Part 3 out of 9
In the preceding chapters emphasis has been laid upon the care that a
writer must give to saying exactly what he means. This must never be
neglected, but we need to add to it a consideration of how best to adapt
what we say to the interest and intelligence of our readers. It will
become clear in writing the following theme that the discussion of
paragraph development in Chapter III was in reality a discussion of
methods of adapting our discourse to the mental habits of our readers.
+Theme XXX.+--_Write a theme showing which one of the five methods of
paragraph development proceeds most nearly in accordance with the way the
mind usually acts._
(This theme will furnish a review of the methods of paragraph development
treated in Chapter III. If possible, write your theme without consulting
the chapter. "Think it out" for yourself. After the theme has been
written, review paragraph development treated in Chapter III. Can you
improve your theme? What methods of development have you used?)
+56. Selecting a Subject.+--Sometimes our theme subjects are chosen for
us, but usually we shall need to choose our own subjects. What we should
choose depends both upon ourselves and upon those for whom we write. The
elements which make a subject suitable for the reader will be considered
later. In so far as the writer is concerned, two things determine the
suitableness of a subject:--
First, the writer's knowledge of the subject. We cannot make ideas clear
to others unless they are clear to us. Our information must be clearly and
definitely our own before we can hope to present it effectively. This is
one of the advantages possessed by subjects arising from experience. Any
subject about which we know little or nothing, should be rejected. We must
not, however, reject a subject too soon. When it is first thought of we
may find that we have but few ideas about it, but by thinking we may
discover that our information is greater than it at first seemed. We may
be able to assign reasons or to give instances or to originate comparisons
or to add details, and by these processes to amplify our knowledge. Even
if we find that we know but little about the subject from our own
experience, we may still be able to use it for a composition subject by
getting our information from others. We may from conversation or from
reading gain ideas that we can make our own and consequently be able to
write intelligently. Care must be taken that this "reading up" on a
subject does not fill our minds with smatterings of ideas that we think we
understand because we can remember the language in which they were
expressed; but reading, _supplemented by thinking_, may enable us to write
well about a subject concerning which on first thought we seem to know but
Second, the writer's interest in the subject. It will be found difficult
for the writer to present vividly a subject in which he himself has no
special interest. Enthusiasm is contagious, and if the writer has a real
interest in his subject, he is likely to present his material in such a
manner as to arouse interest in others. In our earlier years we are more
interested in the material presented by experience and imagination than in
that presented by reading, but as we grow older our interest in thoughts
conveyed to us by language increases. As we enlarge our knowledge of a
subject by reading and by conversation, so we are likely to increase our
interest in that subject. A boy may know but little about Napoleon, but
the effort to inform himself may cause him to become greatly interested.
This interest will lead him to a further search for information about
Napoleon, and will at the same time aid in making what he writes
entertaining to others.
_A._ About which of the following subjects do you now possess a sufficient
knowledge to enable you to write a paragraph? In which of them are you
interested? Which would you need to "read up" about?
4. Wireless telegraphy.
15. Making calls.
16. Stamp collecting.
17. The manufacture of tacks.
18. The manufacture of cotton.
19. The smelting of zinc.
20. The silver-plating process.
_B._ Make a list of thirty things about which you know something.
_C._ Bring to class a list of five subjects in which you are interested.
_D._ Make a list of five subjects about which you now possess a sufficient
knowledge to enable you to write a paragraph.
+Theme XXXI.+--_Write a short theme: Select a suitable subject from the
lists in the preceding exercise._
(What method or methods of paragraph development have you used? Have your
paragraphs unity of thought?)
+57. Subject Adapted to Reader.+--We may be interested in a subject and
possess sufficient knowledge to enable us to treat it successfully, but it
may still be unsuitable because it is not adapted to the reader. Some
knowledge of a subject and some interest in it are quite as necessary on
the part of the reader as on that of the writer, though in the beginning
this knowledge and interest may be meager. The possibility of developing
both knowledge and interest must exist, however, or the writing will be a
failure. It would be difficult to make "Imperialism" interesting to third
grade pupils, or "Kant's Philosophy" to high school pupils. Even if you
know enough to write a valuable "Criticism" of _Silas Marner_, or a real
"Review" of the _Vicar of Wakefield_, the work is time wasted if your
readers do not have a breadth of knowledge sufficient to insure a vital
and appreciative interest in the subject. You must take care to select a
subject that is of present, vital interest to your readers.
+58. Sources of Subjects.+--Thought goes everywhere, and human interest
touches everything. The sources of subjects are therefore unlimited; for
anything about which we think and in which we are interested may become a
suitable subject for a paragraph, an essay, or a book. Such subjects are
everywhere--in what we see and do, in what we think and feel, in what we
hear and read. We relate to our parents what a neighbor said; we discuss
for the teacher an event in history, or a character in literature; we show
a companion how to make a kite or work a problem in algebra; we consider
the advantages of a commercial course or relate the pleasures of a day's
outing,--in each case we are interested, we think, we express our
thoughts, and so are practicing oral composition with _subjects that may
be used for written exercises_.
+59. Subjects should be Definite.+--Both the writer and the reader are
more interested in definite and concrete subjects than in the general and
abstract ones, and we shall make our writing more interesting by
recognizing this fact. One might write about "Birds," or "The Intelligence
of Birds," or "How Birds Protect their Young," or "A Family of Robins."
The last is a specific subject, while the other three are general
subjects. Of these, the first includes more than the second; and the
second, more than the third. A person with sufficient knowledge might
write about any one of these general subjects, but it would be difficult
to give such a subject adequate treatment in a short theme. Though a
general subject may suggest more lines of thought, our knowledge about a
specific subject is less vague, and consequently more usable. We really
know more about the specific subject, and we have a greater interest in
it. The subject, "A Family of Robins," indicates that the writer knows
something interesting that he intends to tell. Such a subject compels
expectant attention from the reader and aids in arousing an appreciative
interest on his part.
On first thought, it would seem easier to write about a general subject
than about a specific one, but this is not the case. A general subject
presents so many lines of thought that the writer is confused, rather than
aided, by the abundance of material. A skilled and experienced writer
possessing a large fund of information may treat general subjects
successfully, but for the beginner safety lies only in selecting definite
subjects and in keeping within the limits prescribed. The "Women of
Shakespeare" might be an interesting subject for a book by a Shakespearean
scholar, but it is scarcely suitable for a high school pupil's theme.
+60. Narrowing the Subject.+--It is often necessary to narrow a subject in
order to bring it within the range of the knowledge and interest of
ourselves and of our readers. A description of the transportation
of milk on the electric roads around Toledo would probably be more
interesting than an essay on "Freight Transportation by Electricity," or
on "Transportation." The purpose that the writer has in mind, and the
length of the article he intends to write, will affect the selection of a
subject. "Transportation" might be the subject of a book in which a
chapter was given to each important subdivision of it; but it would be
quite as difficult to treat such a subject in three hundred words as it
would be to make use of three hundred pages for "The Transportation of
Milk at Toledo."
A general subject may suggest many lines of thought. It is the task of the
writer to select one about which he knows something or can learn
something, in which both he and his readers are interested, or can become
interested, and for which the time and space at his disposal are adequate.
_A._ Arrange the subjects in each of the following groups so that the most
general ones shall come first:--
1. The intelligence of wild animals.
How a fox escaped from the hounds.
How animals escape destruction by their enemies.
2. The benefits that arise from war.
The defeat of the Cimbri and Teutons by Marius.
The value of military strength to the Romans.
A summer outing in the Adirondacks.
Value of vacations.
_B._ Narrow ten of the following subjects until the resulting subject may
be treated in a single paragraph:--
4. Heroes of fiction.
C. A general subject may suggest several narrower subjects, each of which
would be of interest to a different class of persons; for example--
1. Methods of conducting recitations. (Teachers.)
2. School taxes. (Farmers.)
3. Ventilation of school buildings. (Architects.)
In a similar way, narrow each of the following subjects
so that the resulting subjects will be of interest to two or
more classes of persons:--
1. Vacations. 1. Farmers.
2. Mathematics. 2. High School Pupils.
3. Picnics. 3. Ministers.
4. Civil service. 4. Merchants.
5. Elections. 5. Sailors.
6. Botany. 6. Girls.
7. Fish. 7. Boys.
+Theme XXXII.+--_Write a paragraph about one of narrowed subjects._
(Does your paragraph have unity of thought? What methods of development
have you used? Have you selected a subject which will be of interest to
+61. Selecting a Title.+--The subject and the title may be the same, but
not necessarily so. The statement of the subject may require a sentence of
considerable length, while a title is best if short. In selecting this
brief title, it is well to get one which will attract the attention and
arouse the curiosity of a reader without appearing obviously to do so. A
peculiar or unusual title is not at all necessary, though if properly
selected such a title may be of value. Care must be taken not to have the
title make a promise that the theme cannot fulfill. If it does, the effect
_A._ Discuss the appropriateness of the titles for the subjects in the
1. Title: "My Kingdom for a Horse."
Subject: An account of a breakdown of an automobile at an inconvenient
2. Title: A Blaze of Brilliance.
Subject: Description of a coaching parade.
