Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book 9 Chapter 4.
Quintilian closes book 9 with a lengthy chapter on the importance of careful composition. He draws much of his inspiration for this chapter from Cicero, whose work on composition was very painstaking (Quintilian IX.4.1). Counter to those who strive for a more “natural” style, Quintilian states that all the arts do make improvements over time (Quintilian IX.4.4). Orderly sounds, actions, and thoughts are superior to disorderly ones (Quintilian IX.4.13). Cadence and arrangement of sentences and phrases are what make elegance and persuasive force. Language has always worked this way (Quintilian IX.4.18).
Quintilian identifies “two kinds of style, one compact and of a firm texture, the other of a looser nature, such as is used in common conversation and in familiar letters…” (Quintilian IX.4.19). Both styles are valid but they are not the same in their persuasive abilities. “But in all composition there are three particulars necessary to be observed: order, junction, and rhythm” (Quintilian IX.4.22).
As to order, an increase in the strength of language is more effective than a decrease (Quintilian IX.4.23). Arrangement should be in some logically persuasive order. Connection, or junction is the way words are joined. Quintilian gives examples of features of strings of words which will be unpleasant or otherwise ineffective (Quintilian IX.4.33). He details various ways in which elisions of sounds will naturally occur. The overall rhythm of speech is dependent in one way or another on the number and length of syllables (Quintilian IX.4.45). While poetic meter has very specific rhythmic requirements the rhythm of prose does not (Quintilian IX.4.50). Rhythm and other sound choices are important in a composition. “However, the triumph of art in this department is to understand what word is most suitable for any particular place” (Quintilian IX.4.60). However, Quintilian reminds the reader that a speech is not to be given in poetic meter (Quintilian IX.4.72). The different parts of metric speech nave various names. Quintilian illustrates rhythm using brief combinations of words and naming the rhythms created in sections 72-111.
Quintilian is clear that the orator’s efforts should not consist of analyzing speeches to categorize the sounds. Rather, he should capture the beauty and force of the language (Quintilian IX.4.113). Although it may not always be possible to define the reason a particular way of speaking is preferable, it is recognized that some rhythmic organization is superior (Quintilian IX.4.120). Quintilian then reverts to a further discussion of the metrical and rhythmic elements of periodic speech. The length of periods and balance of rhythm must be meaningful (Quintilian IX.4.125). The pacing of the speech makes its own impact. It should be selected quite purposely (Quintilian IX.4.131).