Monosyllabic/polysyllabic
Posted: 12 May 2019 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was listening to a speech on writing by Steven Pinker. He informed his listeners that one of the classic guidelines to good styling in writing, which he states goes back to Sanskrit grammarians is “put the heavy stuff at the end of the sentence”. He submits an example: The wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, not The E Street Shuffle, the Innocent and the Wild. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The heavy stuff goes at the end.

He informs that this is true in almost every level of linguistic structure; the polysyllabic word goes after the monosyllabic word as in, kit and caboodle not caboodle and kit.  He suggests that part of it is the metre and that good prose is enlivened by moments of poetry.

Do all writers follow this form of style? Are there any examples of excellent writers who have ignored this practice of style? I haven’t done any research, but I was curious. I’m certain that there must be, for there are many writers who flout grammatical rules.

What say you?

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Posted: 12 May 2019 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It sounds pretty standard. Speach writers usually save the best for last. Comedy writers save the punch line for the end of a joke. It just works better that way. It’s more dramatic.

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Posted: 12 May 2019 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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We instinctively don’t say parcel and part, or baggage and bag. So yes, I would say that holds good as a general rule, bearing in mind that all rules of good style exist to be broken at need.

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Posted: 12 May 2019 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And then there are the exceptions, especially where a short simple phrase ends a long, complex passage:

All children, except one, grow up.

—J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

—James Joyce, The Dead

What binds these stories together was the back-against-the-wall, reluctant yet hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.

—Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns

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Posted: 15 May 2019 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I know this as the law of the ascending members, a translation of the German Gesetz der wachsenden Glieder, which has the same snicker value as the English. I can’t find any examples of the English version on the internet, but I don’t think I imagined it.

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