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Style: The art of writing well by F. L. Lucas

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CHAPTER 3: Courtesy to Readers (1), Clarity

One should not aim at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand.

– Quintillian

Obscurité … vicieuse affectation.

– Montaigne

CHARACTER, I HAVE SUGGESTED, is the first thing to think about in style. The next step is to consider what characteristics can win a hearer’s or a reader’s sympathy. For example, it is bad manners to give them needless trouble. Therefore clarity. It is bad manners to waste their time. Therefore brevity.

There clings in my memory a story once told me by Professor Sisson. A Frenchman said to him: ‘In France it is the writer that takes the trouble; in Germany, the reader; in England it is betwixt and between.’ The generalization is over-simple; ...

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