Force. Part 2
Finally, all this conviction-tension-purpose is lifeless and useless unless it results in propulsion. You remember how Young in his wonderful "Night Thoughts" delineates the man who
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve, Resolves, and re-resolves, and dies the same.
Can Farce Be Acquired?
Yes, if the acquirer has any such capacities as we have just outlined. How to acquire this vital factor is suggested in its very analysis: Live with your subject until you are convinced of its importance.
If your message does not of itself arouse you to tension, PULL yourself together. When a man faces the necessity of leaping across a crevasse he does not wait for inspiration, he wills his muscles into tensity for the spring - it is not without purpose that our English language uses the same word to depict a mighty though delicate steel contrivance and a quick leap through the air. Then resolve - and let it all end in actual punch.
This truth is worth reiteration: The man within is the final factor. He must supply the fuel. The audience, or even the man himself, may add the match - it matters little which, only so that there be fire. However skillfully your engine is constructed, however well it works, you will have no force if the fire has gone out under the boiler. It matters little how well you have mastered poise, pause, modulation, and tempo, if your speech lacks fire it is dead. Neither a dead engine nor a dead speech will move anybody.
Four factors of force are measurably within your control, and in that far may be acquired: ideas, feeling about the subject, wording, and delivery. Each of these is more or less fully discussed in this volume, except wording, which really requires a fuller rhetorical study than can here be ventured. It is, however, of the utmost importance that you should be aware of precisely how wording bears upon force in a sentence. Study "The Working Principles of Rhetoric," by John Franklin Genung, or the rhetorical treatises of Adams Sherman Hill, of Charles Sears Baldwin, or any others whose names may easily be learned from any teacher.
Here are a few suggestions on the use of words to attain force:
Choice Of Words
PLAIN words are more forceful than words less commonly used - juggle has more vigor than prestidigitate.
SHORT words are stronger than long words - end has more directness than terminate.
SAXON words are usually more forceful than Latinistic words - for force, use wars against rather than militate against.
SPECIFIC words are stronger than general words - pressman is more definite than printer.
CONNOTATIVE words, those that suggest more than they say, have more power than ordinary words - "She let herself be married" expresses more than "She married."
EPITHETS, figuratively descriptive words, arc more effective than direct names - "Go tell that old fox," has more "punch" than "Go tell that sly fellow." ONOMATOPOETIC words, words that convey the sense by the sound, are more powerful than other words - crash is more effective than cataclysm.
Arrangement Of Words
Cut out modifiers.
Cut out connectives.
Begin with words that demand attention.
"End with words that deserve distinction," says Prof. Barrett Wendell.
Set strong ideas over against weaker ones, so as to gain strength by the contrast.
Avoid elaborate sentence structure - short sentences are stronger than long ones.
Cut out every useless word, so as to give prominence to the really important ones.
Let each sentence be a condensed battering ram, swinging to its final blow on the attention.
A familiar, homely idiom, if not worn by much use, is more effective than a highly formal, scholarly expression.
Consider well the relative value of different positions in the sentence so that you may give the prominent place to ideas you wish to emphasize.
"But," says someone, "is it not more honest to depend on the inherent interest in a subject, its native truth, clearness and sincerity of presentation, and beauty of utterance, to win your audience? Why not charm men instead of capturing them by assault?"
Why Use Force?
There is much truth in such an appeal, but not all the truth. Clearness, persuasion, beauty, simple statement of truth, are all essential - indeed, they are all definite parts of a forceful presentment of a subject, without being the only parts. Strong meat may not be as attractive as ices, but all depends on the appetite and the stage of the meal.
You can not deliver an aggressive message with caressing little strokes. No! Jab it in with hard, swift solar plexus punches. You cannot strike fire from flint or from an audience with love taps. Say to a crowded theatre in a lackadaisical manner: "It seems to me that the house is on fire," and your announcement may be greeted with a laugh. If you flash out the words: "The house's on fire!" they will crush one another in getting to the exits.
The spirit and the language of force are definite with conviction. No immortal speech in literature contains such expressions as "it seems to me," "I should judge," "in my opinion," "I suppose," "perhaps it is true." The speeches that will live have been delivered by men ablaze with the courage of their convictions, who uttered their words as eternal truth. Of Jesus it was said that "the common people heard Him gladly." Why? "He taught them as one having AUTHORITY." An audience will never be moved by what "seems" to you to be truth or what in your "humble opinion" may be so. If you honestly can, assert convictions as your conclusions. Be sure you are right before you speak your speech, then utter your thoughts as though they were a Gibraltar of unimpeachable truth. Deliver them with the iron hand and confidence of a Cromwell. Assert them with the fire of authority. Pronounce them as an ultimatum. If you cannot speak with conviction, be silent.