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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

1. Can the General Principles of Composition be taught from the beginning?

1. Can the General Principles of Composition be taught from the beginning?

But can the advanced, and more or less abstruse, principles of Composition, which are generally taught only to our highest classes, be taught at the early age we advocate? They can. Custom and traditionary method have pronounced differently, but these must stand aside when better things are to be done. Under the first stage, just review the number of such principles we introduced and exercised on—the duality of sentences; the making the idea of the sentence clearer by qualifying cither or both of these parts; the fact that each page 33 sentence begins with a capital and ends with a period; the necessity for varying sentences in their length, in their beginning, and in their construction to make a good exercise; and, in some degree, the discrimination of synonyms, and the necessity of using specific words to express an idea strongly.

The principles of Composition are, as a whole, quite within the capacity of common children, and only seem beyond them from the sesquipedalian names in which they are clothed.

For instance, in Composition we must avoid Ambiguity of expression. What is this but that we must not use a word with a double meaning, which any child can understand? We must avoid Circumlocution. What is this but saying what we have got to say, in as few words as possible? We must avoid Redundancy. What is this but taking care not to say the same thing twice over in different words? And so of every one of the technicalities of our books on Composition. The ideas can be easily given from the first and at an early stage; the names can follow when convenient.

It is only the bare truth to say, that the principles of Composition are simpler and more easily understood by children than those of Grammar, and can be taught and exercised on much earlier, with ease and pleasure to the child, and gratifying results to the teacher.