3. Title: A Brave Defense.
Subject: An account of how a pair of birds drove a snake away from
4. Title: The Banquet Book.
Subject: Quotations designed for general reference, and also as an
aid in the preparation of the toast list, the after-dinner
speech, and the occasional address.
5. Title: Dragons of the Air.
Subject: An account of extinct flying reptiles.
6. Title: Rugs and Rags.
Subject: A comparison of the rich and the poor, from a socialistic
point of view.
7. Title: Lives of the Hunted.
Subject: A true account of the doings of five quadrupeds and three
8. Title: The Children of the Nations.
Subject: A discussion of colonies and the problems of colonization.
_B._ Supply an appropriate title for a story read by the teacher.
_C._ Suggest a title, other than the one given it, for each magazine
article you have read this month.
+62. Language Adapted to the Reader.+--A writer may select a subject with
reference to the knowledge and interest of his readers; he may develop his
paragraphs in accordance with the methods studied in Chapter III, and yet
he may fail to make his meaning clear, because he has not used language
suited to the reader. Fortunately, the language that we understand and use
is that which is most easily understood by those of equal attainments with
ourselves. It therefore happens that when writing for those of our own age
and attainments, or for those of higher attainments, we usually best
express for them that which we make most clear and pleasing to ourselves.
But if we write for younger people, or for those of different interests in
life, we must give much attention to adapting what we write to our
readers. Before writing it is well to ask, For whom am I writing? Then, if
necessary, you should modify your language so that it will be adapted to
your readers. Can you tell for what kind of an audience each of the
following is intended?
In the field both teams played faultless ball, not the semblance of an
error being made. Besides backing up their pitchers in this fashion, both
local and visiting athletes turned sensational plays.
The element of luck figured largely in the result. In the first inning
Dougherty walked and Collins singled. Dougherty had third base sure on the
drive, but stumbled and fell down between second and third, and he was an
Boston got its only run in the second. Parent sent the ball to extreme
left for two bases. He stole third nattily when catcher Sugden tried to
catch him napping at the middle station. Ferris scored him with a drive to
left. St. Louis promptly tied the score in its half. Wallace opened with a
screeching triple to the bulletin board. At that he would not have scored
if J. Stahl had not contributed a passed ball, Heidrick, Friel, and
Sugden, the next three batters, expiring on weak infield taps. The Browns
got the winning run in the sixth on Martin's triple and Hill's swift cut
back of first. Lachance knocked the ball down and got his man at the
initial sack, but could not prevent the tally.
His name was Riley, and although his parents had called him Thomas, to the
boys he had always been "Dennis," and by the time he had reached his
senior year in college he was quite ready to admit that his "name was
Dennis," with all that slang implied. He had tried for several things,
athletics particularly, and had been substitute on the ball nine, one of
the immortal second eleven backs of the football squad, and at one time
had been looked upon as promising material for a mile runner on the track
But it was always his luck not quite to make anything. He couldn't bat up
to 'varsity standard, he wasn't quite heavy enough for a Varsity back, and
in the mile run he always came in fresh enough but could not seem to get
his speed up so as to run himself out, and the result was that, although
he finished strong and with lots of running in him, the other fellows
always reached the tape first, even though just barely getting over and
Now "Dennis" had made up his mind at Christmas time that he actually would
have one more trial on the track, and that his family, consisting of his
mother and a younger brother, both of them great believers in and very
proud of Thomas, should yet see him possessed of a long-coveted "Y."
So he went out with the first candidates in the spring, and the addition
of the two-mile event to the programme of track contests gave him a
distance better suited to his endurance. There were a half-dozen other men
running in his squad, and Dennis, from his former failures, was not looked
upon with much favor, or as a very likely man. But he kept at it. When the
first reduction of the squad was made, some one said, "Denny's kept on
just to pound the track." With the middle of March came some class games,
and Dennis was among the "also rans," getting no better than fourth place
in the two-mile. The worst of it was that he knew he could have run it
faster, for he felt strong at the finish, but had no burst of speed when
the others went up on the last lap. But in April he did better, and it
soon developed that he was improving. The week before the Yale-Harvard
games he was notified that he was to run in the two-mile as pace maker to
Lang and Early, the two best distance men on the squad. Nobody believed
that Yale would win this event, although it was understood that Lang stood
a fair chance if Dennis and Early could carry the Harvard crack, Richards,
along at a fast gait for the first mile.
So it was all arranged that Early should set the pace for the first half
mile, and Dennis should then go up and carry the field along for a fast
second half. Then, after the first mile was over, Early and Dennis should
go out as fast as they could, and stay as long as they could in the
attempt to force the Harvard man and exhaust him so that Lang could come
up, and, having run the race more to his liking, be strong enough to
The day of the games came, and with it a drenching rain, making the track
heavy and everybody uncomfortable. But as the inter-collegiates were
the next week, it was almost impossible to postpone the games, and
consequently it was decided to run them off. As the contest progressed, it
developed that the issue would hang on the two-mile event, and interest
grew intense. When the call for starters came, Dennis felt the usual
trepidation of a man who is before the public for the first time in a
really important position. But the feeling did not last long, and by the
time he went to his mark he had made up his mind that that Harvard runner
should go the mile and a half fast at any rate, or else be a long way
At the crack of the pistol the six men went off, and, according to orders,
during the first mile Early and Dennis set the pace well up. Richards, the
Harvard man, let them open up a gap on him in the first half-mile, and,
being more or less bothered by the conditions of the wet track, he seemed
uncertain whether the Yale runners were setting the pace too high or not,
and in the second half commenced to move up. In doing this his team mates
gradually fell back until they were out of it, and the order was Dennis,
Early, Richards, and Lang. At the beginning of the second mile, Early,
whose duty it was to have gone up and helped Dennis make the pace at the
third half-mile, had manifestly had enough of it, and, after two or three
desperate struggles to keep up, was passed by Richards. When, therefore,
they came to the mile and a half, Dennis was leading Richards by some
fifteen yards, and those who knew the game expected to see the Harvard man
try to overtake Dennis, and in so doing exhaust himself, so that Lang, who
was running easily in the rear, could come up and in the last quarter
finish out strong. Dennis, too, was expecting to hear the Harvard man come
up with him pretty soon, and knew that this would be the signal for him to
make his dying effort in behalf of his comrade, Lang. As they straightened
out into the back stretch Richards did quicken up somewhat, and Dennis let
himself out. In fact, he did this so well that as they entered upon the
last quarter Richards had not decreased the distance, and indeed it had
opened up a little wider. But where was Lang? Dennis was beginning to
expect one or the other of these two men to come up, and, as he turned
into the back stretch for the last time, it began to dawn upon him, as it
was dawning upon the crowd, that the pace had been too hot for Lang, and,
moreover, that Yale's chance depended on the despised Dennis, and that the
Harvard runner was finding it a big contract to overhaul the sturdy
pounder on the wet track. But Richards was game, and commenced to cut the
gap down. As they turned into the straight, he was within eight yards of
Dennis. But Dennis knew it, and he ran as he had never run before. He
could fairly feel the springing tread of Richards behind him, and knew it
was coming nearer every second. But into the straight they came, and the
crowd sprang to its feet with wild yells for Dennis. Twenty yards from
home Richards, who had picked up all but two yards of the lead, began to
stagger and waver, while Dennis hung to it true and steady, and breasted
the tape three yards in advance, winning his "Y" at last!
--Walter Camp: _Winning a "Y"_ ("Outlook")
In which of the preceding accounts were you more interested? Which made
the more vivid impression? Which would be better suited for a school class
composed of boys and girls? Which for a newspaper report?
In attempting to relate a contest it is essential that the writer know
what really happened, and in what order it happened, but his successful
presentation will depend to some extent upon the consideration given to
adapting the story to the audience. A person thoroughly conversant with
the game will understand the technical terms, and may prefer the first
account to the second, but those to whom the game is not familiar would
need to have so much explanation of the terms used that the narration
would become tedious to those already familiar with the terms. In order
to make an account of a game interesting to persons unfamiliar with that
game, we must introduce enough of explanation to make clear the meaning
of the terms we use.
+Theme XXXIII.+--_Write a theme telling some one who does not understand
the game about some contest which you have seen_.
1. A basket ball game.
2. A football game.
3. A tennis match.
4. A baseball game.
5. A croquet match.
6. A golf tournament.
7. A yacht race.
8. A relay race.
(Have you introduced technical terms without making the necessary
explanations? Have you explained so many terms that your narrative is
rendered tedious? Have you related what really happened, and in the proper
time order? Have your paragraphs unity? Can you shorten the theme without
affecting the clearness or interest? Does _then_ occur too frequently?)
