands used for translating programs written in the
four languages mentioned above. These translators create object-code files with
a filetype of TEXT from programs written by the user.
section describes the commands used for translating programs written in the
four languages mentioned above. These commands create object-code files with a
filetype of TEXT from programs written by the user.
however, repeating the same word can become awkward, tedious, or confusing.
Alternating between a pronoun and its antecedent is one obvious way of avoiding
the tedious repetition of the same word to refer to the same thing. You can
usually help to avoid confusing your readers by not using the same word (or
variations of the same word) to mean two different things in one sentence or in
two closely related sentences:
from VM is displayed in the output display area.
from VM appears in the output display area.
Overusing Word Modifiers
overusing adjectives and adverbs. These modifiers have their place, but in the
most vigorous prose, action is expressed in verbs, and the agents of that
action are expressed in nouns. This principle applies to both ornate, pompous
modifiers and to such commonplace intensifiers as really, pretty, and very.
One of the
best ways to avoid overusing modifiers is to select specific, self-modified
nouns and verbs—ones that don't require adjectives and adverbs to supplement
their meaning. For example, you might replace long black car with limousine
or ran very quickly with sped or bolted.
the Logical Relationship Between Your Ideas
In order to
make your writing coherent and the transitions between your ideas smooth, you
must clearly express or imply the logical relationships between your ideas. If
you fail to do so, one idea is simply juxtaposed with another, and readers are
left to make the logical connections for themselves. In this situation,
experienced readers will suspect that you have not clarified the logical
relationships between your ideas because you don't know what those
relationships are—or worse, because there aren't any.
There are a
variety of ways to express or imply logical relationships; some of the
smoothest and most subtle use the very structure of the sentence. For example,
you can use the principle of order and emphasis (see #4) to indicate that one
part of the sentence is more important than another; you can use subordination
(see #6) to indicate that one idea is less important than (or subordinate
to) another; and you can use parallelism to indicate that two or more ideas are
of equal importance.
You can also
use punctuation to indicate the logical relationships between ideas. For
example, you can use a colon to indicate that what follows is a further
explanation of what's just been said; you can use commas to indicate whether or
not a clause restricts the meaning of the sentence; and you can use dashes to
indicate that the enclosed material is important to the discussion and should
Of the various
means of establishing the logical relationships between ideas, the most blatant
is the use of transitional devices, such as therefore, thus, however,
and hence. These devices are more prevalent in analytical writing—where
logical relationships are more important—than they are in narration or
description. There is a point, however, at which such devices begin to be
abused. Properly used, transitional devices signal logical relationships—they
do not create them. In fact, there is no transitional device in the English
language that can wrench two ideas into a logical relationship that simply
doesn't exist. The table below (taken from the Harbrace College Handbook)
lists eight logical relationships and some of the transitional devices that may
be used to indicate each of them:
moreover, further, furthermore, besides, and, and then, likewise, also, nor,
too, again, in addition, equally important, next, first, second, third, in the
first place, in the second place, finally, last
Comparison: similarly, likewise, in like manner
but, yet, and yet, however, still, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the
contrary, even so, notwithstanding, for all that, in contrast to this, at the
same time, although this may be true, otherwise
4. Place: here, beyond, nearby,
opposite to, adjacent to, on the opposite side
5. Purpose: to this end, for this
purpose, with this object
6. Result: hence, therefore,
accordingly, consequently, thus, thereupon, as a result, then
repetition, exemplification, intensification: to sum up, in brief, on the whole,
in sum, in short, as I have said, in other words, that is, to be sure, as has
been noted, for example, for instance, in fact, indeed, to tell the truth, in
8. Time: meanwhile, at length,
soon, after a few days, in the meantime, afterward, later, now, in the past.
material that adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence, words that serve
only as filler. When you edit your writing, eliminate any words or phrases that
can be removed without damaging the meaning of the sentence or paragraph:
no: I spent
my first six weeks on the job in a state of shock, but today I have a
completely different perspective on the company in general, as compared to when
I first started.
spent my first six weeks on the job in a state of shock, but today I have a
completely different perspective on the company.
exceptions to this principle may be justified for the sake of emphasis or
the unnecessary repetition of information, is a subset of deadwood, but
one that is important enough to deserve separate mention:
are used in a command format description to indicate that the enclosed
parameter is optional and, therefore, may be supplied or not at the user's
are used in a command format description to indicate that the enclosed
parameter is optional.
