Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, John R. Bilderback and PG
STRATTON D. BROOKS
_Superintendent of Schools, Boston, Mass._
_Formerly English Department, High School La Salle, Illinois_
* * * * *
NEW YORK - CINCINNATI - CHICAGO
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
STRATTON D. BROOKS.
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London.
* * * * *
To MARCIA STUART BROOKS
Whose teaching first demonstrated
to the authors that composition
could become a delight and pleasure,
this book is dedicated......
The aim of this book is not to produce critical readers of literature, nor
to prepare the pupil to answer questions about rhetorical theory, but to
enable every pupil to express in writing, freely, clearly, and forcibly,
whatever he may find within him worthy of expression.
Three considerations of fundamental importance underlie the plan of the
First, improvement in the performance of an act comes from the repetition
of that act accompanied by a conscious effort to omit the imperfections of
the former attempt. Therefore, the writing of a new theme in which, the
pupil attempts to avoid the error which occurred in his former theme is of
much greater educational value than is the copying of the old theme for
the purpose of correcting the errors in it. To copy the old theme is to
correct a result, to write a new theme correctly is to improve a process;
and it is this improvement of process that is the real aim of composition
Second, the logical arrangement of material should be subordinated to the
needs of the pupils. A theoretical discussion of the four forms of
discourse would require that each be completely treated in one place. Such
a treatment would ignore the fact that a high school pupil has daily need
to use each of the four forms of discourse, and that some assistance in
each should be given him as early in his course as possible. The book,
therefore, gives in Part 1 the elements of description, narration,
exposition, and argument, and reserves for Part II a more complete
treatment of each. In each part the effort has been made to adapt the
material presented to the maturity and power of thought of the pupil.
Third, expression cannot be compelled; it must be coaxed. Only under
favorable conditions can we hope to secure that reaction of intellect and
emotion which renders possible a full expression of self. One of the most
important of these favorable conditions is that the pupil shall write
something he wishes to write, for an audience which wishes to hear it. The
authors have, therefore, suggested subjects for themes in which high
school pupils are interested and about which they will wish to write. It
is hoped that the work will be so conducted by the teacher that every
theme will be read aloud before the class. It is essential that the
criticism of a theme so read shall, in the main, be complimentary,
pointing out and emphasizing those things which the pupil has done well;
and that destructive criticism be largely impersonal and be directed
toward a single definite point. Only thus may we avoid personal
embarrassment to the pupil, give him confidence in himself, and assure him
of a sympathetic audience--conditions essential to the effective teaching
The plan of the book is as follows:--
1. Part 1 provides a series of themes covering description, narration,
exposition, and argument. The purpose is to give the pupil that
inspiration and that confidence in himself which come from the frequent
repetition of an act.
2. Each theme differs from the preceding usually by a single point, and
the teaching effort should be confined to that point. Only a false
standard of accuracy demands that every error be corrected every time it
appears. Such a course loses sight of the main point in a multiplicity of
details, renders instruction ineffective by scattering effort, produces
hopeless confusion in the mind of the pupil, and robs composition of that
inspiration without which it cannot succeed. In composition, as in other
things, it is better to do but one thing at a time.
3. Accompanying the written themes is a series of exercises, each designed
to emphasize the point presented in the text, but more especially intended
to provide for frequent drills in oral composition.
4. Throughout the first four chapters the paragraph is the unit of
composition, but for the sake of added interest some themes of greater
length have been included. Chapter V, on the Whole Composition, serves as
a review and summary of the methods of paragraph development, shows how to
make the transition from one paragraph to another, and discusses the more
important rhetorical principles underlying the union of paragraphs into a
coherent and unified whole.
5. The training furnished by Part 1 should result in giving to the pupil
some fluency of expression, some confidence in his ability to make known
to others that which he thinks and feels, and some power to determine that
the theme he writes, however rough-hewn and unshapely it may be, yet in
its major outlines follows closely the thought that is within his mind. If
the training has failed to give the pupil this power, it will be of little
advantage to him to have mastered some of the minor matters of technique,
or to have learned how to improve his phrasing, polish his sentences, and
distribute his commas.
6. Part II provides a series of themes covering the same ground as Part I,
but the treatment of these themes is more complete and the material is
adapted to the increased maturity and thought power of the pupils. By
means of references the pupils are directed to all former treatments of
the topics they are studying.
7. Part II discusses some topics usually treated in college courses in
rhetoric. These have been included for three reasons: first, because
comparatively few high school pupils go to college; second, because the
increased amount of time now given to composition enables the high school
to cover a wider field than formerly; and third, because such topics can
be studied with profit by pupils in the upper years of the high school
8. It is not intended that the text shall be recited. Its purpose is to
furnish a basis for discussion between teacher and pupils before the
pupils attempt to write. The real test of the pupils' mastery of a
principle discussed in the text will be their ability to put it into
Any judgment of the success or failure of the book should be based upon
the quality of the themes which the pupils write. Criticisms and
suggestions will be welcomed from those who use the book.
The authors wish to express their obligation for advice and assistance to
Professor Edward Fulton, Department of Rhetoric, University of Illinois;
Messrs. Gilbert S. Blakely and H. E. Foster, Instructors in English,
Morris High School, New York; Miss Elizabeth Richardson, Girls' High
School, Boston; Miss Katherine H. Shute, Boston Normal School; Miss E.
Marguerite Strauchon, Kansas City High School.
The selections from Hawthorne, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes, Whittier,
Warner, Burroughs, Howells, and Trowbridge are used by permission of and
by special arrangement with Hoaghton, Mifflin, and Company, publishers of
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Harper and Brothers; The Century
Company; Doubleday, Page, and Company; and Charles Scribner's Sons for
permission to use the selections to which their names are attached: to the
publishers of the _Forum, Century, Atlantic Monthly, McClure's, Harper's,
Scribner's_, and the _Outlook_ for permission to use extracts: and to
Scott, Foresman, and Company; D. Appleton and Company; Henry Holt and
Company; G. P. Putnam's Sons; Thomas Y. Crowell and Company; and Benjamin
H. Sanborn and Company for permission to use copyrighted material.
1. Expression of Ideas arising from Experience
II. Expression of Ideas furnished by Imagination
III. Expression of Ideas acquired through Language
IV. The Purpose of Expression
V. The Whole Composition
VI. Letter Writing
I. Elements of Form
II. Review of Grammar
III. Figures of Speech
IV. The Rhetorical Features of the Sentence
V. List of Synonyms
VI. List of Words for Exercise in Word Usage
1. EXPRESSION OF IDEAS ARISING FROM EXPERIENCE
+1. Pleasure in Expressing Ideas.+--Though we all enjoy talking, we cannot
write so easily as we talk, nor with the same pleasure. We seldom talk
about topics in which we are not interested and concerning which we know
little or nothing, but we often have such topics assigned to us as
subjects for compositions. Under such conditions it is no wonder that
there is little pleasure in writing. The ideas that we express orally are
those with which we are familiar and in which we are interested, and we
tell them because we wish to tell them to some one who is likewise
interested and who desires to hear what we have to say. Such expression of
ideas is enjoyed by all. If we but choose to express the same kinds of
ideas and for the same reason, there is an equal or even greater pleasure
to be derived from the expression of ideas in writing. The purpose of this
book is to show you how to express ideas _clearly, effectively_, and _with
+2. Sources of Ideas.+--We must have ideas before we can express them.
There are three sources from which ideas arise. We may gain them from
experience; we may recombine them into new forms by the imagination; and
we may receive them from others through the medium of language, either by
conversation or by reading.
Every day we add to our knowledge through our senses. We see and hear and
do, and thus, through experience, acquire ideas about things. By far the
greater part of expression has to do with ideas that have originated in
this way. The first chapter in this book is concerned with the expression
of ideas gained through experience.
We may, however, think about things that have not actually occurred. We
may allow our minds to picture a football game that we have not seen, or
to plan a story about a boy who never existed. Nearly every one takes
pleasure in such an exercise of the imagination. The second chapter has to
do with the expression of ideas of this kind.
We also add to our knowledge through the medium of language. Through
conversation and reading we learn what others think, and it is often of
value to restate these ideas. The expression of ideas so acquired is
treated in the third chapter.
+3. Advantages of Expressing Ideas Gained from Experience.+--Young people
sometimes find difficulty in writing because they "have nothing to say."
Such a reason will not hold in regard to ideas gained from experience.
Every one has a multitude of experiences every day, and wishes to tell
about some of them. Many of the things which happen to you or to your
friends, especially some which occur outside of the regular routine of
school work, are interesting and worth telling about. Thus experience
furnishes an abundance of material suitable for composition purposes, and
this material is of the best because the ideas are _sure to be your own_.
The first requisite of successful composition is to have thoughts of your
own. The expressing of ideas that are not your own is mere copy work, and
seldom worth doing.
