Part 2 out of 9
Have I used words with which _the reader_ is probably familiar?
+Theme XV.+---_Write a theme about one of the following subjects, using
words that you think will be understood by your readers:_--
1. How we breathe.
2. How to make a kite.
3. The causes of the seasons.
4. Why wood floats on water.
5. The use of baking powder.
6. The difference between arithmetic and algebra.
(Have you said what you meant to say? Have you used words that your reader
will understand? Find your longest sentence. Is its meaning clear? Notice
the short sentences. Should some of them be united into a longer one?)
+35. Word Selection.+--There are many shades of meaning which differ but
little, and a careful writer will select just the word that best conveys
his thought. The reader needs to be no less careful in determining the
exact meaning that the writer intends to convey. Exercises in synonyms are
thus of double importance (Section 21).
Another source of error, both in acquiring and expressing thought, arises
from the confusion of similar words. Some similarity of spelling causes
one word to be substituted for another. There are many words and
expressions that are so often interchanged that some time may be spent
with profit upon exercises in determining their correct usage. These
usually consist of brief reports to the class that set forth the meanings
of the words, show their uses, and illustrate their differences.
In preparing such reports, determine the meaning of the words from as many
sources as are available. The usual meaning can be determined from the
dictionary. A fuller treatment is given in some dictionaries in a chapter
on faulty diction. Additional material may be found in many of the
text-books on rhetoric, and in special books treating of word usage. After
you are sure that you know the correct use, prepare a report for the class
that shall make that use clear to others. In the simplest form this will
consist of definitions and sentences in which the words are correctly
used. The following examples, handed in by pupils, will serve to
illustrate such reports:--
1. A _council_ is an assembly of persons convened for consultation or
deliberation. _Counsel_ is used to indicate either (1) an opinion as the
result of consultation or (2) a lawyer engaged to give advice or to act as
advocate in court. Lewis furnishes the following example of the use of
these two words: "The plaintiff's _counsel_ held a _council_ with his
partners in law, and finally gave him as his best _counsel_ the advice
that he should drop the suit; but, as Swift says, 'No man will take
_counsel_, but every man will take money,' and the plaintiff refused to
accept the advice unless the _counsel_ could persuade the defendant to
settle the case out of court by paying a large sum."
2. The correct meaning of _transpire_ may perhaps be best understood by
considering its derivations. It comes from _trans_, through, and _spiro_,
to breathe, from which it gets its meaning, to escape gradually from
secrecy. It is frequently used incorrectly in the sense of to happen, but
both Webster and the Standard dictionary condemn this use of the word. The
latter says that it is often so misused especially in carelessly edited
newspapers, as in "Comments on the heart-rending disaster which transpired
yesterday are unnecessary, but," etc. When _transpire_ is correctly used,
it is not a synonym of _happen_. A thing that happened a year ago may
transpire to-day, that is, it may "become known through unnoticed
channels, exhale, as it were, through invisible pores like a vapor or a
gas disengaging itself." Many things which happen in school, thus become
known by being passed along in a semi-secret manner until nearly all know
of them though few can tell just how the information was spread.
_Transpire_ may properly be applied to such a diffusion of knowledge.
+Theme XVI.+--_Report as suggested above on any one of the following
groups of words:_--
1. Allude, mention.
2. Beside, besides.
3. Character, reputation.
4. Degrade, demean, debase.
5. Last, latest, preceding.
6. Couple, pair.
7. Balance, rest, remainder.
(Have you made clear the correct use of the words under discussion? Can
you give examples which do not follow the dictionaries so closely as do
the illustrative reports above?)
NOTE.--Lists of words suitable for exercises similar to the above are
given in the Appendix. The teacher will assign them to such an extent and
at such times as seems desirable. One such lesson a week will be found
+36. Sentence Relations.+--What we read or hear usually consists of
several sentences written or spoken together. The meaning of any
particular sentence may depend upon the sentence or sentences preceding.
In order to determine accurately the meaning of the whole, we must
understand the relation in thought that each sentence bears to the others.
Notice the two sentences: "Guns are dangerous. Boys should not use them."
Though the last sentence is independent, it gets its meaning from the
In the following selection consider each sentence apart from the others.
Notice that the meaning of the whole becomes intelligible only when the
sentences are considered in their relations to each other.
Once upon a time, a notion was started, that if all the people in the
world would shout at once, it might be heard in the moon. So the
projectors agreed it should be done in just ten years. Some thousand
shiploads of chronometers were distributed to the selectmen and other
great folks of all the different nations. For a year beforehand, nothing
else was talked about but the awful noise that was to be made on the great
occasion. When the time came, everybody had his ears so wide open, to hear
the universal ejaculation of Boo,--the word agreed upon,--that nobody
spoke except a deaf man in one of the Fiji Islands, and a woman in Pekin,
so that the world was never so still since the creation.--Holmes.
Gutenberg did a great deal of his work in secret, for he thought it was
much better that his neighbors should know nothing of what he was doing.
So he looked for a workshop where no one would be likely to find him. He
was now living in Strasburg, and there was in that city a ruined old
building where, long before his time, a number of monks had lived. There
was one room in the building which needed only a little repairing to make
it fit to be used. So he got the right to repair the room and use it as
In all good writing we find a similar dependence in thought. Each sentence
takes a meaning because of its relation to some other. The personal
pronouns and pronominal adjectives, adverbial phrases indicating time or
place, conjunctions, and such expressions as _certainly, however, on the
other hand_, etc., are used to indicate more or less directly a relation
in thought between the phrase or sentence in which they occur and some
preceding one. If the reader cannot readily determine to what they refer,
the meaning becomes obscure or ambiguous. The pronominal adjectives and
the personal pronouns are especially likely to be used in such a way as to
cause ambiguity. Care must be taken to use them so as to keep the meaning
clear, and your own good sense will help you in this more than rules.
Notice in your reading how frequently expressions similar to those
mentioned above are used.
+Theme XVII.+--_Write a theme suggested by one of the following
1. The last quarter.
2. An excursion with the physical geography class.
3. What I saw while riding to town.
4. The broken bicycle.
5. An hour in the study hall.
6. Seen from my study window.
(Are your sentences so arranged that the relation in thought is clear? Are
the personal pronouns and pronominal adjectives used so as to avoid
ambiguity? Does your story relate real events or imaginary ones? If
imaginary events are related, have you made them seem probable?)
+37. Getting the Main Thought.+--In many cases the relation in thought is
not directly indicated, and we are left to determine it from the context,
just as we decide upon the meaning of a word because of what precedes or
follows it. In this case the meaning of a particular sentence may be made
clear if we have in mind the main topic under discussion. Many pupils fail
in recitations because they do not distinguish that which is more
important from that which is less so. If a dozen pages of history are
assigned, they cannot master the lesson because it is too long to be
memorized, and they are not able to select the three or four things of
importance with which it is really concerned. Thirty or forty minor
details are jumbled together without any clear knowledge of the relations
that they bear either to one another or to the main thoughts of the
In the following selection but three things are discussed. Determine what
they are, but not what is said about them.
In all the ages the extent and value of flood plains have been increased
by artificial means. Dikes or levees are built to regulate the spread and
flow of the water and to protect the land from destructive floods. Dams
and reservoirs are constructed for the storage of water, which is led by a
system of canals and ditches to irrigate large tracts of land which would
be otherwise worthless. By means of irrigation, the farmer has control of
his water supply and is able to get larger returns than are possible where
he depends upon the irregular and uncertain rainfall. It is estimated that
in the arid regions of western United States there are 150,000 square
miles of land which may be made available for agriculture by irrigation.
Perhaps in the future the valley of the lower Colorado may become as
productive as that of the Nile.
Streams are the easiest routes of travel and commerce. A river usually
furnishes from its mouth well up toward its source a smooth, graded
highway, upon which a cargo may be transported with much less effort than
overland. If obstructions occur in the form of rapids or falls, boat and
cargo are carried around them. It is often easy to pass by a short portage
or "carry" from one stream system across the divide to another. In regions
which are not very level the easiest grades in every direction are found
along the streams, and the main routes of land travel follow the stream
valleys. In traversing a mountainous region, a railroad follows the
windings of some river up to the crest of the divide, which it crosses
through a pass, or often by a tunnel, and descends the valley of some
stream on the other side.
Man is largely indebted to streams for the variety and beauty of scenery.
Running water itself is attractive to young and old. A landscape without
water lacks its chief charm. A child instinctively finds its way to the
brook, and the man seeks beside the river the pleasure and recreation
which no other place affords. Streams have carved the surface of the land
into an endless variety of beautiful forms, and a land where stream
valleys are few or shallow is monotonous and tiresome. The most common as
well as the most celebrated beauty of scenery in the world, from the tiny
meanders of a meadow brook to the unequaled grandeur of the Colorado
canyons, is largely due to the presence and action of streams.
--Dryer: _Lessons in Physical Geography_.
In the above selection we find that each group of sentences is related to
some main topic. A more extended observation of good writing will give the
same result. Men naturally think in sentence groups. A group of sentences
related to each other and to the central idea is called a +paragraph.+
+38. Topic Statement.+--In the three paragraphs of the selection on page
67, notice that the first sentence in each tells what the paragraph is
about. In a well-written paragraph it is possible to select the phrase or
sentence that states the main thought. If such a sentence does not occur
in the paragraph itself, one can be framed that will express clearly and
concisely the chief idea of the paragraph. This brief, comprehensive
summary of the contents of a paragraph is called the topic statement.
In order to master the thought of what we read we must be able to select
or to make the successive topic statements, and in order to express our
own thoughts clearly we must write our paragraphs so that our readers may
easily grasp the topic statement of each.
