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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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)....

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...

For Practice

T> Selecting one of the topics you listed at the end of Chapter 1, work up a paragraph of 150 to 200 words. Before you begin to write, think about possible strategies of organization and tone. Organization involves (1) how you analyze your topic, the parts into which you divide it, and (2) the order in which you present these parts and how you tie them together. Tone means (1) how you feel about your subject angry, amused, objective, and so on (2) how you regard your a formal or an informal...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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 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 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 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...

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...

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...

Concreteness and Abstraction

Abstract words signify things that cannot be directly perceived honor, for instance, is an abstract word, as are generosity or idea or democracy. Concrete words refer to perceptible things a rose, a clap of thunder, the odor of violets. No hard-and-fast distinction exists between abstract and concrete. Often it is a matter of degree. Depending on its context the same term may now be used abstractly, now concretely, like rose in these sentences CONCRETE On the hall table a single yellow tea rose...

The Well Written Sentence Concision

Aside from being grammatical, a well-written sentence must be clear and interesting. Clarity means that it says to the reader what the writer intended to say interesting, that it reads well, attracting us by its economy, novelty, sound, and rhythm. To a considerable degree these virtues are a matter of diction, that is, of word choice and in the section on diction we shall look at them again from that point of view. But they also depend on sentence structure. In this chapter and the next we...

Analogy as Clarification

In exposition the most common function of an analogy is to translate an abstract or difficult idea into more concrete or familiar terms. That is certainly one of the aims of O'Connor's analogy, as it is of this longer example, in which an astronomer explains the philosophy of science Let us suppose that an ichthyologist is exploring the life of the ocean. He casts a net into the water and brings up a fishy assortment. Surveying his catch, he proceeds in the usual manner of a scientist to...

Cliches and Jargon

A cliche is a trite expression, one devalued by overuse an agonizing reappraisal at this point in time cool, calm, and collected history tells us the bottom line the finer things of life the moment of truth the voice of the people Many cliches are simply stale of speech cool as a cucumber dead as a doornail gentle as a lamb happy as a lark in the pink light as a feather Mother Nature pleased as Punch sober as a judge the patience of Job the pinnacle of success white as snow Cliches are dull and...

Tone Toward Subject

Toward most subjects many attitudes are possible. Often tone is simple objectivity, as in these two paragraphs Physical science is that department of knowledge which relates to the order of nature, or, in other words, to the regular succession of events. The name of physical science, however, is often applied in a more or less restricted manner to those branches of science in which the phenomena considered are of the simplest and most abstract kind, excluding the consideration of the more...

Contents

Subject, Reader, and Kinds of Writing 5 3. Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics 13 11. Point of View, Persona, and Tone 74 PART 3 The Expository Paragraph 87 14. Paragraph Development 1 Illustration and Restatement 106 15. Paragraph Development 2 Comparison, Contrast, and Analogy 114 16. Paragraph Development 3 Cause and Effect 125 17. Paragraph Development 4 Definition, Analysis, and Qualification 132 18. The Sentence A Definition 151 20. The Well-Written Sentence 1 Concision 191 21. The...

In Love Always One Person Gives And The Other Takes

gt Below is a series of provocative quotations. Select one that appeals to you and explore it for topics. You don't have to agree with the idea. The goal is just to get your thoughts on paper. First, fill one or two pages with free writing. Put down everything that comes to mind. Then try the more analytical approach of asking questions. A variation of this exercise is to work with several friends group brainstorming can be more productive than working alone. Beware of enterprises that require...

The Hyphen

The hyphen has two principal functions. It marks the syllabic division of a word between lines, and it also separates the elements of some compound words. t gt The Hyphen to Indicate Division of a Word When separating a word between lines, you should always place the hyphen at the end of the upper line, never at the beginning of the new line. The word supper, for example, must be divided Words can be divided only between syllables. Most of us have only a hazy idea of the syllabication of many...

The Periodic Sentence

Periodic sentences reverse the pattern of loose structure, beginning with subordinate constructions and putting the main clauses at the end If there is no future for the black ghetto, the future of all Negroes is diminished. Stanley Sanders Given a moist planet with methane, formaldehyde, ammonia, and some usable minerals, all of which abound, exposed to lightning or ultraviolet radiation at the right temperature, life might start almost anywhere. Lewis Thomas There is no one formula for the...

The Convoluted Sentence

In this type of periodic structure the subordinate elements split the main clause from the inside, often intruding between the subject and the verb and sometimes between verb and object or within the verb phrase White men, at the bottom of their hearts, know this. And once in a spasm of reflex chauvinism, she called Queen Victoria, whom she rather admired, a goddamned old water dog. Convoluted structure, as an occasional rather than habitual style, is a good way of achieving variety in sentence...

