Книга Вильяма Зинссера «О хорошем письме»
Прочитал книгу Вильяма Зинссера «О хорошем письме» (William Zinsser; On Writing Well).
Книга состоит четырёх частей: принципы, методы, формы и отношение.
- Если читатель заскучал, уснул, не уследил за мыслью автора, скорее всего, виноват автор. «Perhaps a sentence is so excessively cluttered that the reader, hacking through the verbiage, simply doesn’t know what it means. Perhaps a sentence has been so shoddily constructed that the reader could read it in several ways. Perhaps the writer has switched pronouns in mid-sentence, or has switched tenses, so the reader loses track of who is talking or when the action took place. Perhaps Sentence B is not a logical sequel to Sentence A; the writer, in whose head the connection is clear, hasn’t bothered to provide the missing link. Perhaps the writer has used a word incorrectly by not taking the trouble to look it up. He or she may think sanguine and sanguinary mean the same thing, but the difference is a bloody big one. The reader can only infer (speaking of big differences) what the writer is trying to imply».
- Мусор — это тяжёлая фраза, заменившая простое слово. «Even before John Dean, people and businesses had stopped saying „now“. They were saying „currently“ („all our operators are currently busy“), or „at the present time“, or „presently“ (which means „soon“). Yet the idea can always be expressed by „now“ to mean the immediate moment („Now I can see him“), or by „today“ to mean the historical present („Today prices are high“), or simply by the verb „to be“ („It is raining“). There’s no need to say, „At the present time we are experiencing precipitation“».
- Мусор — это официальный язык, который используют корпорации, чтобы скрыть ошибки. «When the Digital Equipment Corporation eliminated 3,000 jobs its statement didn’t mention layoffs; those were involuntary methodologies. When an Air Force missile crashed, it impacted with the ground prematurely“».
Зинссер рассказывает, что в работах своих студентов в Йеле он не зачёркивает мусор, а берёт его в квадратные скобки. Это как бы значит «кажется, без этого слово можно обойтись, но решать вам». Клёвый приём.
- Смотрите в словари. «If you have any doubt of what a word means, look it up. Learn its etymology and notice what curious branches its original root has put forth. See if it has any meanings you didn’t know it had. Master the small gradations between words that seem to be synonyms. What’s the difference between cajole, wheedle, blandish and coax? Get yourself a dictionary of synonyms».
- Про то, как отличить жаргон от устойчивых выражений: «I would say, for example, that prioritize is jargon — a pompous new verb that sounds more important than rank“ — and that bottom line is usage, a metaphor borrowed from the world of bookkeeping that conveys an image we can picture. As every businessman knows, the bottom line is the one that matters. If someone says, The bottom line is that we just can’t work together, we know what he means. I don’t much like the phrase, but the bottom line is that it’s here to stay».
- Ещё на ту же тему: «I would suggest a similar guideline for separating good English from technical English. It’s the difference between, say, printout and input. A printout is a specific object that a computer emits. Before the advent of computers it wasn’t needed; now it is. But it has stayed where it belongs. Not so with input, which was coined to describe the information that’s fed to a computer. Our input is sought on every subject, from diets to philosophical discourse („I’d like your input on whether God really exists“)».
- Кайф: «You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true».
- Глаголы — важнейшая часть речи. «They push the sentence forward and give it momentum. Active verbs push hard; passive verbs tug fitfully. Active verbs also enable us to visualize an activity because they require a pronoun (he), or a noun (the boy), or a person (Mrs. Scott) to put them in motion. Many verbs also carry in their imagery or in their sound a suggestion of what they mean: glitter, dazzle, twirl, beguile, scatter, swagger, poke, pamper, vex. Probably no other language has such a vast supply of verbs so bright with color. Don’t choose one that is dull or merely serviceable. Make active verbs activate your sentences, and try to avoid the kind that need an appended preposition to complete their work. Don’t set up a business that you can start or launch. Don’t say that the president of the company stepped down. Did he resign? Did he retire? Did he get fired? Be precise. Use precise verbs».
- Большинство наречий не нужны. «You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don’t tell us that the radio blared loudly; blare connotes loudness. Don’t write that someone clenched his teeth tightly; there’s no other way to clench teeth. Again and again in careless writing, strong verbs are weakened by redundant adverbs. So are adjectives and other parts of speech: effortlessly easy, slightly spartan, totally flabbergasted. The beauty of flabbergasted is that it implies an astonishment that is total; I can’t picture someone being partly flabbergasted».
