W. T. (William Tenney) Brewster.

English composition and style; a handbook for college students online

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keep their decision from me very long, for they dropped many
and loud hints to all of us. Now, Uiat they had bought the
presents, their little heads were much bothered as to the wisdom
of their choice. Suppose I didn't want a handkerchief or a
match-holder 1 And so one afternoon when the children were
whispering together in the comer, I loudly informed my mother
that I wished some one would buy me a handkerchief, — preferably
one with lace around the edge. A sudden silence told me that
the children were listening and I switched to the apparently
irrelevant subject of the advantages of a match-holder to keep the
matches from falling on the floor. The children hugged each
other joyfully and scolded each other for making a noise. Eliza-
beth wiiiked significantly, painfully (she screwed up her face very
queerly) and obviously at mama — which performance so pleased
Mary and James that they repeated it, even more painfully and

Had the order of these foregoing passages been reversed, the
illustration of the good that comes of revision would have been
excellent As a matter of fact, the writer did very well at first,
but, being asked to revise, proceeded to revise all the good out
of the story. The original showed excellent paragraph sense :
the writer puts the point clearly, s)mipathetically and sugges-
tively, and the result is charming. The revision is a good,
orderly, narrative paragraph, pleasant but not fetching ; all that
one can say of it is that the paragraph is properly made accord-
ing to narrative rule; the individual vigor or charm that
properly belong to good paragraphs is wanting.


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Paragraph Sense and Style 159


1. In the paragraphs quoted in this chapter, indicate specific
lines of development that would rid the work of vagueness. Re-
write such paragraphs as may be necessary, trying in all cases
to make the style more vigorous. That is to say, reword an idea
to make it clearer or more interesting or rephrase a sentence or
vary the succession of sentences, and bring out important ideas.

2. Test the following generalization with regard to paragraphs,
by appeal to standard writers and by reference to paragraphs in
your own daily reading and writing.

A paragraph, whether ** related" or "isolated," to be a good
paragraph has to be dependent on some body of accompanying
paragraphs, or should be on some current and interesting matter of
common information or immediate interest. No large, vague para-
graph on a general subject can possibly be a good paragraph,
whether standing alone or in connection with others. Single para-
graphs on general subjects, such as modem politics, self-culture,
God, etc., cannot possibly be interesting; for they will be inevitably
vague and platitudinous.

3* Comment in detail on the following paragraphs, indicating
shortcomings, possibilities of improvement, other ways of develop-
ment, other interesting facts, and, when necessary, rewriting them.

I. I had been waiting some time in the drug-store for my
prescription. It was just about supper-time and the store was
apparently empty, so it was with a start of surprise that I heard
a man's voice directly behind me.

"You and I by the sea shore, dear,'' he was saying, "and in
the twilight by the gate."

I turned quickly to meet the vacant stare of a young man
seated in the telephone booth. His far-away expression assured
me that I was not the object of his devotion, and I listened with
considerable interest for his next words.

"Your eyes are violet blue. Can you understand? Leave me
and I'll die."

By this time the clerk had returned and with mouth gaping
was hovering near the booth in order not to miss a word. All
unawares the young man went on:

** Leave me and I H die, sweetheart
This world's no fun alone;


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If you and I have strayed apart
Then life from me has flown.

That's the first verse. Have you got it all right? Yes, roses.
Send 'em up by messenger, please."

Then as he hung up the receiver, he sighed and murmured,
" That ought to fetch her."

No doubt it did.

3. It is surprising how many persons allow themselves to be
influenced by common superstition. There are men who always
wear a rabbit's foot on their watch-chain or carry a lucky piece
in their pocket; those who put a horseshoe over the door or
who are always in fear of the unlucky thirteen or the misfortunes
of Friday. Many more might be mentioned, each having appar-
ently slight connection with a man's life yet playing a large part
in his affairs. Why it is, is a problem but it is quite certain that
nearly all of us have a certain dread of the unlucky.

