《英文寫作聖經》:英文寫作的基本原則(3)

作者: William Strunk Jr.  譯者: 陳湘陽

(圖/野人出版提供)

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規則: 盡量使用肯定句。

 

提出論點時語意要明確,避免使用平淡無力、模稜兩可的字詞。Not 應該只用在表達否定或對比修辭時,不要用來規避正面論述,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.
《馴悍記》中的女性角色缺乏魅力,凱瑟琳不甚討喜,畢安卡更無足輕重。

(×) He did not think that studying Latin was much use.
(○) He thought the study of Latin useless.
他覺得研究拉丁文沒什麼用。

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

在第一個例子中,第一個句子不僅語意不明確,還帶給讀者負面的感受;修正後的版本能簡潔明確地猜測作者的意圖。

上述三個例子都說明了not 這個詞的弱點,不管在何種情況下,讀者讀到「A 不是B」時都不會滿意;他們想知道「A 是什麼」。因此請謹記在心,表達否定語意時,使用肯定句仍是個較好的選擇,例如:

not honest → dishonest  不誠實
not important → trifling  瑣碎的
did not remember → forgot  忘記
did not pay any attention to → ignored  忽略
did not have much confidence in → distrusted  不信任

將否定句和肯定句並置(對比修辭)通常強而有力:

Not charity, but simple jusetice.
這不是救濟,而是簡單的正義。
Not that I loved Caesar less, but Rome the more.
我愛凱撒,更愛羅馬。

除not之外的否定詞語氣通常也較強,例如:
The sun never sets upon the British flag.
大不列顛,日不落國。

* * *

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

責任編輯:黎薇

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