+Theme XXXIV.+--_Write a theme, using the same subject that you used for
Theme XXXIII. Assume that the reader understands the game._
(Will the reader get the whole contest clearly in mind? Can you shorten
the account? Compare this theme with Theme XXXIII.)
+63. Explanation of Terms.+--Any word that alone or with its modifiers
calls to mind a single idea, is a term. When applied to a particular
object, quality, or action, it is a specific term; but when applied to any
one of a class of objects, qualities, or actions, it is a general term.
For example: _The Lake_, referring to a lake near at hand, is a specific
term; but _a lake_, referring to any lake, is a general term. In Theme
XXXIII you had occasion to explain some of the terms used. If, in telling
about a baseball game, you mentioned a particular "fly," your statement
was description or narration; but if some one should ask what you meant by
"a fly," your answer would be general in character; that is, it would
apply to all "flies," and would belong to that division of composition
called exposition. Exposition is but another name for explanation. It is
always concerned with that which is general, while description and
narration deal with particular cases. We may describe a particular lake;
but if we answer the question, What is a lake? the answer would apply to
any lake, and would be exposition. Explanation of the meaning of general
terms is one form of exposition.
+64. Definition by Synonyms.+--If we are asked to explain the meaning of a
general term, our reply in many cases will be a brief definition. Often it
is sufficient to give a synonym. For example, in answer to the question,
What is exposition? we make its meaning clearer by saying, Exposition is
Definition by synonym is frequently used because of its brevity. In the
smaller dictionaries the definitions are largely of this kind. For
example: to desert, _to abandon_; despot, _tyrant_; contemptible, _mean or
vile_; to fuse, _to blend_; inviolable, _sacred_. Synonyms are, however,
seldom exact, but a fair understanding of a term may be gained by
comparing it with its synonyms and discussing the different shades of
meaning. Such a discussion, especially if supplemented by examples showing
the correct use of each term, is a profitable exercise in exposition. For
Both _discovery_ and _invention_ denote generally something new that is
found out in the arts and sciences. But the term _discovery_ involves in
the thing discovered not merely novelty, but curiosity, utility,
difficulty, and consequently some degree of importance. All this is less
strongly involved in invention. But there are yet wider differences. One
can only discover what has in its integrity existed before the discovery,
while invention brings a thing into existence. America was discovered.
Printing was invented. Fresh discoveries in science often lead to new
inventions in the industrial arts. Indeed, discovery belongs more to
science; invention, to art. Invention increases the store of our practical
resources, and is the fruit of search. Discovery extends the sphere of our
knowledge, and has often been made by accident.
--Smith: _Synonyms Discriminated_.
If exactness is desired, this is obtained by means of the logical
definition, which will be discussed in a later chapter.
+Theme XXXV.+--Explain the meaning of the words in one of the following
1. Caustic, satirical, biting.
2. Imply, signify, involve.
3. Martial, warlike, military, soldierlike.
4. Wander, deviate, err, stray, swerve, diverge.
5. Abate, decrease, diminish, lessen, moderate.
6. Emancipation, freedom, independence, liberty.
7. Old, ancient, antique, antiquated, obsolete.
8. Adorn, beautify, bedeck, decorate, ornament,
9. Active, alert, brisk, lively, spry.
+65. Use of Simpler Words.+--In defining terms by giving a synonym we must
be careful to choose a synonym which will be most likely to be understood
by our listeners, or our explanation will be of no avail. For instance, in
explaining the term _abate_ to a child, if we say it means _to diminish_,
and he is unfamiliar with that word, he is made none the wiser by our
explanation. If we tell him that it means _to grow less_, he will, in all
probability, understand our explanation. Very many words in our language
have equivalents that may be substituted, the one for the other. Much of
our explanation to children and to those whose attainments are less than
our own consists in substituting common, everyday words for less familiar
Give familiar equivalents for the following words:--
+66. Definitions Need to be Supplemented.+--The purpose of exposition is
to make clear to others that which we understand ourselves. If the mere
statement of a definition does not accomplish this result, we may often
make our meaning clear by supplementing the definition with suitable
comparisons and examples. In making use of comparisons and examples we
must choose those with which our readers are familiar, and we must be sure
that they fairly represent the term that we wish to illustrate.
+Theme XXXVI.+--_Explain any one of the following terms. Begin with as
exact a definition as you can frame._
1. A "fly" in baseball.
2. A "foul" in basket ball.
3. A "sneak."
4. A hero.
5. A "spitfire."
6. A laborer.
7. A capitalist.
8. A coward.
9. A freshman.
10. A "header."
(Is your definition exact, or only approximately so? How have you made its
meaning clear? Can you think of a better comparison or a better example?
Can your meaning be made clearer, or be more effectively presented, by
arranging your material in a different order?)
+67. General Description.+--We may often make clear the meaning of a term
by giving details. In describing a New England village we might enumerate
the streets, the houses, the town pump, the church, and other features.
This would be specific description if the purpose was to have the reader
picture some particular village; but if the purpose was to give the reader
a clear conception of the general characteristics of all New England
villages, the paragraph would become a general description.
Such a general description would include all the characteristics common
to all the members of the class under discussion, but would omit
any characteristic peculiar to some of them. For example, a general
description of a windmill includes the things common to all windmills. If
an object is described more for the purpose of giving a clear conception
of the class of which it is a type than for the purpose of picturing the
object described, we have a general description. Such a description is in
effect an enlarged definition, and is exposition rather than description.
It is sometimes called scientific description because it is so commonly
employed by writers of scientific books.
Notice the following examples of general description:--
1. Around every house in Broeck are buckets, benches, rakes, hoes, and
stakes, all colored red, blue, white, or yellow. The brilliancy and
variety of colors and the cleanliness, brightness, and miniature pomp of
the place are wonderful. At the windows there are embroidered curtains
with rose-colored ribbons. The blades, bands, and nails of the gayly
painted windmills shine like silver. The houses are brightly varnished and
surrounded with red and white railings and fences.
The panes of glass in the windows are bordered by many lines of different
hues. The trunks of all the trees are painted gray from root to branch.
Across the streams are many little wooden bridges, each painted as white
as snow. The gutters are ornamented with a sort of wooden festoon
perforated like lace. The pointed facades are surmounted with a small
weathercock, a little lance, or something resembling a bunch of flowers.
Nearly every house has two doors, one in front and one behind, the last
for everyday entrance and exit, the former opened only on great occasions,
such as births, deaths, and marriages. The gardens are as peculiar as the
houses. The paths are hardly wide enough to walk in. One could put his
arms around the flower beds. The dainty arbors would barely hold two
persons sitting close together. The little myrtle hedges would scarcely
reach to the knees of a four-year-old child.
2. Ginseng has a thick, soft, whitish, bulbous root, from one to three
inches long,--generally two or three roots to a stalk,--with wrinkles
running around it, and a few small fibers attached. It has a peculiar,
pleasant, sweetish, slightly bitter, and aromatic taste. The stem or stalk
grows about a foot high, is smooth, round, of a reddish green color,
divided at the top into three short branches, with three to five leaves to
each branch, and a flower stem in the center of the branches. The flower
is small and white, followed by a large, red berry. It is found growing in
most of the states in rich, shady soils.
3. As a general proposition, the Scottish hotel is kept by a
benevolent-looking old lady, who knows absolutely nothing about the
trains, nothing about the town, nothing about anything outside of
the hotel, and is non-committal regarding matters even within her
jurisdiction. Upon arrival you do not register, but stand up at the desk
and submit to a cross-examination, much as if you were being sentenced in
an American police court.
Your hostess always wants twelve hours' notice of your departure, so that
she can make out your bill--a very arduous, formidable undertaking. The
bill is of prodigious dimensions, about the size of a sheet of foolscap
paper, lined and cross-lined for a multitude of entries. When the account
finally reaches you, it closely resembles a design for a cobweb factory.
Any attempt to decipher the various hieroglyphics is useless--it can't be
done. The only thing that can be done is to read the total at the foot of
the page and pay it.
--_Hotels in Scotland_ ("Kansas City Star").
+Theme XXXVII.+--_Write a general description of one of the following:_--
1. A bicycle.
2. A country hay barn.
3. A dog.
4. A summer cottage.
5. An Indian wigwam.
6. A Dutch windmill.
7. A muskrat's house.
8. A robin's nest.
9. A blacksmith's shop.
10. A chipmunk.
11. A threshing machine.
12. A sewing circle.
(The purpose is not to picture a particular object, but to give a general
notion of a class of objects. Cross out everything in your theme that
applies only to some particular object. Have you included enough to make
your meaning clear?)
+Theme XXXVIII.+--_Using the same title as for Theme XXXVII, write a
specific description of some particular object._
(How does it differ from the general description? What elements have you
introduced which you did not have in the other? Which sentence gives the
general outline? Are your details arranged with regard to their proper
position in space? Will the reader form a vivid picture--just the one you
mean him to have?)
