Awkward Sound

We choose words primarily for what they mean, but we must remember that words are also units of sound and rhythm. Even people adept at silent reading will be put off by awkward patterns of sound, though they may not realize exactly what bothers them. Most often the problem is an accidental repetition of the same sound There is a growing awareness of the slowing down of growth af-our economy. BETTER There is a growing awareness that diminished rates of growth are affecting our economy. Built-in...

Word About Titles

Title of an essay precedes the beginning and should clarify the subject and arouse interest. The title, however, does not take the place of a beginning paragraph. In fact it is good practice to make an essay so that subject, pur pose, plan (if needed) are all perfectly clear without reference to a title. As to titles themselves, they should ideally be both informative and eye-catching. It is difficult in practice to balance these qualities, and most titles come down on one side or the other...

About Readers

This doesn't mean you have to flatter them or avoid saying something they may disagree with. It does mean you must respect them. Don't take their interest for granted or suppose that it is the readers' job to follow you. It's your job to guide them, to make their task as easy as the subject allows. Ask yourself questions about your readers What can I expect them to know and not know What do they believe and value How do I want to affect them by what I say What...

Absolutes

An absolute is something more than a functional word group but less than a sentence. It is connected by idea but not through grammar to the rest of the statement in which it occurs She flew down the stairs, her children tumbling after her. This absolute tells us something about the circumstances attending the lady's rush downstairs, but it doesn't modify anything in the main clause, nor is it an object or a subject. It simply is not a grammatical part of that clause. (The term absolute derives...

Acknowledgments

This book is based on The Oxford Guide to Writing A Rhetoric and Handbook for College Students, and thanks are due once more to those who contributed to that book my friend and colleague Leonard J. Peters Professors Miriam Baker of Dowling College, David Hamilton of the University of Iowa, Robert Lyons and Sandra Schor of Queens College of the City University of New York, and Joseph Trimmer of Ball State University, all of whom read the manuscript and contributed perceptive comments Ms. Cheryl...

Ambiguity

Ambiguity means that a word can be read in either of two ways and the context does not make clear which way is intended. (The term ambiguity is sometimes also applied when three or more interpretations are possible.) Ambiguity often is the result of a word's having two different senses It was a funny affair. (Laughable or strange ) He's mad. (Crazy or angry ) Large abstractions are often ambiguous, particularly if they involve value judgments. Words like democracy, romantic, and Christian...

Analysis of a Process

A process is a sequence of operations directed toward a spe-ci6c end. Knitting a sweater, for example, is a process, from buying the pattern and wool to the final blocking and shaping. So is the election of a political candidate or registering for college. In most cases the steps are clearly defined. The writer's task is first to understand the process, analyzing its stages in his or her own mind and second to explain those stages clearly. Here is an example, more abstract than knitting a...

Apostrophe to Show Contraction

A contraction is the coming together of two or more words with the omission of intervening sounds (in writing, of course, the letters). Contractions are common in speech and are permissible in informal writing, though they should be avoided in a formal style. They are most likely with auxiliary verbs and negative words, and in all cases an apostrophe should be placed in the position of the deleted sound or letter We would've gone. We would have gone. Notice that in the last example several...

Brackets

Brackets (which look like this ) are used in composition to enclose within a quotation any words that are not a part of it. Sometimes a writer needs to explain or comment on something in the quotation. The sample sentence by Gilbert Seldes in the section on parentheses contains such editorial addition set within brackets. In the following passage the writer adds a comment within the words spoken by a guide conducting tourists around Jerusalem This area, he would say as he showed us one of the...

Chapter

Good sentences are the sinew of style. They give to prose its forward thrust, its flexibility, its strong and subtle rhythms. The cardinal virtues of such sentences are clarity, emphasis, concision, and variety. How to achieve these qualities will be our major concern in this part. First, however, we must understand, in a brief and rudimentary way, what a sentence is. It is not easy to say. In fact, it is probably impossible to define a sentence to everyone's satisfaction. On the simplest level...

Choosing a Subject

Often, of course, you are not free to choose at all. You must compose a report for a business meeting or write on an assigned topic for an English class. The problem then becomes not what to write about but how to attack it, a question we'll discuss in Chapters 5 and 6. When you can select a subject for yourself, it ought to interest you, and interest others as well, at least potentially. It should be within the range of your experience and skill, though it is best if it stretches you. It ought...

Clauses

A clause is a functional word group that does contain a subject and a finite verb. There are two basic clauses independent and dependent. An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence. In fact a simple sentence like We saw you coming is an independent clause. But usually the term is reserved for such a construction when it occurs as part of a larger sentence. The sentence below, for instance, consists of two independent clauses We saw you coming, and we were glad. A dependent clause...

Connotation

The connotation of a word is its fringe or associated meanings, including implications of approval or disapproval. (See pages 179 ff.) When a connotation pulls awkwardly against the context, even though the basic meaning of the word fits, the term must be replaced. In the following sentence, for example, unrealistic has the wrong connotations for the writer's purpose In such stories it is exciting to break away from the predictable world we live in and to enter an unrealistic world where...

