Qualities of expression: Essentials

in-nuce.com: essentials of expression

Essential qualities of expression in writing are unity, clarity, force, and ease.
1. Unity
Unity is that quality of expression which makes any piece of writing a composition rather than a mere collection of words
This distinction is well brought out by Ruskin in a passage that treats composition in a general sense as applying to all the arts: —
Composition means, literally and simply, putting several things together, so as to make one thing out of them; the nature and goodness of which they all have a share in producing. Thus a musician composes an air, by putting notes together in certain relations; a poet composes a poem, by putting thoughts and words in pleasant order; and a painter a picture, by putting thoughts, forms, and colors in pleasant order.
In all these cases, observe, an intended unity must be the result of composition. A paver cannot be said to compose the heap of stones which he empties from his cart, nor the sower the handful of seed which he scatters from his hand. It is the essence of composition that everything should be in a determined place, perform an intended part, and act, in that part, advantageously for everything that is connected with it.
2. Clarity
Clearness is that quality of expression which helps the reader to see at once the meaning of each word or group of words in a composition. 
To be clear, a writer must know exactly what he means to say and must say exactly what he means. He must, moreover, adapt his language to the intelligence of his probable readers and to the amount and the kind of attention they are likely to give. If he does not know who his readers are to be, his safest plan is to follow the advice said to have been given to a young man by Abraham Lincoln: "Speak so that the lowest may understand, and the rest will have no trouble." 
Clearness varies in degree: it ranges from that quality which implies nothing beyond the absence of obscurity to that positive excellence which sheds light on the subject in hand and has therefore been called Lucidity.
3. Force
Force is that quality of expression which awakens the reader's interest, appeals to his emotions or his imagination, or in some other way commands his attention. It gives color and picturesqueness to a description, movement and vigor to a narrative, strength and persuasiveness to an argument.
Force varies in degree: it may consist in nothing but a combination of clearness with brevity or in such an arrangement of material as gives prominence to what is most important.
4. Ease 
Ease is that quality of expression which facilitates the communication of ideas by making what is written pleasant to read
Ease varies in degree: it may consist in nothing more than the absence of obstacles between writer and reader, or it may be that positive excellence which Dryden refers to when he speaks of "the other harmony of prose."
If these essentials of good composition are secured in sentences, they will to some extent be secured in paragraphs also and in whole compositions. Moreover, since the relation of sentences to paragraphs, and that of paragraphs to the larger divisions of composition, is not unlike that held by words or groups of words to sentences, there should be no difficulty in applying what is said about sentences to paragraphs and to whole compositions.


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