- Уточняющие слова ражижают стиль и снижают убедительность. «Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold».
- Скорее ставьте точку. «There is no minimum length for a sentence that’s acceptable in the eyes of God».
- Не ставьте восклицательный знак, если не стремитесь достичь конкретного эффекта. «Readers are annoyed by your reminder that this was a comical moment. They are also robbed of the pleasure of finding it funny on their own. Humor is best achieved by understatement, and there’s nothing subtle about an exclamation point».
- Предупреждайте читателя, если меняете настроение. «I can’t overstate how much easier it is for readers to process a sentence if you start with but when you’re shifting direction. Or, conversely, how much harder it is if they must wait until the end to realize that you have shifted. Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with but. If that’s what you learned, unlearn it — there’s no stronger word at the start».
- Не преувеличивайте. «„The living room looked as if an atomic bomb had gone off there“, writes the novice writer, describing what he saw on Sunday morning after a party that got out of hand».
- Исправить недающееся предложение проще всего, убрав его. «Surprisingly often a difficult problem in a sentence can be solved by simply getting rid of it. Unfortunately, this solution is usually the last one that occurs to writers in a jam».
- Дайте читателю подумать самому. «Try not to use words like surprisingly, predictably and of course, which put a value on a fact before the reader encounters the fact. Trust your material».
Большинство идей невозможно передать короткой цитатой. Например, любопытно рассуждение о сексизме — когда писать he, когда he or she, а когда they. Я цитирую для того, чтобы передать язык самой книги — как видите, автор пишет хорошо.
В разделе про формы мне было интересно про интервью: почему лучше не использовать диктофон, как найти баланс между краткостью и точностью передачи мыслей, в каком порядке ставить сказанное. Вот это хорошо, тоже об интервью:
- «Finally, don’t strain to find synonyms for he said. Don’t make your man assert, aver and expostulate just to avoid repeating he said, and please — please! — don’t write he smiled or he grinned. I’ve never heard anybody smile. The reader’s eye skips over he said anyway, so it’s not worth a lot of fuss. If you crave variety, choose synonyms that catch the shifting nature of the conversation. He pointed out, he explained, he replied, he added — these all carry a particular meaning. But don’t use he added if the man is merely averring and not putting a postscript on what he just said».
- «As for substance, be intensely selective. If you are describing a beach, don’t write that the shore was scattered with rocks or that occasionally a seagull flew over. Shores have a tendency to be scattered with rocks and to be flown over by seagulls. Eliminate every such fact that is a known attribute: don’t tell us that the sea had waves and the sand was white. Find details that are significant».
О деловом письме:
- «Recently I got a Dear Customer letter from the company that supplies my computer needs. It began: Effective March 30 we will be migrating our end user order entry and supplies referral processing to a new telemarketing center. I finally figured out that they had a new 800 number and that the end user was me. Any organization that won’t take the trouble to be both clear and personal in its writing will lose friends, customers and money. Let me put it another way for business executives: a shortfall will be experienced in anticipated profitability».
- «The bulletin goes on to say that for future cost avoidance, productivity has been enhanced. That seems to mean the product will be free — all costs have been avoided. Next the bulletin assures the customer that the system is delivered with functionality. That means it works. I would hope so».
Хорошая (и очевидная после прочтения) мысль о том, что юмор — инструмент серьёзного письма. Сатира, пародия, ирония, памфлет, абсурд — способ обратить внимание на проблему, о которой что-то мешает сказать прямо. И ещё:
- «Control is vital to humor. Don’t use comical names like Throttlebottom. Don’t make the same kind of joke two or three times — readers will enjoy themselves more if you make it only once. Trust the sophistication of readers who do know what you’re doing, and don’t worry about the rest».
Я пропустил несколько глав из части про форму, например, о том, как писать о спорте и об искусстве. Решил, что вернусь к ним, если понадобится.
В части об отношении хочется процитировать целые страницы. Но вот короткая хорошая цитата:
- «When I was teaching at Yale I invited the humorist S. J. Perelman to talk to my students, and one of them asked him, What does it take to be a comic writer? He said, It takes audacity and exuberance and gaiety, and the most important one is audacity. Then he said: The reader has to feel that the writer is feeling good. The sentence went off in my head like a Roman candle: it stated the entire case for enjoyment. Then he added: Even if he isn’t“».