How to Speak and Write Correctly
by Joseph Devlin
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CHAPTER I REQUIREMENTS OF SPEECH Vocabulary. Parts of speech. Requisites.

CHAPTER II ESSENTIALS OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR Divisions of grammar. Definitions. Etymology.

CHAPTER III THE SENTENCE Different kinds. Arrangement of words. Paragraph.

CHAPTER IV FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE Figures of speech. Definitions and examples. Use of figures.

CHAPTER V PUNCTUATION Principal points. Illustrations. Capital letters.

CHAPTER VI LETTER WRITING Principles of letter writing. Forms. Notes.

CHAPTER VII ERRORS Mistakes. Slips of authors. Examples and corrections. Errors of redundancy.

CHAPTER VIII PITFALLS TO AVOID Common stumbling blocks. Peculiar constructions. Misused forms.

CHAPTER IX STYLE Diction. Purity. Propriety. Precision.

CHAPTER X SUGGESTIONS How to write. What to write. Correct speaking and speakers.

CHAPTER XI SLANG Origin. American slang. Foreign slang.

CHAPTER XII WRITING FOR NEWSPAPERS Qualification. Appropriate subjects. Directions.

CHAPTER XIII CHOICE OF WORDS Small words. Their importance. The Anglo-Saxon element.

CHAPTER XIV ENGLISH LANGUAGE Beginning. Different Sources. The present.

CHAPTER XV MASTERS AND MASTERPIECES OF LITERATURE Great authors. Classification. The world's best books.


In the preparation of this little work the writer has kept one end in view, viz.: To make it serviceable for those for whom it is intended, that is, for those who have neither the time nor the opportunity, the learning nor the inclination, to peruse elaborate and abstruse treatises on Rhetoric, Grammar, and Composition. To them such works are as gold enclosed in chests of steel and locked beyond power of opening. This book has no pretension about it whatever,—it is neither a Manual of Rhetoric, expatiating on the dogmas of style, nor a Grammar full of arbitrary rules and exceptions. It is merely an effort to help ordinary, everyday people to express themselves in ordinary, everyday language, in a proper manner. Some broad rules are laid down, the observance of which will enable the reader to keep within the pale of propriety in oral and written language. Many idiomatic words and expressions, peculiar to the language, have been given, besides which a number of the common mistakes and pitfalls have been placed before the reader so that he may know and avoid them.

The writer has to acknowledge his indebtedness to no one in particular, but to all in general who have ever written on the subject.

The little book goes forth—a finger-post on the road of language pointing in the right direction. It is hoped that they who go according to its index will arrive at the goal of correct speaking and writing.



Vocabulary—Parts of Speech—Requisites

It is very easy to learn how to speak and write correctly, as for all purposes of ordinary conversation and communication, only about 2,000 different words are required. The mastery of just twenty hundred words, the knowing where to place them, will make us not masters of the English language, but masters of correct speaking and writing. Small number, you will say, compared with what is in the dictionary! But nobody ever uses all the words in the dictionary or could use them did he live to be the age of Methuselah, and there is no necessity for using them.

There are upwards of 200,000 words in the recent editions of the large dictionaries, but the one-hundredth part of this number will suffice for all your wants. Of course you may think not, and you may not be content to call things by their common names; you may be ambitious to show superiority over others and display your learning or, rather, your pedantry and lack of learning. For instance, you may not want to call a spade a spade. You may prefer to call it a spatulous device for abrading the surface of the soil. Better, however, to stick to the old familiar, simple name that your grandfather called it. It has stood the test of time, and old friends are always good friends.

To use a big word or a foreign word when a small one and a familiar one will answer the same purpose, is a sign of ignorance. Great scholars and writers and polite speakers use simple words.

To go back to the number necessary for all purposes of conversation correspondence and writing, 2,000, we find that a great many people who pass in society as being polished, refined and educated use less, for they know less. The greatest scholar alive hasn't more than four thousand different words at his command, and he never has occasion to use half the number.

In the works of Shakespeare, the most wonderful genius the world has ever known, there is the enormous number of 15,000 different words, but almost 10,000 of them are obsolete or meaningless today.

Every person of intelligence should be able to use his mother tongue correctly. It only requires a little pains, a little care, a little study to enable one to do so, and the recompense is great.

Consider the contrast between the well-bred, polite man who knows how to choose and use his words correctly and the underbred, vulgar boor, whose language grates upon the ear and jars the sensitiveness of the finer feelings. The blunders of the latter, his infringement of all the canons of grammar, his absurdities and monstrosities of language, make his very presence a pain, and one is glad to escape from his company.

The proper grammatical formation of the English language, so that one may acquit himself as a correct conversationalist in the best society or be able to write and express his thoughts and ideas upon paper in the right manner, may be acquired in a few lessons.

It is the purpose of this book, as briefly and concisely as possible, to direct the reader along a straight course, pointing out the mistakes he must avoid and giving him such assistance as will enable him to reach the goal of a correct knowledge of the English language. It is not a Grammar in any sense, but a guide, a silent signal-post pointing the way in the right direction.


All the words in the English language are divided into nine great classes. These classes are called the Parts of Speech. They are Article, Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction and Interjection. Of these, the Noun is the most important, as all the others are more or less dependent upon it. A Noun signifies the name of any person, place or thing, in fact, anything of which we can have either thought or idea. There are two kinds of Nouns, Proper and Common. Common Nouns are names which belong in common to a race or class, as man, city. Proper Nouns distinguish individual members of a race or class as John, Philadelphia. In the former case man is a name which belongs in common to the whole race of mankind, and city is also a name which is common to all large centres of population, but John signifies a particular individual of the race, while Philadelphia denotes a particular one from among the cities of the world.

Nouns are varied by Person, Number, Gender, and Case. Person is that relation existing between the speaker, those addressed and the subject under consideration, whether by discourse or correspondence. The Persons are First, Second and Third and they represent respectively the speaker, the person addressed and the person or thing mentioned or under consideration.

Number is the distinction of one from more than one. There are two numbers, singular and plural; the singular denotes one, the plural two or more. The plural is generally formed from the singular by the addition of s or es.

Gender has the same relation to nouns that sex has to individuals, but while there are only two sexes, there are four genders, viz., masculine, feminine, neuter and common. The masculine gender denotes all those of the male kind, the feminine gender all those of the female kind, the neuter gender denotes inanimate things or whatever is without life, and common gender is applied to animate beings, the sex of which for the time being is indeterminable, such as fish, mouse, bird, etc. Sometimes things which are without life as we conceive it and which, properly speaking, belong to the neuter gender, are, by a figure of speech called Personification, changed into either the masculine or feminine gender, as, for instance, we say of the sun, He is rising; of the moon, She is setting.

Case is the relation one noun bears to another or to a verb or to a preposition. There are three cases, the Nominative, the Possessive and the Objective. The nominative is the subject of which we are speaking or the agent which directs the action of the verb; the possessive case denotes possession, while the objective indicates the person or thing which is affected by the action of the verb.

An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the latter is used in a particular or general sense. There are but two articles, a or an and the.

An Adjective is a word which qualifies a noun, that is, which shows some distinguishing mark or characteristic belonging to the noun.


A Pronoun is a word used for or instead of a noun to keep us from repeating the same noun too often. Pronouns, like nouns, have case, number, gender and person. There are three kinds of pronouns, personal, relative and adjective.

A verb is a word which signifies action or the doing of something. A verb is inflected by tense and mood and by number and person, though the latter two belong strictly to the subject of the verb.

An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective and sometimes another adverb.

A preposition serves to connect words and to show the relation between the objects which the words express.

A conjunction is a word which joins words, phrases, clauses and sentences together.

An interjection is a word which expresses surprise or some sudden emotion of the mind.


The three essentials of the English language are: Purity, Perspicuity and Precision.

By Purity is signified the use of good English. It precludes the use of all slang words, vulgar phrases, obsolete terms, foreign idioms, ambiguous expressions or any ungrammatical language whatsoever. Neither does it sanction the use of any newly coined word until such word is adopted by the best writers and speakers.