Ideas acquired through experience are not only interesting and your own,
but they are likely to be _clear_ and _definite_. You know what you do and
what you see; or, if you do not, the effort to express your ideas so that
they will be clear to others will make you observe closely for yourself.
Still another advantage comes from the fact that your experiences are not
presented to you through the medium of language. When experience furnishes
the ideas, you are left free to choose for yourself the words that best
set forth what you wish to tell. The things of your experience are the
things with which you are most familiar, and therefore the words that best
apply to them are those which you most often use and whose meanings are
best known to you.
Because experience supplies an abundance of interesting, clear, and
definite ideas, which are your own and which may be expressed in familiar
language, it furnishes better material for training in expression than
does either imagination or reading.
+4. Essentials of Expression.+--The proper expression of ideas depends
upon the observance of two essentials: first, you should say what you
mean; and second, you should say it clearly. Without these, what you say
may be not only valueless, but positively misleading. If you wish your
hearer to understand what occurred at a certain time and place, you must
first of all know yourself exactly what did occur. Then you must express
it in language that shall make him understand it as clearly as you do. You
will learn much about clearness, later; but even now you can tell whether
you know what is meant by each sentence which you hear or read. It is not
so easy to tell whether what you say will convey clearly to another the
meaning you intend to convey, but you will be helped in this if you ask
yourself the questions: "Do I know exactly what happened?" "Have I said
what I intended to say?" "Have I said it so that it will be clear to the
+Oral Composition 1.+--_Report orally on one of the following:_--
1. Were you so interested in anything yesterday that you told it to your
parents or friends? Tell the class about it.
2. Tell about something that you have done this week, so that the class
may know exactly what you did.
3. Name some things in which you have been interested within the last two
or three months. Tell the class about one of them.
4. Tell the class about something that happened during vacation. Have you
told the event exactly as it occurred?
+5. Interest.+--In order to enjoy listening to a story we must take an
interest in it, and the story should be so told as to arouse and maintain
this interest. As you have listened to the reports of your classmates you
have been more pleased with some than with others. Even though the meaning
of each was clear, yet the interest aroused was in each case different.
Since the purpose of a story is to entertain, any story falls short of its
purpose when it ceases to be interesting. We must at all times say what we
mean and say it clearly; but in story telling especially we must also take
care that what we say shall arouse and maintain interest.
+6. The Introduction.+--The story of an event should be introduced in such
a manner as to enable the hearer to understand the circumstances that are
related. Such an introduction contributes to clearness and has an
important bearing upon the interest of the entire composition. In order to
render our account of an event clear and interesting it is usually
desirable to tell the hearers _when_ and _where_ the event occurred and
_who_ were present. Their understanding of it may be helped further by
telling such of the attendant circumstances as will answer the question,
_Why_? If I begin my story by saying, "Last summer John Anderson and I
were on a camping trip in the Adirondacks," I have told when, where, and
who; and the addition of the words "on a camping trip" tells why we were
in the Adirondacks, and may serve to explain some of the events that are
to follow. Even the statement of the place indicates in some degree the
trend of the story, for many things that might occur "in the Adirondacks"
could not occur in a country where there are no mountains. Certainly the
story that would follow such an introduction would be expected to differ
from one beginning with the words, "Last summer John Anderson and I went
to visit a friend in New York."
It is not always necessary to tell when, where, who, and why in the
introduction, but it is desirable to do so in most cases of oral story
telling. These four elements may not always be stated in incidents taken
from books, for the reader may be already familiar with them from the
preceding portions of the book. The title of a printed or written story
may serve as an introduction and give us all needed information. In
relating personal incidents the time element is seldom omitted, though it
may be stated indirectly or indefinitely by such expressions as "once" or
'lately.' In many stories the interest depends upon the plot, and the time
is not definitely stated.
Notice what elements are included in each of the following
1. Saturday last at Mount Holly, about eight miles from this place, nearly
three hundred people were gathered together to see an experiment or two
tried on some persons accused of witchcraft.
2. On the morning of the 10th instant at sunrise, they were discovered
from Put-in-Bay, where I lay at anchor with the squadron under my command.
3. It was on Sunday when I awoke to the realization that I had quitted
civilization and was afloat on an unfamiliar body of water in an open
4. Up and down the long corn rows Pap Overholt guided the old mule and the
small, rickety, inefficient plow, whose low handles bowed his tall, broad
shoulders beneath the mild heat of a mountain June sun. As he went--ever
with a furtive eye upon the cabin--he muttered to himself, shaking his
5. After breakfast, I went down to the Saponey Indian town, which is about
a musket shot from the fort.
6. The lonely stretch of uphill road, upon whose yellow clay the midsummer
sun beat vertically down, would have represented a toilsome climb to a
grown and unencumbered man. To the boy staggering under the burden of a
brimful carpet bag, it seemed fairly unscalable; wherefore he stopped at
its base and looked up in dismay to its far-off, red-hot summit.
7. One afternoon last summer, three or four people from New York, two from
Boston, and a young man from the Middle West were lunching at one of the
country clubs on the south shore of Long Island, and there came about a
mild discussion of the American universities.
8. "But where is the station?" inquired the Judge.
"Ain't none, boss. Dis heah is jes a crossing. Train's about due now, sah;
you-all won't hab long fer to wait. Thanky, sah; good-by; sorry you-all
didn't find no birds."
The Judge picked up his gun case and grip and walked toward his two
companions waiting on the platform a few yards away. Silhouetted against
the moonlight they made him think of the figure 10, for Mr. Appleton was
tall and erect, and the little Doctor short and circular.
9. I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
"Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gate bolts undrew,
"Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through.
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
+Oral Composition II.+--_Relate orally to the class some incident in which
you were personally concerned._
The following may suggest a subject:--
1. How I made friends with the squirrels.
2. A trick of a tame crow.
3. Why I missed the train.
4. How a horse was rescued.
5. Lost and found.
6. My visit to a menagerie.
(When preparing to relate this incident ask yourself first whether you
know exactly what happened. Consider then how to begin the story so that
your hearer will know when and where it happened and who were there.
Include in the beginning any statement that will assist the reader in
understanding the events which follow.)
+7. The Point of a Story.+--It is not necessary that a story be concerned
with a thrilling event in order to be interesting. Even a most commonplace
occurrence may be so told that it is worth listening to. It is more
important that a story have a point and be so told that this point will be
readily appreciated than that it deal with important or thrilling events.
The story should lead easily and rapidly to its point, and when this is
reached the end of the story should not be far distant. The beginning of a
story will contain statements that will assist us in appreciating the
point when we come to it, but if the point is plainly stated near the
beginning, or even if it is too strongly suggested, our story will drag.
At what point in the following selection is the interest greatest?
During the Civil War, I lived in that portion of Tennessee which was
alternately held by the conflicting armies. My father and brothers were
away, as were all the other men in the neighborhood, except a few very old
ones and some half-grown boys. Mother and I were in constant fear of
injury from stragglers from both armies. We had never been disturbed,
for our farm was a mile or more back from the road along which such
detachments usually moved. We had periods of comparative quiet in which we
felt at ease, and then would come reports of depredation near at hand, or
rumors of the presence of marauding bands in neighboring settlements.
One evening such a rumor came to us, and we were consequently anxious.
Early next morning, before the fog had lifted, I caught sight of two men
crossing the road at the far end of the orchard. They jumped over the
fence into the orchard and disappeared among the trees. I had but a brief
glimpse of them, but it was sufficient to show me that one had a gun over
his shoulder, while the other carried a saber.
"Quick, Mother, quick!" I cried. "Come to the window. There are soldiers
in the orchard."
Keeping out of sight, we watched the progress of the men through the
orchard. Our brief glimpses of them through the trees showed that they
were not coming directly to the house, but were headed for the barn and
sheds, and in order to keep out of sight, were following a slight ravine
which ran across the orchard and led to the back of the barns.
Mother and I were very much excited and hardly knew what to do. Finally it
was determined to hide upstairs in hopes that the men were bent on
stealing chickens or pigs, and might leave without disturbing the house.
We locked the doors and went upstairs, taking with us the old musket and
the butcher knife. We could hear the men about the barn, and after what
seemed an interminable time we heard them coming towards the house.
Though shaking all over, I summoned courage enough to go to the window and
look out of a hole in the shade. As the men came into sight around the
corner, I screamed outright, but from relief rather than fear, for the men
were not soldiers, but Grandpa Smith and his fourteen-year-old grandson.
They stopped at the well to get a drink, and when we opened the window,
the old man said, "We're just on our way to mow the back lot and stopped
to grind the scythe on your stone. We broke ours yesterday."
Then he picked up the scythe which in the fog I had taken for a saber,
while the grandson again shouldered his pitchfork musket.
What effect would it have on the interest aroused by the preceding story
to begin it as follows?
"One morning during the Civil War, I saw two of my neighbors, Grandpa
Smith and his grandson, crossing our orchard, one carrying a scythe and
the other a pitchfork."