Defining by Negatives

Negative definition tells us what something is not. Thus in the passage below miserliness is defined in terms of its antithesis, thrift Thrift by derivation means thriving and the miser is the man who does not thrive. The whole meaning of thrift is making the most of everything and the miser does not make anything of anything. He is the man in whom the process, from the seed to the crop, stops at the intermediate mechanical stage of the money. He does not grow things to feed men not even to...

Diacritics

A diacritic is a mark placed above, below, or through a letter in order to indicate a special pronunciation. Diacritics are employed because the number of letters in any language is usually fewer than the number of different sounds. Diacritical marks thus supplement the alphabet, enabling a single letter to do the work of two. English, while it certainly has more sounds than letters, has dispensed with diacritical marks except for the diaeresis occasionally seen in words like na ve or cooperate...

Drafts and Revisions

A draft is an early version of a piece of writing. Most of us cannot compose anything well at the first try. We must write and rewrite. These initial efforts are called drafts, in distinction from the final version. As a rule, the more you draft, the better the result. For drafting, the best advice is the same as for the free writing we discussed in Chapter 5 keep going and don't worry about small mistakes. A draft is not the end product it is tentative and imperfect. Writing becomes impossible...

Exploring for Topics

Before beginning a draft, you need to explore a subject, looking for topics. (Subject refers to the main focus of a composition topic to specific aspects of the subject. The subject of this book is writing. Within that subject grammar, sentence style, and so on, are topics. Any topic, of course, can itself be analyzed into subtopics.) Some people like to work through a subject systematically, uncovering topics by asking questions. Others prefer a less structured, less analytical approach, a...

Failing to Focus on the Subject

Here deadwood comes from wandering away from the topic, from pursuing irrelevancies > Don't Open Up Topics You Will Not Develop Now an idea in itself may be interesting, but if it does not support your topic it is just deadwood The people had come to the new world for freedom of several different kinds, and had found injustice instead. There is nothing inherently dead in of several different kinds. But the writer does not discuss these kinds of freedom (nor does his subject require him to)....

Final Copy

Whether or not you are allowed to revise it, your final copy should always be neat and legible. Keep margins of an inch or more. If you type, use standard typing paper and type on only one side. Double space and correct typos by erasure or tape, not by overstriking. Keep the keys clean and invest now and then in a new ribbon. If you write in longhand, use conventional, lined composition paper. Unless directed otherwise, skip every other line and write only on one side. Leave adequate margins...

Finding Topics by Asking Questions

Why What caused it What were the reasons Are there exceptions and qualifications Can the subject be analyzed into parts or aspects Can these parts be grouped in any way What have other people said about it These are general questions, of course and they are not the only ones you might ask. Particular subjects will suggest others. Nor will all of these questions be equally applicable in every case. But usually five or six will lead to topics. Suppose, for example, you are interested in how young...

Finding Topics by Free Writing or Brainstorming

Free writing simply means getting ideas on paper as fast as you can. The trick is to let feelings and ideas pour forth. Jot down anything that occurs to you, without worrying about order or even making much sense. Keep going to pause is to risk getting stuck, like a car in snow. Move the pencil, writing whatever pops into mind. Don't be afraid of making mistakes or of saying something foolish. You probably will. So what You're writing for yourself, and if you won't risk saying something...

For Practice

> List ten or twelve topics you might develop into a short essay. Think of topics that deal not so much with things, places, or how-to-do projects as with your opinions and beliefs. Pick subjects that interest you and are within your experience, yet challenging. Be specific don't simply write my job but something like what i like most (or hate most) about my job. Selecting one of the topics on your list, compose a paragraph about the readers for whom you might develop it. Consider how you...

Grammar Usage and Mechanics

Purpose, strategy, and style are decided by you. But the decision must be made within limits set by rules over which you have little control. The rules fall into three groups grammar, usage, and mechanics. Grammar means the rules which structure our language. The sentence She dresses beautifully is grammatical. These variations are not Her dresses beautifully. Dresses beautifully she. The breaks the rule that a pronoun must be in the subjective case when it is the subject of a verb. The second...

Idiom

An idiom is a combination of words functioning as a unit of meaning, as in to take the subway bus, streetcar home. Often one or more of the words has a special sense different from its usual meaning and confined to that idiom. Thus to take here means to get on and travel in. In its idiomatic sense such a word cannot be replaced by any of its usual equivalents we cannot carry, bring, or fetch the subway home. Idioms are always a difficulty in learning foreign languages. They are not easily...

Improving Your Vocabulary Dictionaries

Vocabulary is best extended by reading and writing. Memorizing lists of words has dubious value. The words are abstracted from any context, so that while you may learn the denotation you acquire little feeling for connotation and level of usage. Vocabulary should not be a forced plant but should grow naturally with learning and experience. A good dictionary is the key to extending your knowledge of words. Try to keep one handy as you read. When you come upon a word you don't know, pause and...

