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Past Perfect Tense
Different Kinds Arrangement of Words - Paragraph
There are two great classes of sentences according to the general
principles upon which they are founded. These are termed the loose and
In the loose sentence the main idea is put first, and then follow
several facts in connection with it. Defoe is an author particularly
noted for this kind of sentence. He starts out with a leading declaration
to which he adds several attendant connections. For instance in the
opening of the story of Robinson Crusoe we read: "I was born in the
year 1632 in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that
country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at
Hull; he got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade
lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose
relations were named Robinson, a very good family in the country and from
I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in
England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name
Crusoe, and so my companions always called me,"
In the periodic sentence the main idea comes last and is preceded by a
series of relative introductions. This kind of sentence is often
introduced by such words as that, if, since, because. The
following is an example:
"That through his own folly and lack of circumspection he should have
been reduced to such circumstances as to be forced to become a beggar on
the streets, soliciting alms from those who had formerly been the
recipients of his bounty, was a sore humiliation."
On account of its name many are liable to think the loose sentence an
undesirable form in good composition, but this should not be taken for
granted. In many cases it is preferable to the periodic form.
As a general rule in speaking, as opposed to writing, the loose form is
to be preferred, inasmuch as when the periodic is employed in discourse
the listeners are apt to forget the introductory clauses before the final
issue is reached.
Both kinds are freely used in composition, but in speaking, the loose,
which makes the direct statement at the beginning, should predominate.
As to the length of sentences much depends on the nature of the
However the general rule may be laid down that short sentences are
preferable to long ones. The tendency of the best writers of the present
day is towards short, snappy, pithy sentences which rivet the attention of
the reader. They adopt as their motto multum in parvo (much in little)
and endeavor to pack a great deal in small space. Of course the extreme of
brevity is to be avoided. Sentences can be too short, too jerky, too
brittle to withstand the test of criticism. The long sentence has its place
and a very important one. It is indispensable in argument and often is very
necessary to description and also in introducing general principles which
require elaboration. In employing the long sentence the inexperienced
writer should not strain after the heavy, ponderous type. Johnson and
Carlyle used such a type, but remember, an ordinary mortal cannot wield the
sledge hammer of a giant. Johnson and Carlyle were intellectual giants and
few can hope to stand on the same literary pedestal. The tyro in
composition should never seek after the heavy style. The best of all
authors in the English language for style is Addison. Macaulay says: "If
you wish a style learned, but not pedantic, elegant but not ostentatious,
simple yet refined, you must give your days and nights to the volumes of
Joseph Addison." The simplicity, apart from the beauty of Addison's
writings causes us to reiterate the literary command--"Never use a big word
when a little one will convey the same or a similar meaning."
Macaulay himself is an elegant stylist to imitate. He is like a clear
brook kissed by the noon-day sun in the shining bed of which you can see
and count the beautiful white pebbles. Goldsmith is another writer whose
simplicity of style charms.
The beginner should study these writers, make their works his vade mecum,
they have stood the test of time and there has been no improvement upon
them yet, nor is there likely to be, for their writing is as perfect as
it is possible to be in the English language.
Apart from their grammatical construction there can be no fixed rules for
the formation of sentences. The best plan is to follow the best authors
and these masters of language will guide you safely along the way.
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