Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

III.—The General Principles of Composition Should be Systematically Taught

III.—The General Principles of Composition Should be Systematically Taught.

But over and above this practice in composition of the grammatical forms and idioms of our language, Composition thoroughly taught aims at and achieves more.

It investigates, teaches, and exercises on the whole subject of the structure of sentences. It reduces to practice the principles embodied under the name of analysis and synthesis of page 21 sentences. It exercises in paraphrasing. It instructs in the writing paragraphs and themes and essays. A boy should leave school with a thorough knowledge of what is necessary to correct and classical English writing and good style. He should know the principles that determine the choice of words to express an idea with correctness and power; those that regulate the structure of sentences and paragraphs; and those that guide in discovering, selecting, and arranging his subject-matter. For example, he ought fully to know regarding words that they should be—
1.Correct in spelling.
2.Correct in meaning and application, with careful discrimination of pseudo-synonymous words.
3.Simple, to the avoidance of unusual, provincial, professional, or obsolete words.
4.Specific, without ambiguity, with as great a use as possible of the Saxon element of the language.
5.Classical, as avoiding vulgarisms and foreign words.
6.Adapted to style and aim, whether plain, conversational, ornamental, pathetic, or sublime.
Regarding sentences, he ought to know, for example, that they should be—
1.Grammatically correct.
2.Clear without ambiguity in expression or collocation.
3.One in thought and structure; one clear thought with its necessary adjuncts.
4.Concise and precise, without circumlocution and redundancy.
5.Energetic, with the use of figure and illustration.
6.Idiomatic, peculiarly English in words and structure.
7.Varied in length, structure, and kind.
8.Harmonious, a harmony adapted to the thought.

And so on, more or less fully, according to age, capacity, and time. So, also, of the subject-matter, not the least important.

Such principles should be gradually, but simply, taught more or less from the very beginning. In our upper classes, they should be taught systematically, and every point fully page 22 exercised on, the aim of course being that a child shall not only know them, but as far as possible be able with ease and pleasure, and some degree of power, to put them to practice. In our upper classes, the pupils should be able to tell what things are to be attended to in the choice of words and the structure of sentences, and have these so clearly before them as to be able to enumerate them at any time, and construct examples in accordance.

The most of this work to be done by an upper class is most inviting, interesting, and instructive, and may be made a splendid instrument for the critical discrimination of the meanings, character, vigour, and uses of words; the varied and most appropriate means of expressing ideas; the cultivation of taste, judgment, harmony, and intelligence; and for the critical examination of the styles of our best authors,—thus imparting the capacity of deriving a new and exquisite pleasure from the use of language, equivalent to the possession of a new faculty. Its educating power is of the highest.