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Some American writers use the preposition of,' instead of at, after the verb to smell ;' thus, “ He smelt of hartshorn," instead of “He smelt,” or “inhaled hartshorn,”
Sir Archibald Alison says, “ They were not long of doing," &c. (This is a Scotticism; the of is redundant.)
The prepositions except' and without' should never be followed by a proposition.
It is not uncommon to meet with such phrases as, “Except a different arrangement be made," or, “ Without something should happen to prevent it." These are incorrect forms, and their use should be carefully avoided. For these prepositions the writer should substitute the conjunction unless.'
An offence against propriety of style frequently appears in the form of common-place expressions, or vulgarisms. Such phrases or words as are either not expressive of the ideas the writer intends to convey, or do not convey them fully, are also open to criticism on the same grounds. In the following sentences we find examples of this fault : 16. These circumstances might choke the faith of a philosopher.” “The kings
“ of Syria and Egypt worried each other."
“Every year, a new flower beats all the old ones.” sage in a Greek or Latin author which is not blown upon.” “After having surveyed this mass of mortality, as it were, in the lump.” “ He therefore made (composed ?) tragedies." “ The critics have made (written?) dissertations." “A few reflections will
66 A pas.
help us to make (form ?) a true judgment.” “They hoisted the poor bewildered wretch on to a horse,” &c.
OBSCURITY FROM ELLIPSIS.
Obscurity may arise from many other causes besides those already mentioned; and, firstly, from some defect in the expression. Ellipsis, or the omission of certain words, occurs in all languages. This occasionally gives rise to obscurity, and in all such cases the ellipsis is not allowable. For example : “ To do that is righteous in thy sight.” “We speak that we do know.” This form of expression is now obsolete; we must say, "To do that which is righteous," &c. “We
. speak that which we know,” or “what we know," &c.
One form of ellipsis, of very frequent occurrence with young people, ought to be most studiously avoided, viz., the ellipsis of the infinitive mood, as in the following example: "Have you written your exercise? No; but I am going to.” (!!) In such cases the whole form of the infinitive should be always expressed.
Secondly, either an affectation of conciseness, or the rapidity of thought natural to some writers, will occasionally produce more serious defects of expression. For example, “I have a deep sense of your kind action.” • Sense' here means an inward feeling; and we cannot feel an action. It should be, “I have a deep sense of the kindness of your action.” Again : “You ought to contemn all the wit in the world against you.” It should be, all the wit in the world that is directed against you.' “A savage is a happier state of life than a slave at the oar.” Things are here brought together which are incongruous. We may compare a savage
with a slave ; but neither the one nor the other can be compared with a state of life. The sentence may be thus corrected : - The state of life of a savage is far happier than that of a slave at the oar.” “This courage among the adversaries of the court was inspired into them by various incidents, for every one of which, I think, the ministers, or, if that was the case, the minister alone, is to answer.” If what was the case ? There is nothing here to which we can refer the pronoun that;' and we are left to guess that the writer meant “if there was but one minister.'
OBSCURITY FROM WRONG ARRANGEMENT. A wrong arrangement is another source of obscurity. Here we imagine, on a first perusal, that the sentence has one meaning; and we find, on a second, that it has another. For example: “It contained
“ a warrant for conducting me and my retinue to Traldragdubb, or Trildrogdrib, for it is pronounced both ways, as near as I can remember, by a party of ten horse.” The words in italics should come immediately after the noun 'retinue. “I had several patients died in that hospital of fever." Here it should be observed that the pronoun 'who' must be placed before the verb, and that of fever' must immediately follow the verb ‘died;' thus: “I had several patients who died of fever in that hospital.” “I perceived that it had been scoured with half an eye.” Here, firstly, with half an eye' is a vulgarism; secondly, could anything be scoured with half an eye? or, did he perceive it with half an eye? “I have hopes that when Will confronts him, and all the ladies
on whose behalf he engages him cast kind looks and wishes at their champion, he will have some chance." Here, all the ladies,' &c., seems at first to be governed by the verb 'confronts,' but we afterwards find that this expression is the subject of the verb
cast.' Insert the adverb 'when' before all the ladies,' and the ambiguity vanishes. The following sentence is open to a similar exception : “ He advanced against the fierce ancient, imitating his address, his pace, and career, as well as the vigour of his horse and his own skill would allow.” This obscurity may be cleared up by substituting "as far as' for 'as well as,' &c. “ Diocletian passed the nine last years of his life in a private condition.” (It should be, 'the last nine years;' there could not have been more than one last year.) 66 Of the twelve Cæsars, three alone died natural deaths.” (It should be, only three.')
OBSCURITY FROM USING THE SAME WORD TOO FRE
QUENTLY, OR IN DIFFERENT SENSES.
In the same sentence, we should not repeat a word too frequently, as in the following: “It is of great consequence that we pay the greatest attention to such matters; for they contribute to our welfare in a much greater measure than we generally imagine.” In this sentence we have the three degrees of the adjective, great, greater, greatest. The writer might have said, “It is of the utmost importance that we pay the strictest attention,” &c.
This repetition occurs most frequently with pronouns, where it is a fertile source of obscurity; for
example: "He promised his friend to send him his book.” Whose book?-his own, or his friend's? Again: “One may have an air which proceeds from a just sufficiency and knowledge of the matter before him, which may naturally produce some motions of his head and body which might become the bench better than the bar.”
A word should never be repeated in the same sentence in different meanings; as, “Gregory favoured the undertaking for no other reason than this, that the manager favoured his friend." (Say, resembled his friend.) “They held the doctrine that it is not wrong to hold possession of ill-gotten goods, but that the fault lies in allowing ourselves to be detected.” (Say, retain possession, &c.) “ Any reasons of doubt which he might have in this case, would have been reasons of doubt in the case of other men, who may give more, but cannot give more evident signs of thought
their fellow-creatures.” Here, 'more'is first an adjective, and then the sign of the comparative. The sentence should stand, who may give more numerous, but cannot give more evident, signs,' &c.
“ The sharks who prey upon the inadvertency of young heirs, are more pardonable than those who trespass upon the good fortune of those who treat them upon the footing of choice and respect.” (The repetition of who in these three different senses is the source of much confusion and obscurity.)
The pronoun they,' when repeated, often causes much ambiguity ; as, They were persons of such moderate intellects, even before they were impaired by passion.” A similar obscurity is produced by the frequent repetition of the pronoun “it.'