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When you have finished counting, figure out how many affixes there are per words; or, of course, you can take a word sample to begin with. The best example of very easy prose about 20 affixes per words is the King James Version of the Bible; literary writing tends to be fairly difficult; scien- tific prose is very difficult. To simplify a given passage, count first the number of affixes; then replace affix words systematically by root words, or at least by words with fewer affixes, until you arrive at the level you want to reach.
The translating job is sometimes difficult and a dictionary with simple definitions will help. Laski, a lead- ing British Socialist, wrote well, and his topic was exciting; but unfortunately, he was a professor by trade and his language was pure academic jargon Here is a key passage that seems worth translating into plain English: What is the essence of fascism?
It is the outcome of capi- talism in decay. It is the retort of the propertied interests to a democracy which seeks to transcend the relations of pro- duction implied in a capitahst society. But it is not merely the annihilation of democracy. It is also the use of nationalist feeling to justify a policy of foreign adventure in the hope, thereby, of redressing the grievances which are the index to capitalist decay.
Wherever fascism has been successful, it has been built upon a protest by the business interests against the increased demands of the workers. Not only has his own army expectations. Having identified himself with the state he has to use it to solve the problems through the existence of which he has been able to arrive at power.
He has no real doctrine except his passionate desire to remain m authority. His test of good is the purely pragmatic test of success And he finds invari- ably that success means using the state-power over the nation partly to coerce and partly to cajole it into acquiescence in his rule.
That acquiescence is the sole purpose of, and the sole justification for, the methods that he uses The only values he considers are those which seem likely to contribute to his success. Now this has 56 affixes per words and rates very diffi- cult. But it does not stop at wiping out democracy. Wherever fascism has been successful, it has been helped at the start by businessmen trying to keep the workers from getting more. But as soon as the gang leader has seized the state, he has always found that he cannot just bring back the standard forms of capitalism and leave it there.
Not only does his own army wait for rewards. Now that he and the state are the same, he has to use it to solve the problems that made the businessmen put him in power. He has no beliefs except his strong wish to stay in power. His test of good is the test of success. And he always finds that success means using state-power to force or coax the people to yield to his rule. This is the sole purpose or reason for his methods. You will notice that some of the key words have been left un- touched, like fascism , capitalism , democracy , production.
Other affix words, like decay , problem , success , methods , did not seem worth translating since they are easy to understand for every reader and would be hard to replace in this passage. Remember that whenever you try to limit your vocabulary rigidly, you become artificial and maybe un-English. If you want to achieve plain talk, you have to avoid that mistake. Another feature of the translation is that it is much shorter, not only m syllables but also in words.
Ordinarily, if you replace affix words by root words, you will have to use more words But it so happens that there is a lot of deadwood m this type of academic jargon that naturally falls by the wayside once you start rewriting. He has no real doctrine becomes He has no beliefs , and the methods that he uses , his methods.
I admit that it is not easy to write about economics or political science m easy language. Besides, a bibliography is sup- posed to be an acknowledgment by the author of the books from which his own book was compiled. Now this book is not a compilation, it is all out of my own head. It was started by a lady asking me to write her a letter explaining Socialism. I thought of referring her to the hundreds of books which have been written on the subject; but the difficulty was that they were nearly all written m an academic jargon which, though easy and agreeable to students of economics, politics, philosophy, and sociology generally, is unbearably dry, mean- ing unreadable, to women not so specialized.
And then, all these books are addressed to men. In fairness let me add that you might read a good many of them without discovering that such a thing as a man ever existed So I had to do it all over again m my own way and yours. This is splendid writing, excellently readable for people like you and me.
It has 38 affixes per words. It just so happens that Shaw seems unable to write like this: The extensiveness of the present volume is such that it appears almost inconceivable that female readers should desire to prolong the study of Socialism and Capitalism for an additional period of time. This circumstance apart, a bibliography traditionally is supposed to serve as an acknowl- edgment offered by the author of the original sources that con- tributed to the genesis of his compilation.
In contrast, how- ever, to this usually followed procedure, the present volume differs radically from a compilation inasmuch as it was solely and entirely conceived and executed by the author him- self. And so on. Less government only means more liberty m a society about the foundations of which men are agreed and in which ade- quate economic security is general; m a society where there is grave divergence of view about those foundations, and where there is the economic insecurity exemplified by mass- unemployment, it means liberty only for those who control the sources of economic power.
Joe Stalm drinks his vodka straight. Admiral Turner of the Central Pacific delights in growing roses. Scientific tests have shown that people are better at reading about other people than about anything else. Why is this so? Probably because man knows nothing so well as man His thinking and his language started out as simple talk about what he and people around him were doing; and primitive man did not doubt that there was a person behind every event and behind every tree and mountain.
To use once more my comparison between language and a machine shop where thoughts are prepared for the trade, think of your entering such an empty shop and being baffled by it, and of your relief when you at last find somebody to guide you. This is what the name of a person in a sentence does to the reader. The human touch in plain talk is not a ques- tion of language, you say, but of subject matter.
