The Art of Public Speaking
forms succeed. Sometimes we feel confident that we have perfect mastery of an idea, but when the time
comes to express it, the clearness becomes a haze. Exposition, then, is the test of clear understanding. To
speak effectively you must be able to see your subject clearly and comprehensively, and to make your
audience see it as you do."
There are pitfalls on both sides of this path. To explain too little will leave your audience in doubt as to what
you mean. It is useless to argue a question if it is not perfectly clear just what is meant by the question. Have
you never come to a blind lane in conversation by finding that you were talking of one aspect of a matter
while your friend was thinking of another? If two do not agree in their definitions of a Musician, it is useless
to dispute over a certain man's right to claim the title.
On the other side of the path lies the abyss of tediously explaining too much. That offends because it
impresses the hearers that you either do not respect their intelligence or are trying to blow a breeze into a
tornado. Carefully estimate the probable knowledge of your audience, both in general and of the particular
point you are explaining. In trying to simplify, it is fatal to "sillify." To explain more than is needed for the
purposes of your argument or appeal is to waste energy all around. In your efforts to be explicit do not press
exposition to the extent of dulness--the confines are not far distant and you may arrive before you know it.
Some Purposes of Exposition
From what has been said it ought to be clear that, primarily, exposition weaves a cord of understanding
between you and your audience. It lays, furthermore, a foundation of fact on which to build later statements,
arguments, and appeals. In scientific and purely "information" speeches exposition may exist by itself and for
itself, as in a lecture on biology, or on psychology; but in the vast majority of cases it is used to accompany
and prepare the way for the other forms of discourse.
Clearness, precision, accuracy, unity, truth, and necessity--these must be the constant standards by which you
test the efficiency of your expositions, and, indeed, that of every explanatory statement. This dictum should be
written on your brain in letters most plain. And let this apply not alone to the purposes of exposition but in
equal measure to your use of the
Methods of Exposition
The various ways along which a speaker may proceed in exposition are likely to touch each other now and
then, and even when they do not meet and actually overlap they run so nearly parallel that the roads are
sometimes distinct rather in theory than in any more practical respect.
=Definition=, the primary expository method, is a statement of precise limits. Obviously, here the greatest
care must be exercised that the terms of definition should not themselves demand too much definition; that the
language should be concise and clear; and that the definition should neither exclude nor include too much.
The following is a simple example:
To expound is to set forth the nature, the significance, the characteristics, and the bearing of an idea or a group
--ARLO BATES, Talks on Writing English.
=Contrast and Antithesis= are often used effectively to amplify definition, as in this sentence, which
immediately follows the above-cited definition:
Exposition therefore differs from Description in that it deals directly with the meaning or intent of its subject
instead of with its appearance.