Connection, The Soul Of Good Writing. Part 3
Now we might go on at great length analyzing this matter of smooth transition between the main divisions of an article. But we do not want to be too formal. We do not want to pretend that the mastery of an array of mechanical devices will take the place of coherent thinking. It is enough to point out that smooth transition should always be aimed at. Some writers join their paragraphs smoothly, and they are easy to read. Some throw their paragraphs at you as if they were so many rich gems, each complete and valuable in itself. These are the epigram-makers, and half of the clever youths who write on business to-day would sacrifice connection any day in order to get a new epigram. But epigrams will never be the whole story. Ton can't write up a business coherently by epigrams. You can't describe a machine or explain a system by epigrams merely. You must make your paragraphs hang together and seem an organic whole.
§ 24. A few words now about connection within the paragraph. Here again the first secret is the order of presentation. If your sentences are in the best order, the progressive order, the inevitable order, they will need few ligaments. They may seem a little abrupt, but the reader will follow along.
Beware, however, of leaving out some sentence that was really necessary to the paragraph. Many a paragraph which seems disconnected is so because the writer has unconsciously kept back a link in his chain. Note the jump that you have to make in the following paragraph at the point indicated by the caret.
Several variations of this plan of profit-sharing show that holding employees is the sole motive. A small company, whose stock is closely held, takes in its general department heads as stockholders. But the employee is not allowed to pay for his stock even though he has the money. By the transfer agreement the dividends are credited against it. A And should he, for any reason, leave the company's employ in the meantime the stock with all credits to it reverts to the company. A9 it takes from ten to fifteen years to pay for the stock, this is an inducement constantly increasing in value for holding the man.
The sentence needed at the caret is, "The stock actually passes to him only when the dividends have paid for it."
§ 25. Logical order and the presence of all the links are therefore the indispensable conditions of connection within the paragraph. Yet yon can improve the ease between sentences, by two methods.
First, you can use connective words, such as But, Then, Nevertheless, Still, However, At the same time, Yet, In spite of that, On the contrary, On the other hand. These, you see, are all adversatives; they show you that an opposite thought is coming. Then there are the synonyms for and: Also, In the next place, Moreover, Furthermore, Likewise, Besides. These words may begin sentences - note that I have written them with capitals.* But and is rarely used at the opening of a sentence. There is no fixed rule against doing so; this is a free country, and occasionally an initial And is worth using. Being the simplest and most childlike of connectives, it gives a somewhat naive effect, but sometimes an innocent And sentence is just what you want. Do not worry on this point. Worry as to whether you have said And when you meant But, or But when you meant And. Connectives are worse than useless unless they are correctly used.
Another group of inter-sententials refer to the writer's degree of certainty. Such are Certainly, Surely, Doubtless, Indeed, Perhaps, Possibly, Probably, Anyhow, Anyway, In all probability, In all likelihood, At all events, In any case. Note that Anyway is the least dignified of these. But degrees of dignity are less important than accuracy. The man who writes Surely when he ought to write Possibly is lost He has made a smooth connection, but it is too smooth.
* Note: For once when However begins a sentence, it should twice come later in the sentence.
The connectives which point out inference are such words as Therefore, Consequently, Accordingly, As a result, In consequence of this, As might be expected, So. The commonest of all is So. So is a colloquial word, and often it has just the degree of simplicity that is needed. But it is worked to death. The So habit is as insidious as the chewing-gum habit. Therefore is sometimes too formal. But those five phrases between Therefore and So are not pretentious, and they ought to be used more than they are used in business English. Let us be frank: the So-habit is babyish.
The three preceding paragraphs deal with words that connect. But order of words may also connect. Order of words within a sentence may increase coherence between what precedes and what follows. Let us illustrate:
These shoes ought to have style. But these shoes have no style. They have good material in them, but the workmanship and the form are clumsy.
That is not an incoherent paragraph. It is short, and the sentences are short, and the meaning is clear enough. But the coherence could be improved, thus:
These shoes ought to have style. But style is exactly what they haven't They have good material, but the form and the workmanship are clumsy.
You see what has been done. The last words of each sentence are echoed in the first words of the following. The gain in connection is not great between sentences so short and simple. But you can see that in longer sentences it might be very valuable to weld ends and beginnings in that fashion.
Notice that the sentence But style is exactly what they haven't throws style and haven't into strong relief. The beginning and the end of a sentence are the most emphatic places. Mr. Wendell, of Harvard, has formulated this rule: Begin and end with words that deserve distinction.