+68. General Narration.+--Explanations of a process of manufacture,
methods of playing a game, and the like, often take the form of
generalized narration. Just as we gain a notion of the appearance of a sod
house from a general description, so may we gain a notion of a series of
events from a general narration. Such a narration will not tell what some
one actually did, but will relate the things that are characteristic of
the process or action under discussion whenever it happens. Such general
narration is really exposition.
_A._ Notice that the selection below is a generalized narration, showing
what a hare does when hunted. In it no incident peculiar to some special
occasion is introduced.
She [the hare] generally returns to the beat from which she was put up,
running, as all the worlds knows, in a circle, or sometimes something
like it, we had better say, that we may keep on good terms with the
mathematical. At starting, she tears away at her utmost speed for a mile
or more, and distances the dogs halfway; she then turns, diverging a
little to the right or left, that she may not run into the mouths of her
enemies--a necessity which accounts for what we call the circularity of
her course. Her flight from home is direct and precipitate; but on her way
back, when she has gained a little time for consideration and stratagem,
she describes a curious labyrinth of short turnings and windings as if to
perplex the dogs by the intricacy of her track.
_B_. The selection below narrates an actual hunt. Notice in what respects
it differs from the preceding selection.
Sir Roger is so keen at this sport that he has been out almost every day
since I came down; and upon the chaplain's offering to lend me his easy
pad, I was prevailed on yesterday morning to make one of the company. I
was extremely pleased, as we rid along, to observe the general benevolence
of all the neighborhood towards my friend. The farmers' sons thought
themselves happy if they could open a gate for the good old knight as he
passed by; which he generally requited with a nod or a smile, and a kind
inquiry after their fathers and uncles.
After we had rid about a mile from home, we came upon a large heath, and
the sportsmen began to beat. They had done so for some time, when, as I
was at a little distance from the rest of the company, I saw a hare pop
out from a small furze brake almost under my horse's feet. I marked the
way she took, which I endeavored to make the company sensible of by
extending my arm; but to no purpose, till Sir Roger, who knows that none
of my extraordinary motions are insignificant, rode up to me and asked me
if puss was gone that way? Upon my answering "Yes," he immediately called
in the dogs, and put them upon the scent. As they were going off, I heard
one of the country fellows muttering to his companion, that 'twas a wonder
they had not lost all their sport, for want of the silent gentleman's
crying, "Stole away."
This, with my aversion to leaping hedges, made me withdraw to a rising
ground, from whence I could have the pleasure of the whole chase, without
the fatigue of keeping in with the hounds. The hare immediately threw them
above a mile behind her; but I was pleased to find, that instead of
running straight forwards, or, in hunter's language, "flying the country,"
as I was afraid she might have done, she wheeled about, and described a
sort of circle round the hill, where I had taken my station, in such
manner as gave me a very distinct view of the sport. I could see her first
pass by, and the dogs some time afterwards, unraveling the whole track she
had made, and following her through all her doubles. I was at the same
time delighted in observing that deference which the rest of the pack paid
to each particular hound, according to the character he had acquired among
them: if they were at a fault, and an old hound of reputation opened but
once, he was immediately followed by the whole cry; while a raw dog, or
one who was a noted liar, might have yelped his heart out without being
taken notice of.
The hare now, after having squatted two or three times, and been put up
again as often, came still nearer to the place where she was at first
started. The dogs pursued her, and these were followed by the jolly
knight, who rode upon a white gelding, encompassed by his tenants and
servants, and cheering his hounds with all the gayety of five and twenty.
One of the sportsmen rode up to me, and told me that he was sure the chase
was almost at an end, because the old dogs, which had hitherto lain
behind, now headed the pack. The fellow was in the right. Our hare took a
large field just under us, followed by the full cry in view. I must
confess the brightness of the weather, the cheerfulness of everything
around me, the chiding of the hounds, which was returned upon us in a
double echo from two neighboring hills, with the hallooing of the
sportsmen, and the sounding of the horn, lifted my spirits into a most
lively pleasure, which I freely indulged because I was sure it was
innocent. If I was under any concern, it was on account of the poor hare,
that was now quite spent, and almost within the reach of her enemies; when
the huntsman getting forward, threw down his pole before the dogs. They
were now within eight yards of that game which they had been pursuing for
almost as many hours; yet on the signal before mentioned they all made a
sudden stand, and though they continued opening as much as before, durst
not once attempt to pass beyond the pole. At the same time Sir Roger rode
forward, and alighting, took up the hare in his arms; which he soon after
delivered up to one of his servants with an order, if she could be kept
alive, to let her go in his great orchard; where it seems he has several
of these prisoners of war, who live together in a very comfortable
captivity. I was highly pleased to see the discipline of the pack, and the
good nature of the knight, who could not find in his heart to murder a
creature that had given him so much diversion.
--Budgell: _Sir Roger de Coverley Papers_.
+Theme XXXIX.+--_Explain one of the following by the use of general
1. Baking bread.
2. How paper is made.
3. How to play tennis (or some other game).
4. Catching trout.
5. Life at school.
6. How to pitch curves.
(Have you arranged your details with reference to their proper time-order?
Have you introduced unnecessary details? Have your paragraphs unity?
Underscore _then_ each time you have used it.)
+69. Argument.+--Especially in argument is it evident that language
presupposes an audience. The fact that we argue implies that some one does
not agree with us. The purpose of our argument is to convince some one
else of the truth of a proposition which we ourselves believe, and he who
wishes to succeed in this must give careful attention to his audience. The
question which must always be in the mind of the writer is, What facts
shall I select and in what order shall I present them in order to convince
my reader? The various ways of arguing are more fully treated in a later
chapter, but a few of them are given here.
+70. The Use of Explanation in Argument.+--In preparing an argument we
must consider first the amount of explanation that it will be necessary to
make. We cannot expect one to believe a proposition the meaning of which
he does not understand. Often the explanation alone is sufficient to
convince the hearer. Suppose you are trying to gain your parents' consent
to take some course of study. They ask for an explanation of the different
courses, and when they know what each contains they are already convinced
as to which is best for you.
If you are trying to convince a member of your school board that it would
be well to introduce domestic science into the high school, and he already
understands what is meant by the term "domestic science," you not only
waste time in explaining it, but you make him appear ignorant of what he
already understands. With him you should proceed at once to give your
reasons for the advisability of the introduction of this branch into your
school. On the other hand, if you are talking with a member who does not
understand the term, an explanation will be the first thing necessary. It
is evident, therefore, that the amount of explanation that we shall make
depends upon the previous knowledge of the audience addressed. If we
explain too much, we prejudice our case; and if we explain too little, the
reader may fail to appreciate the arguments that follow.
The point of the whole matter, then, is that explanation is the first step
in argument, and that in order to determine the amount necessary we must
consider carefully the audience for which our argument is intended.
+71. Statement of Advantages and Disadvantages.+ An argument is often
concerned with determining whether it is expedient to do one thing or
another. Such an argument frequently takes the form of a statement of the
advantages that will follow the adoption of the course we recommend, or of
the disadvantages that the following of the opposite course will cause.
If a corporation should ask for a franchise for a street railway, the city
officials might hold the opinion that a double track should be laid. In
support of this opinion they would name the advantageous results that
would follow from the use of a double track, such as the avoidance of
delays on turnouts, the lessening of the liability of accidents, the
greater rapidity in transportation, etc. On the other hand, the persons
seeking the franchise might reply that a double track would occupy too
much of the street and become a hindrance to teams, or that the advantages
were not sufficient to warrant the extra expense.
Concerning such a question there can be no absolute decision. We are not
discussing what is right, but what is expedient, and the determination of
what is expedient is based upon a consideration of advantages or
disadvantages. In deciding, we must balance the advantages against the
disadvantages and determine which has the greater weight. If called upon
to take one side or the other, we must consider carefully the value of the
facts counting both for and against the proposition before we can make up
our mind which side we favor.
You must bear in mind that a thing may not be an advantage because you
believe it to be. That which seems to you to be the reason why you should
take some high school subject, may seem to your father or your teacher to
be the very reason why you should not. In writing arguments of this kind
you must take care to select facts that will appeal to your readers as
Notice the following editorial which appeared in the _Boston Latin School
Register_ shortly after a change was made whereby the pupils instead of
the teachers moved from room to room for their various recitations:--
The new system of having the classes move about from room to room to their
recitations has been in use for nearly a month, and there has been
sufficient opportunity for testing its practicability and its advantages.
