Effective Sentences

The Little, Brown Essential Handbook 是頗負盛名的英文寫作工具書,雖然我有完整版的原文書,礙於價錢跟隨手翻閱還是又買了中文精簡版的 T_T

接下來幾篇包括這篇, 來整理目前念的。

一開始是 Effective Sentences (有力的句子)

  1. Use the subjects and verbs of sentences to state key actors and actions.
  2. Use the beginnings and endings of sentences to pace and stress information.
  3. Arrange series items in order of increasing importance.
  4. Use an occasional balanced sentence.
  5. Carefully repeat key words and phrases.
  6. Set off important ideas with punctuation.
  7. Write concisely.

句子主要由 subjects (主詞),verbs (動詞)以及 objects (受詞),至少要有主、受詞才能構成完整的句子,而主詞就是句子的重心,動詞則傳達主詞的行為。因此要將句子主要的想法,盡可能地清楚表達就得用讓主動詞明顯有意義,例如比對以下例子:

The intention of the company was to expand its workforce. A proposal was also made to diversity the background and abilities of employees.

以及

The company intended to expand its workforce. It also proposed to diversity the background and abilities of employees.

前面這段的主詞 intention, proposal 跟動詞 was 看不出來整段話的主角,修改後變成主詞是 company, 跟動詞 intend, propose,這樣就很清楚主詞的行為。大部分由動詞演變而來的名詞,沒有必要就不要用,像是上面的 intention, proposal。

大部分的情況主動(active)會比被動(passive) 來得有力,例如 The star was seen by astronomers. 跟 Astronomers saw the star. 這裡重點不是星星被誰看,而是誰去看了星星。即使視同等重要,仍然是主動語句會比較有力,節省無意義的用詞。

但當主詞不重要或是不明顯時,改用被動語氣會是比較好的選擇,例如:  They recycle plastic bottles. 其中的 they 並不重要,重要的是 plastic bottles 被回收,改成 Plastic bottles are recycled 會比較恰當,更長一點的例子是,

The Internet was established in 1969 by the Department of Defense. The network has now been extended both nationally and internationally.

以及

After the solution had been cooled to 10 °C, the acid was added.

再來句子的構成,以開頭跟結尾的位置最重要,有時候結尾比開頭更強烈,例如底下曖昧的句子

Education remains the single best means of economic advancement, despite its shortcomings.

最後的 shortcomings 被強調,然後文中的意思應該是 economic advancement 最重要,所以修改結構成為

Despite its shortcomings, education remains the single best means of economic advancement.

強調 economic advancement 而不是 shortcomings,或者是

Education remains, despite its shortcomings, the sigle best means of economic advancement.

將 shortcomings 放在最不重要的位置。

最後用連結詞(conjunction)連結同樣重要(coordination)的句子,或者用從屬 (subordination)。用連結詞連結時同樣也有輕重之分,例如

The storm ripped the roofs off several buildings, killed ten people, and knocked down many trees in town.

就把損傷最嚴重的十個人死亡隱藏在文中,依序排列會是

The storm knocked down many trees in town, ripped the roofs off serveral buildings, and killed ten people.

這樣句型的強弱就出來了。從屬關係則是有用從屬字例來產生,或是片語,或是單詞(single word),例如:although, because, before, after, if, since, that, when, who, which

Costs, which inlucde labour and facilities, are difficult to control.

在語句的中間不重要的位置放上從屬子句,強調 cost 很難控制。或者用片語如:despite of, so that, in order that

Despite some decline, production costs are still high. Costs, including labour and facilities, are difficult to control.

或者使用單詞如下

Labour costs are difficult to control.

強弱依序是從屬字例、片語到單詞。

再來談句子的精練(concisensess),把重點放在主詞和動詞通常也可以是句子變得更簡短,而且意義相同跟前述一樣。再來是去除虛字,如果把以下的劃底線句子刪掉,意義仍不變

As far as I’m concerned, because of the fact that a situation of discrimination continues in the field of medicine, women have not at the present time achieved equality with men.

變成

Because of continuing discrimination in medicine, women have not yet achieved equality with men.

一來因為 as far as I’m concerned 講的是我自己的意見,但是後面又提到 fact 講的是具體事實,就像 As far as I’m concerned, one plus one is two. (就我來說,一加一等於二) 補充是個人意見很沒有意義。而 the fact that a situation 則是兩件個詞彙沒有任何資訊,中文就像是「因為在這方面的事實而言」整句話要表達的只有「因為」。

書上列舉幾個空洞的表達方式,例如對意義沒有加強的片語:

all things considered, in a manner of speaking, a person by the name of, in my opinion, as far as I’m concerned, more or less

或是一般性或抽象字詞,包山包海的字眼如:

area, element, kind, situation, aspect, factor, manner, thing, case, field, type.

例如:

The type of large expenditures on advertising that manufactures must make is a very important aspect of the cost of detergents.

將那些沒有意義的字詞消掉變成

Manufactures’ large advertising expenditures increase the cost of detergents.

一來將主詞跟動詞替換成實際的意義,也精練句型。接下來還有刪除不必要的重複說明,例如

Many unskilled workers without training in a particular job are unemployed and do not have any work.

很明顯是重複贅述,可改成

Many unskilled workers are unemployed.

其他的例子有:consensus of opinion, repeat again, return again。但是恰當的重複可以強調該字詞,並不是完全避免。再來消除是 it is / there is,大部分的情況下這些虛主詞都是沒什麼意義,而且讓整句變得模糊,例如

There were delays and cost overruns that plagued construction of the Channel Tunnel. It is the expectation of investors to earn profits at last, now that there are trains passing daily through the tunnel.

改成

Dalays and cost overruns plagued construction of the Channel Tunnel. Investors expect to earn profits at last, now that trains pass daily through the tunnel.

不過這樣的虛主詞還是可以用在強調 subject 跟語氣的轉折。接下來用子句合併句型,將同樣的對象合併在一起,以及重寫 jargon。

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s