Writing: First of three kinds of sentences -- Balanced

In Nuce: Writing--Balanced Sentences

There are three notable kinds of sentences.
  1. Balanced
  2. Periodic
  3. Loose
A balanced sentence consists of compared or contrasted ideas expressed in parallel form. The ideas are couched in "corresponding grammatical places, in similarly constructed phrases or clauses or sentences."

William Minto calls Samuel Johnson a "vigorous master of the art." 
The trick of the balanced style may be caught by anybody from Johnson ... The force of the structure may be felt in the concrete in any of his Lives of the Poets, a work which, with all its limitations, still remains the most instructive body of criticism in our language. For example:—

  1. Addison thinks justly, but he thinks faintly.
  2. His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without elaboration.
  3. Dryden borrows for want of leisure, and Pope for want of genius; Milton out of pride, and Addison out of modesty.
Why use a balanced sentence? Its value lies in the use of comparison and contrast to make ideas clear
If we wish to obtain a precise idea of anything, we must compare and contrast it with the things that are most like it in nature; in this way only can we apprehend its precise character. This is the rationale of the matter of a balanced sentence. We must say what a thing is not as well as what it is, if we would be clearly understood; and comparison of nearly allied things one with another is more instructive than the comparison of things wide as the poles asunder.
The parallel structure* of a balanced sentence helps focus the reader's attention.
...by making the structure as nearly as possible identical except as regards the words brought into comparison or contrast, we economize the reader's attention. The same scheme of clause or sentence is kept up, and the attention may thus be concentrated without distraction on the cardinal words. It is a special art for giving emphasis, and obviously need not be confined to clauses or sentences, but may be extended to a whole composition.
But like any other rhetorical device or mechanical skill, use the balanced sentence wisely. There is no formula for good writing, only tools to help you say what only you can say well.
Balance is a great feature in the verse of Queen Anne's time. Pope uses it with masterly effect in his didactic verse and in his satires. But it is essentially unsuited to the expression of deep and sustained feeling, because its purpose is to bring distinctions to a sharp point, to make the way clear for the intellect; and it is a well-known law that sharp intellectual effort kills emotion.
And, of course, too much of anything becomes annoying. Minto comments on the following example of writing by a justifiably obscure Elizabethan writer named Lyly the Euphuist 

As I have found thee willing to be a fellow in my travel, so would I have thee ready to be a follower of my counsel; in the one shalt thou show thy good-will, in the other manifest thy wisdom. We are now sailing unto an island of small compass as I guess by their maps, but of great civility as I hear by their manners. Which if it be so, it behooveth us to be more inquisitive of their conditions than of their country, and more careful to mark the natures of their men than curious to note the situation of the place.
When every clause is balanced like this, the smartness and cleverness of the antitheses may be very lively for a time, but we soon tire of it as a ridiculous affectation. Even Pope's wit is not always equal to the strain of his balanced couplets: with all the ingenuity and brilliancy of his epigrams, the tired ear soon begins to long for more variety of form. The attention is pricked so often by his sharp points that it becomes callous, and will not answer to the spur.
Not only should you reserve balance for real distinctions and real epigrams; not only must you take care that the trick of it does not master you and drive you into fanciful distinctions and sham epigrams; but you should also remember that the effect of balance, as of every artificial structure, depends upon its comparative rarity.
*From chompchomp.com, a great resource for grammar basics
Source: Minto, GrammarBytes

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