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English Composition, Lesson 17. Variety

Improve your writing in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy's English Composition course.
Improve your writing in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy’s English Composition course.

In this lesson, we will continue to study how “euphony” can be improved in our composition by giving attention to variety. To complete the objectives of this lesson, complete the following tasks:

  1. Study the lesson for mastery.
  2. Complete the lesson assessment.


Of the many elements which affect the euphony of a theme none is more essential than variety. The constant repetition of the same thing grows monotonous and distasteful, while a pleasing variety maintains interest and improves the story. For sake of it we avoid the continual use of the same words and phrases, substituting synonyms and equivalent expressions if we have need to repeat the same idea many times. Most children begin every sentence of a story with “and,” or perhaps it is better to say that they conclude many sentences with “and-uh,” leaving the thought in suspense while they are trying to think of what to say next. High school pupils are not wholly free from this habit, and it is sometimes retained in their written work. This excessive use of “and” needs to be corrected. An examination of our language habits will show that nearly every one has one or more words which he uses to excess. A professor of rhetoric, after years of correcting others, discovered by underscoring the word “that” each time it occurred in his own writing that he was using it twice as often as necessary. “Got” is one of the words used too frequently, and often incorrectly.

In the following selection notice how each sentence begins. Compare it with one of your own themes.

I was witness to events of a less peaceful character. One day when I went out to my woodpile, or rather my pile of stumps; I observed two large ants, the one red, and the other much larger, nearly half an inch long, and black, fiercely contending with each other. Having once got hold, they never let go, but struggled and wrestled and rolled on the chips incessantly. Looking farther, I was surprised to find that the chips were covered with such combatants; that it was not a duellum, but a bellum, a war between two races of ants, the red always pitted against the black, and frequently two red ones to one black. The legions of these Myrmidons covered all the hills and vales in my woodyard, and the ground was already strewn with the dead and the dying, both red and black.

It was the only battle which I have ever witnessed – the only battlefield I ever trod while the battle was raging. On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely.


Examine one of your own themes. If some word occurs frequently, underscore it each time, and then substitute words or expressions for it in as many places as you can. If necessary, reconstruct the sentences so as to avoid using the word in some cases. Notice how these substitutions give a variety to your expression and improve the euphony of your composition.

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