Indicating the Plan of the Essay

Another function of the beginning, though not an invariable one, is to clarify how the essay will be organized. The writer has the plan in mind when composing the beginning paragraph (or revising it). The question is Should the plan be revealed to the reader Writers often do consider it necessary. Harold Mattingly begins his book Roman Imperial Civilization with this paragraph The object of this first chapter is to give a sketch of the Empire which may supply a background to all that follows to...

Info

In the last chapter we defined three grammatical simple, compound, and the fragment, which, though not grammatically complete, may still stand as a sentence. From these types derive seven sentence styles the segregating sentence, the freight-train sentence, the cumulative, parallel, balanced, subordinating, frag ment. We shall review them in this chapter. We need to be clear at the outset about two points. First, none of these styles is inherently better or worse than the others. Each is suited...

Kinds of Writing

The various effects a writer may wish to have on his or her inform, to persuade, to in dif ferent kinds of prose. The most common is prose that informs, which, depending on what it is about, is called exposition, description, or narration. Exposition explains. How things work an internal combustion engine. Ideas a theory of economics. Facts of everyday life how many people get divorced. History why Custer attacked at the Little Big Horn. Controversial issues laden with feelings abortion,...

Limitations of Parallelism

The parallel style handles ideas better than do the segregating or freight-train sentences. However, it suits only ideas that are logically parallel several effects of the same cause, for instance, or three or four conditions of a single effect. When writers try to force parallelism onto ideas that are not logically parallel, they obscure rather than clarify meaning. A second disadvantage of the parallel style is that it seems a bit formal for modern taste. And a third is that parallelism can...

Making a Plan

You've chosen a subject (or had one chosen for you), explored it, thought about the topics you discovered, gathered information about them. Now what Are you ready to begin writing Well, yes. But first you need a plan. Perhaps nothing more than a loose sense of purpose, held in your mind and never written jazz musicians call a head arrangement. Head arrangements can work very you have the right kind of head and if you're thoroughly familiar with the subject. But sometimes all of us (and most...

Multiple Effects

Often, however, a topic entails several effects, not just one, as in the following case (the writer is concerned with what the automobile has done to our society) Thirdly, I worry about the private automobile. It is a dirty, noisy, wasteful, and lonely means of travel. It pollutes the air, ruins the safety and sociability of the street, and exercises upon the individual a discipline which takes away far more freedom than it gives him. It causes an enormous amount of land to be unnecessarily...

Name Index

A listing of the writers whose work is used as examples 234, 395, 401 Adler, Mortimer, 98 Akrigg, C. P. V., 313, 373,411 Alfred, William, 183, 184 Allen, Frederick Lewis, 90 Anderson, Sherwood, Andler, Kenneth, 53 Andrist, Ralph K., 107 Ardrey, Robert, 182 Arnold, Thurman, 100,167,171,415 Asbury, Herbert, 406 Auden, W. H., 20, 209 Austin, J. L., 256 Ayer, Alfred Jules, 255 Bacon, Francis, 56 Baldwin, James, 99, 137, 184, 207, 218, 220, 221, 385, 394, 396, 416 Ball, Robert, 128 Baugh, Albert C,...

Nominal and Real Definitions

There is an elementary distinction in philosophy between the definition of a word and that of the entity (object, concept, emotion, whatever) which the word signifies. Definitions of words are called nominal (a dictionary definition is an example) . Those of entities are called real. (This does not imply that nominal definitions are somehow false.) In practice the distinction between nominal and real definitions often does not matter very much. But sometimes it does. You should always be clear...

Paragraph Unity

Paragraph unity involves two related but distinct concepts coherence and flow. Coherence means that the ideas fit together. Flow means that the sentences link up so that readers are not conscious of gaps. Flow is a matter of style and exists in specific words and grammatical patterns tying one sentence to another. Coherence belongs to the substructure of the paragraph, to relationships of thought, feeling, and perception. Both necessary if a paragraph is to be truly unified. To be coherent a...

Qualification

It is often necessary to admit that what you are asserting is not absolutely true or always applicable. Doing so is called qualification. Qualification always risks blurring your focus. Suppose, for example, that a writer is urging a criticism of college football. He or she begins College football is a semiprofessional sport. This is clear and emphatic. But it isn't exactly true the issue is not that simple. Now suppose that, recognizing this complexity, the writer adds a second sentence...

Revising

Both drafting and revising are creative, but they differ in emphasis. Drafting is more spontaneous and active revision, more thoughtful and critical. As a writer of a draft you must keep going and not get hung up on small problems. As a reviser you change hats, becoming a demanding reader who expects perfection. When you write you see your words from inside you know what you want to say and easily overlook lapses of clarity puzzling to readers. When you revise you put yourself in the reader's...

Sentences as the Analytic Elements of a Paragraph

The sentences of a good expository paragraph reflect a clear, rational analysis of the topic. Here is a brief example, this one by Bertrand Russell. (The sentences have been numbered for convenience.) 1 The intellectual life of the nineteenth century was more complex than that of any previous age. 2 This was due to several causes. 3 First the area concerned was larger than ever before America and Russia made important contributions, and Europe became more aware than formerly of Indian...

