H.W. Fowler (1858–1933). The
King’s English, 2nd ed. 1908.
To read his tales is a baptism of optimism.—Times.
Sensation is the direct effect of the mode of motion
of the sensorium.—Huxley.
There have been no periodical general physical
It is contended, indeed, that these preparations are intended
It is intended to extend the system to this country.—Times.
M. Sphakianakis conducted protracted negotiations.—Times.
Those inalienable rights of life, liberty and property
upon which the safety of society depends.—Choate.
He served his apprenticeship to statesmanship.—Bryce.
Apparently prepared to hold its ground.—Times.
I awaited a belated train.—R. G. White.
Hand them on silver salvers to the server.—E. F. Benson.
...adjourned the discussion of the question of delation
In this house of poverty and dignity, of past grandeur
and present simplicity, the brothers lived together in unity.—H.
Their invalidity was caused by a technicality.—Times.
...had for consolation the expansion of its dominion.—Spectator.
The essential foundation of all the organization needed
for the promotion of education.—Huxley.
The projects of M. Witte relative to the regulation
of the relations between capital and labour.—Times.
The remaining instances are of consecutive adverbs in -ly.
Parallel adverbs, qualifying the same word simultaneously, do not result
in a jingle; but in all our instances the two adverbs either qualify
different words, or qualify the same word at different times. Thus, in
the Huxley sentence, unquestionably either qualifies is,
or qualifies true only after largely has qualified it: it
is not the (universal) truth, but the partial truth, of the proposition
that is unquestionable.
When the traffic in our streets becomes entirely mechanically
He lived practically exclusively on milk.—E. F. Benson.
Critics would probably decidedly disagree.—Hutton.
The children are functionally mentally defective.—Times.
What is practically wholly and entirely the British commerce and
...who answered, usually monosyllabically,...—E. F. Benson.
The policy of England towards Afghanistan is, as formerly, entirely
Money spent possibly unwisely, probably illegally, and certainly
The deer are necessarily closely confined to definite areas.—Times.
We find Hobbes's view ... tolerably effectively combated.—Morley.
Great mental endowments do not, unhappily, necessarily involve a
passion for obscurity.—H. G. Wells.
The proposition of Descartes is unquestionably largely true.—Huxley.
Alliteration is not much affected by modern prose writers of any
experience; it is a novice's toy. The antithetic variety has probably
seen its best days, and the other instances quoted are doubtless to be
attributed to negligence.
I must needs trudge at every old beldam's bidding and every
young minx's maggot.—Scott.
Onward glided Dame Ursula, now in glimmer and now in gloom.—Scott.
I have seen her in the same day as changeful as a marmozet, and
as stubborn as a mule.—Scott.
Thus, in consequence of the continuance of that
grievance, the means of education at the disposal of the Protestants
and Presbyterians were stunted and sterilized.—Balfour.
A gaunt well with a shattered pent-house dwarfed the dwelling.—H.
It shall be lawful to picket premises for the purpose
of peacefully persuading any person to...—Times.
3. REPEATED PREPOSITIONS
The founders of the study of the origin of human
After the manner of the author of the immortal speeches of
Togo's announcement of the destruction of the fighting
power of Russia's Pacific squadron.—Times.
The necessity of the modification of the system of
An exaggeration of the excesses of the epoch of
Hostile to the justice of the principle of the taxing of
those values which...—Lord Rosebery.
The observation of the facts of the geological
succession of the forms of life.—Huxley.
Devoid of any accurate knowledge of the mode of
development of many groups of plants and
One uniform note of cordial recognition of the complete
success of the experiment.—Times.
The first fasciculus of the second volume of the Bishop of
Salisbury's critical edition of St. Jerome's Revision of
the Latin New Testament.—Times.
The appreciation of the House of the benefits derived by
the encouragement afforded by the Government to the operations of...—Times.
The study of the perfectly human theme of the affection of
a man of middle age.—Times.
His conviction of the impossibility of the proposal
either of the creation of elective financial
Representative of the mind of the age of
Indignation against the worst offenders against...—Times.
A belief in language in harmony with...—Daily
The opposition ... to the submission to the claims.—Times.
Taken up with warfare with an enemy...—Freeman.
Palmerston wasted the strength derived by England by the
great war by his brag.—Granville.
