Awkward Sound

We choose words primarily for what they mean, but we must remember that words are also units of sound and rhythm. Even people adept at silent reading will be put off by awkward patterns of sound, though they may not realize exactly what bothers them. Most often the problem is an accidental repetition of the same sound:

There is a growing awareness of the slowing down of growth af-our economy.

BETTER: There is a growing awareness that diminished rates of growth are affecting our economy.

Built-in obsolescence has become the essence of our society. BETTER: ... has become the basis of our society.

At the top of the hill were three fine pine trees standing in a line. BETTER: . .. three beautiful pine trees in a row.

But it is also true (as we saw on pages 153-54) that rhyme, the deliberate repetition of sound, has a place in prose, as in this example:

... those Hairbreadth Harrys of History [who] save the world just when it's slipping into the abyss. Arthur Herzog

As is often the case with diction, it is not easy to separate vice from virtue. Generally, rhyme is awkward when it is accidental or if is too obvious or heavy-handed. Effective rhyme involves key terms and does not shout.

The best guard against awkward repetition of sound is to read your work aloud. If words jar your ear, change them.

0 0

Post a comment