《英文寫作聖經》:英文寫作的基本原則(2)

作者: William Strunk Jr.   譯者: 陳湘陽

(圖/野人出版提供)

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規則: 使用主動語態。

 

主動語態通常比被動語態更自然有力,例如:

I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.
我會永遠記得生平第一趟波士頓之旅。

寫成被動則是:

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
生平第一趟波士頓之旅會永遠被我記得。

第二個句子顯得迂迴、無力而冗長。若想讓句子更簡潔而把 by me 去掉,寫成My first visit to Boston will always be remembered. 我生平第一趟波士頓之旅會永遠被銘記在心。

則會顯得語意不清:是作者本人、某個未知的人物,還是世上的眾人都會記得那趟旅程呢?

當然這並不表示寫作時要完全捨棄被動語態;它仍相當實用,且某些狀況下必須使用被動。

The dramatists of the Restoration are little esteemed to-day.
復辟時期的劇作家如今鮮少受人尊敬。

Modern readers have little esteem or the dramatist of the Restoration.
現在的讀者甚少尊敬復辟時期的劇作家。

第一個句子應該會出現在以復辟時期劇作家為主題的段落中,第二個句子則會出現在描述現代人閱讀品味的段落中。如例句所示,主詞的選擇便會決定語態的使用。

此外,不要堆疊被動語態。

(×) Gold was not allowed to be exported.
(○)It was forbidden to export gold.
(○)The export of gold was prohibited.
當時不允許進口黃金。

(×)He has been proved to have been seen entering the building.
(○)It has been proved that he was seen to enter the building.
有人看見他進入建築物一事已被證實。

在兩個未修改的句子中,gold 和he 原本應與第二個被動動詞export 和see 相關,卻被當作第一個被動動詞allow 和prove 的主詞。

另一個常見錯誤則是將原本敘述動作的字詞(如下列第一句中的survey)當作被動語態的主詞,使得後頭必須搪塞毫無意義的動詞❶。

(×)A survey of this region was made in 1900.
(○)The region was surveyed in 1900.
曾有人在1900 年調查這個區域。

(×) Mobilization of the army was rapidly effected.
(○)The army was rapidly mobilized.
軍隊迅速地動員。

(×) Confirmation of these reports cannot be obtained.
(○)These reports cannot be confirmed.
這些報導的虛實無法確認。

學習小提醒❶
第一句的made、第二句的e ected、第三句的obtained 是毫無意義的動詞,這些字詞除了完成句子外,沒有其他功能。

* * *

英文原文:

RULE10 Use the active voice.

The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:

I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.

This is much better than

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.

The latter sentence is less direct, less bold, and less concise. If the writer tries to make it more concise by omitting “by me,”

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered.

it becomes indefinite: is it the writer, or some person undisclosed, or the world at large, that will always remember this visit?

This rule does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.

The dramatists of the Restoration are little esteemed to-day.Modern readers have little esteem for the dramatists of the Restoration.

The first would be the right form in a paragraph on the dramatists of the Restoration; the second, in a paragraph on the tastes of modern readers. The need of making a particular word the subject of the sentence will often, as in these examples, determine which voice is to be used.

As a rule, avoid making one passive depend directly upon another.

(×)Gold was not allowed to be exported.
(○)It was forbidden to export gold.
(○)The export of gold was prohibited.

(×)He has been proved to have been seen entering the building.
(○)It has been proved that he was seen to enter the building.

In both the examples above, before correction, the word properly related to the second passive is made the subject of the first.

A common fault is to use as the subject of a passive construction a noun which expresses the entire action, leaving to the verb no function beyond that of completing the sentence.

(×)A survey of this region was made in 1900.
(○)This region was surveyed in 1900.

(×)Mobilization of the army was rapidly effected.
(○)The army was rapidly mobilized.

(×)Confirmation of these reports cannot be obtained.
(○)These reports cannot be confirmed.

 

─ ─摘自:《英文寫作聖經《The Elements of Style》》野人出版提供@

責任編輯:黎薇

 

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  • 本原則的目的同樣是幫助讀者閱讀,這種寫作方式能讓讀者在開始閱讀每個段落時,就掌握該段落的目的,且直到段落結束時都銘記在心。因此,在闡釋或議論時最常使用的段落結構為:
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