Art Of Writing & Speaking The English Language



Evergreen Review, Inc. (September 27, 2007) | ASIN: B000WMILHU | 131 pages | PDF | 1,1 Mb

If there is a subject of really universal interest and utility, it is the art of writing and speaking one's own language effectively. It is the basis of culture, as we all know; but it is infinitely more than that: it is the basis of business. No salesman can sell anything unless he can explain the merits of his goods in effective English (among our people), or can write an advertisement equally effective, or present his ideas, and the facts, in a letter. Indeed, the way we talk, and write letters, largely determines our success in life.

Now it is well for us to face at once the counter-statement that the most ignorant and uncultivated men often succeed best in business, and that misspelled, ungrammatical advertisements have brought in millions of dollars. It is an acknowledged fact that our business circulars and letters are far inferior in correctness to those of Great Britain; yet they are more effective in getting business. As far as spelling is concerned, we know that some of the masters of literature have been atrocious spellers and many suppose that when one can sin in such company, sinning is, as we might say, a "beauty spot", a defect in which we can even take pride.

Let us examine the facts in the case more closely. First of all, language is no more than a medium; it is like air to the creatures of the land or water to fishes. If it is perfectly clear and pure, we do not notice it any more than we notice pure air when the sun is shining in a clear sky, or the taste of pure cool water when we drink a glass on a hot day. Unless the sun is shining, there is no brightness; unless the water is cool, there is no refreshment. The source of all our joy in the landscape, of the luxuriance of fertile nature, is the sun and not the air. Nature would be more prodigal in Mexico than in Greenland, even if the air in Mexico were as full of soot and smoke as the air of Pittsburg{h}, or loaded with the acid from a chemical factory. So it is with language. Language is merely a medium for thoughts, emotions, the intelligence of a finely wrought brain, and a good mind will make far more out of a bad medium than a poor mind will make out of the best. A great violinist will draw such music from the cheapest violin that the world is astonished. However is that any reason why the great violinist should choose to play on a poor violin; or should one say nothing of the smoke nuisance in Chicago because more light and heat penetrate its murky atmosphere than are to be found in cities only a few miles farther north? The truth is, we must regard the bad spelling nuisance, the bad grammar nuisance, the in?rtistic and rambling language nuisance, precisely as we would the smoke nuisance, the sewer-gas nuisance, the stock-yards' smell nuisance. Some dainty people prefer pure air and correct language; but we now recognize that purity is something more than an esthetic fad, that it is essential to our health and well-being, and therefore it becomes a matter of universal public interest, in language as well as in air.

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