Setting Up a Master Plan

The opening sentence makes clear, not only the topic, but also how it will be analyzed and developed There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and bestsellers unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns woodpulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by...

Signposts

The most common signpost is an initial sentence that indicates both the topic and the general plan of treating it. For instance, the scientist J. B. S. Haldane organizes a five-paragraph section of a long essay like this Science impinges upon ethics in at least five different ways. In the first place Secondly . Thirdly Fourthly . Fifthly Sequence may be signaled by actual numbers or usually enclosed in than by words like first, second, in the first place, and so on. The poet W. B. Yeats...

Stops

The period is called an end stop because it is used at the end of a sentence. More exactly, it closes declarative sentences those which state a fact, perception, idea, belief, feeling and it may also close an imperative sentence, or command (though these are often punctuated with an exclamation point). The period is used after many abbreviations Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr. When such an abbreviation occurs at the end of a sentence, the period does double duty, closing the sentence as well as marking the...

Strategy and Style

Purpose, the end you're aiming at, determines strategy and style. Strategy involves choice selecting particular aspects of a topic to develop, deciding how to organize them, choosing this word rather than that, constructing various types of sentences, building paragraphs. Style is the result of strategy, the language that makes the strategy work. Think of purpose, strategy, and style in terms of increasing abstractness. Style is immediate and obvious. It exists in the writing itself it is the...

Style

In its broadest sense style is the total of all the choices a writer makes concerning words and their arrangements. In this sense style may be good or if the choices are appropriate to the writer's purpose, bad if they are not. More narrowly, style has a positive, approving sense, as when we say that someone has style or praise a writer for his or her style. More narrowly yet, the word may also designate a particular way of writing, unique to a person or characteristic of a group or profession...

T Quotation Marks with Direct Quotations

A direct quotation consists of the words actually spoken or written by someone other than the writer. It is distinct from an indirect quotation, which reports the substance of what was said or written but changes the words to fit the often altering pronouns and verbs DIRECT She said, We are not going. INDIRECT She said that they were not going. Direct quotations must be signaled by quote marks indirect quotations must not be. In introducing a quotation the subject and verb of address may...

The Complex Sentence

A complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Here are several examples Because the day was cloudy, they put off the picnic. I like the people who live next door. In a complex sentence the independent clause is called the main clause, and the dependent always func tions as a noun or adverb or called the subor dinate. Of course a complex sentence may contain a number of subordinate clauses, but it can only have one main This type of sentence is very...

The Dash

The dash ought not to be confused with the hyphen. It is a longer mark, and on a typewriter is made either by two hyphens ( ) or by a single hyphen with a space on either side (-). The dash has no function that is uniquely its own. Instead it acts as a strong comma and as a less formal equivalent to the semicolon, the colon, and the parenthesis. As a substitute for the comma, the dash signals a stronger, more pause. For that reason it should be used sparingly, reserved for occasions when...

The Ellipsis

The ellipsis is a series of three dots, or, under certain conditions, four. It is never five or six or any other number. In composition the principal function of the ellipsis is to mark the omission of material from a quotation. If the deleted matter occurs within the quoted sentence, three dots are used Dante, someone has remarked, is the last. . . great Catholic poet. Notice the spacing spaces are left between the preceding word and the first dot, between each dot and the next, and between...

The Exclamation Point

Most often they close a sentence and signal the importance of the total statement. Used after imperative statements (Come here ), they suggest the tone of voice in which such a command would be spoken. Even more frequently than queries, exclamation points are set within a sentence in order to stress the preceding word or phrase Worse yet, he must and solitude. Interjections are usually followed by exclamation points Bah you expect me to believe that As a...

The Journal

A word comes from French and originally meant a day-to-day record of what you see, hear, do, think, feel. A journal collects your own experiences and thoughts rather than quotations. But, of course, you may combine the two. If you add your own comments to the passages you copy into a commonplace book, you are also keeping a kind of journal. Many professional writers use journals, and the habit is a good one for anybody interested in writing, even if he or she has no literary ambitions. Journals...

The Other Marks

In addition to the stops, punctuation marks include the apostrophe, the quotation mark, the hyphen, the ellipsis, the parenthesis and bracket, and the diacritics. We look at these here, along with the related matters of capitalization and underlining. The apostrophe has three main functions it marks the possessive form of nouns and some pronouns, the contraction of two words, and the omission of sound within a word. It also appears in the plurals of certain abbreviations. In their singular form...

The Parallel Style

Parallelism means that two or more words or constructions stand in an identical grammatical relationship to the same thing. In Jack and Jill went up the hill the subjects, Jack and are parallel because both relate to the verb went. In the following sentence, the italicized clauses are parallel, both modifying the verb will come We will come when we are ready and when we choose. Parallelism occurs in all types of sentences as a way of organizing minor constructions. When major ideas are...

