Clearness requires that the various parts of the sentence should be so carefully arranged as to make the meaning unmistakable. Observe a watchmaker at work. How carefully he places each tiny piece in its proper place, and how exact he makes every detail of his work. Before the watch will run and keep accurate time, every part must be rightly arranged in relation to the whole.
The watch will run and keep correct time only when its parts are perfectly adjusted. In precisely the same way, the sentence can do its work best only when each part is in its proper position. In order that you may correctly arrange the details of a sentence, you should keep in mind the following principles :
1. Every modifier — word, phrase, or clause — should be so placed that it will qualify or be properly related to the word intended. For example, do not say, “I only deducted two per cent.” Say, “I deducted only two per cent.”
2. Every pronoun should refer unmistakably to the noun or pronoun for which it stands. It is incorrect to say, “Mr. Field told his father he would succeed.” We do not know whether the pronoun refers to Mr. Field or his father. Similarly, it is incorrect to say, “The books and tablets were received three days after we received the pencils. This was on January 15.” It is better to say, “The books and tablets were received January 15, and the lead pencils January 12” (or January 18 and January 15, according to the meaning).
3. A summarizing word or expression — such as these, all these, 147 148 ACTUAL BUSINESS ENGLISH these and many more, etc. — should be used to collect the parts of a long subject — thus: To act as trustee of property left with it as guardian of minors; to act as agent in the management of real property; to act as receiver for defunct concerns of all kinds and those needing reorganization; to act as depository for trust funds, securities, and other personal property these are among the various powers granted to trust companies. Clearness also requires accuracy of statement.
For example, note the following: “There were 12 doz. shoe boxes in each of the 20 cases, and half of them were broken.” As the statement stands, you cannot determine whether 10 of the cases were broken or 120 dozen of the boxes. It is better to state the sentence as follows: ” There were 20 cases each containing 12 dozen shoe boxes. Ten of the cases were broken.” In order to secure clearness in the sentence, the following rules should be carefully applied: Rule I. Adjectives and adverbs should he so placed that there can he no doubt as to what they modify.
It is incorrect to say —
1. One pair of black ladies’ stockings.
2. Our tailored babies’ coats.
3. Special sale of hlackcalf boys’ school shoes.
4. I only asked five dollars for the hat.
5. We nearly sold all the stock at a premium.
6. Every box was not broken. Note the gain in clearness when the modifiers are rearranged:
1. One pair of ladies’ black stockings.
2. Our babies’ tailored coats.
3. Special sale of boys’ blackcalf school shoes.
4. I asked only five dollars for the hat.
5. We sold nearly all the stock at a premium.
6. Not every box was broken.
Like adjectives and adverbs, phrases and clauses should be so placed thai they will modify the word intended. In the following sentences, the phrases and clauses are misplaced:
1. Your order was received Saturday /or two Victrolas.
2. I saw a man wrapping bundles with a Roman nose.
3. We are sending you a statement amounting to $250 of your account.
4. Wanted: A horse for an old man that is well broken.
5. The stoves came yesterday in good condition that I ordered. The same sentences, when correctly arranged, gain much in clearness:
1. Your order for two Victrolas was received Saturday.
2. I saw a man with a Roman nose wrapping bundles.
3. We are sending you a statement of your account which amounts to $250.
4. Wanted: A horse that is well broken for an old man.
5. The stoves / ordered came yesterday in good condition.
There should be a definitely expressed noun or pronoun for euery participle or participial phrase to modify, and a participial modifier should be placed as near as possible to the word it modifies. The following are incorrectly written:
1. Knowing your needs, hundreds of fall raincoats have been placed on sale.
2. Having secured a money order, the bill was paid by me.
3. Walking into the office, a telegram was seen by the manager.
Note carefully the changes necessary to make the meaning clear:
1. Knowing your needs, we have placed hundreds of fall raincoats on sale.
2. Having secured a money order, I paid the bill.
3. Walking into the office, the manager saw a telegram.
A sentence should he so constructed that the word to which a pronoun refers will he easily discoverable. The following sentences illustrate errors of this kind:
1. Mr. Lee’s father entered the hardware business when he was quite young.
2. In the letter it says the goods were damaged.
3. We are interested in your gasoline-feed system, but it would not be worth our while considering it unless it is protected by patent.
Note the gain in clearness when the reference of each pronoun is made definite:
1. When Mr. Lee was quite young, his father entered the hardware business.
2. The letter says that the goods were damaged.
3. We are interested in your gasoline-feed system, but would not consider it unless the device were protected by patent.
When the suhject of a sentence is long and contains a series of words, phrases, or clauses, both clearness and force may he obtained by the use of a summarizing word thus: Government bonds, or those issued by the Federal Government; state and municipal bonds, or those issued by states, counties, school districts, cities, and villages; railroad bonds; public utility bonds, or those issued by street railways, water, gas, I and electric companies; industrial bonds, the issues of companies engaged in commercial and industrial enterprises these are the different classes of bonds.
Clearness requires accuracy of statement. The following sentences contain inaccuracies:
1. The enclosed statement amounting to $250 and showing a balance on your account down to date is now due.
2. The shipment of June 7 was for December shipment. In the first of the foregoing, one should not speak of a statement as amounting to a certain sum because the sum referred to is evidently the balance due; and, in the second, the statement is so inaccurate as to make it a puzzle. Note how each may be improved:
1. The enclosed statement of your account shows a balance of $250, which is now due.
2. The goods sent you June 7 were originally intended for December shipment.
Whenever possible use simple words, but use technical words if necessary.
The following sentences contain expressions for which technical terms should be used:
1. Please send me two packages of Examination Paper.
2. We shipped you a box of shoes on Feb.
4. Note the improvement in them when technical terms are substituted:
1. Please send me two reams of Examination Paper.
2. We shipped you a case of shoes on Feb. 4.