Unpropitious for any project for the reduction...—Times.
Called upon to decide upon the reduction...—Times.
4. SEQUENCE OF RELATIVES
A garret, in which were two small beds, in one of which
she gave me to understand another gentleman slept.—Borrow.
Still no word of enlightenment had come which should pierce the
thick clouds of doubt which hid the face of the future.—E. F.
The ideal of a general alphabet ... is one which gives a basis which
is generally acceptable.—H. Sweet.
He enjoyed a lucrative practice, which enabled him to maintain
and educate a family with all the advantages which money can
give in this country.—Trollope.
The clown who views the pandemonium of red brick which
he has built on the estate which he has purchased.—Borrow.
The main thread of the book, which is a daring assault upon
that serious kind of pedantry which utters itself in...—L.
Practical reasons which combine to commend this architectural
solution of a problem which so many of us dread...—Times.
The teachers, who took care that the weaker, who might
otherwise be driven to the wall, had ... their fair share.—Times.
Let the heads and rulers of free peoples tell this truth to a Tsar who
seeks to dominate a people who will not and cannot...—Times.
He made a speech ... which contained a passage on the
conditions of modern diplomacy which attracted some
There is of course no objection to the recurrence when the relatives are
5. SEQUENCE OF 'THAT'
OR OTHER CONJUNCTIONS
Here, as with relatives, the recurrence is objectionable only when one
of the clauses is subordinate to the other.
I do not forget that some writers have held that a
system is to be inferred.—Balfour.
I say that there is a real danger that we may run to the
It is clear ... that the opinion was that it is not
I find that the view that Japan has now a splendid
opportunity ... is heartily endorsed.—Times.
I must point out that it is a blot on our national education that
we have serving...—Times.
The Chairman replied to the allegation made by the Radical press to
the effect that the statement that the British workman
will not work as an unskilled labourer in the mines is inaccurate.—Times.
An official telegram states that General Nogi reports that...—Times.
The conviction that the Tsar must realize that the
prestige of Russia is at stake.—Times.
He was so carried away by his discovery that he ventured on the
assertion that the similarity between the two languages was so
great that an educated German could understand whole strophes
of Persian poetry.—H. Sweet.
I may fairly claim to have no personal interest in defending the
council, although I believe, though I am not certain,
6. METRICAL PROSE
The novice who is conscious of a weakness for the high-flown and the
inflated should watch narrowly for metrical snatches in his prose; they
are a sure sign that the fit is on him.
Oh, moralists, who treat of happiness / and self-respect, innate in
every sphere / of life, and shedding light on every grain / of dust in
God's highway, so smooth below / your carriage-wheels, so rough
beneath the tread / of naked feet, bethink yourselves / in looking on
the swift descent / of men who have lived in their own esteem,
/ that there are scores of thousands breathing now, / and breathing
thick with painful toil, who in / that high respect have never lived
at all, / nor had a chance of life! Go ye, who rest / so placidly upon
the sacred Bard / who had been young, and when he strung his harp /
was old, ... / go, Teachers of content and honest pride, / into the
mine, the mill, the forge, / the squalid depths of deepest ignorance,
/ and uttermost abyss of man's neglect, / and say can any hopeful
plant spring up / in air so foul that it extinguishes / the soul's
bright torch as fast as it is kindled! /—Dickens.
But now,—now I have resolved to stand alone,— / fighting my battle
as a man should fight, / seeking for neither help nor sympathy, / and
trusting not in self...—Corelli.
And the gathering orange stain / upon the edge of yonder western peak,
/ reflects the sunsets of a thousand years.—Ruskin.
His veins were opened; but he talked on still / while life was slowly
ebbing, and was calm / through all the agony of lingering death.—W.
Can I then trust the evidence of sense? / And art thou really to my
wish restored? / Never, oh never, did thy beauty shine / with such
bewitching grace, as that which now / confounds and captivates my
view! / ...Where hast thou lived? where borrowed this perfection? /
...Oh! I am all amazement, joy and fear! / Thou wilt not leave me! No!
we must not part / again. By this warm kiss! a thousand times / more
sweet than all the fragrance of the East! / we never more will part.
O! this is rapture! / ecstasy! and what no language will explain!—Smollett.