If you look closely at the way the human element is used in speech and writing, you will find that this is not so. People come up m our sentences and paragraphs not only when we are gossip- ing but in discussions of everything under the sun Time magazine, whose journalistic formula is built upon human interest, is of course full of good examples. Here is how various techniques are used for various subjects in a random issue. The classic newspaper device, the eyewitness report, is used for a war story It was three days after the major part of the battle had ended and we were out a few miles from the island patrolling our little sector of the ocean, swinging back and forth in huge figures of eight.
The noise and colors of battle were gone. The bombing had ceased and the big guns on the ships were silent. A few of us were standing by the rail thinking our own thoughts when someone called attention to some objects in the water. There were three of them, a hundred yards or more apart, and as we came closer we could see that they were men and that they were dead. The interview technique is used for a bit of foreign news: Everyone in Helsinki tells me that the Finnish food situa- tion is now substantially better than it was twelve months ago.
As far as most ordinary Finns can see both on the front and in the rear, Finland is a defeated country in which wartime life is difficult but by no means intolerable. Most Finns want peace under conditions which would assure Finland liberty and independence, but many doubt whether the present Russian proposals guarantee these to Finland A local story from New York is presented in the thriller-fiction manner: At 4 a.
Rockefeller for foreign students. The elevator man had a blind right eye, but as he stopped the car he turned to look at his lone passenger. She was Valsa Anna Matthai, 21, a pretty Indian girl from Bombay, a Columbia University student She was not wearmg the Indian sari pulled over her hair, but a bright kerchief; and as she walked out of the empty, lighted lobby, the operator noticed she wore a tan polo coat, dark slacks, and sport shoes.
She had no bag. That was the morning of March A speech is reported so that the reader never forgets the person who is talking: The U. Byrnes in a speech before the Academy of Political Science in Man- hattan. From civic groups and from men in public office, there will come the cry. A dramatic story like a Congressional committee hearing is written up as stage drama.
That did not seem to Mr. Plumley to be essential to the war. Vice Admiral Frederick J. Home not the least of whose qualifications is his ability to get along with Congress , quickly admitted that the item should not have been put in the bill. Said he. All his life Jack Curtin, 59, had never felt the need to see the non-Australian world. This is where history is going to be written. Soon he was haunting Socialist Hall smoking permitted in Exhibition Street, watching the great orators sway their audiences, learning their tncks.
A reserved man, shunning formal gatherings, he nevertheless likes to cock one foot on the desk and talk at length. He smokes incessantly — through a bamboo holder — and drinks tea without pause. Time's human-interest devices are, of course, not all there are. Argument, for instance, lends itself very well to the discussion form — invented two thousand years ago by Plato.
Scientific re- search is often made exciting as a sort of indoors adventure story. Educational material is best written by directly addressing the reader. A handy example is the book you are reading now.
And there are many other ways of bringing in people. What then'? Is there any easy way out? The thing to do in such a situation is to go through the text sentence by sentence and to look for the logical — not the gram- matical — subject. After a while you will discover that the logical subject is always a person and that every sentence can be written so that this person is mentioned. Wood so treated does not warp, split, swell or shrink appreciably.
It resists fire, rotting and termites, can be made as strong as many metals. It can be dyed any color so that it never needs painting or refinishmg. If the surface is scratched, its glossy finish can be restored by sandpapering and buffing. Impregnated wood makes possible among other things, doors, windows, and drawers that do not stick or get loose. Look at these sentences one by one. The corporation? Certainly not- the announcing was done by Mr. So-and-so, their pubhc relations man. The Du Pont people.
By testing. Every such statement can be reduced to a test somebody made at some time. This is what philosophers call operatiomsm. And now the last sentence. For the public, the reader, you. They have impregnated wood with chemicals and transformed it into a hard, pohshed material.
Their tests show that wood so treated does not warp, spht, swell or shrink appreciably; it resists fire, rotting and termites. They can make it as strong as many metals and dye it any color so that you never need to paint or re finis h it If you scratch the surface, you can restore its glossy finish by sandpapering and buffing. Among other things, impregnated wood will make it possible for you to have doors, windows, and drawers that do not stick or get loose.
The difference, as you see, is linguistic, and it can be measured by simply counting the proportion of theirs and yous and other references to people in the text. A practical method to do this is the following: First, count all names of people. If the name consists of several words, count it as one, e.
Then count the human-interest words on this list: Man, woman, child; boy, girl, baby; gentleman, lady; sir, mister, madam e , miss; guy, dame, lad, lass, kid. Father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, niece; family; parent, sweet- heart, dad, daddy, papa, mamma People not peoples , folks, fellow, friend. Count also combinations of these words with each other and with grand-, great-grand-, step- and -m-law, and familiar forms of them like grandpa.
