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Rules for Correct Writing

Rules for Correct Writing

More than a century ago the great Scotch rhetorician Campbell framed five canons or rules for correct writing. They have never been improved. They should be learned by heart, thoroughly mastered, and constantly practiced by every writer and speaker. They are as follows:

Canon 1.—When, of two words or phrases in equally good use, one is susceptible of two significations and the other of but one, preference should be given to the latter: e. g., admittance is better than admission, as the latter word also means confession; relative is to be preferred to relation, as the latter also means the telling of a story.

Canon 2.—In doubtful cases regard should be given to the analogy of the language; might better should be preferred to had better, and would rather is better than had rather.

Canon 3.—The simpler and briefer form should be preferred, other things being equal, e. g., omit the bracketed words in expressions such as, open (up), meet (together), follow (after), examine (into), trace (out), bridge (over), crave (for), etc.

<a name="Page_21">[Pg 21]Canon 4.—Between two forms of expression in equally good use, prefer the one which is more euphonious: e. g., most beautiful is better than beautifullest, and more free is to be preferred to freer.

Canon 5.—In cases not covered by the four preceding canons, prefer that which conforms to the older usage: e. g., begin is better than commence.