7. SENTENCE ACCENT
It is only necessary to read aloud any one of the sentences quoted
below, to perceive at once that there is something wrong with its
accentuation. To lay down rules on this point would be superfluous, even
if it were practicable; for in all doubtful cases the ear can and should
decide. A writer who cannot trust himself to balance his sentences
properly should read aloud all that he writes. It is useless for him to
argue that readers will not read his work aloud, and that therefore the
fault of which we are speaking will escape notice. For, although the
fault may appear to be exclusively one of sound, it is always in fact a
fault of sense: unnatural accentuation is only the outward sign of an
unnatural combination of thought. Thus, nine readers out of ten would
detect in a moment, without reading aloud, the ill-judged structure in
our first example: the writer has tried to do two incompatible things at
the same time, to describe in some detail the appearance of his
characters, and to begin a conversation; the result is that any one
reading the sentence aloud is compelled to maintain, through several
lines of new and essential information, the tone that is appropriate
only to what is treated as a matter of course. The interrogative tone
protests more loudly than any other against this kind of mismanagement;
but our examples will show that other tones are liable to the same
The accentuation of each clause or principal member of a sentence is
primarily fixed by its relation to the other members: when the internal
claims of its own component parts clash with this fixed
accentuation—when, for instance, what should be read with a uniformly
declining accentuation requires for its own internal purposes a marked
rise and fall of accent—reconstruction is necessary to avoid a badly
balanced sentence. The passage from Peacock will illustrate this: after pupils,
and still more after counterpoint, the accentuation should
steadily decline to the end of the passage; but, conflicting with this
requirement, we have the exorbitant claims of a complete anecdote,
containing within itself an elaborately accented speech. To represent
the anecdote as an insignificant appendage to pupils was a fault
of sense; it is revealed to the few who would not have perceived it by
the impossibility of reading the passage naturally.
'Are Japanese Aprils always as lovely as this?' asked the man in the
light tweed suit of two others in immaculate flannels with crimson
sashes round their waists and puggarees folded in cunning plaits round
their broad Terai hats.—D. Sladen.
'Here we are', he said presently, after they had turned off the main
road for a while and rattled along a lane between high banks topped
with English shrubs, and looking for all the world like an outskirt of
Tunbridge Wells.—D. Sladen.
I doubt if Haydn would have passed as a composer before a committee of
lords like one of his own pupils, who insisted on demonstrating to him
that he was continually sinning against the rules of counterpoint; on
which Haydn said to him, 'I thought I was to teach you, but it seems
you are to teach me, and I do not want a preceptor', and thereon he
wished his lordship a good morning.—Peacock.
She wondered at having drifted into the neighbourhood of a person
resembling in her repellent formal chill virtuousness a windy belfry
tower, down among those districts of suburban London or appalling
provincial towns passed now and then with a shudder, where the
funereal square bricks-up the church, that Arctic hen-mother sits on
the square, and the moving dead are summoned to their round of
penitential exercise by a monosyllabic tribulation-bell.—Meredith.
The verb wonder presupposes the reader's familiarity with the
circumstance wondered at; it will not do the double work of announcing
both the wonder and the thing wondered at. 'I wondered at Smith's being
there' implies that my hearer knew that Smith was there; if he did not,
I should say 'I was surprised to find...'. Accordingly, in this very
artificial sentence, the writer presupposes the inconceivable question:
'What were her feelings on finding that she had drifted ...
tribulation-bell?'. To read a sentence of minute and striking
description with the declining accentuation that necessarily follows the
verb wondered is of course impossible.
How doth the earth terrifie and oppress us with terrible earthquakes,
which are most frequent in China, Japan, and those eastern climes,
swallowing up sometimes six cities at once!—Burton.
Of the many possible violations of sentence accent, one—common in
inferior writers—is illustrated in the next section.
8. CAUSAL 'AS' CLAUSES
There are two admissible kinds of causal 'as' clauses—the pure and the
mixed. The pure clause assigns as a cause some fact that is already
known to the reader and is sure to occur to him in the connexion: the
mixed assigns as a cause what is not necessarily known to the reader or
present in his mind; it has the double function of conveying a new fact,
and indicating its relation to the main sentence. Context will usually
decide whether an as clause is pure or mixed; in the following
examples, it is clear from the nature of the two clauses that the first
is pure, the second mixed:
I have an edition with German notes; but that is of no use, as you do
not read German.
