Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Mysterious Element of Syntax Is the Key to Effective Writing

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on books and in print), I have devoted several pages to explaining how use of syntax can help your writing to become more effective. Here is what I have written:

“What exactly is syntax? How can it help you to write more clearly? And, how does it differ, if at all, from diction?

To answer these questions takes a little digging. A good dictionary definition provides some help. One definition provided by Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Ed., p. 1269, is that syntax means “…a connected or orderly system: harmonious arrangement of parts or elements…” That helps a little bit. The same source provides another definition: “…the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are put together to form constituents (as phrases or clauses)…” That helps a little more.

So, how does all of this relate to clear writing? Let’s find out.

Good syntax makes good sense. It deals with the orderly arrangement of words in a sentence. Diction, dealing with the selection of the right words, is to be distinguished. So, it can be said that words carry the meaning, the power, but syntax controls their effect on the reader.

We now have a better understanding of what syntax means, but we still need to know how it helps us to write more clearly and how to acquire it.

Syntax involves adding rhythm and color to your writing. These are an indispensable part of clear writing, and should be as much a part of your writing as your heartbeat is to you. Thus, there should be a beat to your writing much as a poet includes a beat to his/her lines. As noted in “The Way To Write,” John Fairfax and John Moat, St. Martin’s Press, 1981, p. 66, Byron used the thunder of horsemen as the meter for his poem,
The Destruction Of Sennacherib:

“The Assyrian came down like a wolf
on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple
and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like

stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly
on deep Galilee.”

The same little booklet, at p. 58, provides another example of what the authors believe is “spectacular” syntax in the following quote from an unidentified Hemingway novel:

“Living was a horse between your
legs and a carbine under one leg and
a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and
the hills beyond.”

The point to be made in all of this comes down to using the story teller as an example. Everyone likes a good story. Bob Sands, a well known copy righter who writes for AWAI (American Writers And Artists, Inc.), emphasizes the point that good copy writing is made even better by a good story. The order of words in the telling of the story is what provides the emphasis, the drama. The drama makes the story. An accomplished writer has a feel for the dramatic and can arrange his words to provide the best impact.

An inexperienced writer may struggle to write a sentence that provides the best effect on the reader. But, once more experience is obtained, a writer will get a feel for the best order of his words. This will result in clear meaning, logical presentation of information, and maximum effect on the reader.

A final example, what Messrs. Fairfax and Moat characterize as “superb” syntax, is provided by no less familiar a name than Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Life’s but a walking shadow;
a poor player,

Who struts and frets his hour upon
the stage,

And then is heard no more: it is a

Told by an idiot, full of sound and

Signifying nothing…” (Id. p. 59).

A gift for words may carry with it a gift for syntax. The two may be the same. But, as with other aspects of writing, the gift for syntax does not come gift-wrapped with a ribbon – it must be nurtured and developed, by guidance and constant practice, by developing the ear.”

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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There will be no blog posted today. Please accept my regrets. Arnold Regardie.

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The False Promise of Howard Zinn’s Anti-Americanism

An important Wall Street Journal article this week pointed out how Howard Zinn, the Marxist historian, and a former member of the Communist Party in 1949 is making the academic left and Hollywood more influential than ever. This excellent article by David J. Bobb, director of the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C., takes direct aim at the “impressive empire devoted to the spread of [Zinn’s] ideas.” Now, this entire movement fostered by Zinn’s relentless criticism of “alleged American imperialism” is in my opinion nothing more than a communist manifesto style of anti-Americanism.

Zinn, who died in 2010, is the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” published in 1980. So far as Zinn is concerned, America is synonymous with brute domination of people that can be traced back hundreds of years. The Founding Fathers were nothing more than “self-serving elitists defined by guns and greed.” This is historical claptrap. According to Zinn, capitalists are villains controlling all basic material goods such as food and housing and that basically everything including healthcare, education, and transportation, should be free to everyone. What Zinn and his followers fail to understand is that communism stifles incentive and where there is no incentive there is no economic growth.