Very difficult scientific material, of course, may be written without mentioning any persons at all. S, Forest Products Laboratory. The impregnating material, called methylolurea, is made principally from two cheap, plentiful chemicals — urea and formaldehyde — which are synthesized from coal, air and water. The wood becomes brittle, but this disadvantage can be partly offset by impregnating only the outer part of the wood, leav- ing a resilient core Impregnated wood is so cheap and versatile that Du Pont claims it will compete with the much more expensive plastics and light metals.
Moreover, the process will make usable vast resources of little-used soft woods — maples, poplars, gums, etc. The impregnation process simplifies the making of veneers and plywoods, because pressed and impregnated layers of wood need no glue. Let me repeat that. Use verbs. Nothing is as simple as a brief three-word sentence that follows the pattern: somebody does something.
It is the verb that gives life to any sentence; it literally makes the sentence go. But we have seen that m Chinese, the simplest of all languages, there is no such thing as a verb or noun or adjective, for that matter. How, then, do the Chinese make their sentences go? Well, the explanation is simple one word in each sentence serves, so to speak, as its motor; for this particular sentence, it works as a verb.
The point of all this is, of course, that I am talking here only of those words that are used as verbs in a sentence.. If you go through any newspaper or magazine and look for active, kicking verbs in the sentences, you will realize that this lack of well-used verbs is the mam trouble with modem English writing.
Almost all nonfiction nowadays is written m a sort of pale, colorless sauce of passives and infinitives, motionless and flat as paper. Listen to this, for instance from an essay by Paul Schrecker in the Saturday Review : Maybe the gradual actualization of this solidarity was the result of scientific and hence technological progress which caused distances to shrink and required ever-expanding markets.
But it is a preconceived and entirely unwarranted idea to believe this technological unification to have been a primary cause, and hence to overlook the fact that its trium- phant appearance on the world scene would not have been possible without the prior existence of a potential world- civilization.
The ever-expanding sphere of influence of litera- ture, science, and works of art, which rarely respects any national or regional boundaries, cannot be accounted for by the introduction of faster and easier means of communication or by the improved technological methods of mass reproduc- tion. His sole concern, insistently registered, is with physical gratification, because instinct tells him that pleasur- able sensations, at his helpless level of development, are synonymous with a reassuring sufficiency of creature care and healthy survival.
Now, if you look closely, you will notice that the only active, finite verbs m the first passage are caused, required, respects, and reveals: four mildly active verbs matched by 27 passive forms, infinitives, participles, verbs made into nouns, and forms of the auxiliary verb to be. In the second passage, we have suppose, call, and tells, against 32 inactive verb forms of various types. And now let us look at the language of Shakespeare or the Bible, for contrast.
And every man hence to his idle bed; So let high-sighted tyranny range on, Till each man drop by lottery. But if these, As I am sure they do, bear fire enough To kindle cowards, and to steel with valour The melting spirits of women; then, countrymen, What need we any spur, but our own cause, To prick us to redress? And these are words of Job Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! God distnbuteth sorrows in his anger. They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carneth away. Clearly, most of the power, movement, and beauty of these passages comes from the succession of active verbs: Shakespeare makes tyranny range , men drop, and a cause prick us to redress ; the Bible makes a bull gender , a cow calve, and children dance.
Maybe you will say that I am unfair in using the Bible and Shakespeare as examples. Here is, for instance, one modern example from Ernie Pyle. The company I was with got its orders to rest about 5 one afternoon. They dug foxholes along the hedgerows, or com- mandeered German ones already dug Regardless of how tired you may be, you always dig in the first thing.
Then they sent some men with cans looking for water. They got more K rations up by jeep, and sat on the ground eating them. Shortly after supper a lieu- tenant came out of a farmhouse and told the sergeants to pass the word to be ready to move in 10 minutes They bundled on their packs and started just before dark.
Within half an hour they had run into a new fight that lasted all night. There are 16 working verbs there and not a single verb form or noun that could, or should, be turned into an active, finite verb. And now compare it with this sentence from a popular article on economics: In somewhat over-simplified technical terms, inflation is caused by the existence, at any given time in an economic system, of an aggregate of effective purchasing power greater than the aggregate of the goods and services for sale.
What a definition! Obviously the writer realized that himself, because the next sentence reads hke this. When we add up the amounts of cash and credit of all kinds at the disposal of everybody who is ready to buy something, and find that the sum is larger than the sum of all the things to be bought at existing prices, then prices are likely to go up. Now the verbs are in their proper places, and everything be- comes crystal-clear. First we add something, then we find that it is larger than something else, and then prices will go up.
This is the classic type of scientific explanation: If you do X and Y, what happens is Z. Or, in the De Kruif manner. The great scientist did X and Y, and what happened was Z. Here is another bit from the literary essay I quoted on page Integrated into the circulation of national life much more completely than any other modern literature, American belles- lettres also give a much more faithful and adequate picture of the entire civilization to which they belong than literature abroad, whose very compliance with — or willful opposition to — traditions that have long lost their anchorage in the depths of their respective national civilizations, renders them unable to keep abreast of the rejuvenated spirit of their epoch.