When expressed in the paragraph, the topic statement may be a part of a
sentence, a whole sentence, or it may extend through two sentences. It is
usual to place the topic statement first, but it may be preceded by one or
more introductory sentences, or even withheld until the end of the
paragraph. For emphasis it may be repeated, though usually in a slightly
Determine the topic statements of the following paragraphs. If one is not
expressed, make one.
1. No less valuable is the mental stimulus of play. The child is
trained by it to quick perception, rapid judgment, prompt decision. His
imagination cunningly suggests a thousand things to be done, and then
trains the will and every power of body and mind in the effort to do them.
The sports of childhood are admirably adapted to quicken the senses and
sharpen the wits. Nature has effective ways in her school of securing the
exercise which is needed to develop every mental and every bodily power.
She fills the activity brimful of enjoyment, and then gives her children
freedom, assured that they will be their own best teachers.
2. Our Common Law comes from England, and originated there in custom. It
is often called the unwritten law, because unwritten in origin, though
there are now many books describing it. Its principles originated as
habits of the people, five hundred, eight hundred, years ago, perhaps some
of them back in the time when the half-savage Saxons landed on the shores
of England. When the time came that the government, through its courts,
punished the breach of a custom, from that time the custom was a law. And
so the English people acquired these laws, one after another, just as they
were acquiring at the same time the habits of making roads, using forks at
table, manufacturing, meeting in Parliament, using firearms, and all the
other habits of civilization. When the colonists came to America, they
brought the English Common Law with them, not in a book, but in their
minds, a part of their life, like their religion.
--Clark: _The Government_.
3. Accuracy is always to be striven for but it can never be attained. This
fact is only fully realized by scientific workers. The banker can be
accurate because he only counts or weighs masses of metal which he assumes
to be exactly equal. The Master of the Mint knows that two coins are never
exactly equal in weight, although he strives by improving machinery and
processes to make the differences as small as possible. When the utmost
care is taken, the finest balances which have been constructed can weigh 1
lb. of a metal with an uncertainty less than the hundredth part of a
grain. In other words, the weight is not accurate, but the inaccuracy is
very small. No person is so stupid as not to feel sure that the height of
a man he sees is between 3 ft. and 9 ft.; some are able by the eye to
estimate the height as between 5 ft. 6 in. and 5 ft. 8 in.; measurement
may show it to be between 5 ft. 6 in. and 5 ft. 7 in., but to go closer
than that requires many precautions. Training in observation and the use
of delicate instruments thus narrow the limits of approximation. Similarly
with regard to space and time, there are instruments with which one
millionth of an inch, or of a second, can be measured, but even this
approximation, although far closer than is ever practically necessary, is
not accuracy. In the statement of measurements there is no meaning in more
than six significant figures, and only the most careful observations can
be trusted so far. The height of Mount Everest is given as 29,002 feet;
but here the fifth figure is meaningless, the height of that mountain not
being known so accurately that two feet more or less would be detected.
Similarly, the radius of the earth is sometimes given as 3963.295833
miles, whereas no observation can get nearer the truth than 3963.30 miles.
--Mill: _The Realm of Nature_. (Copyright, 1892, by Charles Scribner's
4. The chief cause which made the fusion of the different elements of
society so imperfect was the extreme difficulty which our ancestors found
in passing from place to place. Of all the inventions, the alphabet and
the printing press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge distance
have done most for the civilization of our species. Every improvement of
the means of locomotion benefits mankind morally and intellectually as
well as materially, and not only facilitates the interchange of the
various productions of nature and art, but tends to remove national and
provincial prejudices, and to bind together all the branches of the great
human family. In the seventeenth century the inhabitants of London were
for almost every practical purpose farther from Reading than they are now
from Edinburgh, and farther from Edinburgh than they are now from Vienna.
--Macaulay: _History of England_.
5. He touched New England at every point. He was born a frontiersman. He
was bred a farmer. He was a fisherman in the mountain brooks and off the
shore. He never forgot his origin, and he never was ashamed of it. Amid
all the care and honor of his great place here he was homesick for the
company of his old neighbors and friends. Whether he stood in Washington,
the unchallenged prince and chief in the Senate, or in foreign lands, the
kingliest man of his time in the presence of kings, his heart was in New
England. When the spring came, he heard far off the fife bird and the
bobolink calling him to his New Hampshire mountains, or of the
waves on the shore at Marshfield alluring him with a sweeter than siren's
voice to his home by the summer sea.
--George F. Hoar: _Daniel Webster_.
6. Nor must I forget the suddenly changing seasons of the northern clime.
There is no long and lingering spring, unfolding leaf and blossom one by
one; no long and lingering autumn, pompous with many-colored leaves and
the glow of Indian summer. But winter and summer are wonderful, and pass
into each other. The quail has hardly ceased piping in the corn when
winter, from the folds of trailing clouds, sows broadcast over the land
snow, icicles, and rattling hail. The days wane apace. Erelong the sun
hardly rises above the horizon, or does not rise at all. The moon and the
stars shine through the day; only at noon they are pale and wan, and in
the southern sky a red, fiery glow, as of a sunset, burns along the
horizon and then goes out. And pleasantly under the silver moon, and under
the silent, solemn stars, ring the steel shoes of the skaters on the
frozen sea, and voices, and the sound of bells.
--Longfellow: _Rural Life in Sweden_.
7. Extreme _busyness_, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a
symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a
catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort
of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of
living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these
fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how
they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they
cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take
pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless
Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is
no good speaking to such folk: they _cannot_ be idle, their nature is not
generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are
not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold mill. When they do not
require to go to the office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to
drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them. If they have to wait
an hour or so for a train, they fall into a stupid trance, with their eyes
open. To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no
one to speak with; you would imagine they were paralyzed or alienated; and
yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way, and have good
eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. They have been to
school and college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; they
have gone about in the world and mixed with clever people, but all the
time they were thinking of their own affairs. As if a man's soul were not
too small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life
of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless
attention, a mind vacant of all material amusement, and not one thought to
rub against another while they wait for the train. Before he was breeched,
he might have clambered on the boxes; when he was twenty, he would have
stared at the girls; but now the pipe is smoked out, the snuffbox is
empty, and my gentleman sits bolt upright on a bench, with lamentable
eyes. This does not appeal to me as being Success in Life.
--Robert Louis Stevenson. (Copyright, by Charles Scribner's Sons.)
_B._ Examine the themes which you have written. Does each paragraph have a
topic statement? Have you introduced sentences which do not bear upon this
topic statement? Are the paragraphs real ones treating of a single topic,
or are they merely groups of sentences written together without any close
connection in thought?
+Theme XVIII.+--_State two or three advantages of public high schools over
private boarding schools. Use each as a topic statement and develop it
into a short paragraph._
(Add to each topic statement such sentences as will prove to a pupil of
your own age that the topic statement states a real advantage. Include in
each paragraph only that which bears upon the topic statement. Consider
the definition of a paragraph on page 68. Does this definition apply to
+39. Reproduction of the Thought of a Paragraph.+--Our ability to
reproduce the thought of what we read will depend largely upon our ability
to select the topic statements. In preparing a lesson for recitation it is
evident that we must first determine definitely the topic statement of
each paragraph. These may bear upon one general subject or upon different
subjects. The three paragraphs on page 67 are all concerned with one
subject, the uses of rivers. A pupil preparing to recite them would have
in mind, when he went to class, an outline about as follows:--
General subject: The uses of rivers.
First topic statement: The fertility of flood plains is improved by
Second topic statement: Streams are the easiest routes of travel and
Third topic statement: Man is indebted to streams for beauty of scenery.
While such a clear statement is the first step toward a proper
understanding of the lesson, it is not enough. In order to understand
thoroughly a topic statement, we need explanation or illustration. The
idea is not really our own until we have thought about it in its relations
to other knowledge already in our possession. In order to know whether you
understand the topic statements, the teacher will ask you to discuss them.
This may be done by telling what the writer said about them, or by giving
thoughts and illustrations of your own, but best of all, by doing both. It
is necessary, then, to know in what way the writer develops each topic
Read the following paragraph:--
The most productive lands in the world are flood plains. At every period
of high water, a stream brings down mantle rock from the higher grounds,
and deposits it as a layer of fine sediment over its flood plain. A soil
thus frequently enriched and renewed is literally inexhaustible. In a
rough, hilly, or mountainous country the finest farms and the densest
population are found on the "bottom lands" along the streams. The flood
plain most famous in history is that of the river Nile in Egypt. For a
distance of 1500 miles above its mouth this river flows through a rainless
desert, and has no tributary. The heavy spring rains which fall upon the
highlands about its sources produce in summer a rise of the water, which
overflows the valley on either side. Thus the lower Nile valley became one
of the earliest centers of civilization, and has supported a dense
population for 7000 years. The conditions in Mesopotamia, along the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers, are similar to those along the lower Nile, and in
ancient times this region was the seat of a civilization perhaps older
than that of Egypt. The flood plains of the Ganges in India, and the Hoang
in China, are the most extensive in the world, and in modern times the
most populous. The alluvial valley of the Mississippi is extremely
productive of corn, cotton, and sugar cane.
--Dryer: _Lessons in Physical Geography_.
Notice that the first sentence gives the topic statement, flood plains are
productive. The second and third sentences tell why this is so, and the
rest of the paragraph is given up to illustrations.
In preparing this paragraph for recitation the pupil should have in mind
an outline about as follows:--
Topic statement: Flood plains are the most productive lands in the world.
2. Examples: (_a_) Bottom lands.
(_c_) Tigris and Euphrates.