The Questionand Answer Transition

A second way of linking paragraphs is to ask and answer a rhetorical question. Usually the question is placed at the end of the preceding paragraph and the answer at the beginning of the following one. Nancy Mitford, commenting upon the apparently compulsive need of tourists to travel, concludes one paragraph and opens the next like this The answer is that the modern dwelling is comfortable, convenient, and clean, but it is not a home. Less often the question appears at the opening of the new...

The Quotation Mark

Quotation marks are used with (1) direct quotations, (2) certain titles, and (3) words given a special sense. Quote marks have two forms double ( ) and single (' '). Most American writers prefer double quotes, switching to single should they need to mark a quote within a quote. British writers are more likely to begin with single quotes, switching, if necessary, to double. Whether single or double, the quote at the beginning is called an opening quotation mark the one at the end, a closing.

The Repetitive Transition

The simplest type of transition repeats a key word. Writing about the Louisiana politician Huey Long, Hodding Carter ends one paragraph and begins the next with the following link (the italics are added in this and in all following examples, unless noted otherwise) Behind Huey were the people, and the people wanted these things. And with the people behind him, Huey expanded ominously. A repeated word makes a strong and simple connection. It works well when the key term leading into the new...

The Statement of Purpose

It's nothing complicated a paragraph or two broadly describing what you want to say, how you're going to organize it, what you want readers to understand, feel, believe. The paragraphs are written for yourself, to clarify your ideas and to give you a guide you don't have to worry about anyone else's reading them. Even so, you may find on occasion that composing a statement of purpose is difficult, perhaps impossible. What that means is that you don't really know what your purpose is. Yet even...

The Writing Process

Writing in its broad sense as distinct from simply putting words on paper has three steps thinking about it, doing it, and doing it again (and again and again, as often as time will allow and patience will endure). The step, thinking, involves choosing a subject, exploring ways of developing it, and devising strategies of organization and style. The second step, doing, is usually called drafting and the third, doing again, is revising. The next several chapters take a brief look at these steps...

Underline Foreignisms

Any foreign expression that has not been fully assimilated into English should be italicized (French unwanted, in the way) (Italian life that is sweet, easy, enjoyable) (German malicious joy at the misfortunes of others) Because English has always been quick to borrow words from other languages and equally quick to anglicize their pronunciation, it is often difficult to tell whether an imported word is still considered foreign and should be underlined. Few of us think of delicatessen, say, as a...

Underline Titles

The titles of newspapers, magazines and other periodicals, books, plays, films, paintings, and long poems are underlined. Titles of works which were not published separately, but rather as part of something else, are placed in quotation marks (these include magazine and journal articles, short stories, short poems, and also radio and television programs). With newspapers the title is what appears on the masthead, except that it is now customary not to italicize an initial article the New York...

Usage

Usage designates rules of a less basic and binding sort, concerning how we should use the language in certain situations. These sentences, for instance, violate formal usage She dresses beautiful. She ain't got no dress. Sentences like these are often heard in speech, but both break rules governing how educated people write. Formal usage dictates that when beautiful functions as an adverb it takes an -ly ending, that ain't and a double negative like a in'tgot no or haven't got no should be...

Organizing the Middle

Just as an essay must begin and end well, so it must be clearly organized in between. An important part of a writer's job is assisting readers in following the organization. It can be done in two ways, which are often used together. One is by phrases, sentences (occasionally even a short paragraph) which tells readers what you have done, are doing, will do next, or even will not do at all. The other way is by interparagraph transitions, that is, words and phrases that tie the beginning of a new...

Levels of Usage

Levels of usage refers to the kind of situation in which a word is normally used. Most words suit all occasions. Some, however, are restricted to formal, literary contexts, and others to informal, colloquial ones. Consider three verbs which roughly mean the same thing exacerbate, annoy, bug. Talking among your friends, you would not be likely to say, That person really exacerbated me. On the other hand, describing a historical episode you wouldn't (or shouldn't) write, The Spartan demands...

The Well Written Sentence Variety

The Art Cinema is a movie theater in Hartford. Its speciality is showing foreign films. The theater is rated quite high as to the movies it shows. The movies are considered to be good art. student The Smith disclosures shocked President Harding not into political housecleaning but into personal reform. The White House poker parties were abandoned. He told his intimates that he was off liquor. Nan Britton Harding's mistress had already been banished to Europe. His nerve was shaken. He lost his...

Effective Rhythm

Rhythm is effective when it pleases the ear. Even more important, good rhythm enters into what a sentence says, enhancing and reinforcing its meaning. A necessary condition of effective rhythm is that a passage be laid out in clear syntactic units (phrases, clauses, whole sentences) that these have something in common (length, intonation, grammatical structure) and that there be a loose but discernible pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Generally the syntactic units, while showing...

The Dash with Coordinated Elements

As we saw with the comma (page 288), coordinated elements are sometimes punctuated for emphasis. Stronger stress can be attained by using dashes We were and are in everyday contact with these invisible empires. Arnold What the youth of their observing at Bethel was the potential power of a generation that in countless disturbing ways has rejected the traditional values and goals of the U.S. Vme magazine Coordinated independent clauses are occasionally separated by a dash instead of the usual...