There is no doubt that the new system alters the old form of recesses,
shortening the two regular ones, but giving three minutes between
recitations as a compensation for this loss. Although theoretically we
have more recess time than formerly, in the practical working out of the
system we find that the three minutes between recitations is occupied in
gathering up one's books, and reaching the next recitation room; besides
this, that there is often some confusion in reaching the various
classrooms, and that there are many little inconveniences which would not
occur were we sitting at our own desks. On the other hand, as an offset to
these disadvantages, there is the advantage of a change of position, and a
respite from close attention, with a breathing spell in which to get the
mind as well as the books ready for another lesson. The masters have in
every recitation their own maps and reference books, with which they can
often make their instruction much more forceful and interesting. Besides
that, they have entire control of their own blackboards, and can leave
work there without fear of its being erased to make room for that of some
other master. The confusion will doubtless be lessened as time goes on and
we become more used to the system. Even the first disadvantage is more or
less offset by the fact that the short three-minute periods, although they
cannot be used like ordinary recesses, yet serve to give us breathing
space between recitations and to lessen the strain of continuous
application; so that, on the whole, the advantages seem to counterbalance
What advantages and disadvantages can you think of for each of the
following propositions? State them orally.
1. All telephone and telegraph wires in cities should be put under ground.
2. The speed of bicycles and automobiles should be limited to eight miles
3. High school football teams should not play match games on regular
4. High school pupils should not attend evening parties excepting on
Fridays and Saturdays.
5. Monday would be a better day than Saturday for a school holiday.
6. The school session should be lengthened.
+Theme XL.+--_Write two paragraphs, one of which shall give the advantages
and the other the disadvantages that would arise from the adoption of any
one of the following:_
1. This school should have a longer recess.
2. This school should have two hours for the noon recess.
3. This school should be in session from eight o'clock until one o'clock.
4. All the pupils in this school should be seated in one room.
5. The public library should be in the high school building.
6. The football team should be excused early in order to practice.
7. This school should have a greater number of public entertainments.
+72. Explanation and Argument by Specific Instances.+--Often we may make
the meaning of a general proposition clear by citing specific instances.
If these instances are given for the purpose of explanation merely, the
paragraph is exposition. If, however, the aim is not merely to cause the
reader to understand the proposition, but also to believe that it is true,
we have argument. In either case we have a paragraph developed by specific
instances as discussed in Section 44. Notice how in the following
paragraph the author brings forward specific cases in order to prove the
Nearly everything that an animal does is the result of an inborn instinct
acted upon by an outward stimulus. The margin wherein intelligent choice
plays a part is very small.... Instinct is undoubtedly often modified by
intelligence, and intelligence is as often guided or prompted by instinct,
but one need not hesitate long as to which side of the line any given act
of man or beast belongs. When the fox resorts to various tricks to outwit
and delay the hound (if he ever consciously does so), he exercises a kind
of intelligence--the lower form of which we call cunning--and he is
prompted to this by an instinct of self-preservation. When the birds set
up a hue and cry about a hawk, or an owl, or boldly attack him, they show
intelligence in its simpler form, the intelligence that recognizes its
enemies, prompted again by the instinct of self-preservation. When a hawk
does not know a man on horseback from a horse, it shows a want of
intelligence. When a crow is kept away from a corn-field by a string
stretched around it, the fact shows how masterful is its fear and how
shallow its wit. When a cat or a dog or a horse or a cow learns to open a
gate or a door, it shows a degree of intelligence--power to imitate, to
profit by experience. A machine could not learn to do it. If the animal
were to close the door or gate behind it, that would be another step in
intelligence. But its direct wants have no relation to the closing of
the door, only to the opening of it. To close the door involves an
afterthought that an animal is not capable of. A horse will hesitate to go
upon thin ice or frail bridges. This, no doubt, is an inherited instinct
which has arisen in its ancestors from their fund of general experience
with the world. How much with them has depended upon a secure footing! A
pair of house-wrens had a nest in my well-curb; when the young were partly
grown and heard any one enter the curb, they would set up a clamorous
calling for food. When I scratched against the sides of the curb beneath
them like some animal trying to climb up, their voices instantly hushed;
the instinct of fear promptly overcame the instinct of hunger! Instinct is
intelligence, but it is not the same as acquired individual intelligence;
it is untaught.
John Burroughs: _Some Natural History Doubts_ ("Harper's").
What facts or instances do you know which would lead you to believe either
the following propositions or their opposites?
1. Dogs are intelligent.
2. Only excellent pupils can pass the seventh grade examination.
3. Some teachers do not ask fair questions on examination.
4. Oak trees grow to be larger than maples.
5. Strikes increase the cost to the consumer.
6. A college education pays.
7. Department stores injure the trade of smaller stores.
8. Advertising pays.
+Theme XLI.+--_Write a paragraph, proving by one or more examples one of
the propositions in the preceding exercise:_
(Do your examples really illustrate what you are trying to prove? Do they
show that the proposition is always true or merely that it is true
for certain cases? Would your argument cause another to believe the
+73. The Value of Debate.+--Participation in oral debate furnishes
excellent practice in accurate and rapid thinking. We may choose one side
of a question and may write out an argument which, considered alone, and
from our point of view, seems convincing, but when this is submitted to
the criticism of some one of opposite views, or when the arguments in
favor of the other side of the question are brought forward, we are not so
sure that we have chosen the side which represents the truth. The ability
to think "on one's feet," to present arguments concisely and effectively,
and to reply to opposing arguments, giving due weight to those that are
true, and detecting and pointing out those that are false, is an
accomplishment of great practical value. Such ability comes only from
practice, and the best preparation for it is the careful writing out of
+74. Statement of the Question.+--The subject of debate may be stated in
the form of a resolution, a declarative sentence, or a question; as,
"Resolved that the recess should be lengthened," or "The recess should be
lengthened," or, "Should the recess be lengthened?" In any case, the
affirmative must show why the recess should be lengthened, and the
negative why it should not be lengthened.
In a formal debate the statement of the question and its meaning should be
definitely determined in advance. Care must be taken to state it so that
no mere quibbling over the meanings of terms can take the place of real
arguments. Even if the subject of debate is so stated that this is
possible, any self-respecting debater will meet the question at issue
fairly and squarely, preferring defeat to a victory won by juggling with
the meanings of terms.
+75. Is Belief Necessary in Debate?+--If we are really arguing for a
purpose, we should believe in the truth of the proposition which
we support. If the members of the school board were discussing the
desirability of building a new schoolhouse, each would speak in accordance
with his belief. But if a class in school should debate such a question,
having in mind not the determination of the question, but merely the
selection and arrangement of the arguments for and against the proposition
in the most effective way, each pupil might present the side in which he
did not really believe.
Consider each of the following propositions. Do you believe the
affirmative or the negative?
1. This city needs a new high school building.
2. All the pupils in the high school should be members of the athletic
3. The school board should purchase an inclosed athletic field.
4. The street railway should carry pupils to and from school for half
5. There should be a lunch room in this school.
6. Fairy stories should not be told to children.
+Theme XLII.+--_Write a paragraph telling why you believe one of the
propositions in the preceding exercise:_
(What questions should you ask yourself while correcting your theme?)
+76. Order of Presentation.+--If you were preparing to debate one of the
propositions in the preceding exercise, you would need to have in mind
both the reasons for and against it. Next you would consider the order in
which these reasons should be discussed. This will be determined by the
circumstances of each debate, but generally the emphatic positions, that
is, the first and the last, will be given to those arguments that seem to
you to have the greatest weight, while those of less importance will
occupy the central portion of your theme.
+77. The Brief.+--If, after making a note of the various advantages,
examples, and other arguments that you wish to use in support of one of
the propositions in Section 75, you arrange these in the order in which
you think they can be most effectively presented, the outline so formed is
called a brief. Its preparation requires clear thinking, but when it is
made, the task of writing out the argument is not difficult. When the
debate is to be spoken, not read, the brief, if kept in mind, will serve
to suggest the arguments we wish to make in the order in which we wish to
present them. The brief differs from the ordinary outline in that it is
composed of complete sentences. Notice the following brief:--
Manual Training should be substituted for school athletics.
1. The exercise furnished by manual training is better adapted to the
developing of the whole being both physical and mental; for--
_a._ It requires the mind to act in order to determine what to do
and how to do it.
_b._ It trains the muscles to carry out the ideal of the mind.
2. The effect of manual training on health is better; for--
_a._ Excessive exercise, harmful to growing children, is avoided.
_b._ Dangerous contests are avoided.
3. The final results of manual training are more valuable; for--
_a._ The objects made are valuable.
_b._ The skill of hand and eye may become of great practical value
in after life.
4. The moral effect of manual training is better; for--
_a._ Athletics develops the "anything to win" spirit, while manual
training creates a wholesome desire to excel in the creation
of something useful or beautiful.
_b._ Dishonesty in games may escape notice, but dishonesty in
workmanship cannot be concealed.
_c._ Athletics fosters slovenliness of dress and manners, while
manual training cultivates the love of the beautiful.
5. The beneficial results of manual training have a wider effect upon the
_a._ But comparatively few pupils "make the team" and receive the
maximum athletic drill, while all pupils can take manual
+78. Refutation or Indirect Argument.+--In debate we need to consider not
only the arguments in favor of our own side, but also those presented by
our opponents. That part of our theme which states our own arguments is
called direct argument, and that part in which we reply to our opponents
is called indirect argument or refutation. It is often very important to
show that the opposing argument is false or, if true, has been given an
exaggerated importance that it does not really possess. If, however, the
argument is true and of weight, the fact should be frankly acknowledged.