In order to make such an outline, the relative importance of the ideas in
the paragraph must be mastered. A recitation that omitted the topic
statement or the reasons would be defective, while one that omitted one or
more of the examples might be perfect, especially if the pupil could
furnish other examples from his own knowledge. The illustration about
bottom lands is a general one, and should suggest specific cases that
could be included in the recitation. The details in regard to the Nile
might be included if they happened to be recalled at the time of the
recitation, but even the omission of all mention of the Nile might not
materially detract from the value of the recitation. The effort to
remember minor details hinders real thought-getting power.
It is better not to write this outline. The use of notes or written
outlines at the time of the recitation soon establishes a habit of
dependence that renders real scholarship an impossibility. With such an
analysis of the thought clearly in mind, the pupil need not attempt to
remember the language of the writer.
_A._ Complete the partial outline given for the paragraph below. Which of
the illustrations might be omitted from a recitation? For which can you
furnish different illustrations?
Mountain ranges have great influence upon climate, political geography,
and commerce. Many of them form climatic boundaries. The Cordilleras of
western America and the Scandinavian mountains arrest the warm, moist,
western winds which rise along those great rock barriers to cooler
altitudes, where their water vapor is condensed and falls as rain, so that
the country on the windward side of the mountains is wet and that on the
leeward side is dry. Mountain chains stretching east and west across
central Asia protect the southern part of the continent from frigid arctic
winds. The large winter tourist traffic of the Riviera is due to the
mountains that shield this favored French-Italian coast from the north and
northeast continental winds, giving it a considerably warmer winter's
temperature than that of Rome, two and a half degrees farther south. As
North America has no mountain barriers across the pathway of polar winds,
they sweep southward even to the Gulf of Mexico and have twice destroyed
Florida's orange groves within a decade. Mountain ranges are conspicuous
in political geography because they are the natural boundary between many
nations and languages, as the Pyrenees between France and Spain, the Alps
between Austria and Italy, and the Himalayas between Tibet and India.
Mountains sometimes guard nations from attack by the isolation they give,
and therefore promote national unity. Thus the Swiss are among the few
peoples in Europe who have maintained the integrity of their state.
Commercially, mountains are of great importance as a source of water,
which they store in snow, glaciers, and lakes. Snow and ice, melting
slowly on the mountains, are an unfailing source of supply for perennial
rivers, and thus promote navigation. Mountains are the largest source of
water-power, which is more valuable than ever now that electricity is
employed to transmit it to convenient centers for use in the industries. A
large part of the mining machinery in the United States is run by water
power. Switzerland, which has no coal, turns the wheels of its mills with
water. Mountains supply most of the metals and minerals, and are therefore
the scene of the largest mining industry. They are also among the greatest
sources of forest wealth. Though the slopes are not favorable for
agriculture they afford good pasturage, and the debris of the rocks washed
into the valleys and plains by mountain torrents supplies good soil. Thus
the Appalachians have been worn down to a comparatively low level, and the
soil formed from their rock particles is the basis of large husbandry.
The scenic attractions of many mountain regions is a source of large
revenue. The Alps attract crowds of tourists, who spend about twenty
million dollars a year in Switzerland and Austria, and give to many
thousands of persons.
--Adams: _Commercial Geography_.
OUTLINE (to be completed)
Mountain ranges have great influence upon--
_a, b,_ etc.
II. Political geography.
_a, b,_ etc.
_a, b,_ etc.
_B._ Make an outline of the following paragraph:--
1. The armor of the different classes was also accurately ordered by the
law. The first class was ordered to wear for the defense of the body,
brazen helmets, shields, and coats of mail, and to bear spears and swords,
excepting the mechanics, who were to carry the necessary military engines
and to serve without arms. The members of the second class, excepting that
they had bucklers instead of shields and wore no coats of mail, were
permitted to bear the same armor and to carry the sword and spear. The
third class had the same armor as the second, excepting that they could
not wear greaves for the protection of their legs. The fourth had no arms
excepting a spear and a long javelin. The fifth merely carried slings and
stones for use in them. To this class belonged the trumpeters and horn
--Gilman: _Story of Rome_.
_C._ In preparing your other lessons for to-day, make outlines of the
+Theme XIX.+--_Reproduce the thought of some paragraph read to you by the
(Do not attempt to remember the language. Try to get the main thought of
what is read and then write a paragraph which sets forth that same idea.
Use different illustrations if you can.)
NOTE.--This theme may be repeated as many times as seems desirable.
+40. Importance of the Paragraph.+--Emphasis needs to be laid upon the
importance of the paragraph. Our ability to express our thoughts clearly
depends, to a large extent, upon our skill in constructing paragraphs. The
writing of correct sentences is not sufficient. Though each of a series of
sentences may be correct, they may, as a whole, say but little, and that
very poorly; while another set of sentences, which cluster around some
central idea, may set it forth most effectively. It is only by giving our
sentence groups that unity of thought which combines them into paragraphs
that we make them most effective. A well-constructed paragraph will make
clear some idea, and a series of such paragraphs, related to each other
and properly arranged, will set forth the sum of our thoughts on any
+41. Paragraph Length.+--The proper length of a paragraph cannot be
determined by rule. Sometimes the thought to be presented will require
several sentences; sometimes two or three will be sufficient. A single
illustration may make a topic statement clear, or several illustrations
may be required. The writer must judge when he has included enough to make
his meaning understood, and must avoid including so much that the reader
will become weary. Usually a paragraph that exceeds three hundred words
will be found too long, or else it will contain more than one main idea,
each of which could have been presented more effectively in a separate
+42. Indentation.+--In written and printed matter the beginning of a
paragraph is indicated by an indentation. Indentation does not make a
paragraph, but we indent because we are beginning a new paragraph.
Indentation thus serves the same purpose as punctuation. It helps the
reader to determine when we have finished one main thought and are about
to begin another. Beginners are apt to use indentations too frequently.
There are some special uses of indentation in letter writing, printed
conversation, and other forms, but for ordinary paragraph division the
indentation is determined by the thought, and its correct use depends upon
clear thinking. Can the following selection be improved by reparagraphing?
Outside in the darkness, gray with whirling snowflakes, he saw the wet
lamps of cabs shining, and he darted along the line of hansoms and coupes
in frantic search for his own.
"Oh, there you are," he panted, flinging his suit case up to a
snow-covered driver. "Do your best now; we're late!" And he leaped into
the dark coupe, slammed the door, and sank back on the cushions,
turning up the collar of his heavy overcoat.
There was a young lady in the farther corner of the cab, buried to her
nose in a fur coat. At intervals she shivered and pressed a fluffy muff
against her face. A glimmer from the sleet-smeared lamps fell across her
Down town flew the cab, swaying around icy corners, bumping over car
tracks, lurching, rattling, jouncing, while its silent occupants, huddled
in separate corners, brooded moodily at their respective windows.
Snow blotted the glass, melting and running down; and over the watery
panes yellow light from shop windows played fantastically, distorting
Presently the young man pulled out his watch, fumbled for a match box,
struck a light, and groaned as he read the time.
At the sound of the match striking, the young lady turned her head. Then,
as the bright flame illuminated the young man's face, she sat bolt
upright, dropping the muff to her lap with a cry of dismay.
He looked up at her. The match burned his fingers; he dropped it and
hurriedly lighted another; and the flickering radiance brightened upon the
face of a girl whom he had never before laid eyes on.
"Good heavens!" he said, "where's my sister?"
The young lady was startled but resolute. "You have made a dreadful
mistake," she said; "you are in the wrong cab--"
+Theme XX.+--_Write a theme using one of the subjects below:_--
1. A personal incident.
2. The advantages and disadvantages of recesses.
3. Complete the story commenced in the selection just
(Make a note of the different ideas you may discuss. Which are important
enough to become topic statements? Which may be grouped together in one
paragraph? In what order shall they occur? After your theme is written,
consider the paragraphs. Does the definition apply to them? Are any of
them too short or too long?)
+43. Reasons for Studying Paragraph Structure.+--A knowledge of the way in
which a paragraph is constructed will aid us in determining the thought it
contains. There are several methods of developing paragraphs, and usually
one of these is better suited than another to the expression of our
thought. Attention given to the methods used by others will enable us both
to understand better what we read, and to employ more effectively in our
own writing that kind of paragraph which best expresses our thought. Hence
we shall give attention to the more common forms of paragraph development.
+44. Development by Giving Specific Instances.+--If you hear a general
statement, such as, "Dogs are useful animals," you naturally think at once
of some of the ways in which they are useful, or of some particular
occasion on which a dog was of use. If a friend should say, "My dog, Fido,
knows many amusing tricks," you would expect the friend to tell you some
of them. A large part of our thinking consists of furnishing specific
instances to illustrate general ideas which arise. Since the language we
use is but the expression of the thoughts we have, it happens that many of
our paragraphs are made up of general statements and the specific
instances used to illustrate these statements. When the topic sentence is
a general statement, we naturally seek to supply specific instances, and
the writer will most readily make his meaning clear by furnishing such
illustrations. Either one or many instances may be used. The object is to
explain the topic statement or to prove its truth, and a good writer will
use that number of instances which best accomplishes his purpose.
In the following selection notice how the topic statement, set forth and
repeated in the first part of the paragraph, is illustrated in the last
part by means of several specific instances:--
Nine tenths of all that goes wrong in this world is because some one does
not mind his business. When a terrible accident occurs, the first cry is
that the means of prevention were not sufficient. Everybody declares we
must have a new patent fire escape, an automatic engine switch, or a
high-proof non-combustible sort of lamp oil. But a little investigation
will usually show that all the contrivances were on hand and in good
working order; the real trouble was that somebody didn't mind his
business; he didn't obey orders; he thought he knew a better way than the
way he was told; he said, "Just this once I'll take the risk," and in so
doing, he made other people take the risk too; and the risk was too great.