Perspicuity demands the clearest expression of thought conveyed in unequivocal language, so that there may be no misunderstanding whatever of the thought or idea the speaker or writer wishes to convey. All ambiguous words, words of double meaning and words that might possibly be construed in a sense different from that intended, are strictly forbidden. Perspicuity requires a style at once clear and comprehensive and entirely free from pomp and pedantry and affectation or any straining after effect.

Precision requires concise and exact expression, free from redundancy and tautology, a style terse and clear and simple enough to enable the hearer or reader to comprehend immediately the meaning of the speaker or writer. It forbids, on the one hand, all long and involved sentences, and, on the other, those that are too short and abrupt. Its object is to strike the golden mean in such a way as to rivet the attention of the hearer or reader on the words uttered or written.



Divisions of Grammar—Definitions—Etymology.

In order to speak and write the English language correctly, it is imperative that the fundamental principles of the Grammar be mastered, for no matter how much we may read of the best authors, no matter how much we may associate with and imitate the best speakers, if we do not know the underlying principles of the correct formation of sentences and the relation of words to one another, we will be to a great extent like the parrot, that merely repeats what it hears without understanding the import of what is said. Of course the parrot, being a creature without reason, cannot comprehend; it can simply repeat what is said to it, and as it utters phrases and sentences of profanity with as much facility as those of virtue, so by like analogy, when we do not understand the grammar of the language, we may be making egregious blunders while thinking we are speaking with the utmost accuracy.


There are four great divisions of Grammar, viz.:

Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.

Orthography treats of letters and the mode of combining them into words.

Etymology treats of the various classes of words and the changes they undergo.

Syntax treats of the connection and arrangement of words in sentences.

Prosody treats of the manner of speaking and reading and the different kinds of verse.

The three first mentioned concern us most.


A letter is a mark or character used to represent an articulate sound. Letters are divided into vowels and consonants. A vowel is a letter which makes a distinct sound by itself. Consonants cannot be sounded without the aid of vowels. The vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y when they do not begin a word or syllable.


A syllable is a distinct sound produced by a single effort of [Transcriber's note: 1-2 words illegible] shall, pig, dog. In every syllable there must be at least one vowel.

A word consists of one syllable or a combination of syllables.

Many rules are given for the dividing of words into syllables, but the best is to follow as closely as possible the divisions made by the organs of speech in properly pronouncing them.



An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense.

There are two articles, a or an and the. A or an is called the indefinite article because it does not point put any particular person or thing but indicates the noun in its widest sense; thus, a man means any man whatsoever of the species or race.

The is called the definite article because it points out some particular person or thing; thus, the man means some particular individual.


A noun is the name of any person, place or thing as John, London, book. Nouns are proper and common.

Proper nouns are names applied to particular persons or places.

Common nouns are names applied to a whole kind or species.

Nouns are inflected by number, gender and case.

Number is that inflection of the noun by which we indicate whether it represents one or more than one.

Gender is that inflection by which we signify whether the noun is the name of a male, a female, of an inanimate object or something which has no distinction of sex.

Case is that inflection of the noun which denotes the state of the person, place or thing represented, as the subject of an affirmation or question, the owner or possessor of something mentioned, or the object of an action or of a relation.

Thus in the example, "John tore the leaves of Sarah's book," the distinction between book which represents only one object and leaves which represent two or more objects of the same kind is called Number; the distinction of sex between John, a male, and Sarah, a female, and book and leaves, things which are inanimate and neither male nor female, is called Gender; and the distinction of state between John, the person who tore the book, and the subject of the affirmation, Mary, the owner of the book, leaves the objects torn, and book the object related to leaves, as the whole of which they were a part, is called Case.


An adjective is a word which qualifies a noun, that is, shows or points out some distinguishing mark or feature of the noun; as, A black dog.

Adjectives have three forms called degrees of comparison, the positive, the comparative and the superlative.

The positive is the simple form of the adjective without expressing increase or diminution of the original quality: nice.

The comparative is that form of the adjective which expresses increase or diminution of the quality: nicer.

The superlative is that form which expresses the greatest increase or diminution of the quality: nicest.


An adjective is in the positive form when it does not express comparison; as, "A rich man."

An adjective is in the comparative form when it expresses comparison between two or between one and a number taken collectively, as, "John is richer than James"; "he is richer than all the men in Boston."

An adjective is in the superlative form when it expresses a comparison between one and a number of individuals taken separately; as, "John is the richest man in Boston."

Adjectives expressive of properties or circumstances which cannot be increased have only the positive form; as, A circular road; the chief end; an extreme measure.

Adjectives are compared in two ways, either by adding er to the positive to form the comparative and est to the positive to form the superlative, or by prefixing more to the positive for the comparative and most to the positive for the superlative; as, handsome, handsomer, handsomest or handsome, more handsome, most handsome.

Adjectives of two or more syllables are generally compared by prefixing more and most.

Many adjectives are irregular in comparison; as, Bad, worse, worst; Good, better, best.


A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun; as, "John gave his pen to James and he lent it to Jane to write her copy with it." Without the pronouns we would have to write this sentence,—"John gave John's pen to James and James lent the pen to Jane to write Jane's copy with the pen."

There are three kinds of pronouns—Personal, Relative and Adjective Pronouns.

Personal Pronouns are so called because they are used instead of the names of persons, places and things. The Personal Pronouns are I, Thou, He, She, and It, with their plurals, We, Ye or You and They.

I is the pronoun of the first person because it represents the person speaking.

Thou is the pronoun of the second person because it represents the person spoken to.

He, She, It are the pronouns of the third person because they represent the persons or things of whom we are speaking.

Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number, gender and case. The gender of the first and second person is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are thus declined:

First Person. M. or F.

Sing. Plural. N. I We P. Mine Ours O. Me Us

Second Person. M. or F.

Sing. Plural. N. Thou You P. Thine Yours O. Thee You

Third Person. M.

Sing. Plural. N. He They P. His Theirs O. Him Them

Third Person. F.

Sing. Plural. N. She They P. Hers Theirs O. Her Them

Third Person. Neuter.

Sing. Plural. N. It They P. Its Theirs O. It Them

N. B.—In colloquial language and ordinary writing Thou, Thine and Thee are seldom used, except by the Society of Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the nominative and objective singular in the second person and Yours is generally used in the possessive in place of Thine.

The Relative Pronouns are so called because they relate to some word or phrase going before; as, "The boy who told the truth;" "He has done well, which gives me great pleasure."

Here who and which are not only used in place of other words, but who refers immediately to boy, and which to the circumstance of his having done well.

The word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called the Antecedent.

The Relative Pronouns are who, which, that and what.

Who is applied to persons only; as, "The man who was here."

Which is applied to the lower animals and things without life; as, "The horse which I sold." "The hat which I bought."

That is applied to both persons and things; as, "The friend that helps." "The bird that sings." "The knife that cuts."

What is a compound relative, including both the antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to that which; as, "I did what he desired," i. e. "I did that which he desired."

Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.

Who is either masculine or feminine; which and that are masculine, feminine or neuter; what as a relative pronoun is always neuter.

That and what are not inflected.

Who and which are thus declined:

Sing. and Plural Sing. and Plural

N. Who N. Which P. Whose P. Whose O. Whom O. Which

Who, which and what when used to ask questions are called Interrogative Pronouns.

Adjective Pronouns partake of the nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as follows:

Demonstrative Adjective Pronouns which directly point out the person or object. They are this, that with their plurals these, those, and yon, same and selfsame.

Distributive Adjective Pronouns used distributively. They are each, every, either, neither.

Indefinite Adjective Pronouns used more or less indefinitely. They are any, all, few, some, several, one, other, another, none.

Possessive Adjective Pronouns denoting possession. They are my, thy, his, her, its, our, your, their.

N. B.—(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter can stand alone while the former cannot. "Who owns that book?" "It is mine." You cannot say "it is my,"—the word book must be repeated.)


A verb is a word which implies action or the doing of something, or it may be defined as a word which affirms, commands or asks a question.