3. I often sit at my window and watch the people going in
and coming out, and, even in their own apartments, for one can
see inside the house very plainly. It is most interesting at night
when the gas is lit In one apartment the maid is hurrying
around preparing dinner; in another the family are dining; and
in still others they are playing cards or reading or talking. As
I sit and watch these people I often wonder what they are talk-
ing about and I wish that for a while I could look into their
lives and hearts and see what joys and sorrows, what hopes and
despair are written there.

4. There has been a great deal of comment, naturally, about
the Democratic victory this election. Some explain it by the
fact that people were dissatisfied and wanted change of any sort.
There seems to me to be a much more plausible reason. They
were afraid that Roosevelt was aiming for a third term. Now
I do not know and neither do most people, whether Roosevelt
wants a third term or not, but the very idea of such a thing is
enough to scare some people to death.

When Grant came back from his tour of the world, his progress
from San Francisco to New York was a triumph. But the Re-
publicans were too powerful Some one raised the ** Third Term
Bugaboo" and they were defeated as this year.

5. Living in a ten-story apartment house is like possessing a
mirror like that of the Lady of Shalot, for one sees all the inter-
esting things that happen on the roof-tops. There is the woman
who swings her hammock between the clothes poles and reads
yellow-backed novels all the afternoon. Then there is the portly


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Paragraph Sense and Style 161

old gentleman in the brown derby hat who does gym exercises
on his roof. He never takes off his hat and as a result when he
tries to touch the floor without bending his knees, the hat in-
variably falls off and gets dented There is also the small boy
who drops stones on the heads of the passers by. Another one
of his amusements is sailing paper fliers. A romantic touch is
added occasionally when the red-headed young man with the
banjo sings to the girl who lives in the next house. She leans
out from the third-story window and cheers him on, but it seems
to us that in order to do the thing properly, he should look up
at her window, instead of down upon her head.

6. What a wonderful influence custom, conventionality and
fashion have over our lives. How powerful is their sway over
mankind and how absolute is their rule over womankind!

Since it pleased our savage ancestors to adorn their bodies with
bits of bright stone and gay-colored feathers, men and women
to-day strive and struggle that they may bedeck themselves with
glittering diamonds and the long graceful ostrich feather.

Because some vain woman long ago thought to enhance her
beauty by arranging her hair high on her head over cushions, the
present-day women must spend long hours torturing their heads
with rats and puffs and braids.

Conventionality demands that gentlemen wear their coats, so
the poor men swelter and sweat through hot summer days.

Fashion decrees that women must be slender and behold a
generation of sylphs arise.

" Vanity of vanity, all is vanity saith the preacher."

7. At Kansas University there is always a very enthusiastic
football rally the day before an important game. The time be-
tween eleven o'clock and noon is given up to the students, and
first every one assembles in the chapel. There amid yells and
jeers speeches are made by several members of the faculty who
take an interest in football and then follow speeches by the
coaches and members of the team. The cheer leader practises
yells and then the meeting adjourns to the campus where there
is a parade headed by the University Band playing "The Crim-
son and the Blue." This stirs up a great deal of enthusiasm and
people say that one reason for Kansas success in football is
because the team is so loyally supported by the students and

8. There is one thing which every Barnard girl ought to do
and that is to patronize her advertisers. The other day I was
seeking advertisements among men who had been previously rep-
resented in our publications. The man very politely but very


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i62 English Composition and Style

firmly refused to advertise agai.. because he had got no returns
from his last effort. Now this man was not a cannon manu-
facturer but the owner of a high-class book and stationery store.
He explained that his first "ad" had been as a favor to one
of his customers, a Barnard student, but he, as a private dealer,
could not afford to waste money on "ads" bringing no return —
for a large company it would not matter so much. These adver-
tisers are not sheep to be sheared as close as possible but men
who expect a benefit from the bargain as well as ourselves. We
say, " Remember you represent Barnard on all occasions." If so,
what must business men think of Barnard women-college students
as a whole if they do not recognize that there are certain busi-
ness obligations as well as social. One would never omit the
" Thank you " for a present or to repay visits and favors outside
of business. Why do we seem to keep our consideration for
others confined to social affairs? We should make the men
anxious to advertise in our publications. It would require very
httle extra trouble to go to an advertiser instead of the other
man and let him know you saw his "ad" if possible. Besides,
it would help the poor " ad "-hunters immensely.