At Toronto, Canada, not long ago, a conductor, against orders, ran his
train on a certain siding, which resulted in the death of thirty or forty
people. The engineer of a mill, at Rochester, N.Y., thought the engine
would stand a higher pressure than the safety valve indicated, so he tied
a few bricks to the valve to hold it down; result--four workmen killed, a
number wounded, and a mill blown to pieces. The _City of Columbus_, an iron
vessel fitted out with all the means of preservation and escape in use on
shipboard, was wrecked on the best-known portion of the Atlantic coast, on
a moonlight night, at the cost of one hundred lives, because the officer
in command took it into his head to save a few ship-lengths in distance by
hugging the shore, in direct disobedience to the captain's parting orders.
The best-ventilated mine in Colorado was turned into a death trap for half
a hundred miners because one of the number entered with a lighted lamp the
gallery he had been warned against. Nobody survived to explain the
explosion of the dynamite-cartridge factory in Pennsylvania, but as that
type of disaster almost always is due to heedlessness, it is probable that
this instance is not an exception to the rule.
--Wolstan Dixey: _Mind Your Business_.
_A._ Which sentences make the general statements, and which furnish
specific instances, in the following paragraphs?
My contemplations were often interrupted by strangers who came down
from Forsyth's to take their first view of the falls. A short, ruddy,
middle-aged gentleman, fresh from Old England, peeped over the rock, and
evinced his approbation by a broad grin. His spouse, a very robust lady,
afforded a sweet example of maternal solicitude, being so intent on the
safety of her little boy that she did not even glance at Niagara. As for
the child, he gave himself wholly to the enjoyment of a stick of candy.
Another traveler, a native American, and no rare character among us,
produced a volume of Captain Hall's tour, and labored earnestly to adjust
Niagara to the captain's description, departing, at last, without one new
idea or sensation of his own. The next comer was provided, not with a
printed book, but with a blank sheet of foolscap, from top to bottom of
which, by means of an ever pointed pencil, the cataract was made
to thunder. In a little talk which we had together, he awarded his
approbation to the general view, but censured the position of Goat Island,
observing that it should have been thrown farther to the right, so as to
widen the American falls, and contract those of the Horseshoe. Next
appeared two traders of Michigan, who declared that, upon the whole, the
sight was worth looking at; there certainly was an immense water power
here; but that, after all, they would go twice as far to see the noble
stone works of Lockport, where the Grand Canal is locked down a descent of
sixty feet. They were succeeded by a young fellow, in a homespun cotton
dress, with a staff in his hand, and a pack over his shoulders. He
advanced close to the edge of the rock, where his attention, at first
wavering among the different components of the scene, finally became fixed
in the angle of the Horseshoe falls, which is, indeed, the central point
of interest. His whole soul seemed to go forth and be transported thither,
till the staff slipped from his relaxed grasp, and falling down--down--
down--struck upon the fragment of the Table Rock.
--Hawthorne: _My Visit to Niagara_.
No wonder he learned English quickly, for he was ever on the alert--no
strange word escaped him, no unusual term. He would say it over and over
till he met a friend, and then demand its meaning. One day he came to me
with a very troubled face. "Madame," he said, "please tell me why shall a
man, like me, like any man, be a 'bluenose'?"
"A what?" I asked.
"A 'bluenose.' So he was called in the restaurant, but he seemed not
offended about it. I have looked in my books; I can't find any disease of
With ill-suppressed laughter I asked, "Do you know Nova Scotia and
"I hear the laugh in your voice," he said; then added, "Yes, I know both
"They are very cold and foggy and wet," I explained.
But with brightening eyes he caught up the sentence and continued:
"And the people have blue noses, eh? Ha! ha! Excuse me, then, but is a
milksop a man from some state, or some country, too?"
At tea some one used the word "claptrap." "What's that?" quickly demanded
the student in our midst. "'Claptrap'--'clap' is so (he struck his hands
together); 'trap' is for rats--what is, then, 'claptrap'?"
"It is a vulgar or unworthy bid for applause," I explained.
"Bah!" he contemptuously exclaimed. "I know him,--that cheap actor who
plays at the gallery. He is, then, in English a 'clap-trapper,' is he not?"
It was hardly possible to meet him without having a word or a term offered
thus for explanation.
--Clara Morris: _Alessandro Salvini_ ("McClure's").
_B._ Write six sentences which might be developed into paragraphs by
giving specific instances.
+Theme XXI.+--_Write a paragraph by furnishing specific instances for one
of the following topic statements:_--
1. Nine tenths of all that goes wrong in this world is because some one
does not mind his business.
2. It requires a man of courage and perseverance to become a pioneer.
3. Even the wisest teacher does not always punish the boy who is most at
4. It is impossible to teach a dog many amusing tricks.
5. Even so stupid a creature as a chicken may sometimes exhibit much
6. Carelessness often leads into difficulty.
7. Our school clock must see many interesting things.
8. Our first impressions are not always our best ones.
9. I am a very busy lead pencil, for my duties are numerous.
10. Dickens's characters are taken from the lower classes of
11. Some portions of the book I am reading are very interesting.
(Do your specific instances really illustrate the topic
statement? Have you said what you intended to say?
Can you omit any words or sentences? Have you used
_and_ or _got_ unnecessarily?).
+45. Development by Giving Details.+--Many general statements lead to a
desire to know the details, and the writer may make his idea clearer by
giving them. The statement, "The wedding ceremony was impressive," at once
arouses a desire to know the details. If a friend should say, "I enjoyed
my trip to the city," we wish him to relate that which pleased him. These
details assist us in understanding the topic statement, and increase our
interest in it. Notice in the paragraphs below how much is added to our
understanding of the topic statement by the sentences that give the
1. I left my garden for a week, just at the close of a dry spell. A season
of rain immediately set in, and when I returned the transformation was
wonderful. In one week every vegetable had fairly jumped forward. The
tomatoes, which I left slender plants, eaten of bugs and debating whether
they would go backward or forward, had become stout and lusty, with thick
stems and dark leaves, and some of them had blossomed. The corn waved like
that which grows so rank out of the French-English mixture at Waterloo.
The squashes--I will not speak of the squashes. The most remarkable growth
was the asparagus. There was not a spear above ground when I went away;
and now it had sprung up, and gone to seed, and there were stalks higher
than my head.
--Warner: _My Summer in a Garden_.
2. The wedding ceremony was solemn and beautiful, in the church on the
estate. At the door of the palace stood the mother of the bride, to greet
her return from the ceremony with the blessing, "May you always have bread
and salt," as she served her from a loaf of black bread, with a salt
cellar in the center, as is the Russian custom for prince and peasant.
Just at this dramatic moment a courier dashed up with a telegram from the
Czar and Czarina, and their gifts for the bride,--a magnificent tiara and
necklace of diamonds. The other presents were already displayed in a
magnificent room; but we saw their splendor through the glass of locked
cases,--a precaution surprising to an Englishwoman. The large swan of
forcemeat was the only reminder of boyar customs at the rather Parisian
feast. Wine was served between the courses, with a toast; while guests in
turn left their seats to express their sentiments to bride and groom, who
stood to receive them.
--Mary Louise Dunbar: _The Household of a Russian Prince_
("Atlantic Monthly ").
+Theme XXII.+--_Write a paragraph by giving details for one of the
following topic statements:_--
1. There were many interesting things on the farm where I spent my summer
2. The sounds heard in the forest at night are somewhat alarming to one
who is not used to the language of the woods.
3. I am always much amused when the Sewing Circle meets at my mother's
4. Good roads are of advantage to farmers in many ways.
5. A baseball game furnishes abundant opportunity to exercise good
6. I remember well the first time that I visited a large city.
7. I shall never forget my first attempt at milking a cow.
8. The haunted house is a square, old-fashioned one of the colonial type.
9. A mouse suddenly entering the class room caused much disturbance.
10. A freshman's trials are numerous.
(Do the details bear upon the main idea? If the paragraph is long and
rambling, condense by omitting the least important parts. By changing the
order of the sentences, can you improve the paragraph?)
+46. Details Related in Time-Order.+--The experiences of daily life follow
each other in time, and when we read of a series of events we at once
think of them as having occurred in a certain time-order. To assist in
establishing the correct time-order, the writer should generally state the
details of his story in the order in which they occurred. The method of
showing time relations for simultaneous events has been discussed in
If the narrative is of considerable length, it may be divided into
paragraphs, each dealing with some particular stage of its progress. The
time relations among the sentences within the paragraph and among the
paragraphs themselves should be such that the reader may readily follow
the thread of the story to its main point. Narrative paragraphs often do
not have topic sentences.
In the following selection from _Black Beauty_ notice how the time
relations give unity of thought both to the paragraphs and to the whole
He hung my rein on one of the iron spikes, and was soon hidden among the
trees. Lizzie was standing quietly by the side of the road, a few paces
off, with her back to me. My young mistress was sitting easily, with a
loose rein, humming a little song. I listened to my rider's footsteps
until he reached the house, and heard him knock at the door.
There was a meadow on the opposite side of the road, the gate of which
stood open. As I looked, some cart horses and several young colts came
trotting out in a very disorderly manner, while a boy behind was cracking
a great whip. The colts were wild and frolicsome. One of them bolted
across the road and blundered up against Lizzie. Whether it was the stupid
colt or the loud cracking of the whip, or both together, I cannot say, but
she gave a violent kick and dashed off into a headlong gallop. It was so
sudden that Lady Anne was nearly unseated, but she soon recovered herself.
I gave a long, shrill neigh for help. Again and again I neighed, pawing
the ground impatiently, and tossing my head to get the rein loose. I had
not long to wait. Blantyre came running to the gate. He looked anxiously
about, and just caught sight of the flying figure now far away on the
road. In an instant he sprang to the saddle. I needed no whip, no spur,
for I was as eager as my rider. He saw it; and giving me a free rein, and
leaning a little forward, we dashed after them.