Here is the same sentence with the nouns made into verbs: American belles-lettres circulate in the national life much more than other modem literatures do; they picture the en- tire civilization to which they belong more faithfully and adequately. The spirit of the times has become young again, and literatures abroad cannot keep abreast with it because of certain traditions they comply with or willfully oppose. These traditions were once anchored in the depths of their national civilizations, but have lost that anchorage long ago.
And now I expect you to go ahead and pepper your speech and writing with active verbs. There is one place where it does not work: in written dialogue. But would America be will- ing to part with this bell for Adano? Imagine this with Zito ventured and Major Joppolo remi- nisced. Mentally you are abreast of your years or maybe a bit beyond. But emotionally or psychologically, you are still the fledgling 14 which you assiduously exemplify in your chosen garb.
The conundrum is whether your unseasonable green-gourd personality is directly related to organic or gland- ular subnormality, — which is staying your physical develop- ment more or less at child level, — or whether it is, rather, the outpictunng of subconscious stubborn reluctance to grow up and thus take lasting leave of the special prerogatives and adulation you may have enjoyed as a charming child prodigy.
The best thing for us is to leave grammatical labels behind and see what the words do in and to a sentence. Then, at once, we see that math defines teacher , and that ravishing is a comment on the math teacher. In other words, there are two kinds of so-called adjectives, commenting and defining.
She is teaching math. You force the reader, or listener, to take in three ideas m one sen- tence and you make understanding just so much harder. Reason: Two short sentences are easier to understand than one long one, with extra stuff in it. I said in the beginning that newspapermen are now being taught that adjectives are Bad The trouble is, they are also being taught to save words and so, after a while, they forget all about adjective hunting and become sentence staffers.
Here is a mild case: Married, he lives with his wife and three sons in New Jersey. Or: Kyser, bespectacled, was born thirty-eight years ago in Rocky Mount, N. Some writers habitually fill their sentences up to the brim. Here is an extract from a book review by Harrison Smith in the Saturday Review I have put all the comments in italics : The two sisters, island aristocrats, whose lifelong fate was sealed when they saw one morning in Saint Pierre a handsome boy of thirteen, whose father, an untidy but a heart-of-gold physician, had just returned a widower to his native town.
The young ladies sit behind and wait frigidly for over ten years for word from him. William, m the meantime, had been lured by a half-caste girl m a Chinese port into losmg his ship and one morning, penniless , half-naked, and drugged, finds himself aboard a clipper ship, bound for New Zealand, an exile. Sorted out, this reads: Marguerite and Marianne were sisters. They were island aristocrats. Marguerite was the younger; she was a happy, blue-eyed, blonde child.
Marianne was dark, passionate and self-willed. One morning, in Saint Pierre, they saw a handsome boy of thirteen. Then, one day, William left the island. He had joined the Royal British Navy and become a lieutenant. Now he was bound for the China coast. If it were in truth the large reaction of a nobly magnanimous mind, would it be accompanied on the other hand by the primitive male-egoist emotional attitude that the marriage is wrecked for you, if she is indulging in a passing fancy, as you believe?
Have you feared subconsciously to force and face a show- down lest the resultant dissection of the marital relationship and her possible counter-charges confront you with a shrewd and merciless delineation of yourself as one pallidly devoid of salient traits of thorough masculinity? But how about descriptions, you say: How can you describe anything — a city, a landscape — without using descriptive, com- menting adjectives? Here is a description of America from a New York Times editorial : It is small things remembered, the little corners of the land, the houses, the people that each one loves.
We love our country because there was a little tree on a hill, and grass thereon, and a sweet valley below; because the hurdy-gurdy man came along on a sunny mormng in a city street; because a beach or a farm or a lane or a house that might not seem CROWDED WORDS 61 much to others was once, for each of us, made magic. It is voices that are remembered only, no longer heard. It is parents, friends, the lazy chat of street and store and office, and the ease of mind that makes life tranquil.
It is stones told. It is the Pilgrims dying m their first dread- ful winter. It is the Minute Man standing his ground at Con- cord Bridge, and dying there It is the army in rags, sick, freezing, starving at Valley Forge. It is the wagons and the men on foot going westward over Cumberland Gap, floating down the great rivers, rolling over the great plains. It is the settler hacking fiercely at the pnmeval forest on his new, his own lands It is Thoreau at Walden Pond, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and Lee riding home from Appomattox.
Which brings us, of course, to Time magazine. The proposal: to expel from the Party his homonym — pink, grizzled Welshman Aneurin Bevan. The crime. At the tense and troubled meeting, Aneurin Bevan refused to recant.
