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The Introduction sets forth as simply, clearly, and compactly as possible the leading facts of English grammar, including definitions of technical terms.
The body of the book is in three Parts. Part I., which treats of WORDS, is divided into two books: in Book I., proper and improper expressions, arranged for convenience in classes that correspond to the several parts of speech, are set side by side; in Book II., questions of choice between words equally proper are considered. Part II., which treats of SENTENCES, is divided into two books: in Book I., good and bad sentences, arranged for convenience in chapters that correspond to the five important qualities of style, are set side by side; in Book II., questions of choice between sentences equally proper are considered. Part III. treats of PARAGRAPHS.
Believing that every one should be encouraged to do work for himself, I begin the discussion of every question with an example, — a practice which enables the student to discover for himself the rule under which the example falls. For young scholars this is the true order; for it is the order in which the mind naturally works. In experience, facts come before principles or rules induction precedes deduction.
Believing that attention should be drawn primarily to good English, I have, in every case in which proper and improper forms appear side by side, placed the proper form where it will first catch the eye.
Within the prescribed limits, it is of course impracticable to enumerate all possible departures from propriety in the choice of words or in their arrangement. All that is attempted is to note those which unpractised
writers are most likely to make. Some of the sentences quoted as warnings are taken from current newspapers, novels, and other publications that are likely to fall in the way of young readers and to affect their modes of expression; but most of them come from manuscripts produced under the stress of the examination-room or in the agonies of "composition." I have not deemed it advisable to increase the enormous amount of bad English already in the world by inventing new varieties, or by manufacturing new specimens of old varieties.
For valuable assistance in the preparation of these pages, I am indebted to Miss E. A. Withey, who brought to the task unusual patience, intelligence, and devotion.
To several of my colleagues, by whose suggestions and criticisms I have profited, and to the authors of various books on the English language which I have consulted, my thanks are also due.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, Cambridge, Mass.
A. S. H.