exceptions to this principle may be justified for the sake of emphasis or
Metaphor to Illustrate
be broadly defined as an imaginative comparison, expressed or implied, between
two generally unlike things, for the purpose of illustration. By this
definition, similes (expressed comparisons) are a subset of metaphor. In prose
(as opposed to poetry), metaphors are most often used to illustrate, and thus
make clear, abstract ideas: "When two atoms approach each other at great
speeds they go through one another, while at moderate speeds they bound off
each other like two billiard balls" (Sir William Bragg).
use figurative language, be careful to avoid cliches—trite, overworn words or
phrases that have lost their power to enliven your writing. If you can't think
of a fresh, imaginative way to express an idea, it's better to express it in
literal terms than to resort to a cliche. Hence,
problem was as easy as pie.
problem was easy.
Note that even
solitary nouns, verbs, and modifiers can be cliched. For example,
He's such a
I've got to
competition was stiff.
cliches are what George Orwell calls "dying metaphors"—words and
phrases that were once used figuratively, but that now border on the literal.
That is, we've used these terms so often that we now scarcely consider their
As with tone,
rhythm, and many of the other stylistic considerations discussed here, you must
ultimately rely upon your own sensitivity to the language to guide you in
determining when a word or phrase is cliched.
according to Collett Dilworth and Robert Reising, the golden rule of writing is
"to write to be read fluently by another human being . . . the most moral
reason for observing any specific writing convention is that it will shape and
facilitate a reader's understanding, not simply that it will be used
'correctly'." So as George Orwell says in "Politics and the English
Language": "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything
PUNCTUATION AND MECHANICS
1.1 (a) Use a
comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so) that
joins two independent clauses (compare 2.1). (An independent or main clause is
a clause that can stand by itself as a separate sentence.):
children escaped the fire without harm, but their mother was not so lucky.
(b) If the
clauses are short and closely related, a comma is not required:
and Matt watched.
(c) If the
coordinate clauses are long or themselves contain commas, you can often avoid
confusion by separating them with semicolons:
to his car, got a gun, and returned to the lake; but Bill, unfortunately,
refused to be intimidated.
1.2 Use a
comma to separate an introductory element (clause, phrase, conjunctive adverb,
or mild interjection) from the rest of the sentence:
refuse to leave, I'll call the police. (clause)
for her exam, Lynn reread all of her notes. (phrase)
much work still remains to be done. (conjunctive adverb)
Well, I was
surprised to achieve these results. (interjection)
1.3 (a) Use
commas to set off parenthetical elements or interrupters (including
which was well documented, was discussed with considerable emotion. (nonrestrictive clause)
however, still able to meet their deadline.(transitional adverb)
distinction must be made here between restrictive and nonrestrictive modifiers.
Restrictive modifiers are essential to the meaning of the sentence in that they
restrict that meaning to a particular case. Hence, restrictive modifiers are
not parenthetical and cannot be removed without seriously damaging the meaning.
Since they are necessary to the meaning, restrictive modifiers are not set off
soldiers who are overweight will be forced to resign.
modifiers are parenthetical. That is, they digress, amplify, or explain, but
are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. These modifiers simply
provide additional information for the reader—information which, although it
may be interesting, does not restrict the meaning of the sentence and can be
removed without changing the sentence's essential meaning:
who is overweight, will be forced to resign.
(b) Use commas
to set off parenthetical elements that retain a close logical relationship to
the rest of the sentence. Use dashes or parentheses to set off parenthetical
elements whose logical relationship to the rest of the sentence is more remote
(compare 4.2 and 5.1).
1.4 Use commas
to join items in a series. Except in journalism, this includes a comma
before the conjunction that links the last item to the rest of the series:
making a decision, he studied the proposition, interviewed many of the people
concerned, and tried to determine if there were any historical precedents.
not called for by any of the above principles, commas are sometimes required to
avoid the confusion of mistaken junction:
recognized the man who entered the room, and gasped.
2.1 Use a
semicolon to join two independent clauses that are closely related in meaning
and are not joined by a coordinating conjunction (compare 1.1):
digit of 3 identifies a temporary file; temporary files are deleted
automatically after being read.