He argued that if he were bounced, 15 other Laborites who sided with him would also have to go. This is the first part of a story about a British antistrike regula- tion. But, because of the Time formula, the reader is allowed only a quick glimpse at the topic m a brief parenthesis. What he really learns from this first third of the story is that Bevm and Bevan have similar names this is made the heading and that Bevm, m contrast to Bevan, is a heavy man this he gets from four com- ments, with slight variations upon the theme, plus two photographs of Bevin and Bevan to show what they look like.
Since we always read a few words at a time, those that are specially effective or colorful tend to blot out the others. People will get you better without them. And that is exiling from Washington forever the writers of the incredible thin g called income tax prose and making it man- datory for the new authors of tax instruction sheets to use 1 short words, 2 short sentences, 3 no semicolons and 4 no parentheses.
After all, when people started writing, they just put one word after the other; as for punctuation, the reader was on his own. Only later writers marked their copy with little dots and dashes and started to give the reader a break. And now people complain that punctuation makes reading harder! Few people real- ize that it is the most important single device for making things easier to read. We use a system of shorter or longer pauses between words to join or separate our ideas, and we raise or lower our voices to make things sound emphatic or casual.
Punctuation gets pauses and stress but not pitch down on paper. When you run two or more words together with almost no pause between them because you use them in that sentence as one word , hyphenate them. When you use a longer pause — Watch out for the next word' — make a dash Same with sentences. When you run two or more sentences together because you use a string of sentences as one , use a semicolon or, if the first sentence introduces the second, a colon.
When you use a longer pause — Now comes something else' — make a paragraph. When you put plain talk in writing, two punctuation marks are particularly important for you: hyphens and semicolons. The reason is this: The fewer empty words you use and the more you rely on word order, the more important it is for you to show which words belong closely together, this you do by using hyphens.
On the other hand, in plain talk you often use two or more short sentences instead of one long one and show the connection by semicolons. Here is for instance a collection of hyphenated expressions from a colloquial piece on Wendell Willkie:. Steve Hannagan of bathmg-beauty fame. As you see, hyphens come m handy when you want just to hint at a general idea or quickly describe an impression. Here is a good example from Westbrook Pegler:. Another from a Harper's article on de Gaulle: Churchill apparently succeeded in explaining away the no- longer-a-great-power clause in the Smuts speech and at the same time persuading de Gaulle that it was to his interest to support the bloc-of-Western-Europe policy it announced.
And, of course, this just-to-give-you-the-idea device is a boon for reviewers. Hammerstem is dealing in basic humor, an extension of the snowball-and-silk-hat principle. Hart put heroism on a theirs-but-to-do-or-die basis. The semicolon also has its special uses. Since it wields several facts into a single event, it is one of the favorite tools of the news digester.
And this is a typical bit from Time: No V-day? Untie those whistles; take those boards off the shop- windows; disband those parades; put that bottle of bourbon back on the shelf — there may be no V-day. No general surrender of the German Armies is expected, they may gradually disintegrate and surrender piece- meal. Also, semicolons, the short-sentence mortar, are the trade-mark of a good popularizer.
For instance, Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif literally teems with semicolons. This is the pattern: Pasteur started hunting microbes of disease and punched into a boil on the back of the neck of one of his assistants and grew a germ from it and was sure it was the cause of boils; he hurried from these experiments to the hospital to find his chain microbes m the bodies of women dying with child-bed fever; from here he rushed out into the country to discover — but not to prove it precisely — that earthworms carry anthrax bacilli from the deep buried carcasses of cattle to the surface of the fields.
The time for the fatal final test drew near; the very air of the little laboratory became finicky; the taut workers snapped at each other across the Bunsen flames. They went at it frantic to save lives; they groped at it among bizarre butcherings of countless guinea-pigs; in the evenings their laboratories were shambles like the battlefields of old days when soldiers were mangled by spears and pierced by arrows.
He shot his mixture into new guinea-pigs; m three days they grew cold; when he laid them on their backs and poked them with his finger they did not budge. However, not all populanzers agree on this point One of them, Walter B. Pitkin, the author of Life Begins at Forty , always wrote extremely short sentences, from six to ten words.
Here was one who had broken almost every bone m his body and had lived to resume his old job with hardly any men- tal upset. Here was another whose injuries were trivial. If he earned a cane he could get around easily. But he loathed the cane. He seemed to regard it as a public confession of weak- ness He was forever trying to do without it Worse yet, he strove to walk without a limp.
The strain was terrible. He insisted that life was empty for a cripple. Within two years he killed himself. I reached two conclusions. Many people are better off with grave handicaps than with trifling ones. The grave handicap releases copious energies. The trifling handicap seems to stir the person too feebly to open up the big valves of nervous and mental power. Then, too, people often try to mask the petty handicap, which leads to further complication of the person- ality.
But he loathed the cane — he seemed to regard it as a public con- fession of weakness. He was forever trying to do without it; worse yet, he strove to walk without a limp The strain was terrible, he insisted that life was empty for a cripple; within two years he killed himself.
