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- Slips of Speech - 1/38 -

Slips of Speech

A helpful book for everyone who aspires to correct the everyday errors of speaking and writing. __________________________________________



Author of "Practical Synonyms," "Pronunciation," etc.


The Penn Publishing Company

1901 ______________



CHAP. PAGE INTRODUCTION, . . . . . . . . . . . 3 I. TASTE, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 II. CHOICE OF WORDS, . . . . . . . . . . 15 III. CONTRACTIONS, . . . . . . . . . . . 118 IV. POSSESSIVE CASE, . . . . . . . . . . 124 V. PRONOUNS, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 VI. NUMBER, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142 VII. ADVERBS, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 VIII. CONJUNCTIONS, . . . . . . . . . . . 156 IX. CORRELATIVES, . . . . . . . . . . . 162 X. THE INFINITIVE, . . . . . . . . . . 166 XI. PARTICIPLES, . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 XII. PREPOSITIONS, . . . . . . . . . . . 174 XIII. THE ARTICLE, . . . . . . . . . . . . 181 XIV. REDUNDANCY, . . . . . . . . . . . . 185 XV. TWO NEGATIVES, . . . . . . . . . . . 194 XVI. ACCORDANCE OF VERB WITH SUBJECT, . . 198 _________________________________________________________________



Homer, in all probability, knew no rules of rhetoric, and was not tortured with the consideration of grammatical construction, and yet his verse will endure through time. If everybody possessed the genius of Homer, rules and cautions in writing would be unnecessary.

To-day all men speak, and most men write, but it is observed that those who most closely follow Homer's method of writing without rules are most unlike Homer in the results. The ancient bard was a law unto himself; we need rules for our guidance.

Rules of writing are the outgrowth of the study of the characteristics and qualities of style which distinguish the best writers from those of inferior skill and ability. Grammarians and rhetoricians, according to their several lines of investigation, set forth the laws and principles governing speech, and formulate rules whereby we may follow the true, and avoid the false.

Grammar and rhetoric, as too often presented in the schools, are such uninviting studies that when _________________________________________________________________


school-days are ended, the books are laid aside, and are rarely consulted afterward. The custom of formally burning the text-books after the final examinations-- a custom that prevails in some institutions-- is but an emphatic method of showing how the students regard the subjects treated in the books.

If all the rules and principles had been thoroughly mastered, the huge bonfire of text-books in grammar and rhetoric might be regarded a fitting celebration of the students' victory over the difficulties of "English undefiled." But too often these rules are merely memorized by the student for the purpose of recitation, and are not engrafted upon his everyday habit of speech. They are, therefore, soon forgotten, and the principles involved are subject to daily violation.

Hence arises the need of books like SLIPS OF SPEECH, in which the common faults of speakers and writers are pointed out, and the correct use of words shown. Brief and informal in treatment, they will be read and consulted when the more voluminous text-books will be left untouched.

The copious index appended to this volume will afford a ready reference to the many subjects discussed, and will contribute greatly to the convenience and permanent value of the book. _________________________________________________________________

5 _________________________________________________________________

6 _________________________________________________________________



"We should be as careful of our words as of our actions."-- CICERO.



Taste is a universal gift. It has been found in some degree in all nations, races, and ages. It is shown by the savage in his love of personal decoration; by the civilized man in his love of art.

But while it is thus universal, it is as different among men as their faces, complexions, characters, or languages. Even among people of the same nation, it is as different as the degrees of society. The same individual at different periods of life, shows this variableness of taste.

These diversities of taste imply a susceptibility to improvement. Good taste in writing forms no exception to the rule. While it seems to require some basis in nature, no degree of inborn aptitude will compensate for the lack of careful training.

To give his natural taste firmness and fineness a writer needs to read the best literature, not merely so _________________________________________________________________


as to know it, but so as to feel the beauty, the fitness, the charm, the strength, the delicacy of a well-chosen word.

The study of the proper arrangement and the most effective expression of our thoughts prompts us to think more accurately. So close is the connection between the thought and its expression that looseness of style in speaking and writing may nearly always be traced to indistinctness and feebleness in the grasp of the subject. No degree of polish in expression will compensate for inadequacy of knowledge. But with the fullest information upon any subject, there is still room for the highest exercise of judgment and good sense in the proper choice and arrangement of the thoughts, and of the words with which to express them.

The concurrent testimony of those best qualified to render a decision, has determined what authors reflect the finest literary taste, and these writers should be carefully studied by all who aspire to elegance, accuracy, and strength in literary expression.

Fine Writing

Never hesitate to call a spade a spade. One of the most frequent violations of good taste consists in the effort to dress a common subject in high-sounding language. The ass in the fable showed his stupidity _________________________________________________________________


when he put on the lion's skin and expected the other animals to declare him to be the king of beasts. The distinction of a subject lies in its own inherent character, and no pompous parade of words will serve to exalt a commonplace theme.

Poetic Terms

In the expression of homely ideas and the discussion of affairs of every-day life, avoid such poetic forms as o'er for over, ne'er for never, 'mid for amid, e'en for even, 'gan for began, 'twixt for betwixt, 'neath for beneath, list for listen, oft for often, morn for morning, eve for evening, e'er for ever, ere for before, 'tis for it is, 'twas for it was.

In all prose composition, avoid such poetic forms as swain, wight, mead, brake, dingle, dell, zephyr.

Foreign Words

The unrestrained use of foreign words, whether from the ancient or from the modern languages, savors of pedantry and affectation. The ripest scholars, in speaking and writing English, make least use of foreign words or phrases. Persons who indulge in their use incur the risk of being charged with a desire to exhibit their linguistic attainments.

On the other hand, occasions arise when the use of words from a foreign tongue by one who is thoroughly _________________________________________________________________


familiar with them, will add both grace and exactness to his style.

Rarely use a foreign term when your meaning can be as well expressed in English. Instead of blase, use surfeited, or wearied; for cortege

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