Thus, the words John the table, contain no assertion, but when the word strikes is introduced, something is affirmed, hence the word strikes is a verb and gives completeness and meaning to the group.

The simple form of the verb without inflection is called the root of the verb; e. g. love is the root of the verb,—"To Love."

Verbs are regular or irregular, transitive or intransitive.

A verb is said to be regular when it forms the past tense by adding ed to the present or d if the verb ends in e. When its past tense does not end in ed it is said to be irregular.

A transitive verb is one the action of which passes over to or affects some object; as "I struck the table." Here the action of striking affected the object table, hence struck is a transitive verb.

An intransitive verb is one in which the action remains with the subject; as "I walk," "I sit," "I run."

Many intransitive verbs, however, can be used transitively; thus, "I walk the horse;" walk is here transitive.

Verbs are inflected by number, person, tense and mood.

Number and person as applied to the verb really belong to the subject; they are used with the verb to denote whether the assertion is made regarding one or more than one and whether it is made in reference to the person speaking, the person spoken to or the person or thing spoken about.


In their tenses verbs follow the divisions of time. They have present tense, past tense and future tense with their variations to express the exact time of action as to an event happening, having happened or yet to happen.


There are four simple moods,—the Infinitive, the Indicative, the Imperative and the Subjunctive.

The Mood of a verb denotes the mode or manner in which it is used. Thus if it is used in its widest sense without reference to person or number, time or place, it is in the Infinitive Mood; as "To run." Here we are not told who does the running, when it is done, where it is done or anything about it.

When a verb is used to indicate or declare or ask a simple question or make any direct statement, it is in the Indicative Mood. "The boy loves his book." Here a direct statement is made concerning the boy. "Have you a pin?" Here a simple question is asked which calls for an answer.

When the verb is used to express a command or entreaty it is in the Imperative Mood as, "Go away." "Give me a penny."

When the verb is used to express doubt, supposition or uncertainty or when some future action depends upon a contingency, it is in the subjunctive mood; as, "If I come, he shall remain."

Many grammarians include a fifth mood called the potential to express power, possibility, liberty, necessity, will or duty. It is formed by means of the auxiliaries may, can, ought and must, but in all cases it can be resolved into the indicative or subjunctive. Thus, in "I may write if I choose," "may write" is by some classified as in the potential mood, but in reality the phrase I may write is an indicative one while the second clause, if I choose, is the expression of a condition upon which, not my liberty to write, depends, but my actual writing.

Verbs have two participles, the present or imperfect, sometimes called the active ending in ing and the past or perfect, often called the passive, ending in ed or d.

The infinitive expresses the sense of the verb in a substantive form, the participles in an adjective form; as "To rise early is healthful." "An early rising man." "The newly risen sun."

The participle in ing is frequently used as a substantive and consequently is equivalent to an infinitive; thus, "To rise early is healthful" and "Rising early is healthful" are the same.

The principal parts of a verb are the Present Indicative, Past Indicative and Past Participle; as:

Love Loved Loved

Sometimes one or more of these parts are wanting, and then the verb is said to be defective.

Present Past Passive Participle

Can Could (Wanting) May Might " Shall Should " Will Would " Ought Ought "

Verbs may also be divided into principal and auxiliary. A principal verb is that without which a sentence or clause can contain no assertion or affirmation. An auxiliary is a verb joined to the root or participles of a principal verb to express time and manner with greater precision than can be done by the tenses and moods in their simple form. Thus, the sentence, "I am writing an exercise; when I shall have finished it I shall read it to the class." has no meaning without the principal verbs writing, finished read; but the meaning is rendered more definite, especially with regard to time, by the auxiliary verbs am, have, shall.

There are nine auxiliary or helping verbs, viz., Be, have, do, shall, will, may, can, ought, and must. They are called helping verbs, because it is by their aid the compound tenses are formed.


The verb To Be is the most important of the auxiliary verbs. It has eleven parts, viz., am, art, is, are, was, wast, were, wert; be, being and been.


The active voice is that form of the verb which shows the Subject not being acted upon but acting; as, "The cat catches mice." "Charity covers a multitude of sins."

The passive voice: When the action signified by a transitive verb is thrown back upon the agent, that is to say, when the subject of the verb denotes the recipient of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. "John was loved by his neighbors." Here John the subject is also the object affected by the loving, the action of the verb is thrown back on him, hence the compound verb was loved is said to be in the passive voice. The passive voice is formed by putting the perfect participle of any transitive verb with any of the eleven parts of the verb To Be.


The conjugation of a verb is its orderly arrangement in voices, moods, tenses, persons and numbers.

Here is the complete conjugation of the verb "Love"—Active Voice.


Present Past Past Participle Love Loved Loved

Infinitive Mood

To Love

Indicative Mood PRESENT TENSE

Sing. Plural 1st person I love We love 2nd person You love You love 3rd person He loves They love


Sing. Plural 1st person I loved We loved 2nd person You loved You loved 3rd person He loved They loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I shall love They will love 2nd person You will love You will love 3rd person He will love We shall love

[Transcriber's note: 1st person plural and 3rd person plural reversed in original]


Sing. Plural 1st person I have loved We have loved 2nd person You have loved You have loved 3rd person He has loved They have loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I had loved We had loved 2nd person You had loved You had loved 3rd person He had loved They had loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I shall have loved We shall have loved 2nd person You will have loved You will have loved 3rd person He will have loved They will have loved

Imperative Mood (PRESENT TENSE ONLY)

Sing. Plural 2nd person Love (you) Love (you)

Subjunctive Mood PRESENT TENSE

Sing. Plural 1st person If I love If we love 2nd person If you love If you love 3rd person If he love If they love


Sing. Plural 1st person If I loved If we loved 2nd person If you loved If you loved 3rd person If he loved If they loved


Sing. Plural 1st person If I have loved If we have loved 2nd person If you have loved If you have loved 3rd person If he has loved If they have loved


Sing. Plural 1st person If I had loved If we had loved 2nd person If you had loved If you had loved 3rd person If he had loved If they had loved


Present Perfect To love To have loved


Present Past Perfect Loving Loved Having loved

CONJUGATION OF "To Love" Passive Voice Indicative Mood


Sing. Plural 1st person I am loved We are loved 2nd person You are loved You are loved 3rd person He is loved They are loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I was loved We were loved 2nd person You were loved You were loved 3rd person He was loved They were loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I shall be loved We shall be loved 2nd person You will be loved You will be loved 3rd person He will be loved They will be loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I have been loved We have been loved 2nd person You have been loved You have been loved 3rd person He has been loved They have been loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I had been loved We had been loved 2nd person You had been loved You had been loved 3rd person He had been loved They had been loved


Sing. Plural 1st person I shall have been loved We shall have been loved 2nd person You will have been loved You will have been loved 3rd person He will have been loved They will have been loved

Imperative Mood (PRESENT TENSE ONLY)

Sing. Plural 2nd person Be (you) loved Be (you) loved

Subjunctive Mood PRESENT TENSE

Sing. Plural 1st person If I be loved If we be loved 2nd person If you be loved If you be loved 3rd person If he be loved If they be loved


Sing. Plural 1st person If I were loved If they were loved 2nd person If you were loved If you were loved 3rd person If he were loved If we were loved


Sing. Plural 1st person If I have been loved If we have been loved 2nd person If you have been loved If you have been loved 3rd person If he has been loved If they have been loved


Sing. Plural 1st person If I had been loved If we had been loved 2nd person If you had been loved If you had been loved 3rd person If he had been loved If they had been loved


Present Perfect To be loved To have been loved


Present Past Perfect Being loved Been loved Having been loved

(N. B.—Note that the plural form of the personal pronoun, you, is used in the second person singular throughout. The old form thou, except in the conjugation of the verb "To Be," may be said to be obsolete. In the third person singular he is representative of the three personal pronouns of the third person, He, She and It.)