I reached two conclusions Many people are better off with grave handicaps than with trifling ones: the grave handicap releases copious energies, the trifling handicap seems to stir the person too feebly to open up the big valves of nervous and mental power Then, too, people often try to mask the petty handicap, which leads to further complication of the personality.
See the difference? In fact, without colons and semicolons no one could imitate spoken language in print As an example, listen to a little eye- witness account from a detective story by the British poet Cecil Day Lewis Nicholas Blake.
The blighter heard the sound and it gave him time to mp round the corner and be off; moved like a bleeding streak of light- ning, he did. If you want to, you can even go further and explore the frontiers of punctuation, so to speak new punctuation marks are always cropping up Here is one that seems to have a future: figures for enumeration Of course, figures have always been used in outlines and so on, but nowadays you can watch them becom- ing a punctuation mark proper.
Time is an inveterate numberer. But the Nazis did have the sense to install as their No 1 puppet a Slovak who commands a real following: a canny, bullet-headed nationalist and priest named Joseph Tiso. With political craft and German aid, Tiso has: 1 fed his countrymen relatively well; 2 provided state jobs; 3 promoted Slovaks m government service, 4 suppressed pro- Czechs, by deporting them or threatening to.
Now translate it into a sane economic argument by punctuating it up to the hilt. We won't have inflation because everything that will hap- pen to you will compel you to hold on to your money rather than spend it. In other words, most people think that some subjects are easy and some difficult and it hardly matters what language is used in explaining them. The principles of simple language are just as important, or maybe more so, in explaining, say, bio- chemistry, than they are for a news broadcast.
The only difference is this. When you use simple language for anything that is not scientific or technical, you can explain it to anybody, but when you simplify science, you will find that only part of it will be understandable to the layman, and another part, however simply stated, will be clear only to people who have some training in that branch of science.
Aiken of Harvard University developed a so-called mathematical robot, that is, an automatic calculator that can solve tremendous, otherwise insoluble mathematical problems. Now how can anybody explain this incredible machine to a layman?
It will give the layman an explanation he can understand, and usually that will be all he wants There is, of course, a third kind of explanation, a mathematical explanation of the machine for mathematicians. To understand exactly what IBM and Dr. How can the scientific yardstick formula of this book be explained?
The answer is exactly the same. Again, there are three levels of ex- planation, two for laymen, one for scientists only. First, there is the operation of the formula- that can be explained by the simple set of directions which you will find in the back of the book.
Second, there is the meaning of the formula, to explain that properly, I would have to go into the history of language simplifying, the relationship between language and understanding, the readability formulas that were developed by other researchers, the differences between those formulas and this one, and so on. Then I could dramatize the whole story and that would probably give most peo- ple all the explanation they want.
Here is an example I picked at random from a book on papermaking: In the event of there being more than one screen serving the machine as is usually the case it is necessary to watch carefully the operation of the screens with reference to the stock supplied them, and each valve should be opened or closed m proportion to the capacity of the screen it is feed- ing.
If there is any difference in the capacities of the screens, it is probably due to the cams or toe-blocks being worn, or some other thing affecting the oscillation of the diaphragm. Now obviously this is not very readable.
But what are the obstacles the reader has to face? Certainly not the technical terms; in fact, any reader interested m papermaking machines is apt to know what a cam or a toe-block is, and if not, will have no trouble finding out. If so, watch carefully how much stock goes through each. To keep the flow even, just open or close the valves. If you want to make the screens work evenly, look first for worn cams or toe-blocks. In other words, all writing of the operation-sheet type should address the reader directly, and should tell him step by step what to do.
Anybody who writes how-to-do prose should start off by reading a good cookbook; here, for instance, is a model paragraph from Fannie Farmer. Apple Pie Line pie plate with pastry. Pare, core, and cut apples in eighths, put row around plate Vi inch from edge, and work towards center until plate is covered, then pile on remainder. Mix sugar, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and grated rind, and sprinkle over apples.
Dot over with butter. Wet edges of undercrust, cover with upper crust, and press edges together. Prick several places with fork. Anybody can understand that, and anybody can understand any kind of technical directions that are written in the same style. When we come to the second level of scientific explanation, we find, oddly enough, that there is also one single standard formula.
The reason is simple: Since the meaning of any modem scientific fact can only be explained by the method of its discovery, and since the scientific method is the same in all branches of science, any such explanation will be the story of a scientist, or several scientists, going through the classic four stages of modem scientific method: observation, hypothesis, deduction, and experimental veri- fication. So this type of popularization will show how a scientist got curious about certain facts, thought up a theory to explain them, devised experiments to prove the theory, and finally tested it and found that it worked.
If two scientists working on the same prob- lem can be shown, so much the better: this will make the reader appreciate not only the scientific method, but also the fact that modern science is never a one-man affair. The story of penicillin begins m , when Dr. Alexander Fleming.