For about a mile and a half the road ran straight, then bent to the right;
after this it divided into two roads. Long before we came to the bend my
mistress was out of sight. Which way had she turned? A woman was standing
at her garden gate, shading her eyes with her hand, and looking eagerly up
the road. Scarcely drawing rein, Lord Blantyre shouted, "Which way?" "To
the right!" cried the woman, pointing with her hand, and away we went up
the right-hand road. For a moment we caught sight of Lady Anne; another
bend, and she was hidden again. Several times we caught glimpses of the
flying rider, only to lose her again. We scarcely seemed to gain ground
upon her at all.
An old road mender was standing near a heap of stones, his shovel dropped
and his hands raised. As we came near he made a sign to speak. Lord
Blantyre drew the rein a little. "To the common, to the common, sir! She
has turned off there."
I knew this common very well. It was, for the most part, very uneven
ground, covered with heather and dark-green bushes, with here and there a
scrubby thorn tree. There were also open spaces of fine, short grass, with
ant-hills and mole turns everywhere--the worst place I ever knew for a
We had just turned on to the common, when we caught sight again of the
green habit flying on before us. My mistress's hat was gone, and her long
brown hair was streaming behind her. Her head and body were thrown back,
as if she were pulling with all her remaining strength, and as if that
strength were nearly exhausted. It was clear that the roughness of the
ground had very much lessened Lizzie's speed, and there seemed a chance
that we might overtake her.
While we were on the highroad, Lord Blantyre had given me my head; but
now, with a light hand and a practiced eye, he guided me over the ground
in such a masterly manner that my pace was scarcely slackened, and we
gained on them every moment.
About halfway across the common a wide dike had recently been cut and the
earth from the cutting cast up roughly on the other side. Surely this
would stop them! But no; scarcely pausing, Lizzie took the leap, stumbled
among the rough clods, and fell.
--Anne Sewell: _Black Beauty_.
+Theme XXIII.+--_Write a brief narrative giving unity to the paragraphs by
means of the time relations._
1. An adventure on horseback.
2. A trip with the engineer.
3. A day on the river.
4. Fido's mishaps.
5. An inquisitive crow.
6. The unfortunate letter carrier.
7. Teaching a calf to drink.
8. The story of a silver dollar.
9. A narrow escape.
10.An afternoon at the circus.
11.A story accounting for the situation shown in the
picture on page 90.
(Do you need more than one paragraph? If so, is each a group of sentences
treating of a single topic? Can the reader follow the thread of your
story? Leave out details not essential to the main point.)
+47. Order of Details Determined by Position in Space.+--The order of
presentation of details may be determined by the position that the details
themselves occupy in space. In description we wish both to give a correct
general impression of the thing described, and to make certain details
clear. The general impression should be given in the first sentence or two
and the details should follow. The effectiveness of the details will
depend upon their order of presentation. When one looks at a scene the eye
passes from one object to another near it; similarly when one is recalling
the scene the image of one thing naturally recalls that of an adjoining
one. A skillful writer takes advantage of this habit of thinking, and
states the details in his description in the order in which we would
naturally see them if we were actually looking at them. By so doing he
most easily presents to our minds the image he wishes to convey.
In the following paragraphs notice that we get first an impression of the
general appearance, to which we are enabled to add new details as the
The companion of the church dignitary was a man past forty, thin, strong,
tall, and muscular; an athletic figure, which long fatigue and constant
exercise seemed to have left none of the softer part of the human form,
having reduced the whole to brawn, bones, and sinews, which had sustained
a thousand toils, and were ready to dare a thousand more. His head was
covered with a scarlet cap, faced with fur, of that kind which the French
call _mortier_, from its resemblance to the shape of an inverted mortar.
His countenance was therefore fully displayed, and its expression was
calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of fear, upon strangers.
High features, naturally strong and powerfully expressive, had been burnt
almost into negro blackness by constant exposure to the tropical sun, and
might, in their ordinary state, be said to slumber after the storm of
passion had passed away; but the projection of the veins of the forehead,
the readiness with which the upper lip and its thick black mustache
quivered upon the slightest emotion, plainly intimated that the tempest
might be again and easily awakened. His keen, piercing, dark eyes told in
every glance a history of difficulties subdued and dangers dared, and
seemed to challenge opposition to his wishes, for the pleasure of sweeping
it from his road by a determined exertion of courage and of will; a deep
scar on his brow gave additional sternness to his countenance and a
sinister expression to one of his eyes, which had been slightly injured on
the same occasion, and of which the vision, though perfect, was in a slight
and partial degree distorted.
The upper dress of this personage resembled that of his companion in
shape, being a long monastic mantle; but the color, being scarlet, showed
that he did not belong to any of the four regular orders of monks. On the
right shoulder of the mantle there was cut, in white cloth, a cross of a
peculiar form. This upper robe concealed what at first view seemed rather
inconsistent with its form, a shirt, namely, of linked mail, with sleeves
and gloves of the same, curiously plaited and interwoven, as flexible to
the body as those which are now wrought in the stocking loom out of less
obdurate materials. The fore part of his thighs, where the folds of his
mantle permitted them to be seen, were also covered with linked mail; the
knees and feet were defended by splints, or thin plates of steel,
ingeniously jointed upon each other; and mail hose, reaching from the
ankle to the knee, effectually protected the legs, and completed the
rider's defensive armor. In his girdle he wore a long and double-edged
dagger, which was the only offensive weapon about his person.
He rode, not a mule, like his companion, but a strong hackney for the
road, to save his gallant war horse, which a squire led behind, fully
accoutered for battle, with a chamfron or plaited headpiece upon his head,
having a short spike projecting from the front. On one side of the saddle
hung a short battle-ax, richly inlaid with Damascene carving; on the other
the rider's plumed headpiece and hood of mail, with a long two-handed
sword, used by the chivalry of the period. A second squire held aloft his
master's lance, from the extremity of which fluttered a small banderole,
or streamer, bearing a cross of the same form with that embroidered upon
his cloak. He also carried his small triangular shield, broad enough at
the top to protect the breast, and from thence diminishing to a point. It
was covered with a scarlet cloth, which prevented the device from being
Notice also how the description proceeds in an orderly way from one thing
to another, placing together in the description those which occur together
in the person described. Just as we turn our eyes naturally from one thing
to another near it in space, so in a paragraph should our attention be
called from one thing to that which naturally accompanies it. If the first
sentence describes a man's eyes, the second his feet, and a third his
forehead, our mental image is likely to become confused. If a description
covers several paragraphs, each may be given a unity by placing in it
those things which are associated in space.
_A._ If you were to write three paragraphs describing a man, which of the
following details should be included in each paragraph?
(_a_) eyes, (_b_) shoes, (_c_) size, (_d_) complexion, (_e_) general
appearance, (_f_) hair, (_g_) carriage, (_h_) trousers,(_i_) mouth, (_j_)
coat, (_k_) nose.
_B._ Make a list of the details which might be mentioned in describing the
outside of a church. Arrange them in appropriate groups.
_C._ In the following paragraphs which sentences give the general outline
and which give details? Are the details arranged with reference to their
position in space? Can the paragraph be improved by rearranging them?
1. We came finally to a brook more wild and mysterious than the others.
There were a half dozen stepping-stones between the path we were on and
the place where it began again on the opposite side. After a few missteps
and much laughter we were landed at last, but several of the party had wet
feet to remember the experience by. We found ourselves in a space that had
once been a clearing. A tumbledown chimney overgrown with brambles and
vines told of an abandoned hearthstone. The blackened remnants of many a
picnic camp fire strewed the ground. A slight turn brought us to the spot
where the Indian Spring welled out of the hillside. The setting was all
that we could have hoped for,--great moss-grown rocks wet and slippery,
deep shade which almost made us doubt the existence of the hot August
sunshine at the edge of the forest, cool water dripping and tinkling. A
half-dozen great trees had been so undermined by the action of the water
long ago that they had tumbled headlong into the stream bed. There they
lay, heads down, crisscross--one completely spanning the brook just below
the spring--their tangled roots like great dragons twisting and thrusting
at the shadows. The water trickled slowly over the smooth rocky bottom as
if reluctant to leave a spot enchanted. A few yards below, the overflow
from Indian Spring joined the main stream, and their waters mingled in a
pretty little cataract. We went below and looked back at it. How it
wrinkled and paused over the level spaces, played with the bubbles in the
eddies, and ran laughing and turning somersaults wherever the ledges were
--Mary Rodgers Miller: _The Brook Book_. (Copyright, 1902, by Doubleday,
Page & Co.)
2. Rowena was tall in stature, yet not so much so as to attract
observation on account of superior height. Her complexion was exquisitely
fair, but the noble cast of her head and features prevented the insipidity
which sometimes attaches to fair beauties. Her clear blue eyes, which sat
enshrined beneath a graceful eyebrow of brown, sufficiently marked to give
expression to the forehead, seemed capable to kindle as well as to melt,
to command as well as to beseech. Her profuse hair, of a color betwixt
brown and flaxen, was arranged in a fanciful and graceful manner in
numerous ringlets, to form which art had probably been aided by nature.
These locks were braided with gems, and being worn at full length,
intimated the noble birth and free-born condition of the maiden. A golden
chain, to which was attached a small reliquary of the same metal, hung
around her neck. She wore bracelets on her arms, which were bare. Her
dress was an under gown and kirtle of pale sea-green silk, over which hung
a long loose robe, which reached to the ground, having very wide sleeves,
which came down, however, very little below the elbow. This robe was
crimson, and manufactured out of the very finest wool. A veil of silk,
interwoven with gold, was attached to the upper part of it, which could
be, at the wearer's pleasure, either drawn over the face and bosom after
the Spanish fashion, or disposed as a sort of drapery round the shoulders.