An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Thus, in the example—"He writes well," the adverb shows the manner in which the writing is performed; in the examples—"He is remarkably diligent" and "He works very faithfully," the adverbs modify the adjective diligent and the other adverb faithfully by expressing the degree of diligence and faithfulness.

Adverbs are chiefly used to express in one word what would otherwise require two or more words; thus, There signifies in that place; whence, from what place; usefully, in a useful manner.

Adverbs, like adjectives, are sometimes varied in their terminations to express comparison and different degrees of quality.

Some adverbs form the comparative and superlative by adding er and est; as, soon, sooner, soonest.

Adverbs which end in ly are compared by prefixing more and most; as, nobly, more nobly, most nobly.

A few adverbs are irregular in the formation of the comparative and superlative; as, well, better, best.


A preposition connects words, clauses, and sentences together and shows the relation between them. "My hand is on the table" shows relation between hand and table.

Prepositions are so called because they are generally placed before the words whose connection or relation with other words they point out.


A conjunction joins words, clauses and sentences; as "John and James." "My father and mother have come, but I have not seen them."

The conjunctions in most general use are and, also; either, or; neither, nor; though, yet; but, however; for, that; because, since; therefore, wherefore, then; if, unless, lest.


An interjection is a word used to express some sudden emotion of the mind. Thus in the examples,—"Ah! there he comes; alas! what shall I do?" ah, expresses surprise, and alas, distress.

Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs become interjections when they are uttered as exclamations, as, nonsense! strange! hail! away! etc.

We have now enumerated the parts of speech and as briefly as possible stated the functions of each. As they all belong to the same family they are related to one another but some are in closer affinity than others. To point out the exact relationship and the dependency of one word on another is called parsing and in order that every etymological connection may be distinctly understood a brief resume of the foregoing essentials is here given:

The signification of the noun is limited to one, but to any one of the kind, by the indefinite article, and to some particular one, or some particular number, by the definite article.

Nouns, in one form, represent one of a kind, and in another, any number more than one; they are the names of males, or females, or of objects which are neither male nor female; and they represent the subject of an affirmation, a command or a question,—the owner or possessor of a thing,—or the object of an action, or of a relation expressed by a preposition.

Adjectives express the qualities which distinguish one person or thing from another; in one form they express quality without comparison; in another, they express comparison between two, or between one and a number taken collectively,—and in a third they express comparison between one and a number of others taken separately.

Pronouns are used in place of nouns; one class of them is used merely as the substitutes of names; the pronouns of another class have a peculiar reference to some preceding words in the sentence, of which they are the substitutes,—and those of a third class refer adjectively to the persons or things they represent. Some pronouns are used for both the name and the substitute; and several are frequently employed in asking questions.

Affirmations and commands are expressed by the verb; and different inflections of the verb express number, person, time and manner. With regard to time, an affirmation may be present or past or future; with regard to manner, an affirmation may be positive or conditional, it being doubtful whether the condition is fulfilled or not, or it being implied that it is not fulfilled;—the verb may express command or entreaty; or the sense of the verb may be expressed without affirming or commanding. The verb also expresses that an action or state is or was going on, by a form which is also used sometimes as a noun, and sometimes to qualify nouns.

Affirmations are modified by adverbs, some of which can be inflected to express different degrees of modification.

Words are joined together by conjunctions; and the various relations which one thing bears to another are expressed by 'prepositions. Sudden emotions of the mind, and exclamations are expressed by interjections.

Some words according to meaning belong sometimes to one part of speech, sometimes to another. Thus, in "After a storm comes a calm," calm is a noun; in "It is a calm evening," calm is an adjective; and in "Calm your fears," calm is a verb.

The following sentence containing all the parts of speech is parsed etymologically:

"I now see the old man coming, but, alas, he has walked with much difficulty."

I, a personal pronoun, first person singular, masculine or feminine gender, nominative case, subject of the verb see.

now, an adverb of time modifying the verb see.

see, an irregular, transitive verb, indicative mood, present tense, first person singular to agree with its nominative or subject I.

the, the definite article particularizing the noun man.

old, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun man.

man, a common noun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, objective case governed by the transitive verb see.

coming, the present or imperfect participle of the verb "to come" referring to the noun man.

but, a conjunction.

alas, an interjection, expressing pity or sorrow.

he, a personal pronoun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, nominative case, subject of verb has walked.

has walked, a regular, intransitive verb, indicative mood, perfect tense, 3rd person singular to agree with its nominative or subject he.

with, a preposition, governing the noun difficulty.

much, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun difficulty.

difficulty, a common noun, 3rd person singular, neuter gender, objective case governed by the preposition with.

N.B.—Much is generally an adverb. As an adjective it is thus compared:

Positive Comparative Superlative much more most



Different Kinds—Arrangement of Words—Paragraph

A sentence is an assemblage of words so arranged as to convey a determinate sense or meaning, in other words, to express a complete thought or idea. No matter how short, it must contain one finite verb and a subject or agent to direct the action of the verb.

"Birds fly;" "Fish swim;" "Men walk;"—are sentences.

A sentence always contains two parts, something spoken about and something said about it. The word or words indicating what is spoken about form what is called the subject and the word or words indicating what is said about it form what is called the predicate.

In the sentences given, birds, fish and men are the subjects, while fly, swim and walk are the predicates.

There are three kinds of sentences, simple, compound and complex.

The simple sentence expresses a single thought and consists of one subject and one predicate, as, "Man is mortal."

A compound sentence consists of two or more simple sentences of equal importance the parts of which are either expressed or understood, as, "The men work in the fields and the women work in the household," or "The men work in the fields and the women in the household" or "The men and women work in the fields and in the household."

A complex sentence consists of two or more simple sentences so combined that one depends on the other to complete its meaning; as; "When he returns, I shall go on my vacation." Here the words, "when he returns" are dependent on the rest of the sentence for their meaning.

A clause is a separate part of a complex sentence, as "when he returns" in the last example.

A phrase consists of two or more words without a finite verb.

Without a finite verb we cannot affirm anything or convey an idea, therefore we can have no sentence.

Infinitives and participles which are the infinite parts of the verb cannot be predicates. "I looking up the street" is not a sentence, for it is not a complete action expressed. When we hear such an expression as "A dog running along the street," we wait for something more to be added, something more affirmed about the dog, whether he bit or barked or fell dead or was run over.

Thus in every sentence there must be a finite verb to limit the subject.

When the verb is transitive, that is, when the action cannot happen without affecting something, the thing affected is called the object.

Thus in "Cain killed Abel" the action of the killing affected Abel. In "The cat has caught a mouse," mouse is the object of the catching.


Of course in simple sentences the natural order of arrangement is subject—verb—object. In many cases no other form is possible. Thus in the sentence "The cat has caught a mouse," we cannot reverse it and say "The mouse has caught a cat" without destroying the meaning, and in any other form of arrangement, such as "A mouse, the cat has caught," we feel that while it is intelligible, it is a poor way of expressing the fact and one which jars upon us more or less.

In longer sentences, however, when there are more words than what are barely necessary for subject, verb and object, we have greater freedom of arrangement and can so place the words as to give the best effect. The proper placing of words depends upon perspicuity and precision. These two combined give style to the structure.

Most people are familiar with Gray's line in the immortal Elegy—"The ploughman homeward plods his weary way." This line can be paraphrased to read 18 different ways. Here are a few variations:

Homeward the ploughman plods his weary way. The ploughman plods his weary way homeward. Plods homeward the ploughman his weary way. His weary way the ploughman homeward plods. Homeward his weary way plods the ploughman. Plods the ploughman his weary way homeward. His weary way the ploughman plods homeward. His weary way homeward the ploughman plods. The ploughman plods homeward his weary way. The ploughman his weary way plods homeward.

and so on. It is doubtful if any of the other forms are superior to the one used by the poet. Of course his arrangement was made to comply with the rhythm and rhyme of the verse. Most of the variations depend upon the emphasis we wish to place upon the different words.

In arranging the words in an ordinary sentence we should not lose sight of the fact that the beginning and end are the important places for catching the attention of the reader. Words in these places have greater emphasis than elsewhere.

