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Rules for the Use and Arrangement of Words

Rules for the Use and Arrangement of Words

The following rules for the use and arrangement of words will be found helpful in securing clearness and force.

1. Use words in their proper sense.

2. Avoid useless circumlocution and "fine writing."

3. Avoid exaggerations.

4. Be careful in the use of not ... and, any, but, only, not ... or, that.

5. Be careful in the use of ambiguous words, e. g., certain.

6. Be careful in the use of he, it, they, these, etc.

7. Report a speech in the first person where necessary to avoid ambiguity.

8. Use the third person where the exact words of the speaker are not intended to be given.

<a name="Page_23">[Pg 23]9. When you use a participle implying when, while, though, or that, show clearly by the context what is implied.

10. When using the relative pronoun, use who or which, if the meaning is and he or and it, for he or for it.

11. Do not use and which for which.

12. Repeat the antecedent before the relative where the non-repetition causes any ambiguity.

13. Use particular for general terms. Avoid abstract nouns.

14. Avoid verbal nouns where verbs can be used.

15. Use particular persons instead of a class.

16. Do not confuse metaphor.

17. Do not mix metaphor with literal statement.

18. Do not use poetic metaphor to illustrate a prosaic subject.

19. Emphatic words must stand in emphatic positions; i. e., for the most part, at the beginning or the end of the sentence.

20. Unemphatic words must, as a rule, be kept from the end.

21. The Subject, if unusually emphatic, should often be transferred from the beginning of the sentence.

22. The object is sometimes placed before the verb for emphasis.

23. Where several words are emphatic make it clear which is the most emphatic. Emphasis can sometimes be given by adding an epithet, or an intensifying word.

24. Words should be as near as possible to the words with which they are grammatically connected.

25. Adverbs should be placed next to the words they are intended to qualify.

26. Only; the strict rule is that only should be placed before the word it affects.

27. When not only precedes but also see that each is followed by the same part of speech.

28. At least, always, and other adverbial adjuncts sometimes produce ambiguity.

29. Nouns should be placed near the nouns that they define.

<a name="Page_24">[Pg 24]30. Pronouns should follow the nouns to which they refer without the intervention of any other noun.

31. Clauses that are grammatically connected should be kept as close together as possible. Avoid parentheses.

32. In conditional sentences the antecedent or "if-clauses" must be kept distinct from the consequent clauses.

33. Dependent clauses preceded by that should be kept distinct from those that are independent.

34. Where there are several infinitives those that are dependent on the same word must be kept distinct from those that are not.

35. In a sentence with if, when, though, etc. put the "if-clause" first.

36. Repeat the subject where its omission would cause obscurity or ambiguity.

37. Repeat a preposition after an intervening conjunction especially if a verb and an object also intervene.

38. Repeat conjunctions, auxiliary verbs, and pronominal adjectives.

39. Repeat verbs after the conjunctions than, as, etc.

40. Repeat the subject, or some other emphatic word, or a summary of what has been said, if the sentence is so long that it is difficult to keep the thread of meaning unbroken.

41. Clearness is increased when the beginning of the sentence prepares the way for the middle and the middle for the end, the whole forming a kind of ascent. This ascent is called "climax."

42. When the thought is expected to ascend but descends, feebleness, and sometimes confusion, is the result. The descent is called "bathos."

43. A new construction should not be introduced unexpectedly.