Endorsement of Zinn’s writings by the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and other Hollywood notables is eminently unjustified. Here are two actors who have made millions as a direct result of the workings of American capitalism but who nevertheless are Zinn supporters. As the article points out, both are Zinn family friends. This is nothing more than hypocrisy at its best.

Any supporter of communism who wants to try out its ballyhooed heroic workers glory need only live under it to experience the mass despair and misery that plagues everyday life under that system. One need only to look at North Korea and Cuba, two countries beset by not only economic stagnation but an absence of human rights, to know that this “workers paradise” does not work for the masses. Those who glorify it should go and live in any country where communism is the way of life before preaching its ideals. China also has a communist government but a capitalistic economic system. And how much freedom for the masses is there in China?

Any institution of learning that allows Zinn’s works to be presented should also temper any such presentation with a hard look at present conditions under communism as well as those that were extant under the former Soviet bloc. Those who would cast capitalism as a villain should try going into business where communism exists and not free enterprise. Capitalism may not be perfect – it surely has its faults – but it’s the best system yet invented by man to foster economic growth and wealth as the history of this country will attest. Those who live in this country and enjoy its many freedoms but nevertheless clamor for the “social justice” endorsed by Zinn’s writings
simply ignore the harsh realities of life where our freedoms do not exist.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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The Weakness In American Politics

American politics is amazing. The country has elected a smooth talking politician as president who had no prior experience in leading anyone. In my view Barack Obama was eminently unqualified to be president and now the country is paying the price for electing him in the first place. His legacy as president? He has a good chance to go down in history as one of the worst presidents ever.

The economy is the most glaring example of his ineptitude. This president has no clue as to how to get the economy moving. Unemployment is still rampant, even after five years in office. It is private enterprise that has provided the economic growth in this country and not big government. The president simply doesn’t understand this. He spent the initial time as president signing a healthcare bill into law that was and is still hugely unpopular with Americans instead of addressing the economic woes that beset the country.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is an act of incompetence and irresponsibility. Politicians in Congress who voted for it without reading it and thoroughly understanding its implications deserve to be kicked out of office. One of the major concerns: businesses are not hiring because of apprehension over incurring the huge monetary penalties if full time employees are not covered.

The president’s legacy will be marked by other failures besides the ACA.

The Keystone pipeline is a project that will provide countless jobs as well as help the country achieve energy independence from the Middle East. Yet the project is lagging, awaiting the presidential OK. The president’s nod to environmental interests in stalling the pipeline is unjustified. Environmental concerns can be addressed and the benefits of the pipeline outweigh the latter.

There are also many scandals still to be fully addressed. Benghazi is no phony scandal as claimed by Obama. Four Americans died as a result of this attack including the Ambassador Chris Stevens. Many unanswered questions remain, not the least of which is why there was no appropriate military response.

Hillary Clinton’s role in this disaster must be fully explored. As Secretary of State, this attack should be viewed as a direct result of her incompetence. Remember, prior to this appointment she had no experience anywhere in a leadership role and no experience whatsoever in affairs of state. She was clearly unqualified and totally lacking in experience. Her appointment must be viewed as having been made for purely political purposes and reflects poorly on the administration as well. Her credibility is also fully in question as she is shown to have lied on many, many occasions, including her last run for the presidency when she falsely stated that she landed on the tarmac in Bosnia under sniper fire.

Speaking of credibility, the president has reiterated many times over the last 2-3 years that Al Quaeda is dead, it’s decimated, it’s on the run, and so forth. Now the administration has shuttered several U.S. embassies across the Middle East because of increased terrorist chatter on the internet. Yet the president has declined to admit the U.S. is engaged in a war on terror against Radical Islam. It seems clear something is missing so far as the president’s foreign policy is concerned.

The IRS targeting of conservative group is another totally unacceptable scandal and remains as yet another example of inept leadership. Or was it all planned? Who knows how high the circle of responsibility will reach.

The country is drifting, with little if any perceived direction from Washington. The administration is floundering. There is no cooperation with or dialogue with Congress. Foreign policy is non-existent. All of this is a direct result of electing someone with no prior experience at leadership. It is a basic flaw in the political system.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Regretfully, there will be no blog posted to this site today. Arnold Regardie.

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