Why is the expression, "before the fog had lifted," used near the
beginning of the story? Would a description of the appearance of the
house, the barn, or the persons add to the interest aroused by the story?
Is it necessary to add anything to the story?
In each of the following selections decide where the interest reaches its
climax. Has anything been said in the beginning of any of them which
suggests what the point will be, or which helps you to appreciate it when
you come to it?
1. The next evening our travelers encamped on a sand bar, or rather a
great bank of sand, that ran for miles along one side of the river. They
kept watch as usual, Leon taking the first turn. He seated himself on a
pile of sand and did his best to keep awake; but in about an hour after
the rest were asleep, he felt very drowsy and fell into a nap that lasted
nearly half an hour, and might have continued longer had he not slid down
the sand hill and tumbled over on his side. This awoke him. Feeling vexed
with himself, he rubbed his eyes and looked about to see if any creature
had ventured near. He first looked towards the woods, for of course that
was the direction from which the tigers would come; but he had scarcely
turned himself when he perceived a pair of eyes glancing at him from the
other side of the fire. Close to them another pair, then another and
another, until, having looked on every side, he saw himself surrounded by
a complete circle of glancing eyes. It is true they were small ones, and
some of the heads which he could see by the blaze were small. They were
not jaguars, but they had an ugly look. They looked like the heads of
serpents. Was it possible that a hundred serpents could have surrounded
Brought suddenly to his feet, Leon stood for some moments uncertain what
to do. He believed that the eyes belonged to snakes which had just crept
out of the river; and he feared that any movement on his part would lead
them to attack him. Having risen to his feet, his eyes were above the
level of the blaze, and he was able in a little while to see more clearly.
He now saw that the snakelike heads belonged to creatures with large oval
bodies, and that, besides the fifty or more which had come up to look at
the fire, there were whole droves of them upon the sandy beach beyond. As
far as he could see on all sides, the bank was covered with them. A
strange sight it was, and most fearful. For his life he could not make out
what it meant, or by what sort of wild animals he was surrounded.
He could see that their bodies were not larger than those of small sheep;
and, from the way in which they glistened in the moonlight, he was sure
they had come out of the river. He called to the Indian guide, who awoke
and started to his feet in alarm. The movement frightened the creatures
round the fire; they rushed to the shore, and were heard plunging by
hundreds into the water.
The Indian's ear caught the sounds, and his eye took in the whole thing at
"Turtles," he said.
"Oh," said the lad; "turtles, are they?"
"Yes, master," answered the guide. "I suppose this is one of their great
hatching places. They are going to lay their eggs in the sand."
--Captain Mayne Reid.
Would the preceding incident be interesting if we were told at the
beginning that the boy and the Indian had encamped near a hatching place
2. Not every story that reads like fiction is fact, but the _Brooklyn
Eagle_ assures its readers that the one here quoted is quite true. The man
who told it was for many years an officer of the Chicago, Burlington &
Quincy Railroad Company in Illinois, and had annual passes over all the
important railroads in the country. His duties took him to Springfield,
the state capital, and as he generally went by the Chicago, Alton & St.
Louis road, the conductors on that line knew him so well that they never
asked to see his pass.
"One day I received a telegram summoning me to meet one of the officers of
my company at Aurora the next morning. I had only a short time to catch my
train to Chicago, and in my haste left my passbook behind. I did not find
this out until I reached Chicago, and was about to take the last train for
Aurora that night. Then I saw that the conductor, a man brought over from
the Iowa division, was a stranger, and the fact that I would need my pass
reminded me that I did not have it.
"I told the conductor the situation, but he said he could not carry me on
my mere representation that I had a pass.
"Why, man," said I, "I am an officer of the company, going to Aurora on
company business, and this is the last train that will get me there in
time. You must take me."
"He was polite, but firm. He said he was a new man on this division, and
could not afford to make any mistakes.
"When I saw that he was determined, I rushed off to the telegraph office;
but it was too late to catch anybody authorized to issue passes, so I
settled it in my mind that I must go by carriage, and the prospect of an
all-night ride over bad roads through the dark was anything but inviting.
Indeed, it was so forbidding that I resolved to make one more appeal to
"You simply must take me to Aurora!" I said, with intense earnestness.
"I can't do it," he answered. "But I believe you are what you represent
yourself to be, and I will lend you the money personally. It is only one
dollar and twelve cents."
"Well, sir, you could have knocked me down with the flat side of a
palm-leaf fan. I had more than two thousand dollars in currency in my
pocket, but it had never for an instant occurred to me that I could pay my
fare and ride on that train. I showed the conductor a wad of money that
made his eyes stick out.
"I thought it was funny," said he, "that a man in your position couldn't
raise one dollar and twelve cents. It was that that made me believe you
were playing a trick to see if I would violate the rule."
"The simple truth was, I had ridden everywhere on passes so many years,
that it did not occur to me that I could ride in any other way."
+Oral Composition III.+[Footnote: Oral compositions should be continued
throughout the course. A few minutes may be profitably used once or twice
each week in having each member of the class stand before the class and
relate briefly some incident which he has witnessed since the last meeting
of the class. Exercises like those on page 53 also will furnish
opportunities for oral work.]--_Relate to the class some personal
incident suggested by one of the following subjects_:--
1. A day with my cousin.
2. Caught in the act.
3. A joke on me.
4. My peculiar mistake.
5. My experience on a farm.
6. My experience in a strange Sunday school.
7. What I saw when I was coming to school.
(In preparation for this exercise, consider the point of your story. What
must you tell first in order to enable the hearers to understand the
point? Can you say anything that will make them want to know what the
point is without really telling them? Can you lead up to it without too
long a delay? Can you stop when the point has been made?)
+8. Theme Writing and Correcting.+--Any written exercise, whether long or
short, is called a theme throughout this book. Just as one learns to skate
by skating, so one learns to write by writing; therefore many themes will
be required. Since the clear expression of thought is one of the essential
characteristics of every theme, theme correction should be primarily
directed to improvement in clearness. The teacher will need to assist in
this correction, but the really valuable part is that which you do for
yourself. After you leave school you will need to decide for yourself what
is right and what is best, and it is essential that you now learn how to
make such decisions.
To aid you in acquiring a habit of self-correction, questions or
suggestions follow the directions for writing each theme. In Theme I you
are to express clearly to others something that is already clear to you.
+Theme I.+-_Write a short theme on one of the subjects that you have used
for an oral composition._
(After writing this theme, read it aloud to yourself. Does it read
smoothly? Have you told what actually happened? Have you told it so that
the hearers will understand you? Have you said what you meant to say?
Consider the introduction. Has the story a point?)
+9. The Conclusion.+--Since the point of a story marks the climax of
interest, it is evident that the conclusion must not be long delayed after
the point has been reached. If the story has been well told, the point
marks the natural conclusion, and a sentence or two will serve to bring
the story to a satisfactory end. If a suitable ending does not suggest
itself, it is better to omit the conclusion altogether than to construct a
forced or flowery one. Notice the conclusion of the incident of the Civil
War related on page 18.
+Theme II.+-_Write a short theme suggested by one of the following
1. A school picnic.
2. A race.
3. The largest fire I have seen.
4. A skating accident.
5. A queer mistake.
6. An experience with a tramp.
(Correct with reference to meaning and clearness. Consider the
introduction; the point; the conclusion.)
+10. Observation of Actions.+--Many of our most interesting experiences
arise from observing the actions of others. A written description of what
we have observed will gain in interest to the reader, if, in addition to
telling what was done, we give some indication of the way in which it was
done. A list of tools a carpenter uses and the operations he performs
during the half hour we watch him, may be dull and uninteresting; but our
description may have an added value if it shows his manner of working so
that the reader can determine whether the carpenter is an orderly,
methodical, and rapid worker or a mere putterer who is careless,
haphazard, and slow. Two persons will perform similar actions in very
different ways. Our description should be so worded as to show what the
+Theme III.+--_Write a theme relating actions._
1. A mason, blacksmith, painter, or other mechanic at work.
2. How my neighbor mows his lawn.
3. What a man does when his automobile breaks down.
4. Describe the actions of a cat, dog, rabbit, squirrel, or other
5. Watch the push-cart man a half-hour and report what he did.
(Have you told exactly what was done? Can you by the choice of suitable
words show more plainly the way in which it was done? Does this theme need
to have an introduction? A point? A conclusion?)
+11. Selection of Details.+--You are at present concerned with telling
events that actually happen; but this does not mean that you need to
include everything that occurs. If you wish to tell a friend about some
interesting or exciting incident at a picnic, he will not care to hear
everything that took place during the day. He may listen politely to a
statement of what train you took and what you had in your lunch basket,
but he will be little interested in such details. In order to maintain
interest, the point of your story must not be too long delayed. Brevity is
desirable, and details that bear little relation to the main point, and
that do not prepare the listener to understand and appreciate this point,
are better omitted.
