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Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Joseph Williams, in Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, points out that you shouldn't have too many extra words or clauses before introducing the subject of the sentence. I had never really thought about this, but coincidentally I was reading prose by someone who frequently "front-loaded" sentences in just this way, to frustrating effect. The reader of English prose wants to get to the subject fast. "Nevertheless, wiith the support of the church, and despite the opposition of landowners who felt their interests threatened, agrarian refrom..." In this, my made-up example, you don't know what the church is supporting, what the topic of the sentence actually is, but you have to keep several elements in mind before you even know what the sentence is talking about.

Williams's book is a sensible one. I don't like everything about it, but I feel I can learn from any book of this kind, no matter how basic.


Vance Maverick said...

This is reasonable, if we mentally translate the proscription into a description. Front-loading is a specific effect, and while it's not always appropriate, it's sometimes just what you want.

Jonathan said...

Sure, if it's what you want, that's fine. 90% of the time this is not what you want, but a result of mere incompetence.