Analysis or Classification

In a broad sense all expository paragraphs are analytical. To write about any subject you must it into particulars whether reasons or comparisons, illustrations or consequences and then organize these into a coherent whole. More narrowly, however, analysis refers to the specific technique of developing a topic by distinguishing its components and discussing each in turn. G. K. Chesterton, for example, analyzes the category people in this way Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of people in...

Grammatical Independence

Grammatical independence simply means that the words constituting the sentence are not acting as a noun or modifier or verb in connection with any other word or words. For example, Harry was late is independent. Became Harry was late is not. Because turns the words into an adverb more exactly, an adverbial clause . The construction should modify another verb or clause as in The men were delayed in starting because Harry was 1. The fact that Because Harry was late is not independent does not...

Defining by Metaphor and Simile

Metaphors and similes, which draw a kind of comparison, sometimes help to clarify the meaning of a word or concept. In a famous passage, the seventeenth-century Anglican clergyman Jeremy Taylor defined prayer using a series of metaphors, which culminated in the image of a lark Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the of our tempest prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled...

Phrases

A phrase is a functional word group that does not contain a subject-finite verb combination, although some phrases do use nonfinite verb forms. We can distinguish five kinds of phrases verb, prepositional, participial, gerundive, and infinitive. A verb phrase is a main verb plus any auxiliaries They have been calling all day. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition in, of, to, and so on plus an object, plus often though not invariably modifiers of the object Three people were sitting...

The Compound Sentence

A compound sentence consists of at least two independent subject-verb nexuses The children laughed, and their parents were glad. Compound sentences often have three independent clauses or even four or five. In theory there is no limit. In practice, however, most compound sentences contain only two clauses. Stringing out a number is likely to make an ram The two or more independent clauses comprising a compound sentence may be united in two ways. One is coordination, connecting clauses by a...

The Cumulative Sentence

Most commonly a cumulative sentence consists of an initial independent clause followed by a number of subordinate constructions which accumulate details about the person, place, event, or idea. Though the elements that come after the main clause are technically subordinate, they carry the main load of the sentence and are fully as important. Cumulative sentences appear most often in description. The writer begins with a general picture, like an artist's charcoal sketch, then fills in the...

Advantages of Parallelism

Parallel sentences have several advantages. First, they are impressive and pleasing to hear, elaborate yet rhythmic and ordered, following a master plan with a place for everything and everything in its place. Second, parallelism is economical, using one element of a sentence to serve three or four others. Piling up several verbs after a single subject is probably the most common parallel pattern, as in the two examples just above. Paralleling verbs is particularly effective when describing a...

Announcement

An announcement in the sense it has here is a preliminary statement which tells the reader, Watch out, here comes something important Finally, last point about the man he is in trouble. The construction receiving the stress should be phrased concisely and vigorously and separated from the preceding announcement by a colon or dash though sometimes a comma will do . Anticipatory constructions, which we saw on page 141 as a potential source of deadwood, can function effectively as a form of...

Summary

A sentence is a group of words and sometimes a single word that makes sense standing alone. 2. Some sentences are grammatically complete others called 3. Grammatical sentences must satisfy three criteria they must a be grammatically independent, b have a subject and a finite verb, and c be properly constructed. 4. The parts of a sentence are subject, verb, object, and modifier. 5. These parts may be filled by single words or by functional word groups. 6. Functional word groups act grammatically...

The Balanced Sentence

A balanced sentence consists of two parts roughly equivalent in both length and significance and divided by a pause In a few moments everything grew black, and the rain poured down like a cataract. Francis Parkrnan Balanced elements may repeat the same idea, show cause and effect, precedence and subsequence, or any of other various relationships. Often balanced sentences develop a contrast when the contrast is sharply pointed it is called an antithesis. While balance can involve any kind of...

Defining by Synonyms

A synonymous definition is simply explaining something in different words, usually simpler words. Synonyms are useful when you must use a term readers cannot reasonably be expected to know Huge pungs ox-or horse-drawn sledges , the connecting links between ocean commerce and New England farms, are drawn up in Dock Square three deep. Samuel Eliot Morison The questions Mr. Murrow brought up will rise to plague us again because the answers given are not, as lawyers say, responsive they are not the...

Polysyndeton and Asyndeton

Despite their formidable names, polysyndeton and asyndeton are nothing more than different ways of handling a list or series. Polysyndeton places a conjunction and, or after every term in the list except, of course, the last . Asyndeton uses no conjunctions and separates the terms of the list with commas. Both differ from the conventional treatment of lists and series, which is to use only commas between all items except the last two, these being joined by a conjunction with or without mia it...

The Centered Sentence

The type of subordinate structure that places the main clause more or less in the middle of the sentence, with subordinate elements on either side, has no common name. It has been called circuitous and round composition we shall say centered. Whatever we call it, we see it often. In the three examples that follow in this section, the main clauses have been italicized. Having wanted to walk on the sea like St. Peter he had taken an involuntary bath, losing his mitre and the better part of his...