+Theme IV.+--_Write about something that you have done. Use any of the
following subjects, or one suggested by them:_--
1. My first hunt.
2. Why I was tardy.
3. My first fishing trip.
4. My narrow escape.
5. A runaway.
6. What I did last Saturday.
(Read the theme aloud to yourself. Does it read smoothly? Have you said
what you meant to say? Have you expressed it clearly? Consider the
introduction; the point; the conclusion. Reject unnecessary details.)
+12. Order of Events.+--The order in which events occur will assist in
establishing the order in which to relate them. If you are telling about
only one person, you can follow the time order of the events as they
actually happened; but if you are telling about two or more persons who
were doing different things at the same time, you will need to tell first
what one did and then what another did. You must, however, make it clear
to the reader that, though you have told one event after the other, they
really happened at the same time.
In the selection below notice how the italicized portions indicate the
relation in time that the different events bear to one another.
At the beach yesterday a fat woman and her three children caused a great
commotion. They had rigged themselves out in hired suits which might be
described as an average fit, for that of the mother was as much too small
as those of the children were too large. They trotted gingerly out into
the surf, wholly unconscious that the crowd of beach loungers had, for the
time, turned their attention from each other to the quartet in the water.
By degrees the four worked out farther and farther until a wave larger
than usual washed the smallest child entirely off his feet, and caused the
mother to scream lustily for help. The people on the beach started up, and
two or three men hastened to the rescue, but their progress was impeded by
the crowd of frightened girls and women _who were scrambling and splashing
towards the shore_. The mother's frantic efforts to reach the little boy
were rendered ineffectual by the two girls, _who at the moment of the
first alarm had been strangled_ by the salt water and _were now clinging_
desperately to her arms and _attempting_ to climb up to her shoulders.
_Meanwhile_, the lifeboat man was rowing rapidly towards the scene, but it
seemed to the onlookers _who had rushed to the platform railing_ that he
would never arrive. _At the same time_ a young man, _who had started from
the diving raft some time before_, was swimming towards shore with
powerful strokes. He _now_ reached the spot, caught hold of the boy, and
lifted him into the lifeboat, which had _at last_ arrived.
Such expressions as _meanwhile, in the meantime, during, at last, while_,
etc., are regularly used to denote the kind of time relations now under
discussion. They should be used when they avoid confusion, but often a
direct transition from one set of actions to another can be made without
their use. Notice also the use of the relative clause to indicate time
+Theme V.+-_Write a short theme, using some one of the subjects named
under the preceding themes or one suggested by them. Select one which you
have not already used._
(Have you told enough to enable the reader to follow easily the thread of
the story and to understand what you meant to tell? If your theme is
concerned with more than one set of activities, have you made the
transition from one to another in such a way as to be clear to the reader?
Have you expressed the transitions with the proper time relations? What
other questions should you ask yourself while correcting this theme?)
1. There is a pleasure to be derived from the expression of ideas.
2. There are three sources of ideas: experience, imagination, language.
3. Ideas gained from experience may be advantageously used for
composition purposes because--
_a._ They are interesting.
_b._ They are your own.
_c._ They are likely to be clear and definite.
_d._ They offer free choice of language.
4. The two essentials of expression are--
_a._ To say what you mean.
_b._ To say it clearly.
5. A story should be told so as to arouse and maintain interest.
_a._ The introduction usually tells when, where, who, and why.
_b._ Every story worth telling has a point.
_c._ Only such details are included as are essential to the
of the point.
_d._ The conclusion is brief. The story comes to an end shortly
after the point is told.
6. Care must be taken to indicate the time order, especially when two or
more events occur at the same time.
7. The correction of one's own theme is the most valuable form of
II. EXPRESSION OF IDEAS FURNISHED BY IMAGINATION
+13. Relation of Imagination to Experience.+--All ideas are based upon and
spring from experience, and the imagination merely places them in new
combinations. For the purpose of this book, however, it is convenient to
distinguish those themes that relate real events as they actually occurred
from those themes that relate events that did not happen. That body of
writing which we call literature is largely composed of works of an
imaginative character, and for this reason it has sometimes been
carelessly assumed that in order to write one must be possessed of an
excellent imagination. Such an assumption loses sight of the fact that
imaginative writings cover but one small part of the whole field. The
production of literature is the business of a few, while every one has
occasion every day to express ideas. It is evident that by far the greater
part of the ideas we are called upon to express do not require the use of
the imagination, but exercises in writing themes of an imaginative
character are given here because there is pleasure in writing such themes
and because practice in writing them will aid us in stating clearly and
effectively the many ideas arising from our daily experiences.
+14. Advantages and Disadvantages of Imaginative Theme Writing.+--Ideas
furnished by the imagination are no less your own than are those furnished
by experience, and the same freedom in the choice of language prevails.
Such ideas are, however, not likely to be so clear and definite. At the
time of their occurrence they do not make so deep and vital an impression
upon you. If not recorded as they occur, they can seldom be recalled in
the original form. Even though you attempt to write these imaginary ideas
as you think them, you can and do change and modify them as you go along.
This lack of clearness and permanent form, while it seems to give greater
freedom, carries with it disadvantages. In the first place the ideas are
less likely to be worth recording, and in the second place it is more
difficult to give them a unity and directness of statement that will hold
the attention and interest of the reader until the chief point is reached.
+15. Probability.+--Not everything that the imagination may furnish is
equally worth expressing. If you choose to write about something for which
imagination supplies the ideas, you may create for yourself such ideas as
you wish. Their order of occurrence and their time and place are not
determined by outward events, but solely by the mind itself. The events
are no longer real and actual, but may be changed and rearranged without
limit. An imaginative series of events may conform closely to the real and
probable, or it may be manifestly improbable. Which will be of greater
interest will depend upon the reader, but it will be found that the story
which comes nearest to reality is most satisfactory. In relating fairy
tales we confessedly attempt to tell events not possible in the real
world, but in relating tales of real life, however imaginary, we should
tell the events so that everything seems both possible and probable. An
imaginative story, in which the persons seem to be real persons who do and
say the things that real persons do and say, will be found much more
satisfactory than a story that depends for its outcome on something
manifestly impossible. He who really does the best in imaginative writing
is the one who has most closely observed the real events of everyday life,
and states his imaginary events so that they seem real.
+Theme VI.+--_Write a short theme, using one of the subjects below. You
need not tell something that actually happened, but what you tell should
be so told that your readers will think it might have happened._
1. A trip in a sailboat.
2. The travels of a penny.
3. How I was lost.
4. A cat's account of a mouse hunt.
5. The mouse's account of the same hunt.
6. My experience with a burglar.
7. The burglar's story.
+16. Euphony.+--Besides clearness in a composition there are other
desirable qualities. To one of these, various names have been applied, as
"euphony," "ease," "elegance," "beauty," etc. Of two selections equally
clear in meaning one may be more pleasing than the other. One may seem
harsh and rough, while the other flows along with a satisfying ease and
smoothness. If the thought that is in our mind fails to clothe itself in
suitable language and appropriate figures, we can do little by conscious
effort toward improving the beauty of the language; but by avoiding choppy
sentences and inharmonious combinations of words and phrases, we may
remove from our compositions much that is harsh and rough. That quality
which we call ease or euphony is better detected by the ear than by the
eye, and for this reason it has been suggested that you read each theme
aloud to yourself before presenting it to the class. Such a reading will
assist you to determine whether you have made your meaning clear and to
eliminate some of the more disagreeable combinations.
+17. Variety.+--Of the many elements which affect the euphony of a theme
none is more essential than variety. The constant repetition of the same
thing grows monotonous and distasteful, while a pleasing variety maintains
interest and improves the story. For the sake of this variety we avoid the
continual use of the same words and phrases, substituting synonyms and
equivalent expressions if we have need to repeat the same idea many times.
Most children begin every sentence of a story with "and," or perhaps it is
better to say that they conclude many sentences with "and-uh," leaving the
thought in suspense while they are trying to think of what to say next.
High school pupils are not wholly free from this habit, and it is
sometimes retained in their written work. This excessive use of _and_
needs to be corrected. An examination of our language habits will show
that nearly every one has one or more words which he uses to excess. A
professor of rhetoric, after years of correcting others, discovered by
underscoring the word _that_ each time it occurred in his own writing that
he was using it twice as often as necessary. _Got_ is one of the words
used too frequently, and often incorrectly.
1. In the following selection notice how each sentence begins. Compare it
with one of your own themes.
I was witness to events of a less peaceful character. One day when I went
out to my woodpile, or rather my pile of stumps, I observed two large
ants, the one red, and the other much larger, nearly half an inch long,
and black, fiercely contending with each other. Having once got hold, they
never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips
incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were
covered with such combatants; that it was not a _duellum_, but a
_bellum_,--a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against
the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these
Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my woodyard, and the ground
was already strewn with the dead and the dying, both red and black.
