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And then sat down to rest, as if to say,
We come now to what is more strictly called the quality of unity in the language. While the preceding qualities are essential to it, the very structure of the thought and the language must enforce unity.
Unity of Sentence Structure. — This is required to economize the interpreting activity of the imagination and judgment. Every sentence expresses but one object of thought. About this object all the words are organized. The sentence is an organic unit, and should be so arranged as to bring the mind readily and correctly to the organizing idea. Unity is that quality of the sentence by which the central idea is kept obvious while the elements of the thought are being presented one by one. Either the loose or the periodic sentence may have this quality, but the periodic sentence is the more conducive to it. Unity is also more readily secured in short sentences than in long ones. In fact, the chief objection to the long sentence. is the difficulty of arranging its parts so as to keep the leading idea before the mind. But whatever the length or the kind, there can be no compromise in the matter of unity. “Some one object must reign and be prominent.” It may consist of parts indeed; but those parts must be so closely bound together as to make the impression of one object on the mind, not of many.
Distinctness of conception is the prime condition to unity of thought. If the composer, having decided what one idea the sentence is to exist for, holds clearly. and organically the elements of the complex idea which he wishes to express, he will unconsciously obey the law of unity. That confusion and unsteadiness of mind which mingle ideas having little connection, and which turn to a new subject by every idea suggested, will necessarily confuse the reader by incoherency of ideas in the sentence.
Lack of unity in thought appears in two forms: (1) the change of subject or scene in the course of a compound sentence; (2) the crowding of things which have little connection into one sentence.
1. The mind should not be hurried by sudden transitions from subject to subject, as in the following:
“ After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was welcomed by my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness.”
Here there are four subjects: we, I, they, who. While the objects themselves are closely enough related in the matter under discussion, yet in shifting the subject of thought from one to another, the connection is almost lost. The difficulty would have been avoided had it been written thus:
“ After we came to anchor I was put on shore, where I was welcomed by all my friends, and received with great kindness."
2. Ideas which have little connection should never be confused and crowded into one sentence. Such often arises from an effort to express as much as pos
sible in a single statement. But although they be short, clearness requires separate statements for disconnected ideas, rather than to have them condensed into one overloaded and embarrassed sentence. The following used by Blair illustrates the nature of this error :
“ Archbishop Tillotson died in this year. He was exceedingly beloved both by King William and Queen Mary, who nominated Dr. Tennison, Bishop of Lincoln, to succeed him.”
The last part of this sentence would not have been expected from the first. In the first part, the mind is resting in the love of King William and Queen Mary for Tillotson, and expects other matter connected with this love; but it is abruptly turned to an event wholly disconnected.
of the use of parentheses in the middle of sentences. Such expressions often indicate a lack of art on the part of the writer. He has a thought which he does not know how to dispose of. Not having skill to organize it in the line of thought, he drops it in the midst of a statement, with the certain effect of diverting the attention from the main subject. In some cases parentheses may be unavoidable; but the writer should beware of them.
The footnote is only less objectionable than the parentheses because it is easier skipped by the reader. “ Such excrescences,” says D. J. Hill, “are omnipresent reminders of the limitations of language as a medium of expression. Just in proportion as an author allows this sign of weakness to exhibit itself, in that proportion he confesses his own insufficiency or that of his medium. Yet insufficiency is likely to show itself somewhere. He who always writes short sentences, and puts his whole thought into them, must take a very short sweep of view. He who writes long ones must tax the interpreting power of his readers. He who constantly lets his thoughts overflow his sentences and drip down into footnotes virtually abandons an artistic solution of the great problem of style for a coarse expedient.”
Point out the nature of the error in the following, and reconstruct so as to give unity :
1. “In this uneasy state, both of public and private life, Cicero was oppressed by a new and cruel affliction, the death of his beloved daughter Tullia; which happened soon after her divorce from Dollabella; whose manners and humors were entirely disagreeable to her.”
2. “In summer reindeer feed on various kinds of plants, and seek the highest hill to avoid the gadfly, which at that period deposits its eggs in their skins, from which cause many of them die."
3. “The march of the Greeks was through an uncultivated country, whose savage inhabitants fared hardly, having no other riches than a breed of lean sheep, whose filesh was rank and unsavory, by reason of their continual feeding on seafish."
4. “ The Britons, daily harassed by the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their defense, who, after having repelled the invaders, turned their arms against the Britons themselves, drove them into the most remote and mountainous parts of the kingdom, and reduced the greater part of the island under their dominion, so that in the course of a century and a half the country became almost wholly Saxon in customs, religion, and language.”
5. “At last the coach stopped, and the driver, opening the door, told us to get out; which we did, and found ourselves in
front of a large tavern, whose bright and ruddy windows told of the blazing fires within; which, together with the kind welcome of the hostess, and the bounteous supper that smoked upon the board, soon made us forget the hardships of the long, cold ride.”
6. “ The quicksilver mines of Indria, in Austria (which were discovered in 1797, by a peasant, who, catching some water from a spring, found the tub so heavy that he could not move it, and the bottom covered with a shining substance which turned out to be mercury), yield, every year, over three hundred thousand pounds of this valuable metal.”
Unity of ideas avails little without unity of sentence structure to indicate the relation of the ideas. The sentence, in expressing a thought, must express the relation of the ideas which constitute the thought. When the thought has unity, as above stated, and the sentence is so constructed as to express that unity, the sentence itself is said to have that quality. In one sense this quality may be called precision — the exact fit of the words to the thought.
The relation of ideas in the thought is indicated in four ways: (1) by the position of words in the sentence; (2) by relative words; (3) by grammatical inflection; (4) by punctuation.
Therefore, unity is secured by the correct placing of words, the correct use of relative words, correct syntax, and correct punctuation. Thus we arrive at the question of correctness in its relation to effectiveness — at the point of dependence of Rhetoric upon Grammar. Accordingly, this matter should be referred to Grammar for treatment. There is, however, a phase of “I” and “2” that falls to Rhetoric, because the questions that arise are answered by the law of clearness which