Imitation, Good and Bad
Too often a learner of English who has read one or two classics tries to imitate their style. The fact, however, is that style cannot be imitated. Different authors have different styles. They do not endeavour to write the way they write1. So the imitation of any style often results in2 affectation.
And the result will be till worse if the style imitated is that of a work written a hundred years ago or more. We are of the eighties3 of the twentieth century, and we should not write the English of the eighties of the nineteenth century.
I would advise you not to aim at a special style. Take care to write correct, simple, idiomatic, and clear English, that’s all4.
But imitation is not always bad. Very often it is important to imitate something. Where personal style is out of place5, imitation is the only means by which correctness may be secured. In writing an advertisement about something, for example, you have to imitate some such advertisement that you have read. You cannot possibly6 write a good one if you have never read any, though you may have read very widely in general literature.
You will do well to7 collect a number of8 short advertisements, formal invitations9 and announcements, receipts, IOU’s10, business contracts11, etc. When you have occasion to12 write one of such, you have simply to do a little imitating and adapting13. The following is an ordinary formal invitation:
Mr and Mrs M. S. Adams request the pleasure of Mr and Mrs L. J. Williams’s company14 at dinner on Saturday evening, May the seventeenth, at seven o’clock, 86 Star Street.
This invitation is from Mr and Mrs M. S. Adams to Mr and Mrs L. J. Williams. Surely, with this piece before you15, you can write a new one. You have simply to change the names, the day, the date16, the time, and the address.
- the way they write=the way in which they write
- results in 结果导致
- the eighties 八十年代
- that’s all 只有那样，别无它法
- out of place 不适宜的
- cannot possibly 必不可能
- will do well to … 这样干是有益的
- a number of 若干
- formal invitations 请帖
- IOU=I owe you 欠款凭证；借据
- contracts 合同
- have occasion to … 有……的必要
- do a little imitating and adapting 做一些模仿和改变
- request the pleasure of …’s company 请……光临
- before you 放在你的面前
- the day, the date 星期几，几月几日