Conversation and Composition

Study English Composition in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy

Your habits of speech are likely to become permanent and errors of speech will creep into your written work.

Short sentences are quite as necessary as long ones, and in some cases, such as the portraying of strong emotion, are more effective. Even a succession of short sentences may be used with good results to describe rapid action. In conversation, also, sentences are generally short, and often grammatically incomplete, though they may be understood by the hearer. Sometimes this incompleteness is justified by the idiom of the language, but more often it is the result of carelessness on the part of the speaker. The hearer understands what is said either because he knows about what to expect, or because the expression is a familiar one. Such carelessness not only causes the omission of words grammatically necessary, but brings about the incorrect pronunciation of words and their faulty combination into sentences.

Speech Habits and Writing

You speak much more often than you write. Your habits of speech are likely to become permanent and your errors of speech will creep into your written work. It is important therefore that you watch your spoken language. Occasions will arise when the slang expressions that you so freely use will seem inappropriate, and it will be unfortunate indeed if you find that you have used the slang so long that you have no other words to take their place. Abbreviations may be used among your schoolmates, that are not used in educated or professional adult society. By watching your own speech you will find that some incorrect forms are very common. Improvement can be made by giving your attention to one of them, such as the use of “gonna”, or of “got”, or of “don’t” and “doesn’t”.

Writing Conversations

In making a written report of conversation you should remember that short sentences predominate. A conversation composed of long sentences would seem stilted and made to order. What each person says, however short, is put into a separate division and indented. Explanatory matter accompanying the conversation is placed with the spoken part to which it most closely relates. Notice the indentations and the use of quotation marks in several printed reports of conversation.

Source: Brooks, Stratton C. Composition-Rhetoric (1905)

Comprehension Questions

  1. What is the subject of this lesson?
  2. What problems are caused by the use of short sentences?
  3. When are short sentences helpful?
  4. How can careless conversation lead to bad habits in writing?
  5. What are “slang expressions”?
  6. What are some slang expressions that you make frequent use of?
  7. How might you replace these slang expressions with more proper language?
  8. What ought we to remember when covering conversations in writing?
  9. How ought conversations to be formatted when writing?
  10. Briefly summarize the content of this lesson.

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