一分钟学写作|《The Elements of Style》写作的基本规则(7)


第二章

写作的基本规则(7)

规则十八

避免一连串结构松散的句子

这条规则特指某一类结构松散的句子:由两个分句组成、第二个分句又由连词或关系词引导的句子。

作者可能失之于把句子写得过分紧凑或者枯燥。间或写上一个结构松散的句子可以避免文体过于正式,而给读者以某种调节。因而,松散的句子在笔调轻松、自然的文章中到处可见。但是,可怕的是,这类句子可能出现得太多。

不老练的作者有时会写出一整段的这类句子,使用的连词主要有and but,其次是用于非限制性意义的关系词who,which,when,where 和while。(参见规则三)

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 instrumental music.

义演音乐会第三场于咋晚举行,听众很多。爱德华·阿普尔顿先生独奏,波士顿交响乐队演奏器乐。

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 gratifying 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 program will be presented.

前者的表演说明他是第一流的艺术家,而后者的演奏证明它充分享有祟高的声誉。委员会对这一系列的义演所激发的兴趣始终十分满意,因此计划今后每年举行一次类似的义演。第四场音乐会将于五月十日星期二举行,届时也将演出高水平的节目

上述这段文字之所以差劲,除了用词平凡和空洞之外,是因为句子结构机械地对称,且节奏单调。试比较E.M.福斯特的《为民主欢呼两声》中“我的信仰”这一章中的句子:

I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet.

然而,我信仰贵族政治—一如果这是一个合适的词,且民主主义者可以使用这个词。但这不是基于地位和影响的权势的贵族政治,而是敏感、体贴和勇敢的人们实施的贵族政治。其成员遍布各民族和各阶级,各个时代。他们见面时相互之间有一种默契。

They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.

他们代表真正的人类传统——我们这个古怪的人类永远战胜残忍和混乱的传统。他们中成千上万的人默默无闯地离开了人间,一部分已成伟人,英名将流芳百世。他们敏感,不仅为了自己,更是为了别人;他们体谅他人却又不虚张声势;他们勇敢,但无意表现自己,旨在显示坚韧的毅力。他们开得起玩笑。

如果作者发觉已写了一系列松散的句子,他就应该修改其中相当一部分的句子以避免单调乏味,把它们改写成简单句,由分号连接的两个分句,两个分句组成的掉尾句或由三个分句组成的松散句或掉尾句—一总之,改写成最能代表思想的真实关系的句子。

英语原文:

This rule refers especially to loose sentences of a particular type: those consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by a conjunction or relative.

A writer may err by making sentences too compact and periodic. An occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief. Consequently, loose sentences are common in easy, unstudied writing. The danger is that there may be too many of them.

An unskilled writer will sometimes construct a whole paragraph of sentences of this kind, using as connectives and, but, and, less frequently, who, which, when, where, and while, these last in nonrestrictive senses. (See 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 instrumental 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 gratifying 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 program will be presented.

Apart from its triteness and emptiness, the paragraph above is bad because of the structure of its sentences, with their mechanical symmetry and singsong. Compare these sentences from the chapter “What I Believe” in E. M. Forster’s Two Cheers for Democracy:

I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet.

They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.*

(* Excerpt from “What I Believe” in Two Cheers for Democracy, copyright 1939 and renewed 1967 by E. M. Forster, reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Inc. Also, by permission of The Provost and Scholars of King’s College, Cambridge, and The Society of Authors as the literary representatives of the E. M. Forster Estate.)

A writer who has written a series of loose sentences should recast enough of them to remove the monotony, replacing them with simple sentences, sentences of two clauses joined by a semicolon, periodic sentences of two clauses, or sentences (loose or periodic) of three clauses — whichever best represent the real relations of the thought.

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一分钟学写作|《The Elements of Style》写作的基本规则(7)

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