It is said that Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg address on a stray bit of wrapping paper. If the story is true, it could only be considered an exigency; certainly he did not intend establishing a mode for writers thereby. John Bunyan could not spell, as one of his biographers put it, "for sour apples," but Bunyan had no educational advantages nor any Webster's Collegiate Dictionary at hand.
Horace Greeley wrote so illegibly that an authentic story is told of his having written a letter of dismissal to one of his subeditors only to have it used as one of recommendation to his next employer, the latter being able to decipher only Greeley's signature. But in Greeley's day there were no typewriters ready to substitute mechanical precision for an illegible chirography. These examples will serve perhaps as introduction to a few observations on the obligation of courtesy and care resting upon those who prepare manuscript for our publications.
There is no question that workers often have ideas and inspiring thoughts which merit publication. If these compositions were published just as they come to the hands of our editors, without revision or correction, in some cases they would reflect gross carelessness or unfortunate ignorance in matters of spelling, grammar, punctuation, paragraphing, and diction. Granting that the training of a writer may have been inadequate, there is little excuse for outstanding blunders in English in this era of inexpensive handbooks on composition, encyclopedic dictionaries, and correspondence courses in fundamentals of the language. Men are judged as much by their language as they are by their attire, for "language is the dress of thought."
In deference to the need for brevity, only a few general cautions to writers for our publications are possible. In order to make a favorable impression upon your prospective editor, give heed to:
Spelling.—Check every unfamiliar word with the dictionary. If you are a poor speller, have someone else check your article.
Grammar.—See to it that every sentence is complete and clear in thought. If you are weak in grammatical construction, lean toward the short, simple sentence style.
Punctuation.—Remember that this is a useful device to make your meaning clear. Master the comma especially.
Paragraphing.—A paragraph is a unified bit of composition developing a single idea or one of several divisions of it. Its simplest rule is to discard everything unrelated to the idea and include all that is essential to it.
Diction.—Use the short Anglo-Saxon equivalents in preference to words of Latin origin. "Chew," "lie," "think," are stronger than "masticate," "prevaricate," "ruminate."
Quotations.—Quote only from reliable sources, and make clear, specific references to such sources, preferably in footnotes, giving author, exact title of article, publication, and page.
Manuscript. —Use unruled typewriter paper of good quality. Begin your article nearly halfway down the first sheet. Make the margins wide, double-space the lines, number each page at the top center, identify your article with a title and your name, and use one side of the paper only. Typewritten material is preferable to handwritten offerings. A simple paper clip will suffice as fastening. Da not roll or dog-ear the sheets. Wherever possible, as in the case of bulky manuscript, mail flat without folding.
No discouragement is intended to veteran contributors to our papers. Our editors are happy to receive the inspirational material which comes to their desks. We would merely bespeak for them an intelligent cooperation in this matter of presenting manuscripts in a way that would require the least revision on the editorial desk. One of the most useful little handbooks on grammar, punctuation, and capitalization is the style manual published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, "A Guide to Correct English," by Mary A. Steward.
Berrien Springs, Mich.