Our desire for victory should not cause us to disregard the truth. If the
argument of our opponent has been so strong that it seems to have taken
possession of the audience, we must reply to it in the beginning. If it is
of less weight, each separate point may be discussed as we take up related
points in our own argument. Often it will be found best to give the
refutation a place just preceding our own last and strongest argument.
From the foregoing it will be seen that each case cannot be determined by
rule, but must be determined for itself, and it is because of the exercise
of judgment required, that practice in debating is so valuable. A dozen
boys or girls may, with much pleasure and profit, spend an evening a week
as a debating club.
+Theme XLIII.+--_Prepare a written argument for or against one of the
propositions in Section 75._
(Make a brief. Re-arrange the arguments that you intend to use until they
have what seems to you the best order. Consider the probable arguments on
the other side and what reply can be made. Answer one or two of the
strongest ones. If you have any trivial arguments for your own side,
either omit them or make their discussion very brief.)
+79. Cautions in Debating.+--When we have made a further study of argument
we shall need to consider again the subject of debating. In the meantime a
few cautions will be helpful.
1. Be fair. A debate is in the nature of a contest, and is quite as
interesting as any other contest. The desire to win should never lead you
to take any unfair advantage or to descend to mere quibbling over the
statement of the proposition or the meanings of the terms. Win fairly or
not at all.
2. Be honest with yourself. Do not present arguments which you know to be
false, in the hope that your opponent cannot prove their falsity. This
does not mean that you cannot present arguments in favor of a proposition
unless you believe it to be true, but that those you do present should be
real arguments for the side that you uphold, even though you believe that
there are weightier ones on the other side. Do not use an example that
seems to apply if you know that it does not. You are to "tell the truth
and nothing but the truth," but in debate you may tell only that part of
the "whole truth" which favors your side of the proposition.
3. Do not allow your desire for victory to overcome your desire for truth.
Do not argue for the sake of winning, nor develop the habit of arguing in
season and out. In the school and outside there are persons who, like Will
Carleton's Uncle Sammy, "were born for arguing." They use their own time
in an unprofitable way, and what is worse, they waste the time of others.
They are not seeking for truth, but for controversy. It is quite as bad to
doubt everything you hear as it is to believe everything.
4. Remember that mere statement is not argument. The fact that you believe
a proposition does not make it true. In order to carry weight, a statement
must be based on principles and theories that _the audience_ believes.
5. Remember that exhortation is not argument. Entreaty may persuade one to
action, but in debate you should aim to convince the intellect. Clear,
accurate thinking on your own part, so that you may present sound, logical
arguments, is the first essential.
+Theme XLIV.+--_Prepare a written argument for or against one of the
1. Boys who cannot go to college should take a commercial course in the
2. Novel reading is a waste of time.
3. Asphalt paving is more satisfactory than brick.
4. Foreign skilled labor should be kept out of the United States.
5. Our own town should be lighted by electricity.
6. Athletic contests between high schools should be prohibited.
(Consider your argument with reference to the cautions given in Section
1. The purpose of discourse may be to inform or to entertain.
2. The forms of discourse are--
_d._ Argument (Persuasion).
3. Discourse presupposes an audience, and we must select a subject and use
language adapted to that audience.
4. The suitableness of a subject is determined--
_a._ By the writer's knowledge of the subject.
(1) This may be based on experience, or
(2) It may be gained from others through conversation and
_b._ By the writer's interest in the subject.
(1) This may exist from the first, or
(2) It may be aroused by our search for information.
_c._ By adaptability of the subject to the reader. It should be of
present, vital interest to him.
_a._ The sources of subjects are unlimited.
_b._ Subjects should be definite. They often need to be narrowed in
order to be made definite.
_c._ The title should be brief and should be worded so as to arouse
a desire to hear the theme.
6. Exposition is explanation.
7. We may make clear the meaning of a term--
_a._ By using synonyms.
_b._ By using simpler words.
_c._ By supplementing our definitions with examples or comparisons.
8. General description includes the characteristics common to all members
of a class of objects.
9. General narration is one form of exposition. It relates the things that
characterize a process or action whenever it occurs.
_a._ Explanation is the first step in argument.
_b._ A statement of advantages and disadvantages may assist us to
determine which side of a question we believe.
_c._ Specific instances may be used either for explanation or
_a._ The subject of the debate may be stated in the form of a
resolution, a declarative sentence, or a question.
_b._ The most important arguments should be given the first and last
_c._ A brief will assist us in arranging our arguments in the most
_d._ The refutation of opposing arguments should usually be placed
just before our own last and strongest argument.
_e._ Cautions in debating.
(1) Be fair.
(2) Be honest with yourself.
(3) Do not allow your desire for victory to overcome your
desire for truth.
(4) Remember that mere statement is not argument.
(5) Remember that exhortation is not argument.
V. THE WHOLE COMPOSITION
+80. General Principles of Composition.+--There are three important
principles to be considered in every composition: unity, coherence, and
emphasis. Though not always named, each of these has been considered and
used in our writing of paragraphs. The consideration of methods of
securing unity, coherence, and emphasis in the composition as a whole is
the purpose of this chapter. It will serve also as a review and especially
as an enlarged view of paragraph development as treated in Chapter III,
for the methods discussed with regard to the whole composition are the
same that are used in applying the three principles to single paragraphs.
+81. Unity.+--A composition possesses unity if all that it contains bears
directly upon the subject. It is evident that the title of the theme
determines in a large degree the matter that should be included. Much that
is appropriate to a theme on "Bass Fishing" will be found unnecessary in a
theme entitled "How I caught a Bass." It is easier to secure unity in a
theme treating of a narrow, limited subject than in one treating of a
broad, general subject. The first step toward unity is, therefore, the
selection of a limited subject and a suitable title (see Sections 58-61);
the second is the collection of all facts, illustrations, and other
material which may appropriately be used in a theme having the chosen
+82. Coherence.+--A composition is given coherence by placing the ideas in
such an order that each naturally suggests the one which follows. If the
last paragraph is more closely related in thought to the first paragraph
than it is to the intervening ones, the composition lacks coherence.
Similarly, that paragraph is coherent in which the thought moves forward
in an orderly way with each sentence growing out of the preceding one.
In describing the capture of a large trout a boy might state that he broke
his pole. Then he might tell what kind of pole he had, why he did not have
a better one, what poles are best adapted to trout fishing, etc. Though
each of these ideas is suggested by the preceding, the story still lacks
coherence because the boy will need later to go back and tell us what
happened to him or to the trout when the pole broke. If a description of
the kind of pole is necessary in order to make the point of the story
clear, it should have been introduced earlier. Stopping at the moment of
vital interest to discuss fishing poles, spoils the effect of the story.
Good writers are very skillful in the early introducing of details that
will enable the reader to appreciate the events as they happen, and they
are equally skillful in omitting unnecessary details. The proper selection
of these details gives unity, and their introduction at the proper place
gives coherence to a narrative. By saying, "I am getting ahead of my
story," the narrator confesses that coherence is lacking. Read again the
selection on page 106.
+83. Emphasis.+--If we desire to make one part of a theme more emphatic
than another, we may do so by giving a prominent position to that part. In
debating we give the first place and the last to the strongest arguments.
In simple narration the order in which incidents must be related is fixed
by the time-order of their occurrence, but even in a story the point gains
in force if it is near the close. Because these two positions are the ones
of greatest emphasis, a poor beginning or a bad ending will ruin an
otherwise good story.
Emphasis may also be affected by the proportional amount of attention and
space given to the different parts of a theme. The extent to which any
division of a theme should be developed depends upon the purpose and the
total length of the theme. A biography of Grant might appropriately devote
two or three chapters to his boyhood, while a short sketch of his life
would treat his boyhood in a single paragraph. In determining the amount
of space to be given to the different parts of a composition, care must be
taken that the space assigned to each shall be proportional to its
importance, the largest amount of space being devoted to the part which is
of greatest worth.
Emphasis is sometimes given by making a single sentence into a paragraph.
This method should be used with care, for such a paragraph may be too
short for unity because it does not include all that should be said about
the topic statement, and though it makes that statement emphatic, fails to
make its meaning clear.
Clearness, unity, and coherence are of more importance
than emphasis, and usually, if a theme possesses the first
three qualities, it will possess the fourth in sufficient
+84. The Outline.+--An outline will assist us in securing unity,
coherence, and emphasis.
1. The first step in making an outline has relation to unity. Unity
requires that a theme include only that which pertains to the subject.
There are always many more ideas that seem to bear upon a subject than can
be included in the theme. We may therefore jot down brief notes that will
suggest our ideas on the subject, and then we should reject from this list
all that seem irrelevant or trivial. We should also reject the less
important ideas which pertain directly to the subject if without them we
have all that are needed in order to fulfill the purpose of the theme.
