Thinking of Writing わが経験的文章論 By Kenji Nakadate 中楯健二


Many congratulations to you all on joining Chuo University. Here is an article contributed by Mr. Kenji Nakadate, former editor-in-chief of the Hakumon Herald who graduated from Chuo University in 1965. Based on his own experiences, Mr. Nakadate talks about the pleasure and difficulty of writing. It will be of some help to you in your study and club activity in Chuo University. –Editor

Writing is a comprehensive art of expression. You need to mobilize all your knowledge, experience and imagination. I therefore say writing is difficult and profound.

My interest in writing was awakened and strengthened by my encounter with Shinshow Nakajima, then editor of the Asahi Evening News, who checked our English copies for the Hakumon Herald. While I was an editor-in-chief (in 1963-1964), I was strictly trained by him about selection of headlines, logical description, simple expression, importance of introduction, development, turn and conclusion in articles, utilization of richer vocabularies, etc. I learned a lot each time I reviewed my manuscripts corrected by him. Through these experiences, I came to realize how interesting writing is.

An attitude of mind and thoughtful consideration are quite important when you write. You write articles for persons who are not necessarily willing to read them. Most of them are not obliged to read your articles. So, you must present them with the fruit of consideration and the best efforts you make. Your readers are always capricious. To attract their interest, you must pay due consideration in various ways – what topic to pick up, how to construct your articles, how to lay them out, which typeface to choose, where to cut sentences and change paragraphs, etc. You need to do all kinds of things to encourage your readers to turn as many pages as possible. Otherwise, nobody will read them through to the end. You are not a professional writer but you must give all possible consideration as you are going to occupy someone else’s time. Nobody will take an interest in looking through pages which are full of typos, omitted letters, disparate typefaces and shapeless layouts. Those amount to betraying your immaturity and demotivating your readers. I reemphasize that basic consideration and attitude of mind are indispensable for good writing.

The proverb says, “The style is the man”. Written texts unwittingly expose the writer’s real character – serious or irresponsible, punctilious or insensitive, etc. That will be evident from your writing. Therefore, you should not write half-heartedly. Unlike spoken words, texts cannot be undone once printed. They remain on record as they are for the rest of your life. Shame goes along with them. When I write sentences, I always abide by the following seven principles.

1. Look at things from manifold angles.

2. Give full attention to titles.

3. Furnish sentences with rhythm.

4. Make a sentence as short as possible.

5. Value a feeling for language.

6. Enrich vocabulary.

7. Pepper sentences with a sense of humor.

Among them, I pay utmost attention to the three elements of “rhythm”, “title” and “humor”. I think rhythm is quite important to sentences. Like music, sentences with good rhythm are more readable because they are easier to soak into your head. If you read sentences aloud, you will instantly know whether they have a rhythm or not. Haruki Murakami says, “I have learned the method of writing from music. Most important is rhythm. Nobody reads sentences with no rhythm.” When I put a title to my article, I take time to consider how I can capture readers’ heart. That is because they tend to look at the title before deciding whether to read its content or not. Humor I mentioned last plays a role of hidden flavor. It gives a bright accent to sentences.

My favorite novelist is Hisashi Inoue. His books, rich in humor, are comprehensible. I guess that comes from his theory: “Write something difficult easily, something easy deeply, something deep pleasantly and something pleasant seriously”. I always refer to this theory when I write. It is not easy to write something difficult in a plain manner. There are books written in keeping with Inoue’s theory. They are science-related books for elementary and junior high-school students. The themes they address range from cosmos, zoology and botany to religion and philosophy. They are usually written for children in a simple way by specialists in each discipline. Pundits might deal with those subjects in as much academic way as they would like. But those books are written so plainly that they are accessible even to lay persons like me who are less intelligent with science. I think those children’s books are a good example for writing as well as reading.

The Hakumon Herald in our time was written only in English. But its current edition comes in both English and Japanese. English texts are accompanied by their Japanese counterparts below. Conversely, if you read the Japanese texts first, you can compare them with their English equivalents above. Readers can enjoy dual tastes. They can unknowingly learn the two languages at the same time, a great merit for both readers and writers. English should be the leading player in any English papers. But learning only English may not be desirable especially when readers are Japanese students. The basic language for them is Japanese. For us Japanese, English is an acquired language. We first think in Japanese and then switch over to English. So, the Japanese language comes first in actuality. I am of the opinion that few Japanese can be better in English than in their native language. In other words, we should strengthen our Japanese-language ability to improve our English-language skills. Lastly, I hope that my opinion will be helpful to the working members of the Hakumon Herald. And I do hope that they will challenge the attractive and profound world of writing by enhancing their power of expression and enriching their vocabulary, the key elements of writing, through an intensive daily reading.



私が本格的に文章を書くことに興味を持ったのは、「白門ヘラルド」で英文チェックをしてくれていた中島申祥氏(Asahi Evening News編集者)との出会いがきっかけでした。中島氏には、私が編集長のとき特に厳しく鍛えられました。タイトルの付け方、論理的な記述、表現の簡潔さ、起承転結の重要性、多様な語彙の活用など、中島氏に直された原稿を見るたびに多くを学びました。そんなことから、私はものを書く面白さを知りました。














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