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nunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several of our states are continually falling into with respect to both. Give me leave to mention some of them, though possibly they may already have occurred to you. I wish, however, that in some future publication of yours you would set a discountenancing mark upon them. The first I remember, is the word improved. When I left . New-England in the year 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated, or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mathers, entitled, Remarkable Providences. As that man wrote a very obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in his book, used instead of the word employed, I conjectured that it was an error of the printer, who had mistaken a short l in the writing for an r and a y with too short a tail for a v, whereby employed was converted into improved: but when I returned to Boston in 1733, I found this change had obtained favour, and was then become common; for I met with it often in perusing the newspapers, where it frequently made an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for instance, as the advertisement of a country house to be sold, which had been many years improved as a tavern; and in the character of a deceased country gentleman, that he had been, for more than thirty years, improved as a justice of the peace. This use of the word improve is peculiar to New England, and not to be met with among any other speakers of English, either on this or the other side of the water.
During my late absence in France, I find that several other new words have been introduced into our parliamentary language. For example, I find a verb formed from the substantive noticed I should not have noticed this, where it not that the gentleman, &c. Also another verb from the substantive advocate ; The gentlemen who advocates, or who has advocated that motion, &c. Another from the substantive progress, the most awkward and abominable of the three : The committee having progressed, resolved to adjourn. The
Je year 1723,
S, as far as I
i made better Mathers
man wrote a when I read
of the prin
vriting for an
whereby em ut when I see
word opposed, though not a new word, I find used in a
The Latin language, long the vehicle used in dis-
hange bad of
for ) papers, where er ridicuious
It of a coum real's leceased coli
ore than thir
This use of the 1, and not to the
endeavour the facilitating its progress, the study of our tongue might become much more general. Those who have employed some part of their time in learning a new language, must have frequently observed, that while their acquaintance with it was imperfect, difficulties, small in themselves, operated as great ones in obstructing their progress. A book for example, ill printed, or a pronunciation in speaking not well articulated, would render a sentence unintelligible, which from a clear print, or a distinct speaker, would have been immediately comprehended. If therefore, we would have the benefit of seeing our language more generally known among mankind, we should endeavour to remove all the difficulties, however small, that discourage the learning of it. But I am sorry to observe, that of late years, those difficulties, instead of being diminished, have been augmented.
In examining the English books that were printed between the restoration and the accession of George the Second, we may observe, that all substantives were begun with a capital, in which we imitated our mother tongue, the German. This was more particularly useful to those who were not well acquainted with the English, there being such a prodigious number of our words that are both verbs and substantives, and spelt in the same manner, though often accented differently in pronunciation. This method has, by the fancy of printers, of late years, been entirely laid aside; from an idea, that suppressing the capitals shews the character to greater advantage; those letters, prominent above the line, disturbing its even, regular appearance. The effect of this change is so considerable, that a learned man in France, who used to read our books, though not perfectly acquainted with our language, in conversation with me on the subject of our authors, attributed the greater obscurity he found in our modern books, compared with those written in the period above mentioned, to change of style for the worse in our writers; of which mistake I convinced him, by marking for him each substantive with a capital, in a
paragraph, which he then easily understood, though before he could not comprehend it. This shews the inconvenience of that pretended improvement.
From the same fondness for an uniform and even appearance of characters in the line, the printers have of late banished also the italic types, in which words of importance to be attended to in the sense of the sentence, and words on which an emphasis should be put in reading, used to be printed. And lately another fancy has induced other printers to use the rounds instead of the long one, which formely served well to distinguish a word readily by its varied appearance. Certainly the omitting this prominent letter makes a line appear more even, but it renders it less immediately legible; as the paring of all men's noses might smooth and level their faces, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable. Add to all these improvements backwards, another modern fancy, that grey printing is more beautiful than black. Hence the English new books are printed in so dim a character, as to be read with difficulty by old eyes, unless in a very strong light, and with good glasses. Whoever compares a volume of the Gentleman's Magazine, printed between the years. 1731 and 1740, with one of those printed in the last ten years, will be convinced of the much greater degree of perspicuity given by black than by the grey. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly remarked this difference to Faulkener, the printer of the Dublin Journal, who was vainly making encomiums on his own paper, as the most complete of any in the world.
6 But Mr. Faulkener,” says my lord, « don't you think it might be still farther im
proved, by using paper and ink not quite so near of
a colour." -For all these reasons I cannot but wish that our American printers would, in their editions, avoid these fancied improvements, and thereby render their works more agreeable to foreigners in Europe, to the great advantage of our bookselling commerce,
Farther, to be more sensible of the advantage of clear and distinct printing, let us consider the assistance it affords in reading well aloud to an auditory. In so doing the eye generally slides forward three or four words before the voice. If the sight clearly distinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to alter the modulation of the voice, to express them properly. But if they are obscurely printed, or disgusted by omitting the capitals and long f's, or otherwise, the reader is apt to modulate wrong, and finding he has done so, he is obliged to go back and begin the sentence again; which lessens the pleasure of the hear
This leads me to mention an old error in our mode of printing. We are sensible that when a question is met with in the reading, there is a proper variation to be used in the management of the voice. We have, therefore, a point, called an interrogation, affixed to the question, in order to distinguish it. But this is absurdly placed at its end, so that the reader does not discover it till he finds that he has wrongly modulated his voice, and is therefore obliged to begin again the sentence, To prevent this, the Spanish printers, more sensibly, place an interrogation at the beginning as well as at the end of the question. We have another error of the same kind in printing plays, where some thing often occurs that is marked as spoken aside. But the word aside is placed at the end of the speech, when it ought to precede it, as a direction to the reader, that he may govern his voice accordingly. The practice of our ladies in meeting five or six together, to form little busy parties, where each is employed in some useful work, while one reads to them, is so commendable in itself, that it deserves the attention of authors and printers to make it as pleasing as possible, both to the readers and hearers.
My best wishes attend you, being, with sincere esteem,
Sir, your most obedient and