一分钟学写作|《The Elements of Style》写作的基本规则(5)


第二章

写作的基本规则(5)

规则十六

使用肯定、明确、具体的词语

说话务必明确、肯定、具体,切忌笼统、含糊、抽象。例如:

A period of unfavorable weather set in.

一段不佳的天气开始了

It rained every day for a week.

一星期来天天下雨

He showed satisfaction as he took possession of his well-earned reward.

他获得应得的报酬时显得很满意

He grinned as he pocketed the coin.

他一面把钱装进口袋一面咧嘴笑

研究过写作技巧的人都一致同意:唤起并吸引住读者注意力的最可靠的办法是说话明确、肯定而具体。那些最伟大的作家一荷马、但丁、莎士比亚——之所以成功,是因为他们描述了至关重要的详情和细节,真是诗中有画。

现以现代作家琼·斯坦福德的短篇小说“在动物园里”为例,证明她怎样使用唤起读者形象和激起读者情感的词语而使散文作品变得生动活泼,丰富多采。

… Daisy and I in time found asylum in a small menagerie down by the railroad tracks. It belonged to a gentle alcoholic ne’er-do- well, who did nothing all day long but drink bathtub gin in rickeys and play solitaire and smile to himself and talk to his animals.

我和戴西及时在下面铁路旁的一个小动物园里找到了庇护。这个动物园是一位庸庸碌碌、经常翻酒的乡绅的。他终日无所事事,一味痛饮利克酒和杜松子酒,独自玩纸牌,对着自己发笑,还跟他的动物劳叨。

He had a little, stunted red vixen and a deodorized skunk, a parrot from Tahiti that spoke Parisian French, a woebegone coyote, and two capuchin monkeys, so serious and humanized, so small and sad and sweet, and so religious-looking with their tonsured heads that it was impossible not to think their gibberish was really an ordered language with a grammar that someday some philologist would understand.

他有一只矮小的红色雌狐和一只除去了臭味的蹦,一只会说巴黎法活的塔希提岛鹦鹅,一只哀愁的小狼和两只卷尾猴。这两只猴子严肃而通人情,矮小、忧伤而和蔼可亲,头部的毛发剃得精光,一副虔诚的样子,因此人们不禁认为他们莫明其妙的声音实在是一种有语法、有规律的语言,将来总有一天某位语言学家会懂得的。

Gran knew about our visits to Mr. Murphy and she did not object, for it gave her keen pleasure to excoriate him when we came home. His vice was not a matter of guesswork; it was an established fact that he was half-seas over from dawn till midnight.

格兰知道我们常去拜访墨非先生。对此她并不反对,因为我们回家后她可以痛痛快快地骂他一顿。他的劣性不是一种猜测而是铁的事实:一天到晚似醉非醉的样子。

“With the black Irish,” said Gran, “the taste for drink is taken in with the mother’s milk and is never mastered. Oh, I know all about those promises to join the temperance movement and not to touch another drop. The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

格兰说道,“对皮肤黝黑的爱尔兰人来说,对酒的嗜好从吃奶时就养成了,而且从未有所节制。噢,至于参加禁酒运动以及今后滴酒不饮的诺言,我可听腻了。去见阎王还说是好意哩。”

如果说无数的读者现在还觉得沃尔特·米蒂、迪克·戴弗、拉比特·安斯特朗姆的经历很真实,如果说我们在读小说家福克纳的作品时几乎有身临美国南部衰落时期的约克纳巴托弗县其境的感觉,

那就是因为细节描述确切,用词形象具体的缘故。倒不是每一细节都要加以描述一—那是不可能的,也是毫无意义的。

而是一切有意义的细节都要描述得确切而生动,这样读者就能凭借想象使自己处身于描写的情景之中。

同样地,作者在说明和说理时,也必须把握住具体的事例;甚至在论述普遍原理时,他也必须提供具体的实例。

赫伯特·斯潘塞在他的《文体哲学》中举出了两个句子,说明怎样把模糊而笼统的句子改写得生动而具体:

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

(一个国家的风俗、习惯和娱乐活动愈残忍,越野蛮,这个国家的刑事法典的规定就愈严酷。)

In proportion as men delight in battles, bullfights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.

(人们越是以战斗、斗牛和格斗为乐,就越会用绞刑、焚烧和截肢作为惩罚的手段。)

乔治·奥韦尔曾经从《圣经》中摘录一段,删去其中写得有血有肉的部分,藉此说明一段写得有力的文章在丧失气势之后会是个什么样子。下面左栏里是奥韦尔改写的,右栏里是从传道书(也就是《圣经》)中摘录下来的原句。

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account

客观地考察当代的现象,必定得出这样的结论:竞争中,成败与天赋无关;而必须考虑的,倒是一种无法预料的重要因素。

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

我又转念,见日光之下,快跑的未必能赢,力战的未必得胜,智慧的未必得粮食,明哲的未必得资财,灵巧的未必得喜悦。所临到众人的,是在乎当时的机会。

英语原文:

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

A period of unfavorable weather set in.

It rained every day for a week.

He showed satisfaction as he took possession of his well-earned reward.

He grinned as he pocketed the coin.

If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on any one point, it is this: the surest way to arouse and hold the readers attention is by being specific, definite, and concrete.

The greatest writers — Homer, Dante, Shakespeare — are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter. Their words call up pictures.

Jean Stafford, to cite a more modern author, demonstrates in her short story “In the Zoo” how prose is made vivid by the use of words that evoke images and sensations:

… Daisy and I in time found asylum in a small menagerie down by the railroad tracks. It belonged to a gentle alcoholic ne’er-do- well, who did nothing all day long but drink bathtub gin in rickeys and play solitaire and smile to himself and talk to his animals.

He had a little, stunted red vixen and a deodorized skunk, a parrot from Tahiti that spoke Parisian French, a woebegone coyote, and two capuchin monkeys, so serious and humanized,

so small and sad and sweet, and so religious-looking with their tonsured heads that it was impossible not to think their gibberish was really an ordered language with a grammar that someday some philologist would understand.

Gran knew about our visits to Mr. Murphy and she did not object, for it gave her keen pleasure to excoriate him when we came home. His vice was not a matter of guesswork; it was an established fact that he was half-seas over from dawn till midnight.

“With the black Irish,” said Gran, “the taste for drink is taken in with the mother’s milk and is never mastered. Oh, I know all about those promises to join the temperance movement and not to touch another drop. The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

(* Excerpt from “In the Zoo” from Bad Characters by Jean Stafford. Copyright © 1964 by Jean Stafford. Copyright renewed © 1992 by Nora Cosgrove. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Also copyright © 1969 by Jean Stafford; reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.)

If the experiences of Walter Mitty, of Molly Bloom, of Rabbit Angstrom have seemed for the moment real to countless readers, if in reading Faulkner we have almost the sense of inhabiting Yoknapatawpha County during the decline of the South, it is because the details used are definite, the terms concrete.

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 with such accuracy and vigor that readers, in imagination, can project themselves into the scene.

In exposition and in argument, the writer must likewise never lose hold of the concrete; and even when dealing with general principles, the writer must furnish particular instances of their application.

In his Philosophy of Style, Herbert Spencer gives two sentences to illustrate how the vague and general can be turned into the vivid and particular:

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

In proportion as men delight in battles, bullfights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.

To show what happens when strong writing is deprived of its vigor, George Orwell once took a passage from the Bible and drained it of its blood. On the left, below, is Orwell’s translation; on the right, the verse from Ecclesiastes (King James Version).

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

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一分钟学写作|《The Elements of Style》写作的基本规则(5)

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