2.2 Use a
semicolon to join two independent clauses when the second one begins with or
includes a conjunctive adverb (nevertheless, therefore, however, otherwise, as
a result, etc.) (compare 1.3):
If CMS is
waiting, the entry will be processed immediately; otherwise, it will be queued
2.3 To avoid
confusion, use semicolons to separate items in a series when one or more of the
items includes commas (see also 1.1c):
also summarizes the Graduate School's mechanical requirements for theses;
discusses the special requirements of students who are submitting computer
programs as theses; reviews basic principles of punctuation, mechanics, and
style; and refers student s to standard references on punctuation, mechanics,
style, and usage.
3.1 Use a
colon to introduce a list, an example, an amplification, or an explanation
directly related to something just mentioned (compare 4.1) and 4.4):
may work from one of three modes when typing data into the file area: edit
mode, input mode, or power typing. He eventually found that there was only one
way to get the quality he expected from the people who worked for him: treat
them with respect.
3.2 Use a
colon to introduce a formal statement or quotation (usually of more than one
care about the quality of their work would do well to heed Samuel Johnson's
advice: What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
If your word-processor
doesn't have an em-dash (a dash that is the width of a capital M) in its
special character set, use two hyphens (--) to make a dash. Whichever one you
use, except in journalism, you should leave no space between or on
either side of the dash itself. Dashes are more widely accepted today than they
were in the past; however, many writers and editors still consider them to be
somewhat less formal marks of punctuation—use them sparingly.
4.1 Use a dash
to introduce a summarizing word, phrase, or clause, such as an appositive (a
noun set beside another noun and identifying or explaining it) (compare 3.1):
strikers included plumbers, electricians, carpenters, truck drivers—all kinds
4.2 Use dashes
to mark off a parenthetical element that represents an abrupt break in thought.
Dashes give more emphasis to the enclosed element than do either commas or
parentheses (compare 5.1):
sweep of the South—he won every state but Georgia—was the most humiliating
defeat for Carter.
4.3 To avoid
confusion, use dashes to mark off parenthetical elements that contain internal
our first twelve presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison,
Tyler, and Taylor—were from Virginia.
4.4 Dashes can
be used as a less formal alternative to the colon to introduce an example,
explanation, or amplification (see 3.1).
For more on
the use of dashes in journalism, see the entry on dashes in the Guide to
Punctuation in the Associated Press Stylebook.
5.1 (a) Use parentheses
to enclose parenthetical elements (words, phrases, or complete sentences that
digress, amplify, or explain) (compare 1.3b) and 4.2).
When APL is
on (indicated by the letters APL appearing at the bottom of the screen), no
lower-case characters are available.
parenthesized sentence that appears within another sentence need not begin with
a capital or end with a period.
(c) A comma
may follow the closing parenthesis (if needed), but one should not precede the
in journalism, use square brackets [ ] to enclose a parenthetical element
within a parenthetical element.
6.1 Use three
(a) to signal
the omission of a word or words from the middle of a quoted sentence:
White House official again asserted the administration's position: "We
will not negotiate any treaty with the Soviets . . .unless it is
(b) to signal
hesitation or halting speech in dialogue:
"I . .
. don't know what to say," he whispered.
6.2 Use four
(a) to signal
the omission of the end of a quoted sentence:
all our maladies, the most barbarous is to despise our being. . . . For my
part, I love life and cultivate it."
(b) to signal
the omission of one or more whole sentences.
ellipses dots should be spaced ( . . . vs. …).
7.1 To express
the idea of a unit and to avoid ambiguity, hyphenate compound nouns and
compound modifiers that precede a noun:
She was a
terminal sessions are counterproductive.
4250 printer has all-points-addressable graphics capabilities.
7.2 Use a
hyphen between the components of any number (including fractions) below one
hundred that is written as two words: thirty-five two-thirds
apostrophe, s ('s) to indicate singular possessive:
turning on to IBM's VM operating system.
8.2 Use s,
apostrophe (s') to indicate plural possessive:
the missing tools in the boys' clubhouse.
apostrophe, s ('s) to form the plural of abbreviations with periods,
lowercase letters used as nouns, and capital letters that would be confusing if
s alone were added:
Ph.D.'s x's and y's S's, A's, I's SOS's
8.4 When you
can do it without creating confusion, use s alone to form the plural of
letters, figures, words treated as words, and hyphenated coinages used as
four 8sthey came in twos the 1980s a dozen ifs
italics (sparingly) to emphasize a word or phrase:
command inserts data from the current line forward, so the user must be
sure to make the appropriate line the current line before entering this
italics to identify a letter treated as a letter or a word treated as a word:
The word eyes
appears twice in the first line of the poem.
italics to identify foreign words or phrases not yet absorbed into English.