9. I believe that proper expression in oral reading will nat-
urally come when we have truly grasped the intention of the
author we are reading. It all goes back to the old principle that
for every impression there is somewhere one and only one ade-
quate expression. When the writer finds this and we grasp it,
it will naturally follow that we will be able to share our knowl-
edge with others. For after all there is little use in saying a
thing till we have something to say. And in this case we have a
find and of course want others to admire it, too. Then it is that
we can lose ourselves in the characters of the book we are read-
ing and so far forget ourselves that for the time being we
become many people. Dramatic reading, to my mind, means
simply a true understanding of what our author had in mind
when he created his book, combined with a very human desire
to share our joy with others.

ID. Multitudes of people each summer make pilgrimages to
Maine in order to catch or try to catch some of the trout there
found. I use the word try advisedly because in the first place
there are not so very many trout to catch, in the second place
unless one is somewhat skilful as a fisherman a trout when
found is not easy to catch, and in the third place one is in con-
stant need of a legal adviser in order to Imow just how, and
when one dares to fish for trout I know of one trout brook
where one can fish only on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and


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Paragraph Sense and Style 163

where one dares not catch more than twenty-five fish of a specified
size. Other brooks have other regulations and fishing there be-
comes complicated. One comes to realize how very hard the
legislators must work during the winter in order to make suffi-
cient laws for summer.

11. As a matter of fact, I do not value my lunch more highly
than twenty minutes spent in listening to an address provided
that the address can boast of a point But I do begrudge the
time spent in Chapel hearing some of the speakers we have had.
Of course, ten or fifteen minutes is an exceedingly short time in
which to develop an idea and bring out a main thought, but if
any consideration at all has been put upon their remarks, I see
no excuse for the rambling, disconnected discourse of many of
the speakers. Some few waste time in the beginning by stating
that they don't know what to say in such a few moments, and
effectively look at their watches. Most of them hesitate, drift,
and act like a pupil who, when called upon to recite, says, " I 'm
sorry, but I'm not prepared." We are talked to as if we were
kindergarten children who must be gently played with. The
speaker tosses about the light snow of his thoughts and says,
" See the pretty flakes ! " instead of rolling it into a little com-
pact ball and hurling it at us so that we are hit, and hit hard.
He may think that it is of greater advantage to us and less exer-
tion to him that, after he provides the snow, we should pack it
into balls for ourselves. Perhaps so, but that is what we are try-
ing to learn to do every day in College, and in Chapel we like
to have the balls ready-made and forceful so that we may see one
coming, and having caught it, use it as a nucleus about which
to pack our own flakes of thought.

12. A new form of argumentation was recently enacted before
our Board of Aldermen by the Society for the Suppression of
Unnecessary Noise. This was done by the use of the phonograph
in a new role and spoke much more strongly than mere vocal
eloquence. When the appointed time came for the Society's hear-
ing, instead of presenting its case along the lines of a Brief, one
of the members produced a good-sized phonograph, and slipped
in several records depicting various unnecessary phases of city
bedlam. One such reproduction strikingly and unassumingly gave
the rhythmical but raucous solo of a single ragman, whose harsh
cries blend displeasingly with the clang of his big bell. Another
record gives a duet between a newsboy and a twelve-o'clock
whistle, with a rasping elevated train drowning them out in the
chorus. So is custom changed and complicated by invention.
And there is now no reason why the innovation cannot be car-


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164 English Composition and Style

ried into the courtroom; it could be well utilized to give wit-
nesses' evidence if they themselves are dead, or desire to take
a trip at the time of the trial. We can also easily imagine the
flaring mouth of the phonograph directed toward the jury-box
giving in weak, but unmistakable tones the dying statement of a
man whose last will and wishes are being contested.

