Euphony: such an essential part of good writing

November 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Wallace Hildick in Writing with Care indicates that George Eliot (Middlemarch) first wrote:

“What is it dear?” said Dorothea with dread in her head. She revised it to: “What is it?” said Dorothea with dread in her mind. In this way George Eliot got rid of that dread/head rhyme.

Let us say another writer had written, ‘dread in her head’. She replaces head with mind, and introduces another problem. Here is the fictitious example: She minded that he left her alone all day, marooned in the country. But there was always dread in her mind when he returned . . . .

The writer revises again:

It bothered her that he left her alone all day, marooned in the country. But there was always dread in her mind when he returned.

‘You couldn’t be bothered, could you, to have something ready for me to eat?’ he said when he entered the chill kitchen.

A further revision, to get rid of a bothered, is required.

She disliked being left alone all day, marooned in the country. But there was always dread in her mind when he returned.                                                                                         

‘You couldn’t be bothered, could you, to have something ready for me to eat?’ he said when he entered the chill kitchen.

The writer revises four times. The result does not dazzle. No reader will say what a wonderful piece of writing. They won’t notice it. But they would have noticed the dread/head rhyme, or the duplication of minded and bothered. Writers must make an effort to avoid writing badly. Yet not writing badly is not equivalent to writing well.

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