Пишем правильно. #4. Используем определенный, специфический, конкретный язык

Используем определенный, специфический, конкретный язык – Use definite, specific, concrete language.

Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.

A period of unfavorable weather set in. It rained every day for a week.
He showed satisfaction as he took possession of his well-earned reward. He grinned as he pocketed the coin.
There is a general agreement among those who have enjoyed the experience that surf-riding is productive of great exhilaration. All who have tried surf-riding agree that it is most exhilarating.

If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on any one point, it is on this, that the surest method of arousing and holding the attention of the reader is by being specific, definite, and concrete. Critics have pointed out how much of the effectiveness of the greatest writers, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, results from their constant definiteness and concreteness. Browning, to cite a more modern author, affords many striking examples. Take, for instance, the lines from My Last Duchess,

Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,

The dropping of the daylight in the west,

The bough of cherries some officious fool

Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule

She rode with round the terrace—all and each

Would draw from her alike the approving speech,

Or blush, at least,

and those which end the poem,

Notice Neptune, though,

Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,

Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

These words call up pictures. Recall how in The Bishop Orders his Tomb in St. Praxed’s Church“the Renaissance spirit—its worldliness, inconsistency, pride, hypocrisy, ignorance of itself, love of art, of luxury, of good Latin,” to quote Ruskin’s comment on the poem, is made manifest in specific details and in concrete terms.

Prose, in particular narrative and descriptive prose, is made vivid by the same means. If the experiences of Jim Hawkins and of David Balfour, of Kim, of Nostromo, have seemed for the moment real to countless readers, if in reading Carlyle we have almost the sense of being physically present at the taking of the Bastille, it is because of the definiteness of the details and the concreteness of the terms used. It is not that every detail is given; that would be impossible, as well as to no purpose; but that all the significant details are given, and not vaguely, but with such definiteness that the reader, in imagination, can project himself into the scene.

In exposition and in argument, the writer must likewise never lose his hold upon the concrete, and even when he is dealing with general principles, he must give particular instances of their application.

“This superiority of specific expressions is clearly due to the effort required to translate words into thoughts. As we do not think in generals, but in particulars—as whenever any class of things is referred to, we represent it to ourselves by calling to mind individual members of it, it follows that when an abstract word is used, the hearer or reader has to choose, from his stock of images, one or more by which he may figure to himself the genus mentioned. In doing this, some delay must arise, some force be expended; and if by employing a specific term an appropriate image can be at once suggested, an economy is achieved, and a more vivid impression produced.”

Herbert Spencer, from whose Philosophy of Style the preceding paragraph is quoted, illustrates the principle by the sentences:

In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulations of their penal code will be severe. In proportion as men delight in battles, bull-fights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.


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