There was a fleck of green mold on the plate, and around this fleck was a halo of clear fluid Something was destroying the bac- terial A mold that had dropped m from the air was causing their sudden death on an unprecedented scale. Dr Fleming fished out the mold but research on it stood still for ten years. Then the sulfa drugs came along to reawaken interest in this field The sulfa drugs were amazing performers against some bacterial diseases, sorry failures against others.
Something better was needed. That green mold was poison to bac- teria on culture plates. Might it not also work in the bodies of men? Florey and his colleagues. They set to work at the tedious task of growing the green mold in earthen-ware flasks. When the mold had grown into a hard, rubbery mat the chemists took over.
Hidden some- where in the mold was a bacteria killer. By a slow process of elimination, the chemists discarded chemical components of the mold that had no antibacterial effect. In the end they turned up with the minutest pinch of a yellow-brown powdery stuff. This might be the bacteria mur- derer. The first trials of the yellow powder were run in test tubes. It appeared that as little as one part in million would slow the growth of bacteria!
This looked splendid. But there was still a big hurdle to overcome. The stuff somehow poisoned microbes. Might it not also poison men? Florey and his helpers. Then the mice were divided into two groups of 25 each. One group would get no further attention, the other would get penicillin.
Within 17 hours all the unprotected mice were dead. Hundreds of other mice trials followed, with similarly favor- able results. At last Florey was ready to carry his work from mice to men. But I hope you realize that it is a piece of what might be called science appreciation, not of scientific explanation.
It does not even have the chemical formula for penicillin in it. To explain science fully, as I said before, you will have to use a third level of explanation, and this is where the layman will never be able to keep up with you. Or, if you are unfortunate enough to be assigned to such an impossible job, you might add some sort of apology, the way Gove Hambidge did m the Yearbook of Agriculture. The editor would like to point out that to visualize even the more elementary aspects of atmospheric circulation over the earth is not easy, since you have to imagine that you are a mile or two up m the air, on your stomach with your head toward the North Pole, a clock nearby lying on its back so you can readily tell which is clockwise and which counter-clockwise rotation — also a mirror so you can see how everything would be reversed if you were m the Southern in- stead of the Northern Hemisphere, and you have to remem- ber constantly that a south wind is a northward-moving wind, an east wind a westward-moving wind, and vice versa.
Have a look at your prospective readers. Take your own private opinion poll on the questions and answers they have in their minds. Use the results: write for your readers and nobody else. Now collect your material. Get all the information you need; pay special attention to little things that will add color and human interest.
Look out for human touches like the fact that old Chris- topher Crusty, the founder of the firm, was laid up with poison ivy when the millionth Wondrous Widget rolled off the assembly line. Then, when you have all the stuff you need, stop for a while and do something else. Catch up with your correspondence or work on another assignment for a couple of days.
Give your un- conscious a chance. Once you have gotten that far, it will be easy to figure out what should come first and what last. There should be live people m your booklet. When you talk about the company, say we, when you talk about the employee, say you.
And now do something about your sentences and words. Short sentences are easy to write. Remember that compound sentences — those with ands and buts — are not so bad, go after the complex sentences. Look for the joints where the conjunctions are — if, because, as, and so on — and split your sentences up. If you feel this makes your style too choppy, change the punctuation. This is where you need help — devices, tricks, rules.
Here are a few: First of all, get yourself a dictionary of simple synonyms. If you pick synonyms out of Roget, you will poison your style in no time. You will find: encourage. My simple-word-finder comes in three parts — three lists of words. If you use these three lists conscientiously and fully, your style will soon lose its heaviness and begin to look like the girl in a Success School advertisement after.
This one works on the principle that the more natural and idiomatic English gets, the more it expresses ideas by auxiliary verbs. These training programs are designed to give the individual an oppor- tunity. Our advanced training programs are meant to give you the opportunity. Here is my list. Or think of sports and of line-up, strike-out, and touchdown. Or think of tryout and standin, walk-on and close-up, checkoff and sitdown.
Of course all kinds of verbs can be combined with all kinds of adverbs, but most important are a group of short Anglo-Saxon verbs that deal with movements of the human body. They are the most idiomatic words in the language; there is a theory that they are also the oldest — those all others stem from. Translating high-sounding abstractions into such words as set up or fall through is a fascinating game.
My list contains fifty verbs and twenty adverbs Not every verb can be combined with every adverb, of course; but what with different meanings in different contexts, the list covers about a thousand abstract ideas. So it really is a miniature Thorndike dictionary. Verbs Adverbs bear go slip about forth blow hang split across in break hold stand ahead off bring keep stay along on call lay stick apart out carry let strike around over cast look take aside through catch make talk away together come pick tear back under cut pull throw down up do push tie draw put touch drive run turn drop set walk fall shake wear get show work give skip This list will not only make your words simpler but will force you to streamline your sentences too.