Which items in the following should be omitted as not necessary to the
complete treatment of the subject indicated by the title? Should anything
_My First Partridge_
Where I lived ten years ago.
Kinds of game: partridge, quail, squirrels.
My father went hunting often.
How he was injured.
Birch brush near hemlock; partridge often found in such localities.
Loading the gun.
Going to the woods.
Why partridge live near birch brush.
Hunting for partridge allowed from September to December.
Tramping through the woods.
How I felt; excited; hand shook.
Partridge on log.
Gun failed to go off; cocking it properly.
The shot; the recoil.
The flurry of the bird.
How partridges fly.
How they taste when cooked.
Getting the bird.
Partridges are found in the woods; quail in the fields.
What my sister said.
My brother's interest.
My father's story about shooting three partridges with one shot.
What mother did.
2. The second step in outline making has relation to coherence. After we
have rejected from our notes all items which would interfere with the
unity of our theme, we next arrange the remaining items in a coherent
order. One method of securing coherence is illustrated by a simple
narrative which follows the time-order. We naturally group together in our
memory those events which occurred at a given time, and in recalling a
series of events we pass in order from one such group to another. These
groups form natural paragraph units, and the placing of them in their
actual time-order gives coherence to the composition.
After rejecting the unnecessary items in the preceding list, re-arrange
the remaining ones in a coherent order. How many paragraphs would you make
and what would you include in each?
3. The third step in making an outline has relation to emphasis. In some
outlines emphasis is secured by placing the more important points first,
in others by placing them last. In this particular outline we have a
natural time-order to follow, and emphasis will be determined mainly by
the relative proportion to be given to different paragraphs. Do not give
unimportant paragraphs too much space. Be sure that the introduction and
the conclusion are short.
+Theme XLV.+--_Write a personal narrative at least three paragraphs in
1. How I was saved from drowning.
2. The largest string of fish I ever caught.
3. An incident of the skating season.
4. What I did on Christmas day.
5. A Saturday with my grandmother.
6. To the city and back.
(Make an outline. Keep in mind unity, coherence, and
emphasis. Consider each paragraph with reference to
unity, coherence, and emphasis.)
+85. Development of a Composition with Reference to the Time-Order.+--
Of the several methods of developing a composition let us consider first
that of giving details in the natural time-order. (See Section 46.) If a
composition composed of a series of paragraphs possesses coherence, each
paragraph is so related to the preceding ones that the thought goes
steadily forward from one to another. Often the connection in thought is
so evident that no special indication needs to be made, but if the
paragraphs are arranged with reference to a time-order, this time-order
is usually indicated.
Notice how the relation in time of each paragraph to the preceding is
shown by the following sentences of parts of sentences taken in order from
a magazine article entitled "Yachting at Kiel," by James B. Connolly:--
1. It was slow waiting in Travemunde. The long-enduring twilight of a
summer's day at fifty-four north began to settle down...
2. The dusk comes on, and on the ships of war they seem to be getting
3. The dusk deepens...
4. It is getting chilly in the night air, with the rations running low,
and the charterers of some of the fishing boats decide to go home...
5. It is eleven o'clock--dark night--and the breeze is freshening, when
the first of the fleet heaves in sight...
6. After that they arrive rapidly...
7. At midnight there is still no _Meteor_...
8. Through the entire night they keep coming...
9. Next morning...
+Theme XLVI.+--_Write a narrative, four or more paragraphs in length,
showing the time-order._
1. The race up the river.
2. The life of some well-known man.
3. The cake that fell.
4. Retell some incident that you have recently read.
5. Relate some personal experience.
6. A story suggested by the picture on page 160.
(Make an outline. Consider the unity, coherence, and emphasis of each
paragraph separately. Then consider the unity, coherence, and emphasis of
the whole composition. Notice what expressions you have used to indicate
the relations in time. Have you used the same expression too often?)
+86. Development of a Composition with Reference to Position in Space.+--
A second method of development is to relate details with reference to
their position in space.
Just as we may give either a paragraph or a whole theme coherence by
following a given time-order, so may we make a paragraph or a whole theme
coherent by arranging the parts in an order determined by their position
in space. In developing a theme by this method we simply apply to the
whole theme the principles discussed for the development of a paragraph
In a description composed of several paragraphs, each paragraph should
contain a group of details closely related to one another in space. The
paragraphs should be constructed so that each shall possess unity and
coherence within itself, and they should be so arranged that we may pass
most easily from the group of images presented by one paragraph to the
images presented by the next. In narration, the space arrangement may
supplement time-order in giving coherence.
If the most attractive features of an art room are its
wall decorations, five paragraphs describing the room may
be as follows:--
1. Point of view: general impression.
2. The north wall: general impression; details.
3. The east wall: general impression; details.
4. The south wall: general impression; details.
5. The west wall: general impression; details.
It is easy to imagine a room in the description of which the following
paragraphs would be appropriate:--
1. Point of view.
2. The fireplace.
3. The easy-chair.
4. The table.
5. The bookcase.
6. The cozy nook.
Such an arrangement of paragraphs would give coherence. Unity would be
secured by including in each only that which properly belonged to it.
There are many words and expressions which indicate the relative position
of objects. The paragraph below is an illustration of the method of
development described in Section 47. Notice the words which indicate the
location of the different details in the scene. If each of these details
should be developed into a paragraph the italicized expressions would
serve to introduce these paragraphs and would show the relative positions
of the objects described.
The beauty of the sea and shore was almost indescribable: _on one side_
rose Point Loma, grim, gloomy as a fortress wall; _before_ me stretched
away to the horizon the ocean with its miles of breakers curling into
foam; _between_ the surf and the city, wrapped in its dark blue mantle,
lay the sleeping bay; _eastward_ the mingled yellow, red, and white of San
Diego's buildings glistened in the sunlight like a bed of coleus; _beyond_
the city heaved the rolling plains rich in their garb of golden brown,
_from which_ rose the distant mountains, tier on tier, wearing the purple
veil which Nature here loves oftenest to weave for them; while _in the
foreground_, like a jewel in a brilliant setting, stood the Coronado.
+Theme XLVII.+--_Write a description three or more paragraphs in length._
1. Some well-known building (exterior).
2. A prominent person.
3. An attractive room.
4. The interior of a church.
(Consider your outline with reference to unity, coherence, and proportion
of parts. When the theme is completed, consider the unity, coherence, and
emphasis of each paragraph and of the composition as a whole.)
+87. Paragraph Relations.+--Relations in thought other than those of time
and space may be indicated by the use of certain words and phrases. Such
expressions as, _however, nevertheless, consequently, indeed, moreover, at
all events_, etc., are often used to indicate a relation in thought
between paragraphs. Notice how _nevertheless_, at the beginning of the
selection below, serves to connect it in thought with a preceding
paragraph not printed here. Notice also the relations in thought shown by
the italicized words. These and similar words are used to make the
transition from one paragraph to the next.
_Nevertheless_, Howe was at last in possession of Philadelphia, the object
of his campaign, and with his communications by water open. He had
consumed four months in this business since he left New York, three months
since he landed near the Elk River. His prize, now that he had got it, was
worth less than nothing in a military point of view, and he had been made
to pay a high price for it, not merely in men, but in precious time, for
while he was struggling sluggishly for Philadelphia, Burgoyne, who really
meant something very serious, had gone to wreck and sunk out of sight in
the northern forests. _Indeed_, Howe did not even hold his dearly bought
town in peace. After the fall of the forts, Greene, aided by Lafayette,
who had joined the army on its way to the Brandywine, made a sharp
dash and broke up an outlying party of Hessians. _Such things_ were
intolerable, they interfered with personal comfort, and they emanated from
the American army which Washington had now established in strong lines at
Whitemarsh. _So_ Howe announced that in order to have a quiet winter, he
would drive Washington beyond the mountains. Howe did not often display
military intelligence, but that he was profoundly right in this particular
intention must be admitted. In pursuit of his plan, _therefore_, he
marched out of Philadelphia on December 4th, drove off some Pennsylvania
militia on the 5th, considered the American position for four days, did
not dare to attack, could not draw his opponent out, returned to the city,
and left Washington to go into winter quarters at Valley Forge, whence he
could easily strike if any move was made by the British army.
--Henry Cabot Lodge.
+88. The Transition Paragraph.+--Just as a word or phrase may serve to
denote the relation in thought between paragraphs, so may a whole
paragraph be used to carry over the thought from one group of paragraphs
to another in the same theme. Such a paragraph makes a transition from one
general topic or method of treating the subject of the theme to some other
general topic or to the consideration of the subject from a different
point of view. This transitional paragraph may summarize the thought of
the preceding paragraph in addition to announcing a change of topic; or it
may mark the transition to the new topic and set it forth in general
+89. The Summarizing Paragraph.+--Frequently we give emphasis to our
thought by a final paragraph summarizing the main points of the theme.
