Sentence Structure

  • Brian Foster


English is remarkable among the well-known European languages for the looseness of its sentence-structure and consequently for the stylistic scope it offers to the individual writer (‘style’ being understood here as the way a thought or feeling is expressed, or the choice made by the writer from all the possibilities open to him or which he can create for himself). Writing about a new reference-book a reviewer recently said that ‘It is a volume which should form part of the library of all hope-to-be-novelists’. ‘Aspiring novelists’ would have been a more usual specimen of Enlglish from the point of view of the grammar-books, but ‘hope-to-be-novelists’ is in fact a fairly typical piece of English by modern standards, especially by the standards of journalism and advertising, where the aim is to make a sudden impression on the reader rather than to create prose of lasting beauty. Our civilization sets great store on change for the sake of change, and the assumption is that a man who has a new way of saying things will have a new thought or product to offer. This sort of style has existed since the beginning of our century, according to Professor Whatmough, but is greatly on the increase.1


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© Brian Foster 1968

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  • Brian Foster

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