It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed--the only battlefield I
ever trod while the battle was raging.... On every side they were engaged
in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human
soldiers never fought so resolutely.--Thoreau.
2. Examine one of your own themes. If some word occurs frequently,
underscore it each time, and then substitute words or expressions for it
in as many places as you can. If necessary, reconstruct the sentences so
as to avoid using the word in some cases. Notice how these substitutions
give a variety to your expression and improve the euphony of your
Theme VII.--_Write a short story suggested by one of the following
1. The trout's revenge.
2. A sparrow's mistake.
3. A fortunate shot.
4. The freshman and the professor.
5. What the bookcase thought about it.
(Correct with reference to meaning and clearness. Cross out unnecessary
_ands_. Consider the beginnings of the sentences. Can you improve the
euphony by a different choice of words?)
18. Sentence Length.--Euphony is aided by securing a variety in the length
of sentences. In endeavoring to avoid the excessive use of _and_, some
pupils obtain results illustrated by the following example:--
Jean passed through the door of the church. He saw a child sitting on one
of the stone steps. She was fast asleep in the midst of the snow. The
child was thinly clad. Her feet, cold as it was, were bare.
A theme composed wholly of such a succession of short sentences is
tedious. Especially when read aloud does its monotony become apparent.
Though the thought in each sentence is complete, the effect is not
satisfactory to the reader, because the thought of the whole does not come
to him as fast as his mind can act. Such an arrangement of sentences might
be satisfactory to young children, because it would agree with their
habits of thought; but as one grows in ability to think more rapidly, he
finds that longer and more complicated sentences best express his thoughts
and are best understood by those for whom he writes. We introduce
sentences of different length and different structure, because they more
clearly express the thought of the whole and state it in a form more in
accordance with the mental activity of the hearer. When we have done this,
we at the same time secure a variety that avoids monotony.
In attempting to avoid a series of short sentences, care should be taken
not to go to the other extreme. Sentences should not be overloaded. Too
many adjectives or participles or subordinate clauses will render the
meaning obscure. The number of phrases and clauses that may safely be
introduced will be determined by the ability of the mind to grasp the
meaning readily and accurately. It is sometimes quite as important to
separate a long sentence into shorter ones as it is to combine short ones
into those of greater length.
Notice in the following selection the different ways in which several
ideas have been brought into the same sentence without rendering the
Loki made his way across a vast desert moorland, and came, after three
days, into the barren hill country and among the rugged mountains of the
South. There an earthquake had split the rocks asunder, and opened dark
and bottomless gorges, and hollowed out many a low-walled cavern, where
the light of day was never seen. Along deep, winding ways, Loki went,
squeezing through narrow crevices, creeping under huge rocks, and gliding
through crooked clefts, until he came at last into a great underground
hall, where his eyes were dazzled by a light that was stronger and
brighter than the day; for on every side were glowing fires, roaring in
wonderful little gorges, and blown by wonderful little bellows.
+Theme VIII.+--_Write a story suggested by one of the following
1. School in the year 2000.
2. The lost door key.
3. Our big bonfire.
5. A bear hunt.
6. A mistake in the telegram.
7. How Fido rescued his master.
(Can you render the meaning more clear by uniting short sentences into
longer ones, or by separating long sentences into shorter ones? Can you
omit any _ands_? How many of the sentences begin with the same word? Can
you change any of those words? Pick out the words which show the
subordinate relation of some parts to others. Do all of the incidents in
your story seem probable?)
+19. Conversation.+--It must not be inferred from the preceding section
that short sentences are never to be used. They are quite as necessary as
long ones, and in some cases, such as the portraying of strong emotion,
are more effective. Even a succession of short sentences may be used with
good results to describe rapid action. In conversation, also, sentences
are generally short, and often grammatically incomplete, though they may
be understood by the hearer. Sometimes this incompleteness is justified by
the idiom of the language, but more often it is the result of carelessness
on the part of the speaker. The hearer understands what is said either
because he knows about what to expect, or because the expression is a
familiar one. Such carelessness not only causes the omission of words
grammatically necessary, but brings about the incorrect pronunciation of
words and their faulty combination into sentences.
You speak much more often than you write. Your habits of speech are likely
to become permanent and your errors of speech will creep into your written
work. It is important therefore that you watch your spoken language.
Occasions will arise when the slang expressions that you so freely use
will seem inappropriate, and it will be unfortunate indeed if you find
that you have used the slang so long that you have no other words to take
their place. An abbreviated form of _gymnasium_ or of _mathematics_ may
not attract attention among your schoolmates, but there are circles where
such abbreviations are not used. By watching your own speech you will find
that some incorrect forms are very common. Improvement can be made by
giving your attention to one of them, such as the use of _guess_, or of
_got_, or of _don't_ and _doesn't_.
In making a written report of conversation you should remember that short
sentences predominate. A conversation composed of long sentences would
seem stilted and made to order. What each person says, however short, is
put into a separate division and indented. Explanatory matter accompanying
the conversation is placed with the spoken part to which it most closely
relates. Notice the indentations and the use of quotation marks in several
printed reports of conversation.
+20. Ideas from Pictures.+--If you look at a picture and then attempt to
tell some one else what you see, you will express ideas gained by
experience. A picture may, however, cause a very different set of ideas to
arise. Look at the picture on page 38. Can you imagine the circumstances
that preceded the situation shown by the picture? Or again, can you not
begin with that situation and imagine what would be done next? If you
write out either of the series of events, the theme, though suggested by
the picture, will be composed of ideas furnished by the imagination. In
the writing of a story suggested by a picture, the situation given in the
picture should be made the point of greatest interest, and should be
accounted for by relating a series of events supposed to have preceded it.
+Theme IX.+--_Write a story that will account for the condition shown in
the picture on page 38._
(Correct with reference to clearness and meaning. Do you need to change
the sentence length either for the sake of clearness or for the sake of
variety? Cross out unnecessary _ands_. Underscore _got_ and _then_ each
time you have used them. Can the reader follow the thread of your story to
its chief point?)
+21. Vocabulary.+--A word is the symbol of an idea, and the addition of a
word to one's vocabulary usually means that a new idea has been acquired.
The more we see and hear and read, the greater our stock of ideas becomes.
As our life experiences increase, so should our supply of words increase.
We may have ideas without having the words with which to express them, and
we may meet with words whose meanings we do not know. In either case there
is chance for improvement. When you have a new idea, find out how best to
express it, and when you meet with a new word, add it to your vocabulary.
It is necessary to distinguish between our reading vocabulary and our
writing vocabulary. There are many words that belong only to the first. We
know what they mean when we meet them in our reading, but we do not use
them in our writing. Our speaking vocabulary also differs from that which
we employ in writing. We use words and phrases on paper that seldom appear
in our speech, and, on the other hand, many of the words that we speak do
not appear in our writing. There is, however, a constant shifting of words
from one to another of these three groups. When we meet an unknown word,
it usually becomes a part of our reading vocabulary. Later it may appear
in our written work, and finally we may use it in speaking. We add a word
to our reading vocabulary when we determine its meaning, but _we must use
it_ in order to add it to our writing and speaking vocabulary. A conscious
effort to aid in this acquisition of words is highly desirable.
A limited vocabulary indicates limited ideas. If one is limited to
_awfully_ in order to express a superlative; if his use of adjectives is
restricted to _nice, jolly, lovely_, and _elegant;_ if he must always
_abominate_ and never _abhor_, _detest, dislike_, or _loathe;_ if he can
only _adore_ and not _admire, respect, revere_, or _venerate_,--then he
has failed, indeed, to know the possibilities and beauties of English.
Such a language habit shows a mind that has failed to distinguish between
ideas. The best way to study the shades of meaning and the choice of words
is in the actual production of a theme wherein there is need to bring out
these differences in meaning by the use of words; but some help may be
gained from a formal study of synonyms and antonyms and of the distinction
in use and meaning between words which are commonly confused with each
other. For this purpose such exercises are given in the Appendix.
+22. Choice of Words.+--Even though our words may express the proper
meaning, the effect may not be a desirable one unless we use words suited
to the occasion described and to the person writing. Pupils of high school
age know the meaning of many words which are too "bookish" for daily use
by them. Edward Everett Hale might use expressions which would not be
suitable for a freshman's composition. Taste and good judgment will help
you to avoid the unsuitable or grandiloquent.
The proper selection of words not only implies that we shall avoid the
wrong word, but also that we shall choose the right one. A suitable
adjective may give a clearer image than is expressed by a whole sentence;
a single verb may tell better how some one acted than can be told by a
lengthy explanation. Since narration has to do with action, we need in
story telling to be especially careful in our choice of verbs.
What can you say of the suitability of the words in the following
selection, taken from an old school reader?