In Gray's line the general meaning conveyed is that a weary ploughman is plodding his way homeward, but according to the arrangement a very slight difference is effected in the idea. Some of the variations make us think more of the ploughman, others more of the plodding, and still others more of the weariness.

As the beginning and end of a sentence are the most important places, it naturally follows that small or insignificant words should be kept from these positions. Of the two places the end one is the more important, therefore, it really calls for the most important word in the sentence. Never commence a sentence with And, But, Since, Because, and other similar weak words and never end it with prepositions, small, weak adverbs or pronouns.

The parts of a sentence which are most closely connected with one another in meaning should be closely connected in order also. By ignoring this principle many sentences are made, if not nonsensical, really ridiculous and ludicrous. For instance: "Ten dollars reward is offered for information of any person injuring this property by order of the owner." "This monument was erected to the memory of John Jones, who was shot by his affectionate brother."

In the construction of all sentences the grammatical rules must be inviolably observed. The laws of concord, that is, the agreement of certain words, must be obeyed.

(1) The verb agrees with its subject in person and number. "I have," "Thou hast," (the pronoun thou is here used to illustrate the verb form, though it is almost obsolete), "He has," show the variation of the verb to agree with the subject. A singular subject calls for a singular verb, a plural subject demands a verb in the plural; as, "The boy writes," "The boys write."

The agreement of a verb and its subject is often destroyed by confusing (1) collective and common nouns; (2) foreign and English nouns; (3) compound and simple subjects; (4) real and apparent subjects.

(1) A collective noun is a number of individuals or things regarded as a whole; as, class regiment. When the individuals or things are prominently brought forward, use a plural verb; as The class were distinguished for ability. When the idea of the whole as a unit is under consideration employ a singular verb; as The regiment was in camp. (2) It is sometimes hard for the ordinary individual to distinguish the plural from the singular in foreign nouns, therefore, he should be careful in the selection of the verb. He should look up the word and be guided accordingly. "He was an alumnus of Harvard." "They were alumni of Harvard." (3) When a sentence with one verb has two or more subjects denoting different things, connected by and, the verb should be plural; as, "Snow and rain are disagreeable." When the subjects denote the same thing and are connected by or the verb should be singular; as, "The man or the woman is to blame." (4) When the same verb has more than one subject of different persons or numbers, it agrees with the most prominent in thought; as, "He, and not you, is wrong." "Whether he or I am to be blamed."

(2) Never use the past participle for the past tense nor vice versa. This mistake is a very common one. At every turn we hear "He done it" for "He did it." "The jar was broke" instead of broken. "He would have went" for "He would have gone," etc.

(3) The use of the verbs shall and will is a rock upon which even the best speakers come to wreck. They are interchanged recklessly. Their significance changes according as they are used with the first, second or third person. With the first person shall is used in direct statement to express a simple future action; as, "I shall go to the city to-morrow." With the second and third persons shall is used to express a determination; as, "You shall go to the city to-morrow," "He shall go to the city to-morrow."

With the first person will is used in direct statement to express determination, as, "I will go to the city to-morrow." With the second and third persons will is used to express simple future action; as, "You will go to the city to-morrow," "He will go to the city to-morrow."

A very old rule regarding the uses of shall and will is thus expressed in rhyme:

In the first person simply shall foretells, In will a threat or else a promise dwells. Shall in the second and third does threat, Will simply then foretells the future feat.

(4) Take special care to distinguish between the nominative and objective case. The pronouns are the only words which retain the ancient distinctive case ending for the objective. Remember that the objective case follows transitive verbs and prepositions. Don't say "The boy who I sent to see you," but "The boy whom I sent to see you." Whom is here the object of the transitive verb sent. Don't say "She bowed to him and I" but "She bowed to him and me" since me is the objective case following the preposition to understood. "Between you and I" is a very common expression. It should be "Between you and me" since between is a preposition calling for the objective case.

(5) Be careful in the use of the relative pronouns who, which and that. Who refers only to persons; which only to things; as, "The boy who was drowned," "The umbrella which I lost." The relative that may refer to both persons and things; as, "The man that I saw." "The hat that I bought."

(6) Don't use the superlative degree of the adjective for the comparative; as "He is the richest of the two" for "He is the richer of the two." Other mistakes often made in this connection are (1) Using the double comparative and superlative; as, "These apples are much more preferable." "The most universal motive to business is gain." (2) Comparing objects which belong to dissimilar classes; as "There is no nicer life than a teacher." (3) Including objects in class to which they do not belong; as, "The fairest of her daughters, Eve." (4) Excluding an object from a class to which it does belong; as, "Caesar was braver than any ancient warrior."

(7) Don't use an adjective for an adverb or an adverb for an adjective. Don't say, "He acted nice towards me" but "He acted nicely toward me," and instead of saying "She looked beautifully" say "She looked beautiful."

(8) Place the adverb as near as possible to the word it modifies. Instead of saying, "He walked to the door quickly," say "He walked quickly to the door."

(9) Not alone be careful to distinguish between the nominative and objective cases of the pronouns, but try to avoid ambiguity in their use.

The amusing effect of disregarding the reference of pronouns is well illustrated by Burton in the following story of Billy Williams, a comic actor who thus narrates his experience in riding a horse owned by Hamblin, the manager:

"So down I goes to the stable with Tom Flynn, and told the man to put the saddle on him."

"On Tom Flynn?"

"No, on the horse. So after talking with Tom Flynn awhile I mounted him."

"What! mounted Tom Flynn?"

"No, the horse; and then I shook hands with him and rode off."

"Shook hands with the horse, Billy?"

"No, with Tom Flynn; and then I rode off up the Bowery, and who should I meet but Tom Hamblin; so I got off and told the boy to hold him by the head."

"What! hold Hamblin by the head?"

"No, the horse; and then we went and had a drink together."

"What! you and the horse?"

"No, me and Hamblin; and after that I mounted him again and went out of town."

"What! mounted Hamblin again?"

"No, the horse; and when I got to Burnham, who should be there but Tom Flynn,—he'd taken another horse and rode out ahead of me; so I told the hostler to tie him up."

"Tie Tom Flynn up?"

"No, the horse; and we had a drink there."

"What! you and the horse?"

"No, me and Tom Flynn."

Finding his auditors by this time in a horse laugh, Billy wound up with: "Now, look here,—every time I say horse, you say Hamblin, and every time I say Hamblin you say horse: I'll be hanged if I tell you any more about it."


There are two great classes of sentences according to the general principles upon which they are founded. These are termed the loose and the periodic.

In the loose sentence the main idea is put first, and then follow several facts in connection with it. Defoe is an author particularly noted for this kind of sentence. He starts out with a leading declaration to which he adds several attendant connections. For instance in the opening of the story of Robinson Crusoe we read: "I was born in the year 1632 in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; he got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in the country and from I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always called me."

In the periodic sentence the main idea comes last and is preceded by a series of relative introductions. This kind of sentence is often introduced by such words as that, if, since, because. The following is an example:

"That through his own folly and lack of circumspection he should have been reduced to such circumstances as to be forced to become a beggar on the streets, soliciting alms from those who had formerly been the recipients of his bounty, was a sore humiliation."

On account of its name many are liable to think the loose sentence an undesirable form in good composition, but this should not be taken for granted. In many cases it is preferable to the periodic form.

As a general rule in speaking, as opposed to writing, the loose form is to be preferred, inasmuch as when the periodic is employed in discourse the listeners are apt to forget the introductory clauses before the final issue is reached.

Both kinds are freely used in composition, but in speaking, the loose, which makes the direct statement at the beginning, should predominate.

As to the length of sentences much depends on the nature of the composition.