Narration

A narrative is a meaningful sequence of events told in words. It is sequential in that the events are ordered, not merely random. Sequence always involves an arrangement in time (and usually other arrangements as well). A straightforward movement from the event to the last constitutes the simplest chronology. However, chronology is sometimes complicated by presenting the events in another order for example, a story may open with the episode and then flash back to all that preceded it. A...

The Well Written Sentence Rhythm

When things that we see or hear are repeated in identical or similar patterns the result is rhythm. In prose there are two patterns, both involving words, or more exactly the sounds of words. The most obvious is syllabic consisting of loud and soft syllables. Loud syllables are said to be stressed and for purposes of analysis are marked by soft syllables are unstressed and marked Writers create syllabic rhythm by arranging stresses and nonstresses in more or less regular patterns, as in The...

Do Not State What Sentence Structure Itself Makes Clear

Wordy There were many reasons for the Civil War, which include slavery, economic expansion, states' rights, cultural differences, and sectional jealousies. CONCISE There were many reasons for the Civil War slavery, economic expansion, states' rights, cultural differences, and sectional jealousies. WORDY Pitchers are divided into two classes. These classes are starters and relievers. CONCISE Pitchers are divided into two clasps starters and relievers. In sentences like these, the colon or dash...

T Express Modifiers in the Fewest Possible Words

WORDY The organization of a small business can be described in a brief statement. CONCISE The organization of a small business can be briefly described. WORDY She prefers wines having a French origin. WORDY American exploration was rapid considering the means which the pioneers had available to them. CONCISE American exploration was rapid considering the means available to the pioneers. WORDY The targets that are supplied in skeet shooting are discs made of clay. CONCISE Skeet targets are clay...

Do Not Waste the Main Elements of the Sentence

(In these and all following examples, the deadwood that is, the unnecessary words are italicized.) WORDY The fact of the war had the effect of causing many changes. CONCISE The war caused many changes. The main elements of a sentence are its subject, verb, and object. They should convey the core of the thought. Suppose we abstract subject, verb, and object from the sentences above Clearly the than half the length of the origi- the main elements more efficiently from war caused changes a reader...

Barbarisms

A barbarism is either a nonexistent word or an existing one used ungrammatically. Inventing new words is not necessarily a fault imaginative writers create they are called. But a genuine neologism fills a need. When an invented word is merely an ungrammatical form of a term already in the language, it serves no purpose and is a barbarism She's always been a dutifulled daughter. (For dutiful) Barbarisms are often spawned by confusion about suffixes, those endings which extend the meaning or...

Rules of Punctuation

It would be nice if punctuation could be reduced to a set of clear, simple directions always use a comma here, a semicolon there, a dash in such-and-such a place. But it cannot. Much depends, as we have just seen, on what you want to do. In fact, punctuation is a mixed bag of absolute rules, general conventions, and individual options. For example, a declarative sentence is closed by a period that is an inflexible rule. On the other hand, placing a comma between coordinated independent clauses...

Words Are Not Endowed with Fixed and Proper Meanings

When people object to how someone else uses a word, they often say, That isn't its proper meaning. The word disinfor example, is frequently employed in the sense of and those who dislike this usage argue that the proper meaning of disinterested is objective, unbiased. In such arguments proper meaning generally signifies a meaning sanctioned by past usage or even by the original, etymological sense of the word. But the dogma that words come to us out of the past with proper and immutable is a...

Looking for Subjects

Sometimes it's part of the job. A sales manager is asked to report on a new market, or an executive to discuss the feasibility of moving a plant to another state. A psychology student has to turn in a twenty-page term paper, or a member of an art club must prepare a two-page introduction to an exhibit. In such cases the subject is given, and the first step is chiefly a matter of research, of finding information. Even the problem of organizing the information is...

Comparison and Contrast Focusing

Because they involve at least two subjects and offer several possibilities of emphasis, comparison and contrast pose problems of focus. For one thing, you must decide whether to deal only with similarities or only with dissimilarities, or to cover both. The topic sentence must make your intention clear to readers The difference between a sign and a symbol is, in brief. . . . It is a temptation to make a comparison between the nineteen twenties and the nineteen sixties, but the similarities are...

Illustration and Restatement

In this and the following several chapters we study how expository paragraphs develop. We focus on one technique of development at a time, beginning with the simplest ones, illustration and restatement. Of course, writers often combine techniques. But walking comes before running, and for the moment we concentrate on relatively uncomplicated paragraphs. Methods of paragraph development fall into three loose groups (1) those that stay strictly within the topic, offering examples of it or merely...

The Fragment

A fragment is a single word, a phrase, or a dependent clause standing alone as a sentence. It is considered fragmentary rather than a grammatical sentence because it is not grammatically independent and may not contain a subject and a finite verb. In formal writing fragments are generally a fault, though occasionally valuable for emphasis or variety. Before looking at examples of such positive fragments, we need to understand the common forms that fragments may take and how, when they are a...