Such a summary is in effect a restatement of the topic sentences of our
paragraphs. If our theme has been coherent, these sentences stated in
order will need but little changing to make a coherent paragraph. In a
similar way, it is of advantage to close a long paragraph with a sentence
which repeats the topic statement or summarizes the thought of the
paragraph. See the last sentence in Section 57.
+90. Development of a Composition by Comparison or Contrast.+--The third
method of development is that of comparison or contrast. Nearly every idea
which we have suggests one that is similar to it or in contrast with it.
We are thus led to make comparisons or to state contrasts. When these are
few and brief, they may make a single paragraph (Section 48). If our
comparisons or contrasts are extended, they may make several paragraphs,
and thus a whole theme may be developed by this method.
In such a theme no fixed order of presentation is determined by the actual
occurrence in time or space of that which we present. Consequently, in
outlining a theme of this kind, we must devote special attention to
arranging our paragraphs in an order that shall give coherence and
+Theme XLVIII.+--_Write a theme of three or more paragraphs developed by
1. Compare men with verbs (active, passive, transitive, intransitive,
defective, redundant, auxiliary, copulative, etc.).
2. Show that the body resembles a machine.
3. In what way is the school like a factory?
4. How do two books that you have read differ?
5. Compare Lincoln and McKinley. How alike? How different?
6. How can you tell an oak tree from an elm tree?
7. Without naming them, compare two of your friends with each other.
8. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of public high schools
with those of private academies.
+91. Development of a Composition by Use of Generalization and Facts.+--
Using the fourth method of development, we may give an entire composition
to the explanation of the meaning of a general proposition or to the
demonstration of the truth of such a proposition. To accomplish this
purpose we state facts or instances that illustrate the meaning of the
proposition or that show it to be true. In such a composition each
important fact or instance may be given a separate paragraph, while
several minor facts or illustrations may be properly combined in the same
paragraph. (See Section 44.) Greater emphasis may also be given the more
important facts by assigning them to the emphatic positions.
Notice how by specific instances the following selection illustrates the
truth of the generalization set forth in the second sentence and restated
in the last sentence.
DEGENERATION THROUGH QUIESCENCE
While parasitism is the principal cause of degeneration among animals, yet
it is not the sole cause. It is evident that if for any other reason
animals should become fixed, and live inactive lives, they would
degenerate. There are not a few instances of degeneration due simply to a
quiescent life, unaccompanied by parasitism.
The Tunicata, or sea squirts, are animals which have become simple through
degeneration, due to the adoption of a sedentary life, the withdrawal from
the crowd of animals and from the struggle which it necessitates. The
young tunicate is a free-swimming, active, tadpolelike, or fishlike
creature, which possesses organs very like those of the adult of the
simplest fishes or fishlike forms. That is, the sea squirt begins life as
a primitively simple vertebrate. It possesses in its larval stage a
notochord, the delicate structure which precedes the formation of a
backbone, extending along the upper part of the body below the spinal
cord. The other organs of the young tunicate are all of vertebral type.
But the young sea squirt passes a period of active and free life as a
little fish, after which it settles down and attaches itself to a shell or
wooden pier by means of suckers, and remains for the rest of its life
fixed. Instead of going on and developing into a fishlike creature, it
loses its notochord, its special sense organs, and other organs; it loses
its complexity and high organization, and becomes a "mere rooted bag with
a double neck," a thoroughly degenerate animal.
A barnacle is another example of degeneration through quiescence. The
barnacles are crustaceans related most nearly to the crabs and shrimps.
The young barnacle just from the egg is a six-legged, free-swimming
nauplius, very like a young prawn or crab, with a single eye. In its next
larval stage it has six pairs of swimming feet, two compound eyes, and two
antennae or feelers, and still lives an independent free-swimming life.
When it makes its final change to the adult condition, it attaches itself
to some stone, or shell, or pile, or ship's bottom, loses its compound
eyes and feelers, develops a protecting shell, and gives up all power of
locomotion. Its swimming feet become changed into grasping organs, and it
loses most of its outward resemblance to the other members of its class.
Certain insects live sedentary or fixed lives. All the members of the
family of scale insects (Coccidae), in one sex at least, show degeneration
that has been caused by quiescence. One of these coccids, called the red
orange scale, is very abundant in Florida and California and in other
fruit-growing regions. The male is a beautiful, tiny, two-winged midge,
but the female is a wingless, footless, little sack, without eyes or other
organs of special sense, which lies motionless under a flat, thin,
circular, reddish scale composed of wax and two or three cast skins of the
insect itself. The insect has a long, slender, flexible, sucking beak,
which is thrust into the leaf or stem or fruit of the orange on which the
"scale bug" lives, and through which the insect sucks the orange sap,
which is its only food. It lays eggs under its body, and thus also under
the protecting wax scale, and dies. From the eggs hatch active little
larval "scale bugs," with eyes and feelers, and six legs. They crawl from
under the wax scale and roam about over the orange tree. Finally, they
settle down, thrusting their sucking beak into the plant tissue, and cast
their skin. The females lose at this molt their legs and eyes and feelers.
Each becomes a mere motionless sack capable only of sucking up sap and
laying eggs. The young males, however, lose their sucking beak and can no
longer take food, but they gain a pair of wings and an additional pair of
eyes. They fly about and fertilize the sacklike females, which then molt
again and secrete the thin wax scale over them.
Throughout the animal kingdom loss of the need of movement is followed by
the loss of the power to move and of all structures related
--Jordon and Kellogg: _Animal Life_.
Has the principle of unity been observed in the above selection; that is,
of the many things that might be told about a sea squirt, a barnacle, or a
scale bug, have the authors selected only those which serve to illustrate
degeneration through quiescence?
Instead of one generalization supported by a series of facts to
each of which a paragraph is given, we may have several subordinate
generalizations relating to the subject of the theme. Each of these
subordinate generalizations may become the topic statement of a paragraph
which is further developed by giving specific instances or by some other
method of paragraph development. Such an order, that is, generalization
followed by the facts which illustrate it, is coherent; but care must be
taken to give each fact under the generalization to which it is most
closely related. On the other hand, our theme may be made coherent by
giving the facts first, and then the generalization that they establish.
+Theme XLIX.+--_Write a theme of three or more paragraphs illustrating or
proving some general statement by means of facts or specific instances._
1. Young persons should not drink coffee.
2. Reasons for the curfew bell.
3. Girls wear their hair in a variety of ways.
4. There are several kinds of boys in this school.
5. Civilization increases as the facilities for transportation
6. Trolley roads are of great benefit to the country.
7. Presence of mind often averts danger.
+92. Development of a Composition by Stating Cause and Effect.+--The
statement of the causes of an event or condition may be used as a fifth
method of development. The principle, however, is not different from that
applied to the development of a paragraph by stating cause and effect
(Section 49). If several causes contribute to the same effect, each may be
given a separate paragraph, or several minor ones may be combined in one
paragraph. For the sake of unity we must include each fact, principle, or
statement in the paragraph to which it really belongs. The coherent order
is usually that which proceeds from causes to effects rather than that
which traces events backward from effects to causes.
+Theme L.+--_Write a theme of three or more paragraphs, stating causes and
1. Why hospitals are necessary.
2. Why cigarette smoking is dangerous.
3. Why girls should take music lessons.
4. The effect of climate upon health.
5. The effect of rainfall upon the productivity and industries of a
6. The effect of mountains, lakes, or rivers upon exploration and
7. What connection is there between occupation and height above the
sea level, and why?
8. Why our city is located where it is.
9. Why I came late to school.
+93. Combination of Methods of Development.+--Frequently the presentation
of our thought is made most effective by using some combination of the
methods of development discussed in this chapter. Time and place are often
interwoven, comparisons and contrasts flash into mind, general statements
need specific illustration, or results demand immediate explanation--all
in the same theme. Sometimes the order of coherence will be in doubt, for
cause and effect demand a different order of statement from that which
would be given were we to follow either time-order or position in space.
In such cases we must choose whether it is most important to tell first
_why_ or _when_ or _where_. The only rule that can be suggested is to do
that which will make our meaning most clear, because it is for the sake of
the clear presentation of our thought that we seek unity, coherence, and
+Theme LI.+--_Write a theme of several paragraphs. Use any method of
development or any combination of methods._
(Choose your own subject. After the theme is written make a list of all
the questions you should ask yourself about it. Correct the theme with
reference to each point in your list of questions.)
1. General principles of composition.
(1) By position.
(2) By proportion of parts.
2. An outline assists in securing unity, coherence, and emphasis.
3. Methods of composition development: A composition may be developed--
_a._ With reference to time-order.
_b._ With reference to position in space.
_c._ By use of comparison and contrast.
_d._ By stating generalization and facts.
_e._ By stating cause and effect.
_f._ By any suitable combination of the above methods.