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 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...

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...

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 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...

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...

Colloquial and Pretentious Diction

Colloquialisms are expressions appropriate to informal, conversational occasions. In writing they may sound out of place We have a swell professor of mathematics. BETTER nice, interesting, pleasant Colloquial words are a problem when they fit awkwardly with their contexts or when they are vague. And frequently colloquialisms are vague. What, for example, does swell mean in the sentence above In speech we compensate for verbal vagueness by gestures, tone of voice, the common ground of knowledge...

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...

Capitalization

When to use capital letters is a complicated matter here we mention only a few common occasions. You will find more thorough discussions in dictionaries and in style books like The Chicago Manual of Style, 13th Edition, published by The University of Chicago Press. The first and last words of a literary title should be capitalized, as should all words in-between except articles an, the , short prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions The City of Women The Call of the Wild However, when an...

Explicit and Implicit Announcement

In explicit announcement you literally state in some fashion or other, This is my subject. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead begins Religion in the Making like this It is my purpose to consider the type of justification which is available for belief in the doctrines of religion. The words It is my purpose make this an explicit announcement. It would have been implicit had Whitehead begun Belief in the doctrines of religion may be justified in various ways. This sentence does not literally...

Point of View Persona and Tone

Thus far we have looked at how to begin and end essays and how to help readers follow the flow of thought. It remains to consider several other aspects of a composition, more abstract but no less important. These are point of view, persona, and tone. Point of view relates to how you present a subject. Two approaches are possible. In a personal point of view you play the role of writer openly, using I, me, my. An impersonal point of view, on the other hand, requires that you avoid all explicit...

Changing Sentence Length and Pattern

From the beginning she had known what she wanted, and proceeded single-minded, with the force of a steam engine towards her goal. There was never a moment's doubt or regret. She wanted the East and from the moment she set eyes on Richard Burton, with his dark Arabic face, his questing panther eyes, he was, for her, that lodestar East, the embodiment of all her thoughts. Man and land were identified. Lesley Blanch It is not necessary, or even desirable, to maintain a strict alternation of long...

Analogy as Persuasion

As well as clarifying the unfamiliar, analogies often have considerable persuasive force. Before we look at an example, though, we need to distinguish between logical and rhetorical analogies. In logic, analogies are a special form of proof we are not concerned with them here. Our interest is exclusively in rhetorical analogies, and rhetorical analogies never constitute logical proof. At best they are what has been called a weak form of reasoning. They merely suggest that because A resembles B...

The Topic Sentence

A good topic sentence is concise and emphatic. It is no longer than the idea requires, and it stresses the important word or phrase. Here, for instance, is the topic statement which opens a paragraph about the collapse of the stock market in 1929 The Big Bull Market was dead. Frederick Lewis Allen Notice several things. 1 Allen's sentence is brief. Not all topics can be explained in six words, but whether they take six or sixty, they should be phrased in no more words than are absolutely...

The Comma

The comma is the most frequent and the most complicated of all marks of punctuation. It is least reducible to rule and most subject to variation, depending on the need to be clear or emphatic, the preferences of individual writers, and even fashion. l gt Coordinated Independent Clauses Coordinated elements are grammatically identical constructions in the same sentence joined by a coordinating conjunction and, but, for, or, nor, and the correlatives either or, neither nor, both and, not only but...

Telic Modes of Meaning

Finally, we shall discuss the point with which we began the purpose a word is chosen to serve. This aspect we shall call the telic mode of meaning, from the Greek word telos, meaning end, and the Latin modus, meaning manner. Though the phrase sounds forbidding, it is a useful brief label for an obvious but important fact that part of a word's meaning is the purpose it is expected to fulfill, and that words may serve different purposes. To get a bit further into this matter it will help to look...

Awkward Anticipatory Construction

This is a special case of failing to use the main sentence elements effectively WORDY This is the kind of golfer that is called a hacker. CONCISE This kind of golfer is called a hacker. In an anticipatory sentence the notional subject that is, what the sentence is really about is not the grammatical subject. Instead it is introduced or anticipated by a pronoun it, this, that, these, those, there which functions as the grammatical subject. The is different grammatically but for all practical...

The Scratch Outline

An outline is a way of dividing a subject into its major parts, of dividing these in turn into subparts, and so on, into finer and finer detail. There are formal outlines, which are usually turned in with a composition and even serve as compositions in their own right. And there are informal outlines, often called working or scratch outlines. The formal variety follows rules that prescribe the alternating use of numbers and letters and the way in which the analysis must proceed. But formal...

Multiple Coordination and Parataxis

The Grahame, Hemingway, and biblical examples all use multiple coordination, linking clauses by coordinating conjunc-these cases, as in most, by using the word Instead of being coordinated, however, independent clauses can be butted together without conjunctions, in which case they are conventionally punctuated by semicolons, though sometimes commas are clear enough. This is called parataxis. Although either multiple coordination or parataxis is possible in a freight-train sentence, they are...

Paragraph Development Cause and Effect

One cannot write for very long without having to explain why something happened or why it is true or false. There are numerous strategies for developing causes or reasons.1 The simplest is to ask the question Why and then to supply the answer If, then, the language of the original colonists was merely the English of England, why does ours differ somewhat from theirs today Three reasons can be offered. First, the people of Great Britain in the seventeenth century spoke different local dialects....