13. I remember distinctly the day when I first foimd " Treasure
Island/' long ago on a rainy March afternoon. After a quarrel
with the boys, I had wandered into the library and was standing
disconsolately before a bookshelf, when I noticed a picture on the
back of a gaudily bound book. Not disturbed by the fact that
the book was an expensive holiday edition, I took it down and
studied the illustrations, which proved to be fascinating pictures
of sailors and ships and parrots. Then I started to read it, since
I had nothing else to do. Some of the words were long and
others were new, but in ten minutes I was more excited than I
had ever been in the pathetic history of " Elsie " or " Bessie." I
read until the light faded and Melissa came to call me to supper.
After that I haunted the library until I had finished the book.
Then I tried the next volume on the shelf, which was Long-
fellow's poems, and which did not especially appeal to me. Next
I read " The Light that Failed," which although I did not under-
stand very well, I liked immensely. I remember being deeply
affected at the point where Masie left Dick when he was blind,
and being found in tears by the boys, who laughed at me. My
resentment caused a scrap and afterward punishment, but that
damper was not enough to stop my reading. That was the begin-
ning of a different life, which to my surprise the boys did not
like, and which was to be found only in the pages of father's
books. Some of them were more exciting than others, but almost
all of them were interesting, chiefly because they were different
from the books usually given to little girls.

14. She sits in the self-same chair in the self-same comer
window from breakfast to dinner year in and year out Is she an
invalid? No. Is she a cripple? No. Is she a writer of daily
themes? No. She is merely a gray-headed grandmother gossip.
She knows what time I leave for college in the morning. She
knows what time I return at night She knows just how many
pairs of gloves I have and how many pins in the braid of my
skirt She knows every time I have a new hat-pin, a new jabot,
or a new hole in the heel of my stocking. She knows accurately
how many knots I have in my shoe-laces (a problem which I
have sometimes been unable to solve myself), and precisely how
long I may be counted upon to continue with a button off my


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Paragraph Sense and Style 165

coat She knows just how many of my skirts sag and where, and
can prophesy the exact date upon which my suits will need to
go to the cleaners. As yet she has been unable to compel me,
however, by any process of mental suggestion, to send my suits
or black my shoes at the proper moment. I suppose she can tell,
in some mysterious way, every time I have on a fresh shirt-waist,
even under cover of my coat Possibly, an increased hauteur
of carriage betrays the momentous event. She can tell from my
complexion the hour at which I retired the previous night (al-
though once I fooled her by taking a nap in the afternoon and
stasring up late for a dance at night), and from the comer of
my mouth, just what I had for my hurried breakfast She could
tell you how many of my friends have automobiles, how lately
each kind has been to see me, and even the day upon which I
have received my allowance, if not the definite amount This
latter information she no doubt deduces from the unwonted cor-
pulence of my purse. Basing her calculations upon the precise
number of suits, hats, and umbrellas I possess, she could doubtless
give you an accurate estimate of my father's income. Is she pop-
ular, do you ask? Yes, with her own family. At least, I hope so.

15. There are many pathetic parts in "What Every Woman
Knows" and none more so than where Maggie decides to leave
her husband and go away to her old friend the countess. She
was just at the telephone and I was settling down to some
pleasant sniffling. The man in front of me, I had noticed, did not
seem particularly comfortable. He had been wriggling in his
seat all the evening. Just at this crucial moment he leaned back
rather forcibly, then jumped and cried, "Take them away!
They're sticking into me all the time!" Overcome by swiftly
choked tears and sudden laughter I leaned forward and discov-
ered that the long pins of my hat, which I had carefully fastened
to the back of the seat in front of me, had passed through and
were going into the man's shoulder whenever he leaned backwards.