However the general rule may be laid down that short sentences are preferable to long ones. The tendency of the best writers of the present day is towards short, snappy, pithy sentences which rivet the attention of the reader. They adopt as their motto multum in parvo (much in little) and endeavor to pack a great deal in small space. Of course the extreme of brevity is to be avoided. Sentences can be too short, too jerky, too brittle to withstand the test of criticism. The long sentence has its place and a very important one. It is indispensable in argument and often is very necessary to description and also in introducing general principles which require elaboration. In employing the long sentence the inexperienced writer should not strain after the heavy, ponderous type. Johnson and Carlyle used such a type, but remember, an ordinary mortal cannot wield the sledge hammer of a giant. Johnson and Carlyle were intellectual giants and few can hope to stand on the same literary pedestal. The tyro in composition should never seek after the heavy style. The best of all authors in the English language for style is Addison. Macaulay says: "If you wish a style learned, but not pedantic, elegant but not ostentatious, simple yet refined, you must give your days and nights to the volumes of Joseph Addison." The simplicity, apart from the beauty of Addison's writings causes us to reiterate the literary command—"Never use a big word when a little one will convey the same or a similar meaning."

Macaulay himself is an elegant stylist to imitate. He is like a clear brook kissed by the noon-day sun in the shining bed of which you can see and count the beautiful white pebbles. Goldsmith is another writer whose simplicity of style charms.

The beginner should study these writers, make their works his vade mecum, they have stood the test of time and there has been no improvement upon them yet, nor is there likely to be, for their writing is as perfect as it is possible to be in the English language.

Apart from their grammatical construction there can be no fixed rules for the formation of sentences. The best plan is to follow the best authors and these masters of language will guide you safely along the way.


The paragraph may be defined as a group of sentences that are closely related in thought and which serve one common purpose. Not only do they preserve the sequence of the different parts into which a composition is divided, but they give a certain spice to the matter like raisins in a plum pudding. A solid page of printed matter is distasteful to the reader; it taxes the eye and tends towards the weariness of monotony, but when it is broken up into sections it loses much of its heaviness and the consequent lightness gives it charm, as it were, to capture the reader.

Paragraphs are like stepping-stones on the bed of a shallow river, which enable the foot passenger to skip with ease from one to the other until he gets across; but if the stones are placed too far apart in attempting to span the distance one is liable to miss the mark and fall in the water and flounder about until he is again able to get a foothold. 'Tis the same with written language, the reader by means of paragraphs can easily pass from one portion of connected thought to another and keep up his interest in the subject until he gets to the end.

Throughout the paragraph there must be some connection in regard to the matter under consideration,—a sentence dependency. For instance, in the same paragraph we must not speak of a house on fire and a runaway horse unless there is some connection between the two. We must not write consecutively:

"The fire raged with fierce intensity, consuming the greater part of the large building in a short time." "The horse took fright and wildly dashed down the street scattering pedestrians in all directions." These two sentences have no connection and therefore should occupy separate and distinct places. But when we say—"The fire raged with fierce intensity consuming the greater part of the large building in a short time and the horse taking fright at the flames dashed wildly down the street scattering pedestrians in all directions,"—there is a natural sequence, viz., the horse taking fright as a consequence of the flames and hence the two expressions are combined in one paragraph.

As in the case of words in sentences, the most important places in a paragraph are the beginning and the end. Accordingly the first sentence and the last should by virtue of their structure and nervous force, compel the reader's attention. It is usually advisable to make the first sentence short; the last sentence may be long or short, but in either case should be forcible. The object of the first sentence is to state a point clearly; the last sentence should enforce it.

It is a custom of good writers to make the conclusion of the paragraph a restatement or counterpart or application of the opening.

In most cases a paragraph may be regarded as the elaboration of the principal sentence. The leading thought or idea can be taken as a nucleus and around it constructed the different parts of the paragraph. Anyone can make a context for every simple sentence by asking himself questions in reference to the sentence. Thus—"The foreman gave the order"— suggests at once several questions; "What was the order?" "to whom did he give it?" "why did he give it?" "what was the result?" etc. These questions when answered will depend upon the leading one and be an elaboration of it into a complete paragraph.

If we examine any good paragraph we shall find it made up of a number of items, each of which helps to illustrate, confirm or enforce the general thought or purpose of the paragraph. Also the transition from each item to the next is easy, natural and obvious; the items seem to come of themselves. If, on the other hand, we detect in a paragraph one or more items which have no direct bearing, or if we are unable to proceed readily from item to item, especially if we are obliged to rearrange the items before we can perceive their full significance, then we are justified in pronouncing the paragraph construction faulty.

No specific rules can be given as to the construction of paragraphs. The best advice is,—Study closely the paragraph structure of the best writers, for it is only through imitation, conscious or unconscious of the best models, that one can master the art.

The best paragraphist in the English language for the essay is Macaulay, the best model to follow for the oratorical style is Edmund Burke and for description and narration probably the greatest master of paragraph is the American Goldsmith, Washington Irving.

A paragraph is indicated in print by what is known as the indentation of the line, that is, by commencing it a space from the left margin.



Figures of Speech—Definitions and Examples—Use of Figures

In Figurative Language we employ words in such a way that they differ somewhat from their ordinary signification in commonplace speech and convey our meaning in a more vivid and impressive manner than when we use them in their every-day sense. Figures make speech more effective, they beautify and emphasize it and give to it a relish and piquancy as salt does to food; besides they add energy and force to expression so that it irresistibly compels attention and interest. There are four kinds of figures, viz.: (1) Figures of Orthography which change the spelling of a word; (2) Figures of Etymology which change the form of words; (3) Figures of Syntax which change the construction of sentences; (4) Figures of Rhetoric or the art of speaking and writing effectively which change the mode of thought.

We shall only consider the last mentioned here as they are the most important, really giving to language the construction and style which make it a fitting medium for the intercommunication of ideas.

Figures of Rhetoric have been variously classified, some authorities extending the list to a useless length. The fact is that any form of expression which conveys thought may be classified as a Figure.

The principal figures as well as the most important and those oftenest used are, Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Allegory, Synechdoche, Metonymy, Exclamation, Hyperbole, Apostrophe, Vision, Antithesis, Climax, Epigram, Interrogation and Irony.

The first four are founded on resemblance, the second six on contiguity and the third five, on contrast.

A Simile (from the Latin similis, like), is the likening of one thing to another, a statement of the resemblance of objects, acts, or relations; as "In his awful anger he was like the storm-driven waves dashing against the rock." A simile makes the principal object plainer and impresses it more forcibly on the mind. "His memory is like wax to receive impressions and like marble to retain them." This brings out the leading idea as to the man's memory in a very forceful manner. Contrast it with the simple statement—"His memory is good." Sometimes Simile is prostituted to a low and degrading use; as "His face was like a danger signal in a fog storm." "Her hair was like a furze-bush in bloom." "He was to his lady love as a poodle to its mistress." Such burlesque is never permissible. Mere likeness, it should be remembered, does not constitute a simile. For instance there is no simile when one city is compared to another. In order that there may be a rhetorical simile, the objects compared must be of different classes. Avoid the old trite similes such as comparing a hero to a lion. Such were played out long ago. And don't hunt for farfetched similes. Don't say—"Her head was glowing as the glorious god of day when he sets in a flambeau of splendor behind the purple-tinted hills of the West." It is much better to do without such a simile and simply say—"She had fiery red hair."

A Metaphor (from the Greek metapherein, to carry over or transfer), is a word used to imply a resemblance but instead of likening one object to another as in the simile we directly substitute the action or operation of one for another. If, of a religious man we say,—"He is as a great pillar upholding the church," the expression is a simile, but if we say—"He is a great pillar upholding the church" it is a metaphor. The metaphor is a bolder and more lively figure than the simile. It is more like a picture and hence, the graphic use of metaphor is called "word-painting." It enables us to give to the most abstract ideas form, color and life. Our language is full of metaphors, and we very often use them quite unconsciously. For instance, when we speak of the bed of a river, the shoulder of a hill, the foot of a mountain, the hands of a clock, the key of a situation, we are using metaphors.

Don't use mixed metaphors, that is, different metaphors in relation to the same subject: "Since it was launched our project has met with much opposition, but while its flight has not reached the heights ambitioned, we are yet sanguine we shall drive it to success." Here our project begins as a ship, then becomes a bird and finally winds up as a horse.

