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The Philosophy of Style

The Philosophy of Style by Herbert Spencer
By: (1820-1903)

“The Philosophy of Style,” explored a growing trend of formalist approaches to writing. Highly focused on the proper placement and ordering of the parts of an English sentence, [Spencer] created a guide for effective composition. Spencer’s aim was to free prose writing from as much “friction and inertia” as possible, so that the reader would not be slowed by strenuous deliberations concerning the proper context and meaning of a sentence.

First Page:

THE PHILOSOPHY OF STYLE.

By Herbert Spencer

PART I. CAUSES OF FORCE IN LANGUAGE WHICH DEPEND UPON ECONOMY OF THE MENTAL ENERGIES.

i. The Principle of Economy.

§ 1. Commenting on the seeming incongruity between his father's argumentative powers and his ignorance of formal logic, Tristram Shandy says: "It was a matter of just wonder with my worthy tutor, and two or three fellows of that learned society, that a man who knew not so much as the names of his tools, should be able to work after that fashion with them." Sterne's intended implication that a knowledge of the principles of reasoning neither makes, nor is essential to, a good reasoner, is doubtless true. Thus, too, is it with grammar. As Dr. Latham, condemning the usual school drill in Lindley Murray, rightly remarks: "Gross vulgarity is a fault to be prevented; but the proper prevention is to be got from habit not rules." Similarly, there can be little question that good composition is far less dependent upon acquaintance with its laws, than upon practice and natural aptitude... Continue reading book >>


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