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Title: How to Speak and Write Correctly


Author: Joseph Devlin

Release Date: September, 2004 [EBook #6409] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on December 8, 2002] [Date last updated: May 2, 2006]

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Language: English


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Vocabulary. Parts of speech. Requisites.

ESSENTIALS OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR Divisions of grammar. Definitions. Etymology.

Different kinds. Arrangement of words. Paragraph.

Figures of speech. Definitions and examples. Use of figures.

Principal points. Illustrations. Capital letters.



LETTER WRITING Principles of letter writing. Forms. Notes.

Mistakes. Slips of authors. Examples and corrections. Errors of redundancy.

Common stumbling blocks. Peculiar constructions. Misused forms.

Diction. Purity. Propriety. Precision.

How to write. What to write. Correct speaking and speakers.

Origin. American slang. Foreign slang.

Qualification. Appropriate subjects. Directions.

Small words. Their importance. The Anglo-Saxon element.

Beginning. Different Sources. The present.

MASTERS AND MASTERPIECES OF LITERATURE Great authors. Classification. The world's best books.


In the preparation of this little work the writer has kept one end in view, viz.: To make it serviceable for those for whom it is intended, that is, for those who have neither the time nor the opportunity, the learning nor the inclination, to peruse elaborate and abstruse treatises on Rhetoric, Grammar, and Composition. To them such works are as gold enclosed in chests of steel and locked beyond power of opening. This book has no pretension about it whatever,--it is neither a Manual of Rhetoric, expatiating on the dogmas of style, nor a Grammar full of arbitrary rules and exceptions. It is merely an effort to help ordinary, everyday people to express themselves in ordinary, everyday language, in a proper manner. Some broad rules are laid down, the observance of which will enable the reader to keep within the pale of propriety in oral and written language. Many idiomatic words and expressions, peculiar to the language, have been given, besides which a number of the common mistakes and pitfalls have been placed before the reader so that he may know and avoid them.

The writer has to acknowledge his indebtedness to no one in _particular_, but to all in _general_ who have ever written on the subject.

The little book goes forth--a finger-post on the road of language pointing in the right direction. It is hoped that they who go according to its index will arrive at the goal of correct speaking and writing.





Vocabulary--Parts of Speech--Requisites

It is very easy to learn how to speak and write correctly, as for all purposes of ordinary conversation and communication, only about 2,000 different words are required. The mastery of just twenty hundred words, the knowing where to place them, will make us not masters of the English language, but masters of correct speaking and writing. Small number, you will say, compared with what is in the dictionary! But nobody ever uses all the words in the dictionary or could use them did he live to be the age of Methuselah, and there is no necessity for using them.

There are upwards of 200,000 words in the recent editions of the large dictionaries, but the one-hundredth part of this number will suffice for all your wants. Of course you may think not, and you may not be content to call things by their common names; you may be ambitious to show superiority over others and display your learning or, rather, your pedantry and lack of learning. For instance, you may not want to call a spade a spade. You may prefer to call it a spatulous device for abrading the surface of the soil. Better, however, to stick to the old familiar, simple name that your grandfather called it. It has stood the test of time, and old friends are always good friends.

To use a big word or a foreign word when a small one and a familiar one will answer the same purpose, is a sign of ignorance. Great scholars and writers and polite speakers use simple words.
To go back to the number necessary for all purposes of conversation correspondence and writing, 2,000, we find that a great many people who pass in society as being polished, refined and educated use less, for they know less. The greatest scholar alive hasn't more than four thousand different words at his command, and he never has occasion to use half the number.

In the works of Shakespeare, the most wonderful genius the world has ever known, there is the enormous number of 15,000 different words, but almost 10,000 of them are obsolete or meaningless today.

Every person of intelligence should be able to use his mother tongue correctly. It only requires a little pains, a little care, a little study to enable one to do so, and the recompense is great.

