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.