Parallelism and Balance

The difference between parallelism and balance is that in the former the elements involved must stand in an identical grammatical relationship to the same word or construction. Balanced words or constructions, however, do not have to be parallel though they can be . Thus in the sentence above by Defoe the six clauses are separate and independent, not related to anything. But parallelism and balance often go hand in hand, and nothing prevents the same constructions from being both parallel and...

The Summarizing Transition

This link begins with a phrase or clause that sums up the preceding paragraph and then moves to the main clause, which introduces the new topic. Unless idiom prohibits it, the elements of the transition should always be in that order summary of old topic, statement of new one. - and while-clauses frequently carry such transitions If I went through anguish in botany and economics fodifferent reasons gymnasiurrwas even worse. James Thurber But while Bernard Shaw pleasantly surprised innumerable...

The Rhetorical Question

In discussing paragraphs page 68 we saw that rhetorical questions can serve as topic sentences. They can also establish emphasis. Most emphatic rhetorical questions are, in effect, disguised assertions A desirable young man Dust and ashes What was there desirable in such a thing as that Lylton Strachey The question says, of course, that he was not desirable young man. Some emphatic questions are more complicated in meaning, combining an implicit avowal with an actual query Yet this need not be....

The Purpose of Punctuation

All punctuation exists, basically, to help readers understand what you wish to say. Mostly marks of punctuation do this by signaling the grammatical or logical structure of a sentence usually these are the same In the long history of the world men have given many reasons for killing each other in war envy of another people's good bottom land or of their herds, ambition of chiefs and kings, different religious beliefs, high spirits, revenge. Rulh Benedict The colon divides this sentence into its...

Illustration

Citing examples is an easy way to support a generalization Some of those writers who most admired technology Whitman, Henry Adams, and H. G. Wells, for example also feared it But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. Illustrations show that you are not talking through your hat. Thus...

The Restatement Paragraph

At its simplest, restatement involves nothing more than repeating the main idea. It is common as a way of emphasizing something important 1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has witnessed. The most explosive year. Malcolm x Sufficiently extended, restatement will provide the substance of an entire paragraph, as in this passage about why American men are unlikely to cry the paragraph expresses attitudes of our culture, not the writer's own beliefs American men don't cry, because...

The Subordinating Style

The sentence styles we have looked at thus freight-train, cumulative, parallel, and similar in one essential all treat their constituent ideas as more or less equally important. In much composition, however, it is necessary to show degrees of significance. This calls for a different principle of structure subordination. Subordination means focusing on one idea expressed in the main clause and arranging points of lesser importance around it, in the form of phrases and dependent clauses. There...

Ordering Reasons within the Paragraph

Sometimes you will work with only a single reason, repeating or expanding it in various ways this is what Una Stannard does in the preceding paragraph. Other topics involve several reasons, as in the passage by Professor Stewart. In that case you must arrange them in a significant order. If the causes are serial that is, if A is caused by B, B by C, and C by D the organization is predetermined But several reasons all contributing to the same consequence may be parallel, that is, having no...

Paragraph Development Comparison Contrast and Analogy

The methods of development we study in this chapter involve two subjects occasionally more than two . Analogy is a special kind of comparison in which a subject of secondary importance and often of a quite different nature is introduced to clarify or justify some aspect of the main subject. Comparison treats two subjects of the same nature, as does contrast but the former shows how the subjects are alike, while the latter focuses on how they differ. But despite this difference, comparison and...

Grammar Usage and Style

Grammar, usage, and mechanics establish the ground rules of writing, circumscribing what you are free to do. Within their limits, you select various strategies and work out those strategies in terms of words, sentences, paragraphs. The ground rules, however, are relatively inflexible, broken at your peril. It is not always easy to draw the line between grammar and usage or between usage and style. Broadly, grammar is what you must do as a user of English usage, what you should do as a writer of...

The Triadic Sentence

A second deficiency of the freight-train sentence is that it lacks a clear shape. Being open-ended, it has no necessary stopping place one could go on and on adding clauses. As a way of providing it with a clearer structural principle, the freight-train sentence is sometimes composed in three units and is called a triad 2 Her showmanship was superb her timing sensational her dramatic instinct uncanny. Robert Coughlan Business executives, economists, and the public alike knew little of the...

Consensual Stipulative and Legislative Definitions

Rather than kinds of definitions, the distinction here is more a matter of purpose. The purpose of a consensual definition is simply to tell us how people commonly use a word or what they understand a thing to be. It is what you find when you open your dictionary. A stipulative definition is a special meaning given to a word or entity for a particular purpose. It differs from the usual consensual definition, but is perfectly legitimate so long as the writer clearly explains what he or she means...

The Segregating Style

At its purest the segregating sentence is grammatically simple, expressing a single idea.1 A segregating style consists of a series of such sentences. In practice the style is rarely confined 1. Idea is a slippery word. Here it means simply one subject plus one predication about that subject The night was dark expresses a single idea. Most sentences consist of several The night was dark, and it was lonely. Or, with the two predications more closely connected The night was dark and lonely. to...