Personification (from the Latin persona, person, and facere, to make) is the treating of an inanimate object as if it were animate and is probably the most beautiful and effective of all the figures.

"The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice and clap their hands."

"Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat, Sighing, through all her works, gave signs of woe."

Personification depends much on a vivid imagination and is adapted especially to poetical composition. It has two distinguishable forms: (1) when personality is ascribed to the inanimate as in the foregoing examples, and (2) when some quality of life is attributed to the inanimate; as, a raging storm; an angry sea; a whistling wind, etc.

An Allegory (from the Greek allos, other, and agoreuein, to speak), is a form of expression in which the words are symbolical of something. It is very closely allied to the metaphor, in fact is a continued metaphor.

Allegory, metaphor and simile have three points in common,—they are all founded on resemblance. "Ireland is like a thorn in the side of England;" this is simile. "Ireland is a thorn in the side of England;" this is metaphor. "Once a great giant sprang up out of the sea and lived on an island all by himself. On looking around he discovered a little girl on another small island near by. He thought the little girl could be useful to him in many ways so he determined to make her subservient to his will. He commanded her, but she refused to obey, then he resorted to very harsh measures with the little girl, but she still remained obstinate and obdurate. He continued to oppress her until finally she rebelled and became as a thorn in his side to prick him for his evil attitude towards her;" this is an allegory in which the giant plainly represents England and the little girl, Ireland; the implication is manifest though no mention is made of either country. Strange to say the most perfect allegory in the English language was written by an almost illiterate and ignorant man, and written too, in a dungeon cell. In the "Pilgrim's Progress," Bunyan, the itinerant tinker, has given us by far the best allegory ever penned. Another good one is "The Faerie Queen" by Edmund Spenser.

Synecdoche (from the Greek, sun with, and ekdexesthai, to receive), is a figure of speech which expresses either more or less than it literally denotes. By it we give to an object a name which literally expresses something more or something less than we intend. Thus: we speak of the world when we mean only a very limited number of the people who compose the world: as, "The world treated him badly." Here we use the whole for a part. But the most common form of this figure is that in which a part is used for the whole; as, "I have twenty head of cattle," "One of his hands was assassinated," meaning one of his men. "Twenty sail came into the harbor," meaning twenty ships. "This is a fine marble," meaning a marble statue.

Metonymy (from the Greek meta, change, and onyma, a name) is the designation of an object by one of its accompaniments, in other words, it is a figure by which the name of one object is put for another when the two are so related that the mention of one readily suggests the other. Thus when we say of a drunkard—"He loves the bottle" we do not mean that he loves the glass receptacle, but the liquor that it is supposed to contain. Metonymy, generally speaking, has, three subdivisions: (1) when an effect is put for cause or vice versa: as "Gray hairs should be respected," meaning old age. "He writes a fine hand," that is, handwriting. (2) when the sign is put for the thing signified; as, "The pen is mightier than the sword," meaning literary power is superior to military force. (3) When the container is put for the thing contained; as "The House was called to order," meaning the members in the House.

Exclamation (from the Latin ex, out, and clamare, to cry), is a figure by which the speaker instead of stating a fact, simply utters an expression of surprise or emotion. For instance when he hears some harrowing tale of woe or misfortune instead of saying,—"It is a sad story" he exclaims "What a sad story!"

Exclamation may be defined as the vocal expression of feeling, though it is also applied to written forms which are intended to express emotion. Thus in describing a towering mountain we can write "Heavens, what a piece of Nature's handiwork! how majestic! how sublime! how awe-inspiring in its colossal impressiveness!" This figure rather belongs to poetry and animated oratory than to the cold prose of every-day conversation and writing.

Hyperbole (from the Greek hyper, beyond, and ballein, to throw), is an exaggerated form of statement and simply consists in representing things to be either greater or less, better or worse than they really are. Its object is to make the thought more effective by overstating it. Here are some examples:—"He was so tall his head touched the clouds." "He was as thin as a poker." "He was so light that a breath might have blown him away." Most people are liable to overwork this figure. We are all more or less given to exaggeration and some of us do not stop there, but proceed onward to falsehood and downright lying. There should be a limit to hyperbole, and in ordinary speech and writing it should be well qualified and kept within reasonable bounds.

An Apostrophe (from the Greek apo, from, and strephein, to turn), is a direct address to the absent as present, to the inanimate as living, or to the abstract as personal. Thus: "O, illustrious Washington! Father of our Country! Could you visit us now!"

"My Country tis of thee— Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing."

"O! Grave, where is thy Victory, O! Death where is thy sting!" This figure is very closely allied to Personification.

Vision (from the Latin videre, to see) consists in treating the past, the future, or the remote as if present in time or place. It is appropriate to animated description, as it produces the effect of an ideal presence. "The old warrior looks down from the canvas and tells us to be men worthy of our sires."

This figure is much exemplified in the Bible. The book of Revelation is a vision of the future. The author who uses the figure most is Carlyle.

An Antithesis (from the Greek anti, against, and tithenai, to set) is founded on contrast; it consists in putting two unlike things in such a position that each will appear more striking by the contrast.

"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring out the false, ring in the true."

"Let us be friends in peace, but enemies in war."

Here is a fine antithesis in the description of a steam engine—"It can engrave a seal and crush masses of obdurate metal before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as a gossamer; and lift up a ship of war like a bauble in the air; it can embroider muslin and forge anchors; cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of winds and waves."

Climax (from the Greek, klimax, a ladder), is an arrangement of thoughts and ideas in a series, each part of which gets stronger and more impressive until the last one, which emphasizes the force of all the preceding ones. "He risked truth, he risked honor, he risked fame, he risked all that men hold dear,—yea, he risked life itself, and for what?—for a creature who was not worthy to tie his shoe-latchets when he was his better self."

Epigram (from the Greek epi, upon, and graphein, to write), originally meant an inscription on a monument, hence it came to signify any pointed expression. It now means a statement or any brief saying in prose or poetry in which there is an apparent contradiction; as, "Conspicuous for his absence." "Beauty when unadorned is most adorned." "He was too foolish to commit folly." "He was so wealthy that he could not spare the money."

Interrogation (from the Latin interrogatio, a question), is a figure of speech in which an assertion is made by asking a question; as, "Does God not show justice to all?" "Is he not doing right in his course?" "What can a man do under the circumstances?"

Irony (from the Greek eironcia, dissimulation) is a form of expression in which the opposite is substituted for what is intended, with the end in view, that the falsity or absurdity may be apparent; as, "Benedict Arnold was an honorable man." "A Judas Iscariot never betrays a friend." "You can always depend upon the word of a liar."

Irony is cousin germain to ridicule, derision, mockery, satire and sarcasm. Ridicule implies laughter mingled with contempt; derision is ridicule from a personal feeling of hostility; mockery is insulting derision; satire is witty mockery; sarcasm is bitter satire and irony is disguised satire.

There are many other figures of speech which give piquancy to language and play upon words in such a way as to convey a meaning different from their ordinary signification in common every-day speech and writing. The golden rule for all is to keep them in harmony with the character and purpose of speech and composition.



Principal Points—Illustrations—Capital Letters.

Lindley Murray and Goold Brown laid down cast-iron rules for punctuation, but most of them have been broken long since and thrown into the junk-heap of disuse. They were too rigid, too strict, went so much into minutiae, that they were more or less impractical to apply to ordinary composition. The manner of language, of style and of expression has considerably changed since then, the old abstruse complex sentence with its hidden meanings has been relegated to the shade, there is little of prolixity or long-drawn-out phrases, ambiguity of expression is avoided and the aim is toward terseness, brevity and clearness. Therefore, punctuation has been greatly simplified, to such an extent indeed, that it is now as much a matter of good taste and judgment as adherence to any fixed set of rules. Nevertheless there are laws governing it which cannot be abrogated, their principles must be rigidly and inviolably observed.