+Theme XXIV.+--_Write a paragraph and arrange the details with reference
to their association in space._
1. Ichabod Crane.
2. Rip Van Winkle.
3. The man who lives near us.
4. A minister I met yesterday.
5. Our family doctor.
6. The gymnasium.
7. A fire engine.
8. The old church.
9. The shoe factory.
10. Some character in the book you are reading.
(Which sentence gives the general impression and which sentences give the
details? Are the details arranged with reference to their real space
order? Should others be added? Can any be omitted? Will the reader form
the mental image you wish him to form?)
+48. Development by Comparison.+--In Section 29 we found that comparison,
whether literal or figurative, aided us in forming mental images of
objects. In a similar way events and general principles may be explained
by making suitable comparisons. We are continually comparing one thing
with another. Every idea tends to recall other ideas that are similar to
it or in contrast with it. When an unfamiliar idea is presented to us we
at once seek to associate it with similar ideas already known to us. A
writer, therefore, will make his meaning clear by furnishing, the desired
comparisons. If these are familiar to us, they enable us to understand
the new ideas presented. Even when both ideas in the comparison are
unfamiliar, each may gain in clearness by comparison with the other.
In comparing two objects, events, or principles we may point out that they
are _not_ alike in certain respects. A comparison that thus emphasizes
differences, rather than likenesses, becomes a contrast. The contrast may
be given in a single sentence or in a single paragraph, but often a
paragraph or more may be required for each of the two ideas contrasted.
Notice how comparisons and contrasts are used in the following
1. Niagara is the largest cataract in the world, while Yosemite is the
highest; it is the volume that impresses you at Niagara, and it is the
height of Yosemite and the grand surroundings that make its beauty.
Niagara is as wide as Yosemite is high, and if it had no more water than
Yosemite has, it would not be of much consequence. The sound of the two
falls is quite different: Niagara makes a steady roar, deep and strong,
though not oppressive, while Yosemite is a crash and rattle, owing to the
force of the water as it strikes the solid rock after its immense leap.
2. It is not only in appearance that London and New York differ widely.
They also speak with different accents, for cities have distinctive
accents as well as people. Tennyson wrote about "streaming London's
central roar"; the roar is a gentle hum compared with the din which
tingles the ears of visitors to New York. The accent of New York is harsh,
grating, jarring. The rattle of the elevated railroad, the whir of the
cable cars, the ringing of electric-car bells, the rumble of vehicles over
the hard stones, the roar of the traffic as it reechoes through the narrow
canyons of down-town streets, produce an appalling combination of
discords. The streets of New York are not more crowded than those of
London, but the noise in London is subdued. It is more regular, less
jarring and piercing. The muffled sounds in London are due partly to the
wooden and asphalt pavements, which deaden the sounds. London must be
soothing to the New Yorker, as the noise of New York is at first
disconcerting to the Londoner.--_Outlook._
3. Now their separate characters are briefly these. The man's power is
active, progressive, defensive. He is eminently the doer, the creator, the
discoverer, the defender. His intellect is for speculation and invention;
his energy for adventure, for war, and for conquest wherever war is just,
wherever conquest necessary. But the woman's power is for rule, not for
battle, and her intellect is not for invention or creation, but for sweet
ordering, arrangement, and decision. She sees the qualities of things,
their claims, and their places.
--Ruskin: _Sesame and Lilies_.
+Theme XXV.+--_Write a paragraph using comparison or contrast._
1. The school, a beehive.
2. The body, a steam engine.
3. Two generals about whom you have read.
4. Girls, boys.
5. Two of your studies.
6. Graded school work, high school work.
7. Animal life, plant life.
8. Two of your classmates.
(Have you used comparison or contrast? Have you introduced any of the
other methods of development? Have you developed the paragraph so that the
reader will understand fully your topic statement? Omit sentences not
+49. Development by Stating Cause and Effect.+--We are better satisfied
with our understanding of a thing if we know the causes which have
produced it or the effects which follow it. Likewise we feel that another
has mastered the topic statement of a paragraph if he can answer the
question, Why is this so? or, What will result from this? When either is
stated, we naturally begin to think about the other. The idea of a topic
statement may, therefore, be satisfactorily developed by stating its
causes or its effects. A cause may be stated and the effects given or the
effects may be made the topic statement for which we account by giving its
The importance of the relation of cause and effect to scientific study is
discussed in the following paragraph from Mill:--
The relation of cause and effect is the fundamental law of nature. There
is no recorded instance of an effect appearing without a previous cause,
or of a cause acting without producing its full effect. Every change in
nature is the effect of some previous change and the cause of some change
to follow; just as the movement of each carriage near the middle of a long
train is a result of the movement of the one in front and a precursor
of the movement of the one behind. Facts or effects are to be seen
everywhere, but causes have usually to be sought for. It is the function
of science or organized knowledge to observe all effects, or phenomena,
and to seek for their causes. This twofold purpose gives richness and
dignity to science. The observation and classifying of facts soon become
wearisome to all but the specialist actually engaged in the work. But when
reasons are assigned, and classification explained, when the number of
causes is reduced and the effects begin to crystallize into essential and
clearly related parts of one whole, every intelligent student finds
interest, and many, more fortunate, even fascination in the study.
--Mill: _The Realm of Nature_. (Copyright, 1892, by Charles Scribner's
_A._ In your reading, notice how often the effects are indicated by the
use of some one of the following expressions: _as a result, accordingly,
consequently, for, hence, so, so that, thus._
_B._ Which sentences state causes and which state effects in the following
1. The power of water to dissolve most minerals increases with its
temperature and the amount of gases it contains. Percolating water at
great depths, therefore, generally dissolves more mineral matter than it
can hold in solution when it reaches the surface, where it cools, and,
being relieved of pressure, much of its carbonic acid gas escapes to the
atmosphere or is absorbed by aquatic plants or mosses. Hence, deep-seated
springs are usually surrounded by a deposit of the minerals with which the
water is impregnated. Sometimes this deposit may even form large hills;
sometimes it forms a mound around the spring, over the sides of which the
water falls, while the spray, evaporating from surrounding objects, leaves
them also incrusted with a mineral deposit. Percolating water evaporating
on the sides and roof of limestone caverns, leaves the walls incrusted
with carbonate of lime in beautiful masses of crystals. Water slowly
evaporating as it drips from the roof of caverns to the floor beneath
leaves a deposit on both places, which gradually grows downward from the
roof as a _stalactite_, and upward from the floor as a _stalagmite_, until
these meet and form one continuous column of stone.
--Hinman: _Eclectic Physical Geography_.
2. The frequent use of cigars or cigarettes by the young seriously affects
the quality of the blood. The red blood corpuscles are not fully developed
and charged with their normal supply of life-giving oxygen. This causes
paleness of the skin, often noticed in the face of the young smoker.
Palpitation of the heart is also a common result, followed by permanent
weakness, so that the whole system is enfeebled, and mental vigor is
impaired as well as physical strength. Observant teachers can usually tell
which of the boys under their care are addicted to smoking, simply by the
comparative inferiority of their appearance, and by their intellectual and
bodily indolence and feebleness. After full maturity is attained the evil
effects of commencing the use of tobacco are less apparent; but competent
physicians assert that it cannot be safely used by those under the age of
--Macy-Norris: _Physiology for High Schools_.
3. In many other ways, too, the Norman Conquest affected England. For
example, before long all the best places in the Church were filled with
foreigners. But most of the new bishops and abbots were far superior in
morals and education to the Englishmen whom they succeeded. They were also
devoted to the Pope of Rome, and soon made the English National Church a
part of the Roman Catholic Church. But William, while willing to bow to
the Pope as his chief in religious matters, refused to give way to him in
things which concerned only this world. No former English king had done
that, he knew, and no more would he. This union with the Roman Catholic
Church was of the greatest benefit to England, as it brought her once more
into connection with the educated men of Europe. Indeed, Lanfranc, the
Conqueror's Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of the best and wisest men
of his day.
--Higginson and Channing: _English History for American Readers_.
+Theme XXVI.+--_Develop one of the following topic statements into
paragraphs by stating causes or effects:_--
1. A government which had no soldiers to call upon in an emergency would
not last long.
2. One of the first needs of a new country is roads.
3. The number of people receiving public support is smaller in this
country than in Europe.
4. An efficient postal system is a great aid to civilization.
5. A straight stream is an impossibility in nature.
6. Mountain ranges have great influence upon climate.
7. The United States holds first place as a manufacturing nation.
8. There are many swift rivers in New England.
9. Towns or cities are located at the mouths of navigable rivers.
(Which sentences state causes and which state effects? Would the effects
which you have stated really follow the given causes?)
+50. Development by Repetition.+--The repetition of a thought in different
form will often make plain that which we do not at first understand. This
is especially true if the repetitions are accompanied by new comparisons.
In every school the teacher makes daily use of repetition in her efforts
to explain to the pupils that which they do not understand. In a similar
way a writer makes use of this tendency of ours, and develops the idea of
the topic sentence by repetition. Each sentence should, however, do more
than merely repeat. It should add something to the central idea, making
this idea clearer, more definite, or more emphatic. If repetition is
excessive and purposeless, it becomes a fault.
Repetition may extend through the whole paragraph, or it may be used to
explain any sentence or any part of a sentence. It may tell what the thing
is or what it is not, and in effect becomes a definition setting limits to
the original idea.