16. The telegraph instrument ticked incessantly, relentlessly.
Plainly, some one was trying to get the station. The fussy little
old lady on the corner bench fussed more and more every minute.
When would that station-master ever come back from his lunch?
Presently a man in railroad uniform emerged from the ram-
shackle hotel across the road and lounged lazily into the station.
The little old lady pounced upon him, and bombarded him with
questions. Why didn't he attend to that wire? Did he think
it was ansrthing serious? Maybe the train carr3ring her grand-
daughter had gone off the tracks. Would he please stop that
irritating ticking? The man managed to free himself, busied him-


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i66 English Composition and Style

self for a few minutes with the telegrs^h apparatus, and came
back laughing. "Don't worry, madam/' he said in an easy tone.
"Nothing serious. Only Bill Herrick's old marc just lay down
on the track this side of Ramshom Bend, and they can't get
her up."

17. She is not pretty or, at first glance, especially attractive;
but is one of those whose personality grows upon one. She has
a strong rather heavy frame, and is of the brunette cast, with
coal-black hair, and dark complexion, through which, however,
the red blood of health shows. Her hands are firm and brown,
practical, and tending to the artistic. There is about her face
a look of strength and solidity. The brown eyes are clear and
steady, and speak of independent thought, which the large strong
mouUi would carry out Withal she is pleasant to look upon, and
would from her appearance be chosen out of any crowd of girls
as a leader.

i8w One of my friends who is quite stout is very sensitive
about her weight She will never get weighed if she can help
it, especially if there is any one around to hear. A few of us
girls had often wondered how much she weighed, but we could
never get her to tell us. Finally, one day we concocted a scheme
by which we were determined to find out how much she weighed.
We were going on a picnic to one of those places of amusements
where there are various devices for weighing people. We were
walking along past some side-shows when we espied a penny
weighing-machine at one side. We halted, and pretending to try
to get a glimpse of a person in the crowd, one of the conspirators
got upon the weighing-machine. Our unsuspecting victim, who
was rather short, complained that she couldn't see. Immediately,
willing hands helped her up on the machine, and while she was
looking over the crowd, one of the girls dropped a penny into the
slot The hands turned to nearly two hundred pounds. We gave
a shout; and our friend, turning, saw with dismay what had hap-
pened. "O, girls, how could you!" she cried. **I didn't know
this was a weighing-machine."

19. I always feel sorry for a girl who knows nothing of good
times. There is a certain girl, whom I know, who has spent her
life thus far studying and she knows only what is in books.
Every girl should have a college education but there should be
both study and play in it This girl looks with scorn upon all
kinds of fun. She knows nothing of the city in which she lives
and, instead of seeing it, spends her time with Mathematics and
Science. She cares a great deal for those things and not at aU
for feminine pleasures such as Shopping, Theaters and Parties.


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Paragraph Sense and Style 167

In fact, she pays so little attention to such things that she knows
very little about them and has practically missed out on many
of the pleasures of girlhood.

2a There is a legend of an old man who after a long and
somewhat sorrowful life died and went to the Pearly Gates where
he begged St Peter to admit him. Thereupon the good saint
asked him what he had brought with him and what his claims
for admittance were. To this the old man replied that he had
brought the memory of past years of toil and pain and prayers
and tears and begged once more to be allowed to enter the Gates
and partake of the joy and happiness of which he had been for
so long a time deprived, but St Peter said that there was no
happiness in Heaven except that which men brought with them
and that he must go back to the earth and do the same tasks
over again putting joy and happiness into, and thus getting joy
and happmess out of them, and having done this he might return
and they would then discuss the question of admittance.

21. '* Chicago," we see in this morning's Times, is now being
studied in the schools of that city. The course takes the place of
Algebra. Why may we not have "New York" as a study in
our schools? Not that we may escape the Algebra, but in order
to impress upon our little citizens what their city really means;
what it has stood for in the Past, and what it is striving to
accomplish in the Future.

The Chicago plan I think a very good one. Further, I agree
with the editorial writer in saying, that unless a student expects
to be an engineer or a mathematician, he will have no practical
or immediate use for his Algebra after he has finished his school-
ing. Of course, it develops his brain. But the study of his
native city — its history, growth, industries, etc, — will accomplish

Online LibraryW. T. (William Tenney) BrewsterEnglish composition and style; a handbook for college students → online text (page 15 of 43)