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ラッセル「私の執筆法」n.4 (松下彰良・訳)

Bertrand Russell : How I write, 1951.


 (執筆法に関する)単純な格言がいくつかある。それらは,おそらく,私の義兄のローガン・ピアサル・スミスが私に提供したものほど単純ではないだろうが,解説的な文章の執筆者には勧めることができると思われる。第一に,短い単語(短語)でよい場合に長い単語を決して使うな第二に,非常に多くの限定(注:qualifications 「いろいろな意味内容」といったニュアンスか)を持つ一つの陳述文を作りたい場合には,その限定のいくつかは別の文章にせよ第三に,文章の始まりにおいて,文の終わりで矛盾である(ことがわかるような)期待を読者に持たせてはいけない。たとえば,社会学の著作において現れそうな次のような文章をとってみよう。

There are some simple maxims--not perhaps quite so simple as those which my brother-in-law Logan Pearsall Smith offered me--which I think might be commended to writers of expository prose. First: never use a long word if a short word will do. Second: if you want to make a statement with a great many qualifications, put some of the qualifications in separate sentences. Third: do not let the beginning of your sentence lead the reader to an expectation which is contradicted by the end. Take, say, such a sentence as the following, which might occur in a work on sociology: "Human beings are completely exempt from undesirable behaviour-patterns only when certain prerequisites, not satisfied except in a small percentage of actual cases, have, through some fortuitous concourse of favourable circumstances, whether congenital or environmental, chanced to combine in producing an individual in whom many factors deviate from the norm in a socially advantageous manner". Let us see if we can translate this sentence into English. I suggest the following: "All men are scoundrels, or at any rate almost all. The men who are not must have had unusual luck, both in their birth and in their upbringing." This is shorter and more intelligible, and says just the same thing. But I am afraid any professor who used the second sentence instead of the first would get the sack.

This suggests a word of advice to such of my hearers as may happen to be professors. I am allowed to use plain English because everybody knows that I could use mathematical logic if I chose. Take the statement: "Some people marry their deceased wives' sisters". I can express this in language which only becomes intelligible after years of study, and this gives me freedom. I suggest to young professors that their first work should be written in a jargon only to be understood by the erudite few. With that behind them, they can ever after say what they have to say in a language "understanded of the people". In these days, when our very lives are at the mercy of the professors, I cannot but think that they would deserve our gratitude if they adopted my advice.