Limiting the Subject

In most cases a limiting sentence or clause must follow the announcement of the subject. Few essays (or books, for that matter) discuss all there is to say they treat some aspects of a subject but not others. As with announcement, limitation may be explicit or implicit. The first in which the writer says, in effect, I shall say such and more common in formal, scholarly writing. The grammarian Karl Dy-kema begins an article entitled Where Our Grammar Came From The title of this paper is too...

Persona

Persona derives from the Latin word for an actor's mask (in the Greek and Roman theaters actors wore cork masks carved to represent the type of character they were playing). As a term in composition, persona means the writer's presence in the writing. The derivation from mask may be misleading. It does not imply a false face, a disguise, behind which the real individual hides. A writer's persona is always real. It is there, in the prose. The words you choose, the sentence patterns into which...

Quotation Marks with Titles

Some titles of literary works are italicized (in typescript, underlined), others are placed in quote marks. The basic consideration is whether the work was published or presented separately or rather as part of something larger (for example, a magazine or collection). In the first case the title is italicized in the second, set within quotes. In practical terms, this means that the titles of books, plays, and long poems, such as the are italicized, while the titles of short stories, short...

Linking Successive Sentences

The second way of maintaining flow is to connect sentences as you go. Less obvious than first, second, third, this means of achieving flow seems more natural. And it can accommodate more complex relationships among ideas it is not confined to topics that can be broken into a numbered series. Sentences can be linked in several ways. Verbal repetition is the most obvious link. Sometimes the identical word is in the short paragraph which follows on Saint variant forms of the same word, and...

Cause and Effect

Thus far we have seen paragraphs that develop reasons to support the topic and those that develop effects. Often, however, cause and effect are more intimately related. Many things are simultaneously causes and effects, as when the result you expect an action to have is the reason you do it. In Kennan's paragraph above the dire consequences of the automobile are why he worries about it. The journalist Pete expresses much the same point in the para graph, explaining that what the car has done to...

The Advantages of Balance

Balanced construction has several virtues. It is pleasing to our eyes and ears, and gives shape to the sentence, one of the essentials of good writing. It is memorable. And by playing key terms against each other, it opens up their implications. For example, the following sentence by Charles Dickens makes us consider the plight of those who lack the cash to turn their ideas to account Talent, Mr. Micawber has capital, Mr. Micawber has not. Anthony Hope implies a skeptical assessment of...

Point of View and Tone in Narrative

Writers are always in the stories they tell, whether that presence is apparent or hidden. It is apparent in the first-person point of view that is, a story told by an I. The I may be the central character to whom things are happening. Or I may be an observer standing on the edge of the action and watching what happens to others, as de Monfried observes and reports the events at Malta but does not participate in them. Even though a writer narrates a personal experience, however, the I who tells...

Defining by Genus Species

This is one of the most common means of definition. The entity or word being defined (called the is first set into its genus (class) and then distinguished from other members of that class History is the recital of facts given as true, in contradistinction to the fable, which is the recital of facts given as false. Voltaire Voltaire begins by setting history (the thing, not the word) into the genus recital of facts. Then he differentiates it from the other member of that class, fable. The bulk...

Failing to Credit Readers Intelligence

Think about your readers, and avoid telling them what they already know or can easily infer from the context. f> Don't Define What Is Common Knowledge Accountants sometimes function as auditors (people from outside a company who check the books kept by the company's own accountants). All the italicized words in that sentence are dead. If readers understand there is no reason to suppose that auditors requires definition. Gratuitous definitions not only make deadwood, but interfere with...

Arousing Curiosity

This is usually a more effective strategy than stressing the importance of the subject. You may play upon curiosity by opening with a short factual statement that raises more questions than it answers. Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington begins a chapter in his book The Philosophy of Science with this statement I believe there are 15,747,724,136,275,002,577,605,653,691, 181,555,468,044,717,914,52 7,116,709,366,231,425,076,185,631, 031,296 protons in the universe and the same number of electrons. It...

Summation and Conclusion

Termination is always a function of the closing paragraph or sentence. Sometimes, depending on subject and purpose, you may need to make a summary or to draw a conclusion, in the sense of a final inference or judgment. Summaries are more likely in long, complicated papers. Usually they are signaled by a phrase like in summary, to sum up, summing up, in short, in fine, to recapitulate. The label may be more subtle We have seen, and sub tlety is usually a virtue in such matters. Logical...

The Commonplace Book

A commonplace book is a record of things we have read or heard and want to remember a proverb, a remark by a writer of unusual sensibility, a witty or a wise saying, or even something silly or foolish or crass Sincerity always hits me something like sleep. I mean, if you try to get it too hard, you won't. w. H. Auden Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the . . . power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size. Virginia Woolf I hate music...