Consider the contrast between the well-bred, polite man who knows how to choose and use his words correctly and the underbred, vulgar boor, whose language grates upon the ear and jars the sensitiveness of the finer feelings. The blunders of the latter, his infringement of all the canons of grammar, his absurdities and monstrosities of language, make his very presence a pain, and one is glad to escape from his company.

The proper grammatical formation of the English language, so that one may acquit himself as a correct conversationalist in the best society or be able to write and express his thoughts and ideas upon paper in the right manner, may be acquired in a few lessons.

It is the purpose of this book, as briefly and concisely as possible, to direct the reader along a straight course, pointing out the mistakes he must avoid and giving him such assistance as will enable him to reach the goal of a correct knowledge of the English language. It is not a Grammar in any sense, but a guide, a silent signal-post pointing the way in the right direction.


All the words in the English language are divided into nine great classes. These classes are called the Parts of Speech. They are Article, Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction and Interjection. Of these, the Noun is the most important, as all the others are more or less dependent upon it. A Noun signifies the name of any person, place or thing, in fact, anything of which we can have either thought or idea. There are two kinds of Nouns, Proper and Common. Common Nouns are names which belong in common to a race or class, as _man_, _city_. Proper Nouns distinguish individual members of a race or class as _John_, _Philadelphia_. In the former case _man_ is a name which belongs in common to the whole race of mankind, and _city_ is also a name which is common to all large centres of population, but _John_ signifies a particular individual of the race, while _Philadelphia_ denotes a particular one from among the cities of the world.

Nouns are varied by Person, Number, Gender, and Case. Person is that relation existing between the speaker, those addressed and the subject under consideration, whether by discourse or correspondence. The Persons are _First_, _Second_ and _Third_ and they represent respectively the speaker, the person addressed and the person or thing mentioned or under consideration.

_Number_ is the distinction of one from more than one. There are two numbers, singular and plural; the singular denotes one, the plural two or more. The plural is generally formed from the singular by the addition of _s_ or _es_.

_Gender_ has the same relation to nouns that sex has to individuals, but while there are only two sexes, there are four genders, viz., masculine, feminine, neuter and common. The masculine gender denotes all those of the male kind, the feminine gender all those of the female kind, the neuter gender denotes inanimate things or whatever is without life, and common gender is applied to animate beings, the sex of which for the time being is indeterminable, such as fish, mouse, bird, etc. Sometimes things which are without life as we conceive it and which, properly speaking, belong to the neuter gender, are, by a figure of speech called Personification, changed into either the masculine or feminine gender, as, for instance, we say of the sun, _He_ is rising; of the moon, _She_ is setting.

_Case_ is the relation one noun bears to another or to a verb or to a preposition. There are three cases, the _Nominative_, the _Possessive_ and the _Objective_. The nominative is the subject of which we are speaking or the agent which directs the action of the verb; the possessive case denotes possession, while the objective indicates the person or thing which is affected by the action of the verb.

An _Article_ is a word placed before a noun to show whether the latter is used in a particular or general sense. There are but two articles, _a_ or _an_ and _the_.

An _Adjective_ is a word which qualifies a noun, that is, which shows some distinguishing mark or characteristic belonging to the noun.



A _Pronoun_ is a word used for or instead of a noun to keep us from repeating the same noun too often. Pronouns, like nouns, have case, number, gender and person. There are three kinds of pronouns, _personal_, _relative_ and _adjective_.
A _verb_ is a word which signifies action or the doing of something. A verb is inflected by tense and mood and by number and person, though the latter two belong strictly to the subject of the verb.

An _adverb_ is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective and sometimes another adverb.


A _preposition_ serves to connect words and to show the relation between the objects which the words express.


A _conjunction_ is a word which joins words, phrases, clauses and sentences together.


An _interjection_ is a word which expresses surprise or some sudden emotion of the mind.




The three essentials of the English language are: _Purity_, _Perspicuity_ and _Precision_.

By _Purity_ is signified the use of good English. It precludes the use of all slang words, vulgar phrases, obsolete terms, foreign idioms, ambiguous expressions or any ungrammatical language whatsoever. Neither does it sanction the use of any newly coined word until such word is adopted by the best writers and speakers.

