HASKINS & SELLS
CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS
PITTSBURGH BULLETIN SAN FRANCISCO
VOL. I NEW YORK, DECEMBER 15, 1918 No. 10
The Use of English
A N accountant who is unable to write
comments which are acceptable fails
in an important feature of his work. The
ability to investigate, to analyze, to ascertain
facts, to appraise with judgment which
is swift and sure, is greatly impaired by
lack of ability to so use English as to
express the results concisely and clearly.
Language is the medium whereby we
express our thoughts and convey ideas.
Language is a collection of words. Diction
is the correct use of words; the words
which best transfer the thoughts from one
mind to another.
In the writing of comments the things
to be said are those which are important
and essential from every point of view.
The points to be brought out are those
which will interest the reader, or give him
the information which he seeks. There
may also be included matters which the
accountant believes should be brought to
the attention. Non-essentials should be
omitted. Comments should never be written
for the sake of filling up a report.
The points should be set forth in a manner
which is at once both terse and clear.
Newspaper articles begin with what is
called the topic paragraph. The topic
paragraph contains the gist of the article.
The content of the paragraph is short and
to the point. It is the embodiment of
terseness and clearness. The busy man
gets an excellent idea of the day's news by
reading the topic paragraphs. Newspaper
headlines are a further intensification of
the same idea.
The things which make for clearness
and terseness are good diction, simple
words, short sentences, short paragraphs.
Writers who attract and hold the attention
of the public almost invariably observe
these rules. The simple words are generally
understood. The short paragraphs
and sentences not only make the reading
easy, but give a snap to the material which
is invigorating to the mind.
The writer whose diction is poor is
likely to convey wrong ideas. The man
who employs complex, high-sounding words
with the purpose of making an impression
is a bore. The person who uses involved
sentences vexes and annoys. He who
writes long paragraphs tires his reader
and fails to sustain the attention.
The modern tendency is to avoid as far
as possible, without detracting from the
force, the use of capitals. It is also popular
to use a minimum of punctuation. Underscored
words should not be used at all,
quotation marks as little as possible.
It is the exceptional person in whom the