I caught the train, but afterwards wished I had not, as I presently
discovered that my luggage was left behind.
The second of these, it will be noticed, is unreadable, unless we slur
the as to such an extent as practically to acknowledge that it
ought not to be there. The reason is that, although a pure clause may
stand at any point in the sentence, a mixed one must always precede the
main statement. The pure clause, having only the subordinate function
normally indicated by as, is subordinate in sense as well as in
grammar; and the declining accentuation with which it is accordingly
pronounced will not be interfered with wherever we may place it. But the
mixed clause has another function, that of conveying a new fact, for
which as does not prepare us, and which entitles it to an
accentuation as full and as varied as that of the main statement. To
neutralize the subordinating effect of as, and secure the proper
accentuation, we must place the clause at the beginning; where this is
not practicable, as should be removed, and a colon or semi-colon
used instead of a comma. Persistent usage tends of course to remove this
objection by weakening the subordinating power of conjunctions: because,
while, whereas, since, can be used where as still betrays a
careless or illiterate writer. There is the same false ring in all the
I myself saw in the estate office of a large landed proprietor a
procession of peasant women begging for assistance, as owing to the
departure of the bread-winners the families were literally
Remove as, and use a heavier stop.
Very true, Jasper; but you really ought to leans to read, as, by so
doing, you might learn your duty towards yourselves.—Borrow.
To read; by so doing,...
There was a barber and hairdresser, who had been at Paris, and talked
French with a cockney accent, the French sounding all the better, as
no accent is so melodious as the Cockney.—Borrow.
Use a semicolon and 'for'; the assertion requires all the support that
vigorous accentuation can lend.
One of the very few institutions for which the Popish Church
entertains any fear, and consequently respect, as it respects nothing
which it does not fear.—Borrow.
For instead of as will best suit this illogical and
falsely coordinated sentence.
Everybody likes to know that his advantages cannot be attributed to
air, soil, sea, or to local wealth, as mines and quarries,... but to
superior brain, as it makes the praise more personal to
Again the clause is a mixed one. The point of view it suggests is,
indeed, sufficiently obvious; but (unlike our typical pure clause
above—'you do not know German') it depends for its existence upon the
circumstances of the main sentence, which may or may not have occurred
to the reader before. The full accentuation with which the clause must
inevitably be read condemns it at once; use a colon, and remove as.
Pure clauses, being from their nature more or less otiose, belong rather
to the spoken than to the written language. It follows that a good
writer will seldom have a causal as clause of any kind at the end
of a sentence. Two further limitations remain to be noticed:
- When the cause, not the effect, is obviously the whole point of
the sentence, because, not as, should be used; the
following is quite impossible English:
I make these remarks as quick shooting at short ranges has lately
been so strongly recommended.—Times.
- As should be used only to give the cause of the thing
asserted, not the cause of the assertion, nor an illustration of its
truth, as in the following instances:
You refer me to the Encyclopaedia: you are mistaken, as I find the
Encyclopaedia exactly confines my view.
The Oxford Coxswain did not steer a very good course here, as he
kept too close in to the Middlesex shore to obtain full advantage
of the tide; it made little difference, however, as his crew
continued to gain.—Times.
My finding the Encyclopaedia's confirmation was not the cause of
mistake, nor the keeping too close the cause of bad steering.
9. WENS AND HYPERTROPHIED
No sentence is to be condemned for mere length; a really skilful writer
can fill a page with one and not tire his reader, though a succession of
long sentences without the relief of short ones interspersed is almost
sure to be forbidding. But the tiro, and even the good writer who is not
prepared to take the trouble of reading aloud what he has written,
should confine himself to the easily manageable. The tendency is to
allow some part of a sentence to develop unnatural proportions, or a
half parenthetic insertion to separate too widely the essential parts.
The cure, indispensable for every one who aims at a passable style, and
infallible for any one who has a good ear, is reading aloud after
- Disproportionate insertions.
Some simple eloquence distinctly heard, though only uttered in her
eyes, unconscious that he read them, as, 'By the death-beds I have
tended, by the childhood I have suffered, by our meeting in this
dreary house at midnight, by the cry wrung from me in the anguish
of my heart, O father, turn to me and seek a refuge in my love
before it is too late!' may have arrested them.—Dickens.