_Mrs. Lismore._ You are quite breathless, Charles; where have you been
running so violently?
_Charles._ From the poultry yard, mamma, where I have been diverting
myself with the bravado of the old gander. I did not observe him till he
came toward me very fiercely, when, to induce him to pursue me, I ran from
him. He followed, till, supposing he had beaten me, he returned to the
geese, who appeared to receive him with acclamations of joy, cackling very
loud, and seeming actually to laugh, and to enjoy the triumph of their
_Emma._ I wish I had been with you, Charles; I have often admired the
gambols of these beautiful birds, and wondered how they came by the
appellation of _silly_, which is generally bestowed on them. I remember
Martha, our nursery maid, used often to call me a _silly goose_. How came
they to deserve that term, mamma? they appear to me to have as much
intelligence as any of the feathered tribe.
_Mrs. Lismore._ I have often thought with you, Emma, and supposed that
term, like many others, misapplied, for want of examining into the justice
of so degrading an epithet.
+23. Improbability.+--Up to this point we have been concerned with
relating events that _could_ exist, though we knew that they _did_ not. We
may, however, imagine a series of events that are manifestly impossible.
There is a pleasure in inventing improbable stories, and if we know from
the beginning that they are to be so, we enjoy listening to them. Such
tales are more satisfactory to young persons than to older ones, as is
shown by our declining interest in fairy stories as we grow older.
By limiting the improbability to a part of the story, it is possible to
give an air of reality to the whole. Though the conditions described in a
story about a trip to the moon might be wholly impossible, yet the reader
for the time being might feel that the events were actually happening if
the characters in the story were acting as real men would act under
similar circumstances. In stories such as those of Thompson-Seton, where
the animals are personified, the impossibilities are forgotten, because
the actions and situations are so real. In fairy stories and similar tales
neither characters nor actions are in any way limited by probability.
+Theme X.+--_Write a short story suggested by one of the subjects below.
Make either the characters or their surroundings seem real._
1. A week in Mars.
2. Exploring the lake bottom.
3. The cat's defense of her kittens.
(_a_) As told by the cat.
(_b_) As told by the dog.
4. How the fox fooled the hound.
5. Diary of a donkey.
6. A biography of Jack Frost.
(Correct with reference to meaning and clearness and two other points to
be assigned by the teacher.)
+24. How to Increase One's Vocabulary.+--In your daily work do what you
can to add words to your reading vocabulary, and especially to increase
your writing vocabulary. In the conversation of others and in reading you
will meet with many new words, and you should attempt to make them your
own. To do this, four things must be attended to:--
1. _Spelling._ Definite attention should be given to each new word until
its form both as written and as printed is indelibly stamped upon the
mind. In your general reading and in each of the subjects that you will
study in the high school you will meet unfamiliar words. It is only by
mastering the spelling of each new word _when you first meet it_ that you
can insure yourself against future chagrin from bad spelling. A part of
the time in each high school subject may well be devoted to the mastering
of the words peculiar to that subject.
2. _Pronunciation._ The complete acquisition of a word includes its
pronunciation. In reading aloud and in speaking, we have need to know it,
and faulty pronunciation is considered an indication of lack of culture.
3. _Meaning._ This includes more than the ability to give the definition
as found in the dictionary. It is possible to recite such definitions
glibly without in reality knowing the meaning of the word defined. It is
necessary to connect the word definitely and permanently in our mind with
the idea for which it is the symbol and to be able to distinguish the idea
clearly from others closely related to it.
4. _Use._ The actual use of a word is very important. If a word is to come
into our speaking and writing vocabulary, we must use it. It is important
that the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning be determined when you
_first_ meet the word, and it is equally important that the word be _used_
soon and often.
+Theme XI.+--_Write a short story suggested by one of the following
subjects. It may be wholly improbable, if you choose._
1. The good fairy.
2. Mary's luck.
3. The man in the moon.
4. The golden apple.
5. A wonderful fountain pen.
6. The goobergoo and the kantan.
(Correct with reference to meaning and clearness and two other points to
be assigned by the teacher.)
1. The clear expression of the ideas connected with our daily experiences
is of greater importance to most of us than is the production of
2. Ideas furnished by imagination may be advantageously used for
composition purposes, because--
_a._ They are your own.
_b._ They offer free choice of language.
They are less desirable than those gained from experience, because--
_a._ They generally lack clearness and permanency.
_b._ They are less likely to be worth recording.
_c._ It is more difficult to give them that unity and directness of
statement that will keep the interest of the reader.
3. An imaginative series of events may seem probable or improbable. He who
most closely observes real life and states his imaginary events so
that they seem real will succeed best in imaginative writing.
4. Euphony is a desirable quality in a composition.
5. Variety aids euphony. It is gained by--
_a._ Avoiding the repetition of the same words and phrases.
_b._ Beginning our sentences in various ways.
_c._ Using sentences of different lengths.
6. Conversation is usually composed of short sentences.
7. Pictures may suggest ideas suitable for use in compositions.
8. Our reading, writing, and speaking vocabularies differ.
Each should be increased. With each new word
attention should be given to--
III. EXPRESSION OF IDEAS ACQUIRED THROUGH LANGUAGE
+25. Language as a Medium through Which Ideas are Acquired.+--We have
been considering language as a means of expression, an instrument by which
we can convey to others the ideas which come to us from experience and
imagination. We shall now consider it from a different point of view.
Language is not merely a means of expressing ideas, but it is also a
medium through which ideas are acquired. It has a double use: the writer
must put thought into language; the reader must get it out. A large part
of your schooling has been devoted to acquiring ideas from language, and
these ideas may be used for purposes of composition. _Since it is
absolutely necessary to have ideas before you can express them_, it will
be worth while to consider for a time how to get them from language.
+26. Image Making.+--Read the following selection from Hawthorne and form
a clear mental image of each scene:--
At first, my fancy saw only the stern hills, lonely lakes, and venerable
woods. Not a tree, since their seeds were first scattered over the infant
soil, had felt the ax, but had grown up and flourished through its long
generation, had fallen beneath the weight of years, been buried in green
moss, and nourished the roots of others as gigantic. Hark! A light paddle
dips into the lake, a birch canoe glides around the point, and an Indian
chief has passed, painted and feather-crested, armed with a bow of
hickory, a stone tomahawk, and flint-headed arrows. But the ripple had
hardly vanished from the water, when a white flag caught the breeze, over
a castle in the wilderness, with frowning ramparts and a hundred
cannon.... A war party of French and Indians were issuing from the gate to
lay waste some village of New England. Near the fortress there was a group
of dancers. The merry soldiers footing it with the swart savage maids;
deeper in the wood, some red men were growing frantic around a keg of the
fire-water; and elsewhere a Jesuit preached the faith of high cathedrals
beneath a canopy of forest boughs.
Did you form clear mental images? Can you picture them all at the same
time, or must you turn your attention from one image to another? The
formation of the proper mental images will be aided by making a persistent
effort to create them.
Many words do not cause us to form images; for example, _goodness,
innocence, position, insurance_; but when the purpose of a word is to set
forth an image, we should take care to get the correct one. In this the
dictionary will not always help us. We must distinguish between the
ability to repeat a definition and the power to form an accurate image of
the thing defined. The difficulty of forming correct images by the use of
dictionary definitions is so great that the definitions are frequently
accompanied by pictures.
Notice the different mental images that come to you as you read each of
the following selections. Distinguish words that cause images to arise
from those that do not.
1. Before these fields were shorn and tilled,
Full to the brim our rivers flowed;
The melody of waters filled
The fresh and boundless wood;
And torrents dashed, and rivulets played,
And fountains spouted in the shade.
--Bryant: _An Indian at the Burial Place of his Fathers_.
2. At that moment the woods were filled with another burst of cries, and
at the signal four savages sprang from the cover of the driftwood. Heyward
felt a burning desire to rush forward to meet them, so intense was the
delirious anxiety of the moment; but he was restrained by the deliberate
examples of the scout and Uncas. When their foes, who leaped over the
black rocks that divided them, with long bounds, uttering the wildest
yells, were within a few rods, the rifle of Hawkeye slowly rose among the
shrubs and poured out its fatal contents. The foremost Indian bounded like
a stricken deer and fell headlong among the clefts of the island.
--Cooper: _Last of the Mohicans_.
3. The towering flames had now surmounted every obstruction, and rose to
the evening skies, one huge and burning beacon, seen far and wide through
the adjacent country. Tower after tower crashed down, with blazing roof
and rafter; and the combatants were driven from the courtyard. The
vanquished of whom very few remained, scattered and escaped into the
neighboring wood. The victors, assembling in large bands, gazed with
wonder, not unmixed with fear, upon the flames, in which their own ranks
and arms glanced dusky red. The maniac figure of the Saxon Ulrica was for
a long time visible on the lofty stand she had chosen, tossing her arms
abroad with wild exaltation as if she reigned empress of the conflagration
which she had raised. At length, with a terrific crash, the whole turret
gave way and she perished in the flames which had consumed her tyrant.
4. Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
--Longfellow: _The Village Blacksmith_.
5. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door;
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this, and nothing more."
--Edgar A. Poe: _The Raven_.
6. Where with black cliffs the torrents toil,
He watch'd the wheeling eddies boil,
Till, from their foam, his dazzled eyes
Beheld the River Demon rise;
The mountain mist took form and limb
Of noontide hag or goblin grim.
--Scott: _Lady of the Lake_.
7. On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the singularity of
the stranger's appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with
thick, bushy hair and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch
fashion--a cloth jerkin strapped around the waist--several pairs of
breeches, the outer ones of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons
down the sides and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulder a stout
keg that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and
assist him with his load.
--Washington Irving: _Rip Van Winkle_.
+27. Complete and Incomplete Images.+--Some sentences have for their
purpose the presentation of an image, but in order to form that image
correctly and completely, we must be familiar with the words used. If an
unfamiliar word is introduced, the mind may omit entirely the image
represented, or may substitute some other for it. Notice the image
presented by this sentence from Henry James: "Her dress was dark and rich;
she had pearls around her neck and an old rococo fan in her hand." If the
meaning of _rococo_ is unknown to you, the image which you form will not
be exactly the one that Mr. James had in mind. The pearls and the dress
may stand out clearly in your image, but the fan will be lacking or
indistinct. The whole may be compared to a photograph of which a part is
blurred. If your attention is directed to the fan, you may recall the word
_rococo_, but not the image represented by it. If your attention is not
called to the fan, the mind is satisfied with the indistinct image, or
substitutes for it an image of some other fan. Such an image is therefore
either incomplete or inaccurate.
An oath in court provides that we shall "tell the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth," but, in forming images, it is not always
possible to hold our minds to such exactness. We are prone to picture more
or less than the words convey. In fact, in some forms of prose, and often
in poetry, the author purposely takes advantage of this habit of the mind
and wishes us to enlarge with creations of our own imagination the bare
image that his words convey. Such writing, however, aims to give pleasure
or to arouse our emotions. It calls out something in the reader even more
strongly than it sets forth something in the writer. This suggestiveness
in writing will be considered later, but for the present it will be well
for you to bear in mind that most language has for its purpose the exact
expression of a definite idea. Much of the failure in school work arises
from the careless substitution of one image for another, and from the
formation of incomplete and inaccurate images.
_A._ Make a list of the words in the following selections whose meanings
you need to look up in order to make the images exact and complete. Do not
attempt to memorize the language of the definition, but to form a correct
1. The sun stared brazenly down on a gray farmhouse, on ranges of
whitewashed outbuildings, and on a goodly array of dark-thatched ricks.
2. In his shabby frieze jacket and mud-laden brogans, he was scarcely an
3. In a sunlit corner of an old coquina fort they came suddenly face to
face with a familiar figure.
4. Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country seat.
Across its antique portico
Tall poplar trees their shadows throw,
And from its station in the hall
An ancient timepiece says to all:
--Longfellow: _The Old Clock on the Stairs_.
5. There was a room which bore the appearance of a vault. Four spandrels
from the corners ran up to join a sharp cup-shaped roof. The architecture
was rough, but very strong. It was evidently part of a great building.
6. The officer proceeded, without affecting to hear the words which
escaped the sentinel in his surprise; nor did he again pause, until he had
reached the low strand, and in a somewhat dangerous vicinity to the
western water bastion of the fort.
7. She stood on the top step under the _porte-cochere_, on the extreme
edge, so that the toes of her small slippers extended a little over it.
She bent forward, and then tipped back on the high, exiguous heels again.
8. Before the caryatides of the fireplace, under the ancestral portraits, a
valet moves noiselessly about, arranging the glistening silver service on
the long table and putting in order the fruits, sweets, and ices.
9. No sooner is the heavy gate of the portal passed than one sees from
afar among the leafage the court of honor, to which one comes along an
alley decorated uniformly with upright square shafts like classic termae
in stone and bronze. The impression of the antique lines is striking: it
springs at once to the eyes, at first in this portico with columns and a
heavy entablature, but lacking a pediment.
_B._ Read again the selections beginning on page 46. Do you form complete
images in every case?
_C._ Notice in each of your lessons for to-day what images are incomplete.
Bring to class a list of the words you would need to look up in order to
form complete images. Do not include all the words whose meanings are not
clear, but only those that assist in forming images.
+Theme XII.+--_Form a clear mental image of some incident, person, or
place. Write about it, using such words as will give your classmates
complete and accurate images. The following may suggest a subject:_--
1. A party dress I should like.
2. My room.
3. A cozy glen.
4. In the apple orchard.
5. Going to the fire.
6. The hand-organ man.
7. A hornets' nest.
8. The last inning.
9. An exciting race.
(Consider what you have written with reference to the images which the
_reader_ will form. Do you think that when the members of the class hear
your theme, each will form the same images that you had in mind when
writing? Notice how many of your sentences begin in the same way. Can you
rewrite them so as to give variety?)
+28. Reproduction of Images.+--If we were asked to tell about an accident
which we had seen, we could recall the various incidents in the order of
their occurrence. If the accident had occurred recently, or had made a
vivid impression upon us, we could easily form mental images of each
scene. If we had only read a description of the accident, it would be more
difficult to recall the image; because that which we gain through language
is less vitally a part of ourselves than is that which comes to us through
When called upon to reproduce the images suggested to us by language, our
memory is apt to concern itself with the words that suggested the image,
and our expression is hampered rather than aided by this remembrance. The
author has made, or should have made, the best possible selection of words
and phrases. If we repeat his language, we have but memory drill or copy
work; and if we do not, we are limited to such second-class language as we
may be able to find.
Word memory has its uses, but it is less valuable than image memory. It is
necessary to distinguish carefully between the images that a writer
presents and the words that he uses. If a botany lesson should consist of
a description of fifteen different leaves, a pupil deficient in image
memory will attempt to memorize the language of the book. A better-trained
pupil, on meeting such a term as _serrated_, will ask himself: "Have I
ever seen such a leaf? Can I form an image of it?" If so, his only task
will be to give the new name, _serrated_, to the idea that he already has.
In a similar way he will form images for each of the fifteen leaves
described in the lesson. The language of the book may help him form these
images, but he will make no attempt to commit the language to memory. With
him, "getting the lesson" means forming images and naming them, and
reciting the lesson will be but talking about an image that he has clearly
in mind. Try this in your own lessons.
If we are called upon to reproduce the incidents and scenes of some story
that has been read to us, our success will depend upon the clearness of
the images that we have formed. Our efforts should be directed to making
the images as definite and vivid as possible, and our memory will be
concerned with the recalling of these images in their proper order, and
not with the language that first caused them to appear.
1. Report orally some interesting incident taken from a book which you
have recently read. Do not reread the story. Use such language as will
cause the class to form clear mental images.
2. Report orally upon some chapter selected from Cooper's _Last of the
Mohicans_ or Scott's _Ivanhoe_.
3. Read a portion of Scott's _Lady of the Lake_, and report orally what
4. Report orally some incident that you have read about in a magazine.
Select one that caused you to form images, and tell it so that the hearers
will form like images.
+Theme XIII.+--_Reproduce a story read to you by the teacher._
(Before writing, picture to yourself the scenes and recall the order of
their occurrence. If it is necessary to condense, omit events of the least
+29. Comparison.+--Writing which contains unfamiliar words fails to call
up complete and definite images. It is often difficult to form the correct
mental picture, even though the words in themselves are familiar.
Definitions, explanations, and descriptions may cause us to understand
correctly, but our understanding usually can be improved by means of a
comparison. We can form an image of an object as soon as we know what it
If I wished you to form an image of an okapi, a lengthy description would
give you a less vivid picture than the statement that it was a horselike
animal, having stripes similar to those of a zebra. If an okapi were as
well known to you as is a horse, the name alone would call up the proper
image, and no comparison would be necessary. By means of it we are enabled
to picture the unfamiliar. In this case the comparison is literal.
If the comparison is imaginative rather than literal, our language becomes
figurative, and usually takes the form of a simile or metaphor. Similes
and metaphors are of great value in rendering thought clear. They make
language forceful and effective, and they may add much to the beauty of
We may speak of an object as being like another, or as acting like
another. If the comparison is imaginative rather than literal, and is
directly stated, the expression is a simile. Similes are introduced by
_like, as_, etc.
He fought like a lion.
The river wound like a serpent around the mountains.
If two things are essentially different, but yet have a common quality,
their _implied comparison_ is a metaphor. A metaphor takes the form of a
statement that one is the other.
"He was a lion in the fight."
"The river wound its serpent course."
