THE CLEAR SENTENCE
Too Long; Didn't ReadBusiness men like to talk of brevity. They tell you that a talk or a letter must be brief. What they really mean is that the talk or the letter must be concise; that it must state the business clearly in the fewest possible words. Don't omit any essential fact when you write, but don't repeat. If you can express an idea in ten words, don't use twenty. In a later exercise we shall meet the sentence, The size of the crops is always important, and it is especially so to the farmer, and this is because he has to live by the crops. The writer of that sentence was very careless. He had a good idea and thought that, if he kept repeating it, he would make it stronger. Just the reverse is true. The sentence may be expressed in a very few words: The size of the crop is vitally important to the farmer.
If you wish to secure conciseness of expression, be especially careful to avoid joining or completing thoughts by these expressions: and, so, why, that is why, this is the reason, and everything.
In this chapter we shall consider some of the larger faults that should be avoided in sentences.
Exercise 197—Unity of the Sentence
Give the definition of a sentence.
How many thoughts may one sentence express?
What is likely to happen when two thoughts are joined by and? What, then, is the danger in using the compound sentence?
The compound sentence is good to use to express certain ideas, especially contrast; as,
It is not work that kills men; it is worry.
It is not the revolution that destroys the machinery, but the friction [but it is the friction].
The sentences which most clearly and easily give us one thought are the simple and the complex sentences.
Compare the following sentences. Which of them leave one idea in your mind?
The tongue is a sharp-edged tool.
A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.
A sharp tongue is like an edged tool, and it grows keener with constant use.