Psychological Factors

Verbal profundity is the fallacy that words which look impressive must mean a lot. The person, for example, who exclaimed of a painting that it exhibits orderly and harmonious juxtapositions of color patterns seemed to be saying a great deal. But if the words mean anything more than color harmony, it is difficult to see what. Closely related to verbal profundity is the desire false elegance, often a variety of what in the last chapter we called pretentious diction. A sentence like A worker...

The Question Mark

The question mark also known as the query and the interrogation point is used after direct questions. A direct question is always marked by one or some combination of three signals a rising intonation of the voice, an auxiliary verb inverted to a position before the subject, or an interrogative pronoun or adverb who, what, why, when, how, and so on . Yes-no questions those answered by yes, no, or some variety of maybe are always signaled by a rising intonation, which may or may not be...

The Colon

The colon along with the semicolon, the comma, and the dash is an internal stop. That is, it is used only inside a sentence, never at its end. In modern writing the most common function of the colon is to introduce a The first principle from which he Hitler started was a value judgment the masses are utterly contemptible. Aldous Huxley Except for the size of the houses, which varies from tiny to small, the houses look like suburban housing for middle income families in any section of the...

Description

Description is about sensory something looks, sounds, tastes. Mostly it is about visual experience, but description also deals with other kinds of perception. The following passage, for example, uses sounds to describe the beginning of an act of revolutionary violence in China Five shots went off in a nearby street three together, another, still another. . . . The silence returned, but it no longer seemed to be the same. Suddenly it was filled by the clatter of horses' hoofs, hurried, coming...

Mechanics

In composition mechanics refers to the appearance of words, to how they are spelled or arranged on paper. The fact that the first word of a paragraph is usually indented, for example, is a matter of mechanics. These sentences violate other rules of mechanics she dresses beautifully She dresses beautifuly. Conventions of writing require that a sentence begin with a capital letter and end with full-stop punctuation period, question mark, or exclamation point . Conventions of spelling require that...

Tone

If persona is the complex personality implicit in the writing, tone is a web of feelings stretched throughout an essay, feelings from which our sense of the persona emerges. Tone has three main strands the writer's attitude toward subject, reader, and self. Each of these determinants of tone is important, and each has many variations. Writers may be angry about a subject or amused by it or discuss it dispassionately. They may treat readers as intellectual inferiors to be lectured usually a poor...

Modifiers

A special class called intensives do nothing but stress the term they modify great, greatly, extremely, much, very, terribly, awfully, and many, many more. But on the whole intensives are not very satisfactory. They quickly become devalued, leading to a never-ending search for fresh words. Imaginative writers can and do discover unusual and effective ones, as in this description of the modern superstate These moloch gods, these monstrous states . . . Susanne...

Repetition

In a strict sense, repetition is a matter more of diction than of sentence structure. But since it is one of the most valued means of emphasis we shall include it here. Repetition is sometimes a virtue and sometimes a fault. Drawing the line is not easy. It depends on what is being repeated. Important ideas can stand repetition unimportant ones cannot. When you write the same word or idea twice, you draw the reader's attention to it. If it is a key idea, fine. But if not, then you have...

Figurative Language

Whenever language is simple, plain, direct, whenever it employs words in their conventional meaning, we say that it is literal. Literal comes from the Latin litera, letter what is literal is according to the letter. Consider, for example, this statement A writer's style should be purposive, not merely decorative. It is to be read literally the words mean nothing more, and nothing less, than what they say. In figurative language the same idea has been expressed like this Style is the feather in...

Basic Structure

Expository paragraphs deal with facts, ideas, beliefs. They explain, analyze, define, compare, illustrate. They answer questions like What Why How What was the cause The effect Like what Unlike what They are the kinds of paragraph we write in reports or term papers or tests. The term paragraph has no simple definition. Occasionally a single sentence or even a word may serve as an emphatic paragraph. Conventionally in composition, however, a paragraph is a group of sentences developing a common...

Metaphor

Like a simile, a metaphor is also a comparison. The difference is that a simile compares things explicitly it literally says that X is like Y. A metaphor compares things implicitly. Read literally, it does not state that X is like Y but rather that X is Y Cape Cod is the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts. Thoreau writes is, not is like. However, we understand that he means the Cape resembles a human arm, not that it really is an arm. The metaphor has simply taken the comparison a step...

Paired or Field Definition

Occasionally the sense of one word or concept is intimately tied to that of a second or of several so that the terms can be defined only by reference to one another. Such words comprise a field of meaning for example, think of the titles designating commissioned rank in the United States Army captain cannot be understood without reference to first lieutenant and major the ranks on either side and these in turn imply second lieutenant and lieutenant colonel and so on through the entire series of...

To Enclose Parenthetical Matter

Parenthetical matter is a word or construction which may or may not be grammatically related to the rest of the sentence sufficiently remote in relevance to require a stronger pause than a comma would supply Even for those who can do their work in bed like journalists , still more for those whose work cannot be done in bed as, for example, the professional harpooner of whales , it is obvious that the indulgence must be very Occasional. G. K. Chesterton Parenthetical remarks of this may also be...