(or underline) the titles of books, magazines, journals, newspapers, plays,
operas, films, television shows, radio programs, and long poems.
in quotation marks the titles of short poems, essays, magazine articles,
newspaper columns, short stories, songs, speeches, and chapters of books.
see the following entries in the Associated Press Stylebook:
"composition titles," "magazine names," "newspaper
names." In summary, these entries indicate that most composition titles
(books, plays, songs, television shows, etc.) should be enclosed in quotation
marks but not in italics. Newspaper and magazine titles, however, should
neither be italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks.
11.1 Spell out
a number when it begins a sentence.
11.2 Spell out
a number that can be written in one or two words (except as noted in 11.3) and
twenty-two five thousand one million
numbers that can be written as one or two words cluster closely together in the
sentence, use numerals instead:
The ages of
the members of the city council are 69, 64, 58, 54,47, 45, and 35.
numerals if spelling out a number would require more than two words:
numerals for addresses, dates, exact times of day, exact sums of money, exact
measurements (including miles per hour), game scores, mathematical ratios, and
55 mph ratio
of 4-to-1 $6.75 p. 37
journalism, see the numerals entry in the Associated Press Stylebook.
12.1 Use double
quotation marks to create irony by setting off words you don't take at face
"debate" resulted in three cracked heads and two broken noses.
12.2 Do not
use quotation marks to create emphasis (see 9.1).
single quotation marks to enclose a quotation within a quotation:
beginning of the class, the professor asked, "What does Kuhn mean by
'paradigm shifts,' and what is their relationship to normal science?"
12.4 If the
quotation will take more than four lines on the page, use indentation instead
of quotation marks to indicate that the passage is a quotation. Introduce the
quotation with a colon, set it off from the rest of the text by triple-spacing
(assuming the rest of the text is double-spaced), indent ten spaces from the
left margin, and single-space the quoted passage. To indicate a new paragraph
within the quoted material, indent an additional three spaces.
12.5 Do not
use quotation marks with indirect discourse, or with rhetorical, unspoken, or imaginary
he was sorry he couldn't be here.
Why am I
doing this? she wondered.
13.1 Do not
use a comma to mark the end of a quoted sentence that is followed by an
identifying tag if the quoted sentence ends in a question mark or an
out!" he screamed.
and periods go inside closing quotation marks; semicolons and colons go outside
the closing quotation marks:
response was "Money is no object," but the lawyer was still unwilling
to accept his case.
announced, "I will not seek reelection"; then he left the room.
13.3 Place a
question mark or an exclamation point inside the closing quotation marks only
if it belongs to the quotation rather than to the larger sentence:
question was "What is to be done?" Should the U.S. support
governments that it considers "moderately repressive"?
use the question mark or exclamation point, do not use a period with it (see
square brackets to enclose interpolations, corrections, or comments in a quoted
passage. In journalism, use parentheses ( ) for this purpose.
Introducing Indented Quotations, Vertical Lists, and Formulas
punctuation immediately following the introduction to an indented quotation,
vertical list, or formula is determined by the grammatical structure of the
introduction. Essentially, you should follow the same rules described in
section 3 and section 1.2 even though the material you're introducing is set
off from the rest of the sentence.
14.1 If the
introduction is a main clause (a clause that could stand by itself as a
complete sentence), follow it with a colon:
of the expedition was asked to supply the following equipment:
a sleeping bag
a mess kit
a propane stove
14.2 If the
introductory element is not a main clause, follow it with a comma if one is
required by the rule given in section 1.2:
to Gene Fowler, "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank
sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."
14.3 If the
introduction is not a main clause and a comma is not required by the rule given
in section 1.2, follow it with no punctuation at all:
In Philosophy and Physics,
Werner Heisenberg points out that "The change in the concept of reality
manifesting itself in quantum theory is not simply a continuation of the past;
it seems to be a real break in the structure of modern science."
