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CHAPTER X.THE EPIGRAMMATIC STYLE:
A peculiarly modern style is that in which very short sentences are used for pungent effect. If to this characteristic of short sentences we add a slightly unusual though perfectly obvious use of common words, we have what has been called the “epigrammatic style,” though it does not necessarily have any epigrams in it. It is the modern newspaper and advertisement writer's method of emphasis; and if it could be used in moderation, or on occasion, it would be extremely effective. But to use it at all times and for all subjects is a vice distinctly to be avoided.
Stephen Crane's “The Red Badge of Courage” is written almost wholly in this style. If we read three or four chapters of this story we may see how tiring it is for the mind to be constantly jerked along. At the same time, in a brief advertising booklet probably no other style that is sufficiently simple and direct would be as likely to attract immediate attention and hold it for the short time usually required to read an advertisement.
Crane's style has a literary turn and quality which will not be found in the epigrammatic advertisement, chiefly because Crane is descriptive, while the advertiser is merely argumentative. However, the advertisement writer will learn the epigrammatic style most surely and quickly by studying the literary form of it.
From “The Red Badge of Courage.”
The blue haze of evening was upon the field. The lines of forest were long purple shadows. One cloud lay along the western sky partly smothering the red.
As the youth left the scene behind him, he heard the guns suddenly roar out. He imagined them shaking in black rage. They belched and howled like brass devils guarding a gate. The soft air was filled with the tremendous remonstrance. With it came the shattering peal of opposing infantry. Turning to look behind him, he could see sheets of orange light illumine the shadowy distance. There were subtle and sudden lightnings in the far air. At times he thought he could see heaving masses of men.
He hurried on in the dusk. The day had faded until he could barely distinguish place for his feet. The purple darkness was filled with men who lectured and jabbered. Sometimes he could see them gesticulating against the blue and somber sky. There seemed to be a great ruck of men and munitions spread about in the forest and in the fields…
His thoughts as he walked fixed intently upon his hurt. There was a cool, liquid feeling about it and he imagined blood moving slowly down under his hair. His head seemed swollen to a size that made him think his neck to be inadequate.
The new silence of his wound made much worriment. The little blistering voices of pain that had called out from his scalp were, he thought, definite in their expression of danger. By them he believed that he could measure his plight. But when they remained ominously silent he became frightened and imagined terrible fingers that clutched into his brain.
Amid it he began to reflect upon various incidents and conditions of the past. He bethought him of certain meals his mother had cooked at home, in which those dishes of which he was particularly fond had occupied prominent positions. He saw the spread table. The pine walls of the kitchen were glowing in the warm light from the stove. Too, he remembered how he and his companions used to go from the school-house to the bank of a shaded pool. He saw his clothes in disorderly array upon the grass of the bank. He felt the swash of the fragrant water upon his body. The leaves of the overhanging maple rustled with melody in the wind of youthful summer.
After reading this passage over a dozen times very slowly and carefully, and copying it phrase by phrase, continue the narrative in Crane's style through two more paragraphs, bringing the story of this day's doing to some natural conclusion.
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Cody, Sherwin, 2007. The Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language Word-Study. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/19719/pg19719-images.html
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