Captain Cuttle, though no sluggard, did not turn so early on the
morning after he had seen Sol Gills, through the shopwindow,
writing in the parlour, with the Midshipman upon the counter, and
Rob the Grinder making up his bed below it, but that the clocks
struck six as he raised himself on his elbow, and took a survey of
his little chamber.—Dickens.
A perpetual consequent warfare of her spirit and the nature
subject to the thousand sensational hypocrisies invoked for
concealment of its reviled brutish baseness, held the woman
suspended from her emotions.—Meredith.
Yesterday, before Dudley Sowerby's visit, Nataly would have been
stirred where the tears which we shed for happiness or repress at
a flattery dwell when seeing her friend Mrs. John Cormyn
'It takes', it is said that Sir Robert Peel observed, 'three
generations to make a gentleman'.—Bagehot.
Behind, round the windows of the lower story, clusters of
clematis, like large purple sponges, blossomed, miraculously fed
through their thin, dry stalks.—E. F. Benson.
It is a striking exhibition of the power which the groups, hostile
in different degrees to a democratic republic, have of
Sir,—With reference to the custom among some auctioneers and
surveyors of receiving secret commissions, which was recently
brought to light in a case before the Lord Chief Justice and
Justices Kennedy and Ridley (King's Bench Division), when the L.
C. J. in giving judgment for the defendants said:—Unfortunately
in commercial circles, in which prominent men played a part,
extraordinary mistakes occurred. But a principal who employed an
agent to do work for him employed him upon terms that the agent
was not liable to get secret commissions. The sooner secret
commissions were not approved by an honourable profession, the
better it would be for commerce in all its branches. I desire to
take this opportunity...—Times.
In the course of a conversation with a representative of the Gaulois,
Captain Klado, after repeating his views on the necessity for
Russia to secure the command of the sea which have already
appeared in the Times, replied as follows to a question as
to whether, after the new squadron in the course of formation at
Libau has reinforced Admiral Rozhdestvensky's fleet, the Russian
and Japanese naval forces will be evenly balanced: [here follows
- Sentences of which the end is allowed to trail on to unexpected
But though she could trust his word, the heart of the word went
out of it when she heard herself thanked by Lady Blachington (who
could so well excuse her at such a time for not returning her
call, that she called in a friendly way a second time, warmly to
thank her) for throwing open the Concert Room at Lakelands in
August, to an entertainment in assistance of the funds for the
purpose of erecting an East London Clubhouse, where the children
of the poor by day could play, and their parents pass a disengaged
How to commence the ceremony might have been a difficulty, but for
the zeal of the American Minister, who, regardless of the fact
that he was the representative of a sister Power, did not see any
question of delicacy arise in his taking a prominent part in
proceedings regarded as entirely irregular by the representatives
of the Power to which the parties concerned belonged.—D. Sladen.
The style holds the attention, but perhaps the most subtle charm
of the work lies in the inextricable manner in which fact is
interwoven with something else that is not exactly fiction, but
rather fancy bred of the artist's talent in projecting upon his
canvas his own view of things seen and felt and lived through by
those whose thoughts, motives, and actions, he depicts.—Times.
The cock-bustard that, having preened himself, paces before the
hen birds on the plains that he can scour when his wings, which
are slow in the air, join with his strong legs to make nothing of
grassy leagues on leagues.—Times.
I don't so much wonder at his going away, because, leaving out of
consideration that spice of the marvellous which was always in his
character, and his great affection for me, before which every
other consideration of his life became nothing, as no one ought to
know so well as I who had the best of fathers in him—leaving
that out of consideration, I say, I have often read and heard of
people who, having some near and dear relative, who was supposed
to be shipwrecked at sea, have gone down to live on that part of
the seashore where any tidings of the missing ship might be
expected to arrive, though only an hour or two sooner than
elsewhere, or have even gone upon her track to the place whither
she was bound, as if their going would create
What he had to communicate was the contents of despatches from
Tokio containing information received by the Japanese Government
respecting infringements of neutrality by the Baltic Fleet in
Indo-Chinese waters outside what are, strictly speaking, the
territorial limits, and principally by obtaining provisions from
- Decapitable sentences.
