《英文写作圣经》:英文写作的基本原则(3)

作者: William Strunk Jr.  译者: 陈湘阳

(图/野人出版提供)

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规则: 尽量使用肯定句。

 

提出论点时语意要明确,避免使用平淡无力、模棱两可的字词。Not 应该只用在表达否定或对比修辞时,不要用来规避正面论述,例如:

(×) The Taming of the Shrew is rather weak in spots. Shakespeare does not portray Katharine as a very admirable character, nor does Bianca remain long in memory as an important character in Shakespeare’s works.

(○) The women in The Taming of the Shrew are unattractive. Katharine is disagreeable, Bianca insignificant.
《驯悍记》中的女性角色缺乏魅力,凯瑟琳不甚讨喜,毕安卡更无足轻重。

(×) He did not think that studying Latin was much use.
(○) He thought the study of Latin useless.
他觉得研究拉丁文没什么用。

(×)He was not very often on time.
(○)He usually came late.
他常常迟到。

在第一个例子中,第一个句子不仅语意不明确,还带给读者负面的感受;修正后的版本能简洁明确地猜测作者的意图。

上述三个例子都说明了not 这个词的弱点,不管在何种情况下,读者读到“A 不是B”时都不会满意;他们想知道“A 是什么”。因此请谨记在心,表达否定语意时,使用肯定句仍是个较好的选择,例如:

not honest → dishonest  不诚实
not important → trifling  琐碎的
did not remember → forgot  忘记
did not pay any attention to → ignored  忽略
did not have much confidence in → distrusted  不信任

将否定句和肯定句并置(对比修辞)通常强而有力:

Not charity, but simple jusetice.
这不是救济,而是简单的正义。
Not that I loved Caesar less, but Rome the more.
我爱凯撒,更爱罗马。

除not之外的否定词语气通常也较强,例如:
The sun never sets upon the British flag.
大不列颠,日不落国。

* * *

英文原文:
RULE11 Put statements in positive form.

Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. Use the word not as a means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion.

(×)The Taming of the Shrew is rather weak in spots. Shakespeare does not portray Katharine as a very admirable character, nor does Bianca remain long in memory as an important character in Shakespeare’s works.

(○)The women in The Taming of the Shrew are unattractive. Katharine is disagreeable, Bianca insignificant.

(×)He did not think that studying Latin was much use.
(○)He thought the study of Latin useless.

(×)He was not very often on time.
(○)He usually came late.

The first example, before correction, is indefinite as well as negative. The corrected version, consequently, is simply a guess at the writer’s intention.

All three examples show the weakness inherent in the word not. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not; he wishes to be told what is. Hence, as a rule, it is better to express even a negative in positive form.

not honest → dishonest
not important → trifling
did not remember → forgot
did not pay any attention to → ignored
did not have much confidence in → distrusted

The antithesis of negative and positive is strong:
Not charity, but simple jusetice.
Not that I loved Caesar less, but Rome the more.

Negative words other than not are usually strong:
The sun never sets upon the British flag.

─ ─摘自:《英文写作圣经《The Elements of Style》》野人出版提供@

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