14.4 If you're
uncomfortable with an unpunctuated introduction, try converting it into a main
clause and using a colon:
In Philosophy and Physics,
Werner Heisenberg makes the following observation about the effect of quantum
theory on modern science:
Punctuating Vertical Lists
15.1 The items
in an vertical list may be preceded by sequential numbers or bullets (usually
dots or asterisks), or they may stand alone. Depending on their grammatical
structure, the items are followed by periods, semicolons, commas, or no
punctuation at all. The Chicago Manual of Style offers the following
simple rules: "Omit periods after items in a vertical list unless one or
more of the items are complete sentences. If the vertical list completes a sentence
begun in an introductory element, the final period is also omitted unless the
items in the list are separated by commas or semi-colons."
following minerals are included in this daily supplement:
months of deliberation, the committee decided
1. that the
proposed research did not pose a serious health hazard to the surrounding
2. that the
potential benefits of the research significantly outweighed the potential
3. that the
research should be allowed to proceed without further delay.
16.1 Use a
question mark at the end of an interrogative element within (as well as at the
end of) a sentence:
himself, "How am I going to pay for all of this?" and looked
hopefully at his father.
exclamation points sparingly; too many of them will dull your effect (compare
18.1 In most
cases, when two marks of punctuation are called for at the same location in a
sentence, only the stronger mark is used (see, for example, 13.3). An
abbreviating period, however, is never omitted unless the abbreviation is
immediately followed by a terminating period. Other exceptions include 5.1c.
of the most characteristic features of the five language styles and their
variants will show that out of the member of features which are easily
discernible in each of the styles, some should be considered primary and others
secondary, some obligatory, others optional, some constant, others transitory.
One of the five language styles is A PROSE style.
In this Course
paper we have investigated:
stylistic features of functional styles
linguistic features of functional styles.
peculiarities of English PROSE style.
peculiarities of a substyle of PROSE style- otatorical one.
style is thus to be regarded as the product of a certain concrete task set by
the sender of the message. Functional styles appear mainly in the literary
standard of a language. Each functional style may be characterized by a number
of distinctive features leading or subordinate, constant or changing,
obligatory pr optional. Each functional style subdivided into a number of substyles.
Each variety has basic features common to all the varieties of the given
function style and peculiar features typical of this variety alone. Still a
substyle can, in some cases, deviate so far from the invariant that in its
extreme it may even break away.
s ty l e of language is the oral subdivision of the publicistic style. It has
already been pointed out that persuasion is the most obvious purpose of
with the listeners permits a combination of the syntactical, lexical and
phonetic peculiarities of both the written and spoken varieties of language. In
its leading features, however, oratorical style belongs to the written variety
of language, though it is modified by the oral form of the utterance and the
use of gestures. Certain typical features of the spoken variety of speech
present in this style are: direct address to the audience (ladies and
gentlemen, honourable member(s), the use of the 2nd person pronoun you, etc.),
sometimes contractions I’ll, won't, haven't, isn't and,others) and the use of
This style is
evident in speeches on political and social problems of the day, in orations
and addresses on solemn occasions, as public weddings, funerals and jubilees,
in sermons and debates and also in the speeches'of counsel and judges in courts
THE LIST OF
THE USED LITERATURE
Jorgensen. Real-World Newsletters (1999)
Levin. The Reporter's Notebook : Writing Tools for Student Journalists
M. Siegal and William G. Connolly. The New York Times Manual of Style and
Usage: The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World's
Most Authoritative Newspaper, (2002)
Stein, Susan Paterno, and R. Christopher Burnett, The Newswriter's Handbook
Introduction to Journalism (2006)
Peha and Margot Carmichael Lester, Be a Writer: Your Guide to the Writing
Sutcliffe. New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage,
D. Investigating English Style. Longman’s 1969.
I.R. “Stylistics” M., 1977
V.A. “A book of practice in stylistics” M., 1986
on Style and language” Ed. by R. Towler. L., 1967
in Modern Stylistics” Ed. by D.C. Freeman. L – N.Y. 1981
Linda Jorgensen. Real-World
 Allan M. Siegal and William G.
Connolly. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage: The Official Style
Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World's Most Authoritative Newspaper,
1928, and Romanische Stil- und Literaturstudien, 1931
 Le Style des Pléiades de Gobineau (1957), "Criteria for Style
Analysis" (1959) "Stylistic Context" (1960)
 Ferdinand de Saussure, Roman Jakobson
 Noam Chomsky Syntactic Structures, 1957