Sometimes inanimate objects, abstract ideas, or the lower animals
are given the attributes of human beings. Such a figure is called
personification, and is in fact a modified metaphor, since it is based
upon some resemblance of the lower to the higher.
This music crept by me upon the waters.
Time is a very bankrupt, and owes more than he is worth to
Nay, he's a thief, too; have you not heard men say,
That time comes stealing on by night and day?
+30. Use of Figures of Speech.+--The three figures of speech, simile,
metaphor, and personification, are more frequently used than are the
others. Figures of speech are treated in a later chapter, but some
suggestions as to their use will be of value to beginners.
1. Never write for the purpose of using figures of speech. Nearly
everything that we need to say can be well expressed in plain, bare
English, and the ability to express our thoughts in this way is the
essential thing. If a figure that adds to the force and clearness of your
expression occurs to you, use it without hesitation. A figure may also add
to the beauty of our expression. The examples to be found in literature
are largely of this character. If well used, they are effective, but the
beginner should beware of a figure that is introduced for decorative
purposes only. An attempt to find figures of speech in ordinary prose
writing will show how rarely they are used.
2. The figures should fit the subject in hand. Some comparisons are
appropriate and some are not. If the writer is familiar with his subject
and deeply in earnest, the appropriate figures will rise spontaneously in
his mind. If they do not, little is gained by seeking for them.
3. The effectiveness of a comparison, whether literal or figurative,
depends upon the familiarity of the reader with one of the two things
compared. To say that a petrel resembled a kite would be of no value to
one who knew nothing of either bird. Similarly a figure is defective if
neither element of the comparison is familiar to the readers.
4. Suitable figures give picturesqueness and vivacity to language, but
hackneyed figures are worse than none.
5. Elaborate and long-drawn-out figures, or an overabundance of short
ones, should be avoided.
6. A figure must be consistent throughout. A comparison once begun must be
carried through without change; mixing figures often produces results
which are ridiculous. The "mixed metaphor" is a common blunder of
beginners. This fault may arise either from confusing different metaphors
in the same sentence, or from blending literal language with metaphorical.
The following will serve to illustrate:--
1. [Confused metaphor.] Let us pin our faith to the rock of perseverance
and honest toil, where it may sail on to success on the wings of hope.
2. [Literal and figurative blended.] Washington was the father of his
country and a surveyor of ability.
3. When the last awful moment came, the star of liberty went down with all
4. The glorious work will never be accomplished until the good ship
"Temperance" shall sail from one end of the land to the other, and with a
cry of "Victory!" at each step she takes, shall plant her banner in every
city, town, and village in the United States.
5. All along the untrodden paths of the future we see the hidden
footprints of an unseen hand.
6. The British lion, whether it is roaming the deserts of India, or
climbing the forests of Canada, will never draw in its horns nor retire
into its shell.
7. Young man, if you have the spark of genius in you, water it.
Are the images which you form made more vivid by
the use of the figures in the following selections?
1. She began to screech as wild as ocean birds.
2. And when its force expended,
The harmless storm was ended;
And as the sunrise splendid
Came blushing o'er the sea--
3. As a demon is hurled by an angel's spear,
Heels over head, to his proper sphere--
Heels over head and head over heels,--
Dizzily down the abyss he wheels,--
So fell Darius.
4. In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social
life, somebody is always at the drowning point.
5. Poverty, treading close at her heels for a lifetime, has come up with
her at last.
6. Friendships begin with liking or gratitude--roots that can be pulled
7. Nearing the end of the narrative, Ben paced up and down the narrow
limits of the tent in great excitement, running his fingers through his
hair, and barking out a question now and then.
8. A sky above,
Where one white cloud like a stray lamb doth move.
9. In days of public commotion every faction, like an Oriental army, is
attended by a crowd of camp followers, a useless and heartless rabble, who
prowl round its line of march in the hope of picking up something under
its protection, but desert it in the day of battle, and often join to
exterminate it after a defeat.
10. It is to be regretted that the prose writings of Milton should, in our
time, be so little read. As compositions, they deserve the attention of
every man who wishes to become acquainted with the full power of the
English language. They abound with passages compared with which the finest
declamations of Burke sink into insignificance. They are a perfect field
of cloth of gold. The style is stiff with gorgeous embroidery.
11. And close behind her stood
Eight daughters of the plow, stronger than men,
Huge women blowzed with health, and wind, and rain,
And labor. Each was like a Druid rock,
Or like a spire of land that stands apart
Cleft from the main and wall'd about with mews.
12. But bland the smile that, like a wrinkling wind
On glassy water, drove his cheek in lines.
13. The rush of affairs drifts words from their original meanings, as
ships drag their anchors in a gale, but terms sheltered from common use
hold to their moorings forever.
+Theme XIV.+--_Write a story suggested by the picture on page 59 or by one
of the following subjects:_--
1. A modern fable.
2. The willow whistle.
3. How I baked a cake.
4. The delayed picnic.
5. The missing slipper.
6. A misdirected letter.
7. A ride on a raft.
8. The rescue of Ezekiel.
9. A railway experience.
10. A soldier's soldier.
(Do you think the reader will form the images you wish him to form?
Consider what you have written with reference to climax. (See Section 7.)
Have you needed to use figures? If so, have you used them in accordance
with the suggestions on page 55? If you have used the word _only_, is it
placed so as to give the correct meaning?)
+31. Determination of Meaning Requires More than Image Making.+--The
emphasis laid upon image making should not lead to the belief that this is
all that is necessary in order to determine what is meant by the language
we hear or read. Image making is important, but much of our language is
concerned with presenting ideas of which no mental pictures can be formed.
This very paragraph will serve as an illustration of such language. Our
understanding of language of this kind depends upon our knowledge of the
meanings of words, upon our understanding of the relations between word
groups, or parts of sentences, and especially upon our appreciation of the
relations in thought that sentences bear to one another. Each of these
will be discussed in the following pages. Later it will be necessary to
consider the relations in thought existing among paragraphs.
+32. Word Relations.+--In order to get the thought of a sentence, we must
understand the relations that exist between the words and word groups
(phrases and clauses) that compose it. If the thought is simple, and
expressed in straightforward terms, we grasp it readily and without any
conscious effort to determine these relations. If the thought is complex,
the relations become more complicated, and before we are sure that we know
what the writer intends to say it may be necessary to note with care which
is the main clause and which are the subordinate clauses. In either case
our acquiring the thought depends upon our understanding the relations
between words and word groups. We may understand them without any
knowledge of the names that have been applied to them in grammar, but a
knowledge of the names will assist somewhat. These relations are treated
in the grammar review in the Appendix and need not be repeated here.
+33. Incomplete Thoughts.+--We have learned (Section 27) that the
introduction of unfamiliar words may cause us to form incomplete images.
When the language is not designed to present images, we may, in a similar
way, fail to get its real meaning if we are unfamiliar with the words
used. If you do not know the meaning of _fluent_ and _viscous_, you will
fail to understand correctly the statement, "Fluids range from the
peculiarly fluent to the peculiarly viscous." If we wish to think
precisely what the writer intended us to think, we must know the meanings
of the words he uses. Many of us are inclined to substitute other ideas
than those properly conveyed by the words of the writer, and so get
confused or incomplete or inaccurate ideas. The ability to determine
exactly what images the writer suggests, and what ideas his language
expresses, is the first requisite of scholarship and an important element
of success in life.
_A._ The first step in acquiring knowledge is to determine what it is that
we do not know. Just which word or words in each of the following
sentences keep you from understanding the full meaning of the sentence?
Notice that a dictionary definition will not always make the meaning
1. It is really more scientific to repeat a quotation from a political
speech correctly, or to pass on a story undistorted, than it is to know of
the rings of Saturn or the striation of diatoms.
2. The process of testing a hypothesis requires great caution in order to
3. The aerial foliage stem is the most favorable for studying stem
4. Taken collectively, isotherms indicate the distribution of mean
temperature over the region embraced in the map.
5. Vibrations of the membrane of the tympanum are "damped" by the ossicles
of the middle ear, which also receive and pass on the auditory tremors to
the membrane closing the oval window.
6. In the battle which followed, the mobile Roman legion, arranged in open
order three ranks deep, proved its superiority over the massive Macedonian
7. The narrow and dissected forms have been attributed to the scarcity of
carbon dioxide and oxygen in the water.
_B._ Make a list of words in your lessons in other subjects for to-day
that you need to look up in order to understand the lessons. This should
be done daily, whether assigned or not.
34. +Choice of Words Adapted to the Reader.+--Words familiar to the reader
should be used. Since the reader's ability to understand the thought of a
paragraph depends to some extent upon his understanding of the words
employed, it is necessary for the writer to choose words that will be
understood by those whom he addresses. Of course we cannot tell whether a
particular word will be understood by our readers, but, in case there is
doubt, it is well to substitute one that is more likely to be understood.
When you have written anything, it is well to ask yourself the question,