One More Quibble Returning


One More Quibble

Returning to Mr. Akin--

For example, you don’t need to say “God is a good Father and so he lovingly provides for his children.” It is stronger to say “God is a Father and provides for his children” (note that we also got rid of “so he” in addition to “good”; this also makes it stronger writing)
Mostly agreed on all points. For most purposes, his second sentence is a better one. Disagreement, the first sentence does not require the "and so" conjunction. "God is a good Father who provides for His children" is an acceptable formulation, or even, "God is a good Father and provides for His children."
You don’t need to allude to the fact that bad fathers may not lovingly provide for their children. You don’t need to point out that God is good. Your reader can be expected to know that God is good at whatever he does, so if he is a Father, he will be a good one. The modifier “good” is unnecessary and weakens the writing.

I could not possibly disagree more, and this is the crux of the issue. Your assumption depends on the audience you project. If you are speaking to those who hurt deeply and who believe that their hurt is a result of God's actions or inactions, you may not convince with "Good" father, but I would flatly reject the statement that you don't need to point it out. You need to do so again and again, in so many words with as much evidence as you can muster. One thing one learns early on in any business is that labeling is everything. In today's society (and perhaps through all time) Father can come with a load of connotations, good, bad, and indifferent. The modifier MAY be needed depending on your audience. That is probably the center of my disagreement. All of these rubrics, rules, notions, and ideas must take into account the effect you are attempting to achieve AND the audience for whom the piece is being written.

In general, I believe Mr. Akin's rule holds for much expository prose. I believe that it often fails in the realms of narrative and descriptive prose. Different modes require different rules and different structural supports.

Okay, on and on, but this is a subject that I dearly love and an art I care about intensely. Too much damage is done with sweeping rules that do not take into account audience and purpose. We need to be more cautious about what we make general rules. Yes, generally overuse of modifiers should be avoided. On the other hand, properly breaking the rule can give rise to some surprising and interesting writing.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 29, 2002 5:48 PM.

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