Notice how the idea in the topic statement of each of the following
paragraphs is repeated in those which follow:--
1. No man ever made a complete new system of law and gave it to a people.
No monarch, however absolute or powerful, ever had the power to change the
habits of a people to that extent. Revolution generally means, not a
change of law, but merely a change of government officials; even when it
is a change from monarchy to democracy. Our Revolution made practically no
changes in the criminal and civil laws of the colonies.
--Clark: _The Government_.
2. People talk of liberty as if it meant the liberty to do just what a man
likes. I call that man free who fears doing wrong, but fears nothing else.
I call that man free who has learned the most blessed of all truths,--that
liberty consists in obedience to the power, and to the will, and to the
law that his higher soul reverences and approves. He is not free because
he does what he likes; but he is free because he does what he ought, and
there is no protest in his soul against the doing.
--Frederick William Robertson.
3. This dense forest was to the Indians a home in which they had lived
from childhood, and where they were as much at ease as a farmer on his own
acres. To their keen eyes, trained for generations to more than a wild
beast's watchfulness, the wilderness was an open book. Nothing at rest or
in motion escaped them. They had begun to track game as soon as they could
walk; a scrape on a tree trunk, a bruised leaf, a faint indentation of the
soil, which no white man could see, all told them a tale as plainly as if
it had been shouted in their ears.
--Theodore Roosevelt: _The Winning of the West_.
4. Public enterprises, whether conducted by the municipality or committed
to the public service corporation, exist to render public services.
Streets are public highways. They exist for the people's use. Nothing
should be placed in them unless required to facilitate their use by or for
the people. Only the general need of water, gas, electricity, and
transportation justifies the placing of pipes and wires and tracks in the
streets. The public need is the sole test and measure of such occupation.
To look upon the streets as a source of private gain, or even municipal
revenue, except as incidents of their public use, is to disregard their
public character. Adequate service at the lowest practicable rates, not
gain or revenue, is the test. The question is, not how much the public
service corporation may gain, but what can be saved to the people by its
--Edwin Burrett Smith: _The Next Step in Municipal Reform_
+Theme XXVII.+--_Develop one of the following topic statements into a
paragraph, using the method, of repetition as far as possible:_--
1. It is difficult to become angry with one who is always good-natured.
2. It is gloomy in the woods on a rainy day.
3. The government is always in need of honest men.
4. Rural free delivery of mail will have a great effect on country life.
5. Not every boy in school uses his time to the best advantage.
6. Haste is waste.
7. Regular exercise is one of the essentials of good health.
(Have the repetitions really made the idea of the topic sentence clearer
or more emphatic or more definite? What other methods of development have
+51. Development by a Combination of Methods.+--A paragraph should have
unity of thought, and, so long as this unity of thought is kept, it does
not matter what methods of development are used. A dozen paragraphs taken
at random will show that combinations are very frequent. Often it will be
difficult to determine just how a paragraph has been developed. In
general, however, it may be said that an indiscriminate mixture of methods
is confusing and interferes with unity of thought. If more than one is
used, it requires skillful handling to maintain such a relation between
them that both contribute to the clear and emphatic statement of the main
The paragraph from Dryer, page 74, shows a combination of cause and effect
with specific illustrations; that from Wolstan Dixey, page 81, shows a
combination of repetition with specific instances.
What methods of paragraph development, or what combinations of methods,
are used in the following selections?
1. I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not
mean, by humility, doubt of his power, or hesitation in speaking of his
opinions; but a right understanding of the relation between what he can do
and say and the rest of the world's sayings and doings. All great men not
only know their business, but usually know that they know it; and are not
only right in their main opinions, but they usually know that they are
right in them; only they do not think much of themselves on that account.
Arnolfo knows he can build a good dome at Florence; Albert Duerer writes
calmly to one who had found fault with his work, "It cannot be better
done"; Sir Isaac Newton knows that he has worked out a problem or two
that would have puzzled anybody else; only they do not expect their
fellow-men therefore to fall down and worship them; they have a curious
undersense of powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is not _in_ them,
but _through_ them; that they could not do or be anything else than God
made them. And they see something divine and God-made in every other man
they meet, and are endlessly, foolishly, and incredibly merciful.
2. The first thing to be noted about the dress of the Romans is that its
prevalent material was always woolen. Sheep raising for wool was practiced
among them on an extensive scale, from the earliest historic times, and
the choice breeds of that animal, originally imported from Greece or Asia
Minor, took so kindly to the soil and climate of Italy that home-grown
wool came even to be preferred to the foreign for fineness and softness of
quality. Foreign wools were, however, always imported more or less, partly
because the supply of native wools seems never to have been quite
sufficient, partly because the natural colors of wools from different
parts varied so considerably as to render the art of the dyer to some
extent unnecessary. Thus, the wools of Canusium were brown or reddish,
those of Pollentia in Liguria were black, those from the Spanish Baetica,
which comprised Andalusia and a part of Granada, had either a golden brown
or a grayish hue; the wools of Asia were almost red; and there was a
Grecian fleece, called the crow colored, of which the natural tint was a
peculiarly deep and brilliant black.
--Preston and Dodge: _'The Private Life of the Romans_.
3. Art has done everything for Munich. It lies on a large flat plain
sixteen hundred feet above the sea and continually exposed to the cold
winds from the Alps. At the beginning of the present century it was but a
third-rate city, and was rarely visited by foreigners; since that time its
population and limits have been doubled, and magnificent edifices in every
style of architecture erected, rendering it scarcely secondary in this
respect to any capital in Europe. Every art that wealth or taste could
devise seems to have been spent in its decoration. Broad, spacious streets
and squares have been laid out; churches, halls, and colleges erected, and
schools of painting and sculpture established which drew artists from all
parts of the world.
--Taylor: _Views Afoot_.
4. In all excursions to the woods or to the shore the student of
ornithology has an advantage over his companions. He has one more, avenue
of delight. He, indeed, kills two birds with one stone and sometimes
three. If others wander, he can never get out of his way. His game is
everywhere. The cawing of a crow makes him feel at home, while a new note
or a new song drowns all care. Audubon, on the desolate coast of Labrador,
is happier than any king ever was; and on shipboard is nearly cured of his
seasickness when a new gull appears in sight.
--Burroughs: _Wake Robin_.
+Theme XXVIII.+--_Write a paragraph, using any method or combination of
methods which best suits your thought. Use any of the subjects hitherto
suggested that you have not already used._
(Is every sentence related to the topic statement so that your paragraph
possesses unity? What methods of development have you used?)
+52. The Topical Recitation.+--In conducting a recitation the teacher may
ask direct questions about each part of a paragraph or she may ask a pupil
to discuss some topic. Such a topical recitation should be an exercise in
clear thinking rather than in word memory, and in order to prepare for it,
the pupil should have made a careful analysis of the thought in each
paragraph similar to that discussed on page 74. When this analysis has
been made he will have clearly in mind the topic statement and the way it
has been developed, and will be able to distinguish the essential from the
A topical recitation demands that the pupil know the main idea and be able
to develop it in one of the following methods, or by a combination of
them: (1) by giving specific instances, (2) by giving details, (3) by
giving comparisons or contrasts, (4) by giving causes or effects, and (5)
Thoughts so mastered are our own. We understand them and believe them; and
consequently we can explain them, or describe them, or prove them to
others. We can furnish details or instances, originate comparisons, or
state causes and effects. _When ideas gained from language have thus
become our own, we do not need to remember the language in which they were
expressed, and not until then do they become proper material for
+53. Outlining Paragraphs.+--Making an outline of a paragraph that we have
read brings the thought clearly before our mind. In a similar way we may
make our own thoughts clear and definite by attempting to prepare in
advance an outline of a paragraph that we are about to write. Arranging
the material that we have in mind and deciding upon the order in which we
shall present it, will both help us to understand the thought ourselves,
and enable us to present it more effectively to others.
_A._ Prepare for recitation the following selection from Newcomer's
introduction to Macaulay's _Milton and Addison:_--
There were two faculties of Macaulay's mind that set his work far apart
from other work in the same field,--the faculties of organization and
illustration. He saw things in their right relation and he knew how to
make others see them thus. If he was describing, he never thrust minor
details into the foreground. If he was narrating, he never "got ahead of
his story." The importance of this is not sufficiently recognized. Many
writers do not know what organization means. They do not know that in all
great and successful literary work it is nine tenths of the labor. Yet
consider a moment. History is a very complex thing: divers events may be
simultaneous in their occurrence; or one crisis may be slowly evolving
from many causes in many places. It is no light task to tell these things
one after another and yet leave a unified impression, to take up a dozen
new threads in succession without tangling them and without losing the old
ones, and to lay them all down at the right moment and without confusion.
Such is the narrator's task, and it was at this task that Macaulay proved
himself a past master. He could dispose of a number of trivial events in a
single sentence. Thus, for example, runs his account of the dramatist
Wycherley's naval career: "He embarked, was present at a battle, and
celebrated it, on his return, in a copy of verses too bad for the
bellman." On the other hand, when it is a question of a great crisis, like
the impeachment of Warren Hastings, he knew how to prepare for it with
elaborate ceremony and to portray it in a scene of the highest dramatic
This faculty of organization shows itself in what we technically name
structure; and logical and rhetorical structure may be studied at their
very best in his work. His essays are perfect units, made up of many
parts, systems within systems, that play together without clog or
friction. You can take them apart like a watch and put them together
again. But try to rearrange the parts and the mechanism is spoiled. Each
essay has its subdivisions, which in turn are groups of paragraphs. And
each paragraph is a unit. Take the first paragraph of the essay on Milton:
the word _manuscript_ appears in the first sentence, and it reappears in
the last; clearly the paragraph deals with a single very definite topic.
And so with all. Of course the unity manifests itself in a hundred ways,
but it is rarely wanting. Most frequently it takes the form of an
expansion of a topic given in the first sentence, or a preparation for a
topic to be announced only in the last. These initial and final sentences--
often in themselves both aphoristic and memorable--serve to mark with the
utmost clearness the different stages in the progress of the essay.
