The Four Great Rules For Style
And now to recapitulate. Here are the four great rules for style which implement our purpose to present Fact With Passion:
1. Keep ‘EM Reading.
2. A Fact (IDEA) And A Feeling (EMOTION) In Every Sentence ( Or Clause )
3. Fact First Or Feeling First: Which Will Be Better?
4. Let Facts And Feelings Alternate ( As A Rule ) Throughout A Given Sequence Or Paragraph.
You will do well to memorize these rules now, and practice them consciously and deliberately until they become second nature to you. Also make a practice of checking over what you have written to see whether or not you have applied these rules in every instance. Look before and after. For if you send out your final copy without making sure it lives up to these rules, you stand a very good chance of getting it back by return mail.
Of course I did not make up these rules; I merely state them here for your convenience. The rules are dictated by the nature of speech and human thought and feeling. All successful writers have followed them from the beginning; for without them, no writer can be successful.
That is true, simply because, without following these rules, Continuity becomes impossible.
Accordingly the author, in order to keep the reader interested, must first make sure that there is a fact and a feeling in every sentence; that the sentences in any given sequence are all moving in the same direction; and that that direction is the right one. These are the basic principles of all good style and effective writing.
There is nothing abstruse or mysterious about these rules when put in practice. Any writer who can distinguish a phrase or word expressing an idea or a fact from a phrase or word expressing a feeling or an emotion can readily tell whether or not he has both of these in his sentence. He can make sure by trying his sentence both ways if necessary to see which will serve his purpose better whether he should put the fact first and the feeling after, or vice versa.
Thus the author need not merely “dream up” his composition and hope for the best. He may apply sure principles and test it out, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph, until he achieves the best result possible.
Of course, there will be occasions where it will be desirable to vary the sequence of facts and feelings in adjacent sentences, for greater effectiveness. But this trial-and-error method will soon show where such variations are advisable.
Every composition, whether poetry or prose, must be cast in a form which fits the habit of thought of the reader. There is an ancient four-part formula which explains this and which is the basic pattern of all compositions. It makes sense whether these are sonnets or biographies, epics or novels, short stories or essays, for this formula is based upon the mental habits of the human being. The formula has four steps:
1. We must first catch the reader’s attention.
2. Having caught his attention we must convince the reader that the matter under discussion is one which concerns him, since otherwise he will not continue to read.
3. Having secured his attention and having made him believe that he is concerned, we must then get down to cases and show him that we have not misled him, by bringing forward such facts, ideas, or emotions as will hold his interest.
4. Having gone thus far we must finally leave him with the conviction that his effort of attention has not been in vain. We do this by providing him with some result of his effort, by suggesting some course of action or attitude of mind derived from, and justified by, what we have shown him.
Thus a politician might begin his speech by saying, “Taxes have reached an all-time high.” Thus he gains our attention.
Our politician might then say, “You will have to pay them.” Thus he shows us that his original statement concerns ourselves.
As his third step he may go on to say, “You will have to pay income tax, poll tag, etc.” Thus he gets down to cases and proves that his second statement is not without basis.
Finally he may conclude his speech by suggesting, “Send me to Congress, and I will reduce taxes.” Thus he suggests a course of action and a purpose to us which makes us feel that we can or should do something about the facts he has presented.
One of my pupils has suggested that this formula may be expressed in only four words, for convenience in remembering it, as follows:
Every composition, every piece of writing which makes sense embodies this formula. This formula, which you must memorize at once, is the pattern on which you will build your work. Every article every chapter, every book, every advertisement, even every letter you write should conform to it. In every case you will first block out your material according to this pattern, and when you have written your copy you will be wise to check it and see that each of the four steps given above is effectively stated. Then you will feel sure that you can attract and hold the reader’s interest.
This completes the Writing Non-Fiction Module of Becoming A Wealthy Writer, Section II