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"Learn to see and to hear. Seeing and hearing are more matters of the brain than of eye and ear. . . . Exposition demands . . . the exercise of reason as well as of observation, but the two are closely bound together; and the mind which is trained to see is as sure to reason about what it sees as the plant which thrusts its rootlets into the rich soil is to grow."


168. The Meaning of Exposition. Every person who knows how to sail a boat enjoys telling how he does it. A good swimmer likes to let a beginner into the secret of his skill. The tennis player sometimes tries to give his friends some notion of what he means by "thirty-love." In each of these cases there is a demand for explanation, or, as we sometimes call it, exposition.

You may know how the town in which you live came to have a high-school building. If you were to give this history, you would call your work narration. Should you by the use of words make a picture of the schoolhouse, you would produce a description. But if you explain the uses of the building, the result is an exposition.

In describing a thing we tell of its appearance; in explaining it we expose, or "set forth," its meaning. One who has attended a typical " town meeting" can give an entertaining account of what he saw there, but it is another matter to make a foreigner comprehend what " town meeting" really means. It is one thing to describe a friend so that a stranger can pick him out in a crowd; it is a very

different undertaking to explain the secret of your friend's cheerful countenance.

In reading a biography we are not satisfied with a description of a man's appearance; we wish to know what sort of man he was. We turn year after year to Lockhart's "Life of Scott," Southey's "Life of Nelson," and Plutarch's "Lives," because these enable us to understand how certain great men accomplished their life work.

169. Definition. One of the commonest forms of exposition is definition. We are continually trying to explain the meaning of a word, to "fix its limits," that is, to define it. For this purpose a synonym is helpful, if it is better understood than the word to be defined. Vocation, for example, may not be so clear to some persons as business; to acquiesce, so intelligible as to yield; hypochondria, so well known as melancholy; or melancholy, in turn, so simple as the blues. A definition of this sort is sometimes called loose or synonymous (see the synonyms, homonyms, and antonyms in sect. 127).

In defining a term, we should use as many sentences as we need, and in addition, as many illustrations as will prove helpful. For example, it is not enough to say that " position is putting things together so as to make one thing out of them, the nature and goodness of which they all have a share in producing." Ruskin therefore adds, "Thus a musician composes an air by putting notes together in certain relations; a poet composes a poem by putting words and thoughts in pleasant order; and a painter, a picture, by putting thoughts, forms, and colors in pleasant order."

If, in defining a term, we use words that need further explanation, we must be sure to supply it. For instance, in “civics is the science of civil government," the italicized words need further definition.

170. Phrasing the Definition. Unless we take care to give finish and exactness to the wording of our definitions, we shall fall into bad habits. Many a boy and girl will say, for example, “A tornado is when the wind blows suddenly and fiercely and it rains in torrents," etc. This is of course all wrong. A noun should be defined as a noun. Thus, instead of "A tornado is when," we should say, "A tornado is a tempest which springs up suddenly and is accompanied by rain, wind," etc. Likewise, an adjective must be defined as an adjective, a verb as a verb. Thus, "To trade means to buy and to sell," not "To trade is buying and selling."

The repetition of a term should be avoided in a definition. Thus, the following is not a good definition :

A building is something that is built.


566. Write directions for playing quoits, duck on a rock, or hop-scotch. If your subject is quoits, you may use this plan:

I. The outfit.

1. Horseshoes.

2. The "hub" (stake).

II. Position of the players.

III. Object of the players.
IV. The keeping of the score.

567. Give directions for making soup, bread, or cake; or for freezing ice cream; or for building a coal fire, cleaning a bicycle, or harnessing a horse.

568. Show to what extent an account of the battle of Thermopyla might be an exposition.

569. Give a synonymous definition of each of these words: surly, cudgel, wordy, timely, picturesque, renders, lackey.

570. Explain the difference between a magazine and a newspaper.

571. Give a definition of one of these musical terms: viola, tuba, grand opera, symphony.

572. Explain each of these terms: algebra, geometry, history, physics, drawing, English grammar, botany, literature.

171. Unity. Having chosen a limited subject, think it over and write the substance of what you wish to say in a single sentence. If you keep this sentence summary constantly in mind, your work will probably be a unit. If, for example, you are explaining baseball, your sentence summary might be: "Baseball is a field game, played with bat and ball, by eighteen men, nine on a side." In explaining a steam engine, you might say that "a steam engine may be defined as an apparatus for doing work by means of heat applied to water." Does that seem to you a good sentence summary?


573. Explain in a single sentence the main difference between an adjective and an adverb, or between arithmetic and algebra.

574. Sum up in a written sentence the main features, as you understand them, of one of the following games: football, tennis, golf, cricket, checkers, chess.

575. Reword the following common sayings:

1. The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on. 2. Murder will out. 3. A close mouth catches no flies. 4. Hitch your wagon to a star. 5. Nothing succeeds like success. 6. Little strokes fell great oaks. 7. I am always in haste, but never in a hurry.

172. Arrangement of Material. In connection with unity we must have coherence, - an orderly arrangement of our

material, and in order to secure it we can well afford to take great pains in making a definite plan.

Sometimes the subject determines the order of the main divisions of an outline. One step leads inevitably to the next; you are not free, as you are in narration and description, to gain emphasis through position. You may, however, give most space to matters which need most explanation, and in this way secure emphasis through proportion. When you are free to choose the order, do not try to give the most difficult part of your explanation at once, but begin with something which is comparatively easy, if possible, with something about which the reader is not entirely ignorant, and lead from that to the parts which are harder to understand. In other words, begin with the simple and work toward the complex. If, for instance, you were to explain the game of tennis, you surely would not call attention at once to the meaning of deuce set.

If you can be clear and at the same time secure climax, by all means do so; but remember that no matter how interesting you make your explanation, it is a failure if it is not clear.

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576. Make a plan of a two-minute talk on Baseball. Let it show that you are to discuss (1) the equipment, (2) the positions of the players, (3) the way in which the game is played.

577. Make a plan of the following paragraph:

When we ask for more time for schools, we are always met by this objection: The children can hardly stand the stress to which they are now subjected. Are we to overtax them still more? I believe there are three good answers to this objection. The first is ventilation. If you will take the excess of carbonic acid out of the schoolroom, you can keep the children in it longer, without hurting

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