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“Manuscript, we believe, takes precedence of print. Most of us will read a letter before we will read a book.” — N. P. Willis.
What cleanliness is to the man, neatness is to the manuscript. Whether a paper has ten words or a thousand, whether it is a note to a friend or a petition to the President of the United States, it should be neat and attractive.
A margin about three fourths of an inch wide on the left-hand side of the page is convenient for criticisms. Margins as wide as the diameter of a lead pencil at the top, at the bottom, and on the right-hand side, will add to the attractiveness of the manuscript. Section 13 gives directions for setting off the title, and section 16 for indenting the paragraph.
Sufficient space should be left between the lines to avoid the crowded appearance caused by overlapping loops of letters, and to allow room for corrections. An example of theme correcting is given on page 25.
13. The Heading. Whatever the teacher wishes the heading to include,- for example, the date, the pupil's name and class, and the title, should be separated from what follows by a blank space. An important part of the heading is the title. The title must not be confused with
the subject. It is generally more specific; if, for example, each member of a class were to write a title for a theme on the subject "Baseball," there might be as many titles as students, but only one subject. Three suggestions should be kept in mind in selecting a title:
1. It should be brief. As a substitute for the somewhat cumbrous statement of the subject, "How we spent a Pleasant Evening," one writer chose the brief title, "A Pleasant Evening."
2. It should be to the point. Instead of using' such a general title as "An Incident," it is always well to pick out something that applies to the particular incident to be described. You might label each one of a hundred papers An Incident," but you should try to find for each of them a title so decidedly to the point that it would not fit any of the others.
3. It should be an attractive announcement of the subject. "On the River" is neater and more attractive than "A Three Hours' Afternoon Row on the River." The subject treated in scores of books is "English Grammar "; the title of one such book is "The Mother Tongue." "English Grammar" may suggest various difficulties and numerous dry chapters. "The Mother Tongue" sounds as if the book would appeal to all who speak the English language. Your title, like a nutshell, should give a correct impression of the kind of meat it offers.
NOTE. A composition should be complete without a title. If you are writing about Fred Brown, do not try to avoid repetition by beginning "He is a boy of my age," but use your title- or as much as you need of it in your opening sentence. You could, for example, say,
Fred Brown is a boy of my age."
24. The following incident appeared in a magazine under the title "What it was They Heard." Tell why or why not that is a better title for it than " The Indian and the Phonograph." Can you think of one that you like better than either?
On a recent visit to Baltimore, Bishop Rowe of Alaska told the following good story: "I had recently to make a visit to a tribe of Indians far from the places where the white men go. Only a very few of the tribe had ever seen white men.. One of the members of our party had a phonograph. He thought it would amuse the Indians, and so brought it out. They gathered round it in wonder, and spent some time looking at it from every direction. At last the old chief got down on his knees and peered into it. He raised himself, threw his arm out with a sweeping gesture, and said, 'Ugh! canned white man."
25. Discuss in class the titles of six books, magazines, or newspapers. Are they effective? misleading? attractive? easy to remember?
26. Rewrite the following titles of themes and improve them in any way you can:
1. A Method of packing Packages of Sugar.
2. How Jewelry Boxes are made by the Demrim Company.
3. The Story of Miss Matty's Romance.
4. A Description of my own Town.
5. Why "Rip Van Winkle" is Popular.
6. The most Humorous Character in "The Sketch-Book."
7. The Simplicity of the Plot of "Silas Marner."
8. How Heat makes Ice.
14. The Sentence and its Punctuation. Ancient manuscripts were written continuously, thus:
Later the words were separated by spaces, and sometimes by dots and other marks. The punctuation marks
now employed have come to be used with so much definiteness that they are a great help in enabling us to express our meaning exactly. They not only assist us to present one thought at a time, but they also help indicate the relation between words expressing a thought. The marks most often used in ordinary writing are: the period (.), the comma (,), the colon (:), the semicolon (;), and the dash (-). We should be careful to have a reason for every mark that we use.
15. Spelling. Five hundred years ago readers and writers were not particular about spelling; the same word was often spelled in several ways. In our time, however, it is important to spell with accuracy. If you have any doubt whatever about the spelling of a word, consult a dictionary.1
Syllabication. Never divide a word at the end of a line unless you can divide it by syllables. (See sect. 49.) Use a hyphen to mark the division, and put the hyphen at the end of the line.
16. The Paragraph. We can help the reader grasp our meaning quickly by arranging our sentences in groups. A group of sentences which relate to a single division of the subject is called a paragraph. Every paragraph should be indented; that is, the first word should be written about an inch farther to the right than the first word of any other line in the paragraph.
When we come to the study of paragraphs and sentences, we are no longer dealing with mere details of form affecting the appearance of the manuscript, but with what is of much
1 The teacher may do well to explain that dictionaries differ in unimportant particulars; for example, that one gives traveling and another travelling, etc.
greater importance the substance and construction of the composition. These are matters with which we shall soon become familiar.
17. The Two Copies of the Manuscript. Although it is important to acquire facility in writing good compositions 1 without copying them, for some time you will do well to make two copies of the papers you write outside the class
In preparing the first copy there are two steps:
1. Write rapidly.
2. Revise slowly.
a. See that every paragraph is indented.
b. See that every sentence has a subject and a predi
c. See that every sentence is punctuated (1) at the end; (2) throughout.
d. See that every word is correctly spelled.
In making the second copy there are three things to remember: (1) neatness; (2) margins; (3) heading.
27. Study the model on page 25, and be prepared to explain to the class how to prepare manuscript.
28. Read the corrected paragraphs in the model on page 25 (1) as they stood originally, (2) as they stand now. Explain every criticism and, if possible, give a reason for every correction. (See p. 28.)
1A written composition is sometimes called a theme, and both terms will be used in this book.