Illustration is of more incidental service, but as used by Macaulay
becomes highly organic. For his illustrations are not farfetched or
laboriously worked out. They seem to be of one piece with his story or his
argument. His mind was quick to detect resemblances and analogies. He was
ready with a comparison for everything, sometimes with half a dozen. For
example, Addison's essays, he has occasion to say, were different every
day of the week, and yet, to his mind, each day like something--like
Horace, like Lucian, like the "Tales of Scheherezade." He draws long
comparisons between Walpole and Townshend, between Congreve and Wycherley,
between Essex and Villiers, between the fall of the Carlovingians and the
fall of the Moguls. He follows up a general statement with swarms of
instances. Have historians been given to exaggerating the villainy of
Machiavelli? Macaulay can name you half a dozen who did so. Did the
writers of Charles's faction delight in making their opponents appear
contemptible? "They have told us that Pym broke down in a speech, that
Ireton had his nose pulled by Hollis, that the Earl of Northumberland
cudgeled Henry Marten, that St. John's manners were sullen, that Vane had
an ugly face, that Cromwell had a red nose." Do men fail when they quit
their own province for another? Newton failed thus; Bentley failed; Inigo
Jones failed; Wilkie failed. In the same way he was ready with quotations.
He writes in one of his letters: "It is a dangerous thing for a man with a
very strong memory to read very much. I could give you three or four
quotations this moment in support of that proposition; but I will bring
the vicious propensity under subjection, if I can." Thus we see his mind
doing instantly and involuntarily what other minds do with infinite pains,
bringing together all things that have a likeness or a common bearing.
It is precisely these talents that set Macaulay among the simplest and
clearest of writers, and that accounts for much of his popularity. People
found that in taking up one of his articles they simply read on and on,
never puzzling over the meaning of a sentence, getting the exact force of
every statement, and following the trend of thought with scarcely a mental
effort. And his natural gift of making things plain he took pains to
support by various devices. He constructed his sentences after the
simplest normal fashion, subject and verb and object, sometimes inverting
for emphasis, but rarely complicating, and always reducing expression to
the barest terms. He could write, for example, "One advantage the chaplain
had," but it is impossible to conceive of his writing, "Now, amid all the
discomforts and disadvantages with which the unfortunate chaplain was
surrounded, there was one thing which served to offset them, and which, if
he chose to take the opportunity of enjoying it, might well be regarded as
a positive advantage." One will search his pages in vain for loose,
trailing clauses and involved constructions. His vocabulary was of the
same simple nature. He had a complete command of ordinary English and
contented himself with that. He rarely ventured beyond the most abridged
dictionary. An occasional technical term might be required, but he was shy
of the unfamiliar. He would coin no words and he would use no archaisms.
Foreign words, when fairly naturalized, he employed sparingly. "We shall
have no disputes about diction," he wrote to Napier, Jeffrey's successor;
"the English language is not so poor but that I may very well find in it
the means of contenting both you and myself."
_B._ Recite upon some topic taken from your other lessons for the day. Let
the class tell what method of development you have used.
_C._ Make a collection of well-written paragraphs illustrating each of the
methods of development.
+Theme XXIX.+--_Write two paragraphs using the same topic statement, but
developing each by a different method._
Suggested topic statements:--
1. The principal tools of government are buildings, guns, and money.
2. The civilized world was never so orderly as now.
3. Law suits take time, especially in cities; sometimes they take years.
4. There is a difference between law and justice.
5. We cry for a multitude of reasons of surprising variety.
6. In the growth of a child nothing is more surprising than his ceaseless
7. Education for the children of a nation is a benefit to the whole
(Have you said what you intended to say? What methods of development have
you used? Is the main thought of the two paragraphs the same even though
they begin with the same sentence?)
1. Language is (1) a means of expressing ideas, and (2) a medium through
which ideas are acquired.
2. The acquisition of ideas by means of language requires:--
_a._ That we know the meanings of words, and so avoid forming
incomplete images (Section 27) and incomplete thoughts (Section
_b._ That we understand the relations in thought existing among words,
phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs (Section 32).
3. Ideas acquired through language may be used for composition purposes--
_a._ Provided we form complete and accurate images and do not confuse
the image with the language that suggested it (Section 28).
_b._ Provided we make the main thoughts so thoroughly our own that we
can furnish details and instances, originate comparisons, or
state causes and effects, and thus become able to describe them
or explain them, or prove them to others (Section 52).
Until both _a_ and _b_ as stated above are done, ideas acquired
through language are undesirable for composition purposes.
4. Comparisons aid in the forming of correct images. They may be literal
or imaginative. If imaginative, they become figures of speech.
5. Figures of speech. (Complete list in the Appendix.)
_a._ A simile is a direct comparison.
_b._ A metaphor is an implied comparison.
_c._ Personification is a modified metaphor, assigning human
attributes to objects, abstract ideas, or the lower animals.
6. Suggestions as to the use of figures of speech.
_a._ Never write for the purpose of using them.
_b._ They should be appropriate to the subject.
_c._ One of the two things compared must be familiar to the reader.
_d._ Avoid hackneyed figures.
_e._ Avoid long figures.
_f._ Avoid mixed metaphors.
7. Choice of words.
_a._ Use words presumably familiar to the reader.
_b._ Use words that express your exact meaning. Do not confuse similar
_e._ Avoid the frequent use of the same word (Section 17).
8. Ambiguity of thought must be avoided. Care must be exercised in the
use of the forms which show relations in thought between sentences,
especially with pronouns and pronominal adjectives (Section 36).
9. A paragraph is a group of sentences related to each other and to one
10. The topic statement of a paragraph is a brief comprehensive summary of
the contents of the paragraph.
11. Methods of paragraph development. A paragraph may be developed--
_a._ By giving specific instances (Section 44).
_b._ By giving details (Section 45). The order in which the details
are told may be determined by--
(1) The order of their occurrence in time (Section 46).
(2) Their position in space (Section 47).
_c._ By comparison or contrast (Section 48).
_d._ By stating cause and effect (Section 49).
_e._ By repetition (Section 50).
_f._ By any suitable combination of the methods stated above.
12. The topical recitation demands--
_a._ That the pupil get the central idea of the paragraph and be able
to make the topic statement.
_b._ That he be able to determine the relative importance of the
remaining ideas in the paragraph.
_c._ That he know by which of the five methods named above the
paragraph has been developed.
_d._ That he be able to furnish details, instances, and comparisons of
his own. (See Sections 37, 38, 39, 52, 53.)
IV. THE PURPOSE OF EXPRESSION
+54. Kinds of Composition.+--When considered with reference to the
purpose in the mind of the writer, there are two general classes of
writing,--that which informs, and that which entertains. The language that
we use should make our meaning clear, arouse interest, and give vividness.
Writing that informs will lay greatest emphasis on clearness, though it
may at the same time be interesting and vivid. We do not add to the value
of an explanation by making it dull. On the other hand, writing that
entertains, though it must be clear, will lay greater emphasis on interest
and vividness. That language is best which combines all three of these
characteristics. The writer's purpose will determine to which the emphasis
shall be given.
Composition is also divided into description, narration, exposition, and
argument (including persuasion). These are called forms of discourse. It
will be found that this division is also based upon the purpose for which
the composition is written. You have occasion to use each of these forms
of discourse daily; you describe, you narrate, you explain, you argue, you
persuade. You have used language for these purposes from your infancy, and
you are now studying composition in order to acquire facility and
effectiveness in that use. When this chapter is completed, you will have
considered each of the four forms of discourse in an elementary way. A
more extended treatment is given in later chapters.
_A._ To which of the two general classes of composition would each of the
1. A business letter.
2. The story of a runaway.
3. A description of a lake written by a geologist.
4. A description of a lake written by a boy who was camping near it.
5. A letter to a friend describing a trip.
6. A text-book on algebra.
7. An application for a position as stenographer.
8. A recipe for making cake.
9. How I made a cake.
10. How to make a kite.
11. A political speech.
12. A debate.
_B._ Could a description be written for the purpose of entertaining? Could
the same object be described for the purpose of giving information?
_C._ To which general class do narratives belong? Explanations? Arguments?
+55. Discourse Presupposes an Audience.+--The object of composition is
communication, and communication is not concerned with one's self alone.
It always involves two,--the one who gives and the one who receives. If
its purpose is to inform, it must inform _somebody_; if to entertain, it
must entertain _somebody_. To be sure, discourse may be a pleasure to us,
because it is a means of self-expression, but it is _useful_ to us because
it conveys ideas to that other somebody who hears or reads it. We describe
in order that another may picture that which we have experienced; we
narrate, events for the entertainment of others; we explain to others that
which we understand; and we argue in order to prove to some one the truth
of a proposition or to persuade him to action. Thus all discourse, to be
useful, demands an audience. Its effective use requires that the writer
shall give quite as much attention to the way in which that reader will
receive his ideas as he gives to the ideas themselves. "Speaking or
writing is, therefore, a double-ended process. It springs from me, it
penetrates him; and both of these ends need watching. Is what I say
precisely what I mean? That is an important question. Is what I say so
shaped that it can readily be assimilated by him who hears? This is a
question of quite as great consequence and much more likely to be
forgotten.... As I write I must unceasingly study what is the line of
least intellectual resistance along which my thought may enter the
differently constituted mind; and to that line I must subtly adjust,
without enfeebling my meaning. Will this combination of words or that make
the meaning clear? Will this order of presentation facilitate swiftness of
apprehension or will it clog the movement?"[Footnote: Professor George
Herbert Palmer: _Self-cultivation in English_.]