The chief end of punctuation is to mark the grammatical connection and the dependence of the parts of a composition, but not the actual pauses made in speaking. Very often the points used to denote the delivery of a passage differ from those used when the passage is written. Nevertheless, several of the punctuation marks serve to bring out the rhetorical force of expression.

The principal marks of punctuation are:

1. The Comma [,]

2. The Semicolon [;]

3. The Colon [:]

4. The Period [.]

5. The Interrogation [?]

6. The Exclamation [!]

7. The Dash [—]

8. The Parenthesis [()]

9. The Quotation [" "]

There are several other points or marks to indicate various relations, but properly speaking such come under the heading of Printer's Marks, some of which are treated elsewhere.

Of the above, the first four may be styled the grammatical points, and the remaining five, the rhetorical points.

The Comma: The office of the Comma is to show the slightest separation which calls for punctuation at all. It should be omitted whenever possible. It is used to mark the least divisions of a sentence.

(1) A series of words or phrases has its parts separated by commas:— "Lying, trickery, chicanery, perjury, were natural to him." "The brave, daring, faithful soldier died facing the foe." If the series is in pairs, commas separate the pairs: "Rich and poor, learned and unlearned, black and white, Christian and Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist must pass through the same gate."

(2) A comma is used before a short quotation: "It was Patrick Henry who said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.'"

(3) When the subject of the sentence is a clause or a long phrase, a comma is used after such subject: "That he has no reverence for the God I love, proves his insincerity." "Simulated piety, with a black coat and a sanctimonious look, does not proclaim a Christian."

(4) An expression used parenthetically should be inclosed by commas: "The old man, as a general rule, takes a morning walk."

(5) Words in apposition are set off by commas: "McKinley, the President, was assassinated."

(6) Relative clauses, if not restrictive, require commas: "The book, which is the simplest, is often the most profound."

(7) In continued sentences each should be followed by a comma: "Electricity lights our dwellings and streets, pulls cars, trains, drives the engines of our mills and factories."

(8) When a verb is omitted a comma takes its place: "Lincoln was a great statesman; Grant, a great soldier."

(9) The subject of address is followed by a comma: "John, you are a good man."

(10) In numeration, commas are used to express periods of three figures: "Mountains 25,000 feet high; 1,000,000 dollars."

The Semicolon marks a slighter connection than the comma. It is generally confined to separating the parts of compound sentences. It is much used in contrasts:

(1) "Gladstone was great as a statesman; he was sublime as a man."

(2) The Semicolon is used between the parts of all compound sentences in which the grammatical subject of the second part is different from that of the first: "The power of England relies upon the wisdom of her statesmen; the power of America upon the strength of her army and navy."

(4) The Semicolon is used before words and abbreviations which introduce particulars or specifications following after, such as, namely, as, e.g., vid., i.e., etc.: "He had three defects; namely, carelessness, lack of concentration and obstinacy in his ideas." "An island is a portion of land entirely surrounded by water; as Cuba." "The names of cities should always commence with a capital letter; e.g., New York, Paris." "The boy was proficient in one branch; viz., Mathematics." "No man is perfect; i.e., free from all blemish."

The Colon except in conventional uses is practically obsolete.

(1) It is generally put at the end of a sentence introducing a long quotation: "The cheers having subsided, Mr. Bryan spoke as follows:"

(2) It is placed before an explanation or illustration of the subject under consideration: "This is the meaning of the term:"

(3) A direct quotation formally introduced is generally preceded by a colon: "The great orator made this funny remark:"

(4) The colon is often used in the title of books when the secondary or subtitle is in apposition to the leading one and when the conjunction or is omitted: "Acoustics: the Science of Sound."

(5) It is used after the salutation in the beginning of letters: "Sir: My dear Sir: Gentlemen: Dear Mr. Jones:" etc. In this connection a dash very often follows the colon.

(6) It is sometimes used to introduce details of a group of things already referred to in the mass: "The boy's excuses for being late were: firstly, he did not know the time, secondly, he was sent on an errand, thirdly, he tripped on a rock and fell by the wayside."

The Period is the simplest punctuation mark. It is simply used to mark the end of a complete sentence that is neither interrogative nor exclamatory.

(1) After every sentence conveying a complete meaning: "Birds fly." "Plants grow." "Man is mortal."

(2) In abbreviations: after every abbreviated word: Rt. Rev. T. C. Alexander, D.D., L.L.D.

(3) A period is used on the title pages of books after the name of the book, after the author's name, after the publisher's imprint: American Trails. By Theodore Roosevelt. New York. Scribner Company.

The Mark of Interrogation is used to ask or suggest a question.

(1) Every question admitting of an answer, even when it is not expected, should be followed by the mark of interrogation: "Who has not heard of Napoleon?"

(2) When several questions have a common dependence they should be followed by one mark of interrogation at the end of the series: "Where now are the playthings and friends of my boyhood; the laughing boys; the winsome girls; the fond neighbors whom I loved?"

(3) The mark is often used parenthetically to suggest doubt: "In 1893 (?) Gladstone became converted to Home Rule for Ireland."

The Exclamation point should be sparingly used, particularly in prose. Its chief use is to denote emotion of some kind.

(1) It is generally employed with interjections or clauses used as interjections: "Alas! I am forsaken." "What a lovely landscape!"

(2) Expressions of strong emotion call for the exclamation: "Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!"

(3) When the emotion is very strong double exclamation points may be used: "Assist him!! I would rather assist Satan!!"

The Dash is generally confined to cases where there is a sudden break from the general run of the passage. Of all the punctuation marks it is the most misused.

(1) It is employed to denote sudden change in the construction or sentiment: "The Heroes of the Civil War,—how we cherish them." "He was a fine fellow—in his own opinion."

(2) When a word or expression is repeated for oratorical effect, a dash is used to introduce the repetition: "Shakespeare was the greatest of all poets—Shakespeare, the intellectual ocean whose waves washed the continents of all thought."

(3) The Dash is used to indicate a conclusion without expressing it: "He is an excellent man but—"

(4) It is used to indicate what is not expected or what is not the natural outcome of what has gone before: "He delved deep into the bowels of the earth and found instead of the hidden treasure—a button."

(5) It is used to denote the omission of letters or figures: "J—n J—s" for John Jones; 1908-9 for 1908 and 1909; Matthew VII:5-8 for Matthew VII:5, 6, 7, and 8.

(6) When an ellipsis of the words, namely, that is, to wit, etc., takes place, the dash is used to supply them: "He excelled in three branches— arithmetic, algebra, and geometry."

(7) A dash is used to denote the omission of part of a word when it is undesirable to write the full word: He is somewhat of a r——l (rascal). This is especially the case in profane words.

(8) Between a citation and the authority for it there is generally a dash: "All the world's a stage."—Shakespeare.

(9) When questions and answers are put in the same paragraph they should be separated by dashes: "Are you a good boy? Yes, Sir.—Do you love study? I do."

Marks of Parenthesis are used to separate expressions inserted in the body of a sentence, which are illustrative of the meaning, but have no essential connection with the sentence, and could be done without. They should be used as little as possible for they show that something is being brought into a sentence that does not belong to it.

(1) When the unity of a sentence is broken the words causing the break should be enclosed in parenthesis: "We cannot believe a liar (and Jones is one), even when he speaks the truth."

(2) In reports of speeches marks of parenthesis are used to denote interpolations of approval or disapproval by the audience: "The masses must not submit to the tyranny of the classes (hear, hear), we must show the trust magnates (groans), that they cannot ride rough-shod over our dearest rights (cheers);" "If the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown), will not be our spokesman, we must select another. (A voice,—Get Robinson)."

When a parenthesis is inserted in the sentence where no comma is required, no point should be used before either parenthesis. When inserted at a place requiring a comma, if the parenthetical matter relates to the whole sentence, a comma should be used before each parenthesis; if it relates to a single word, or short clause, no stop should come before it, but a comma should be put after the closing parenthesis.

The Quotation marks are used to show that the words enclosed by them are borrowed.

(1) A direct quotation should be enclosed within the quotation marks: Abraham Lincoln said,—"I shall make this land too hot for the feet of slaves."

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