Perhaps the most exasperating form is that of the sentence that
keeps on prolonging itself by additional phrases, each joint of
which gives the reader hopes of a full stop.
It was only after the weight of evidence against the economic
success of the endeavour became overwhelming that our firm
withdrew its support /, and in conjunction with almost the entire
British population of the country concentrated its efforts on
endeavouring to obtain permission to increase the coloured
unskilled labour supply of the mines / so as to be in a position
to extend mining operations /, and thus assist towards
re-establishing the prosperity of the country /, while at the same
time attracting a number of skilled British artisans / who would
receive not merely the bare living wage of the white unskilled
labourer, but a wage sufficient to enable these artisans to bring
their families to the country / and to make their permanent home
Here may still be seen by the watchful eye the Louisiana heron and
smaller egret, all that rapacious plume-hunters have left of their
race, tripping like timid fairies in and out the leafy screen /
that hides the rank jungle of sawgrass and the grisly swamp where
dwells the alligator /, which lies basking, its nostrils just
level with the dirty water of its bath, or burrows swiftly in the
soft earth to evade the pursuit of those who seek to dislodge it
with rope and axe / that they may sell its hide to make souvenirs
for the tourists / who, at the approach of summer, hie them north
or east with grateful memories of that fruitful land.—F. G.
Running after milkmaids is by no means an ungenteel rural
diversion; but let any one ask some respectable casuist (the
Bishop of London, for instance), whether Lavengro was not far
better employed, when in the country, at tinkering and smithery
than he would have been in running after all the milkmaids in
Cheshire /, though tinkering is in general considered a very
ungenteel employment /, and smithery little better /,
notwithstanding that an Orcadian poet, who wrote in Norse about
80c years ago, reckons the latter among nine noble arts which he
possessed /, naming it along with playing at chess, on the harp,
and ravelling runes /, or as the original has it, 'treading runes'
/ —that is, compressing them into small compass by mingling one
letter with another /, even as the Turkish caligraphists ravel the
Arabic letters /, more especially those who write
10. CARELESS REPETITION
Conscious repetition of a word or phrase has been discussed in Part I
(Airs and Graces): in the following examples the repetition is
unconscious, and proves only that the writer did not read over what he
...a man ... who directly impresses one with the impression...—Times.
For most of them get rid of them more or less
The most important distinction between dialogue on the one hand and purely
descriptive and narrative pieces on the other hand is a purely
grammatical one.—H. Sweet.
And it may be that from a growing familiarity with Canadian
winter amusements may in time spring an even warmer
It may well induce the uncomfortable reflection that these
historical words may prove...—Times.
The inclusion of adherents would be adhered to.—Times.
The remainder remaining loyal, fierce fighting commenced.—Spectator.
Every subordinate shortcoming, every incidental defect, will be pardoned.
'Save us' is the cry of the moment; and, in the confident hope of
safety, any deficiency will be overlooked, and any frailty pardoned.—Bagehot.
They were followed by jinrikshas containing young girls
with very carefully-dressed hair, carrying large bunches of
real flowers on their laps, followed in turn by two more
coolies carrying square white wooden jars, containing
huge silver tinsel flowers.—D. Sladen.
It can do so, in all reasonable probability, provided its
militia character is maintained. But in any case it will provide
us at home with the second line army of our needs.—Times.
Dressed in a subtly ill-dressed, expensive mode.—E. F.
Toodle being the family name of the apple-faced family.—Dickens.
Artillery firing extends along the whole front, extending
for eighty miles.—Times.
I regard the action and conduct of the Ministry as a whole as
of far greater importance.—Times.
The fleet passed the port on its way through the Straits on
the way to the China Sea.—Times.
Much of his popularity he owed, we believe, to that very
timidity which his friends lamented. That timidity often
prevented him from exhibiting his talents to the best advantage. But
it propitiated Nemesis. It averted that envy which would
otherwise have been excited...—Macaulay.
I will lay down a pen I am so little able to govern.—And I
will try to subdue an impatience which... may otherwise lead me
into still more punishable errors.—I will return to a subject
which I cannot fly from for ten minutes together.—Richardson.
At the same time it was largely owing to his careful training
that so many great Etonian cricketers owed their success.—Times.