Better Short Than Long
Once I read an essay by Hilaire Belloc1 in which the author says “I cannot refrain from remarking2 that all the discussions of the silly critics as to whether sentences in English should be long or short are mere spoiling of paper”3.
I fully agree with him. A sentence is not good or bad merely because it is long or short. Length is a false test of a sentence. It is wrong to think that a series of long sentences is a proof of one’s good command of English4. It is equally wrong to think that simple and clear English requires every sentence to contain a certain number or words at most5.
I remember that I myself formerly acted on6 these wrong opinions one after the other. For some time I tried to use as many words in a sentence as grammar and sense could justify7. The result was an obtrusively dignified style8. Then followed a period9 in which I tried to make every sentence a grammatically simple one10 and as easy to understand as those11 in first books12 for beginners. The result was affected13 simplicity.
However, while I would warn all learners of English composition against these two mistakes, I think that that14 of writing long sentences is the commoner one15. And learners ought to take more care to avoid it, not merely because in the hands of those who16 have not had much practice in the use of words and phrases and idiomatic constructions, long sentences are much harder to manage than short ones17. It must not for a moment18 be supposed that an error in grammar or idiom embedded in a long sentence can easily escape detection19.
- Helaire Belloc (1870 —1953) 英语文学家
- remarking 说
- spoiling of paper 白费纸张
- one’s good command of English 某人对英语的精通
- at most 至多
- acted on 实行
- use as many words in a sentence as grammar and sense could justify 就语法和意思所允许的范围内在一句里尽量多用词
- obtrusively dignified style 过分庄严的文体
- followed a period=a period followed
- first books 入门书
- affected 做作的；不自然的
- that=the mistake
- those who … 那……的人们
- must not for a moment 决不可
- escape detection 不被发现