Psychologists have used the ratio between adjectives and verbs for years to measure the force- fulness of writing; writing teachers have been preaching the gospel of the active verb ever since anybody can remember. The main trouble with most current writing is that it consists of nothing but nouns and adjectives, glued together with preposi- tions or with is, was, are, and were. The taxonomist is, therefore, primarily concerned with the measurement of variation in series of individuals which stand as representatives of the species in which he is interested.
It so happens that these four passages also contain excellent examples on two other points. One is the question of the preposi- tion at the end of the sentence. The preposition at the end is one of the glories of English prose. The truth is, of course, that the English language is capable of fusing a preposition and another word together whenever they are closely joined by the meaning of the sentence.
The word in, in the sentence from the Kinsey report, may be grammatically part of the phrase in which, but for the speaker of the sentence it is part of the ex- pression interested-in. He could thus be argued with, not muttered at or The average American has a fixed idea that liver and iron are substances he ought to be getting more of? The four passages on page 85 are also good examples for the difference between that and which.
There are eight whiches in those sentences — all of them misused. Now you will say that after ridiculing other grammatical rules I suddenly turn mto a stickler for the that-znd-which rule. But wait a minute. One of the reasons for this prefer- ence was probably that [which] reminded classical scholars of the corresponding Latin pronoun.
When Addison in the Spectator complains of the injury done recently to. Sure enough, Jespersen was right: the original versions sound more natural m every single case. Addison, however, was an exception. Usually writers, like the authors of the four examples I quoted, pepper their sentences with unnatural whiches right from the start. After reading all this, you will start which- hunting yourself, I hope.
You will find it a pleasant and rewarding indoor sport. The nerve block was not then considered news. Six years later, the popular magazines broke out into a rash of nerve-block articles. Rovenstme; two days later, Life pub- lished a four-page picture-story of his work.
Other magazines followed. Suddenly, the nerve block had become something every- body ought to know about. I came across this mystery when I was looking for a good example of what popularization does to language and style. The nerve-block articles are perfect specimens. On its way from the AM A. Journal to Life and The New Yorker , the new method of anesthesia underwent a complete change of coloring, tone, and style. A study of the three articles is a complete course in read- ability by itself.
On the following pages are excerpts from the three articles. You will notice the difference in word length without my pointing it up. Rovenstine, M. M Wertheim, MD. Journal of the American Medical Association , vol.
Rovenstine and E. Recently, he [Rovenstine] devoted a few minutes to relieving a free patient in Bellevue of a pain in an arm that had been cut off several years before. Journal Life New Yorker Average sentence length in words So it avoided words like analgesic and thrombophlebitis and otherwise presented the facts in more or less newspaper fashion Effect: The words in Life are 15 per cent shorter than those in the A.
Journal The sen- tences would be shorter too if Drs. The New Yorker began its popularization of the nerve block where Life left off. The nerve block has become an experience to the reader. This gives us a good clue to the baffling question of what readability means. Actually, to most people, readability means ease of reading plus interest. But if we want to find out something about any art or skill, we must analyze the work of leading per- formers, and then laboriously imitate their seemingly effortless performance.
How does it work? Your eyes look at printed symbols on paper and your mind thinks the thoughts of the person who wrote the words. How does this miracle happen? It is a miracle, all right. Scientists know pretty well what goes on m reading — up to a point; but when we have learned all about fixations, regressions, spans of recognition, and so on, the miracle is greater than ever.
If you think you just pick up the meanings of words one after the other, you are wrong. Language is not as simple as that. What you do is this: Your eyes move along the printed lines in rhythmic jumps. After each jump they rest for a short while, focus on a word or two, and move on.
From time to time, when you uncon- sciously feel the need of checking back, your eyes move back. All this at the rate of about words a minute if you are an average person reading average writing — with your eyes taking about one-third of a second to do their work between movements. And in this third of a second, they take in, on the average, more than one word.
Words get their meanings from the context — from the sentence they are in, or even the whole paragraph. Reading is really a miracle: Your eyes pick up groups of words in split-second time and your mind keeps these words in delicate balance until it gets around to a point where they make sense. Take the first sentence of this chapter, for instance.
You waited with your decision until you had read a little more. Now at last you were reasonably sure of what each word meant in this sentence.
Books Video icon An illustration of two photographs. How to write, speak, and think more effectively Item Preview. Want to read from dpdbs of two cells of a. Images Donate icon An illustration think more effectivelyNew Ellipses icon An illustration of. Buy this book Better World of a heart shape Donate using these links the Internet text ellipses. Software Images icon An illustration. How to write, speak, and Reading List from Domread. How to write, speak, and. Advanced embedding details, examples, and. Series A Signet book.How To Write, Speak, And Think More. Effectively. 2/ Downloaded from www1.dafyn.lifemataz.com on May. 13, by guest. [Books] How To Write. How to Write, Speak and Think More Effectively [Flesch, Rudolf] on dafyn.lifemataz.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. How to Write, Speak and Think More. The title may be slightly misleading: Flesch emphasizes effective writing, offers some good tips on effective thinking, and skips the speaking thing.