In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

—‘Politics and the English Language,’ George Orwell.

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly—and this is much more important—I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

—‘Notes on Nationalism,’ George Orwell

We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary

“We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary. It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper (my italics).”

—A spokesman for the Daily Telegraph.

Refute is not synonymous with rebut or deny. That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument,” but to “disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for rebut—e.g.:“Ontario Hydro strongly refuted [read denied or rebutted] the charges, saying none of its actions violate the Power Corporations Act.” Tom Blackwell, “Local Power Utilities Sue Ontario Hydro Over Pricing,” Ottawa Citizen, 25 Apr. 1997, at D16. See rebut.

Sometimes the word is misused for reject—e.g.: “Two-thirds of the people refuted [read rejected] [Nicholas Ridley’s] belief the European Monetary Union is a ‘German racket to take over the whole of Europe’…” Toby Helm, “Majority Back Euro Deals,” Sunday Telegraph 15 July 1990, at 1.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner

Run-on sentences, the “comma splice”

With a comma splice, two independent clauses have merely a comma between them, again without a conjunction—e.g.: “I need to go to the store, the baby needs some diapers.”

The presence or absence of a comma—and therefore the distinction between a run-on sentence and a comma splice—isn’t usually noteworthy. So most writers class the two problems together as run-on sentences.

But the distinction can be helpful in differentiating between the wholly unacceptable (true run-on sentences) and the usually-but-not-always unacceptable (comma splices). That is, most usage authorities accept comma splices when (1) the clauses are short and closely related, (2) there is no danger of a MISCUE, and (3) the context is informal. Thus: “Jane likes him, I don’t.” But even when all three criteria are met, some readers are likely to object. And in any event a dash seems preferable to a comma in a sentence like that one.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner.

Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan

Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsey, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss.

—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Cited by Brooks Landon in Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft, as an example of a great suspensive sentence using since.

Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm.

Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words… Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words fit to it.

—Virginia Woolf, 1926 letter to V. Sackville-West.

I have have taken the above quotation from from Brooks Landon, who in turn took it from Ursula Le Guin. I thoroughly recommend the audiobook of the lecture series from which it was taken Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. It also includes some great sentences from DeLillo, Pynchon, & Didion, to name a few.

the language does not tolerate a possessive followed by the definite article.

Kingsley Amis (Spectator, 6 Sept. 1986) maintained that the type Harold Robbins, whose The Storyteller shows was ‘not English’: he insisted that the language does not tolerate a possessive followed by the definite article. Write Robbins, whose novel The Storyteller … instead he suggested. Not everyone agreed. In practice there is considerable variation. In a single issue (Autumn 1994) of Letters (the journal of the Royal Society of Literature), for example, I found: Kenneth Tynan once wrote in the New Yorker; J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; Trollope’s The West Indies and the Spanish Main; Devlin’s The Judge; Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler.

All five examples broke Amis’s Law or simply omitted the The of the original title.

Fowler’s Modern English Usage (Revised third edition) by R.W. Burchfield