_Perspicuity_ demands the clearest expression of thought conveyed in unequivocal language, so that there may be no misunderstanding whatever of the thought or idea the speaker or writer wishes to convey. All ambiguous words, words of double meaning and words that might possibly be construed in a sense different from that intended, are strictly
forbidden. Perspicuity requires a style at once clear and comprehensive and entirely free from pomp and pedantry and affectation or any straining after effect.

_Precision_ requires concise and exact expression, free from redundancy and tautology, a style terse and clear and simple enough to enable the hearer or reader to comprehend immediately the meaning of the speaker or writer. It forbids, on the one hand, all long and involved sentences, and, on the other, those that are too short and abrupt. Its object is to strike the golden mean in such a way as to rivet the attention of the hearer or reader on the words uttered or written.



Divisions of Grammar--Definitions--Etymology.

In order to speak and write the English language correctly, it is imperative that the fundamental principles of the Grammar be mastered, for no matter how much we may read of the best authors, no matter how much we may associate with and imitate the best speakers, if we do not know the underlying principles of the correct formation of sentences and the relation of words to one another, we will be to a great extent like the parrot, that merely repeats what it hears without understanding the import of what is said. Of course the parrot, being a creature without reason, cannot comprehend; it can simply repeat what is said to it, and as it utters phrases and sentences of profanity with as much facility as those of virtue, so by like analogy, when we do not understand the grammar of the language, we may be making egregious blunders while thinking we are speaking with the utmost accuracy.



There are four great divisions of Grammar, viz.:


_Orthography_, _Etymology_, _Syntax_, and _Prosody_.


_Orthography_ treats of letters and the mode of combining them into words.


_Etymology_ treats of the various classes of words and the changes they undergo.


_Syntax_ treats of the connection and arrangement of words in sentences.


_Prosody_ treats of the manner of speaking and reading and the different kinds of verse.


The three first mentioned concern us most.



A _letter_ is a mark or character used to represent an articulate sound. Letters are divided into _vowels_ and _consonants_. A vowel is a letter which makes a distinct sound by itself. Consonants cannot be sounded without the aid of vowels. The vowels are _a_, _e_, _i_, _o_, _u_, and sometimes _w_ and _y_ when they do not begin a word or syllable.

SYLLABLES AND WORDS A syllable is a distinct sound produced by a single effort of [Transcriber's note: 1-2 words illegible] shall, pig, dog. In every syllable there must be at least one vowel.

A word consists of one syllable or a combination of syllables.

Many rules are given for the dividing of words into syllables, but the best is to follow as closely as possible the divisions made by the organs of speech in properly pronouncing them.





An _Article_ is a word placed before a noun to show whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense.

There are two articles, _a_ or _an_ and _the_. _A_ or _an_ is called the indefinite article because it does not point put any particular person or thing but indicates the noun in its widest sense; thus, _a_ man means any man whatsoever of the species or race.

_The_ is called the definite article because it points out some particular person or thing; thus, _the_ man means some particular individual.




A _noun_ is the name of any person, place or thing as _John_, _London_, _book_. Nouns are proper and common.


_Proper_ nouns are names applied to _particular_ persons or places.


_Common_ nouns are names applied to a whole kind or species.


Nouns are inflected by _number_, _gender_ and _case_.


_Number_ is that inflection of the noun by which we indicate whether it represents one or more than one.

_Gender_ is that inflection by which we signify whether the noun is the name of a male, a female, of an inanimate object or something which has no distinction of sex.

_Case_ is that inflection of the noun which denotes the state of the person, place or thing represented, as the subject of an affirmation or question, the owner or possessor of something mentioned, or the object of an action or of a relation.
Thus in the example, "John tore the leaves of Sarah's book," the distinction between _book_ which represents only one object and _leaves_ which represent two or more objects of the same kind is called _Number_; the distinction of sex between _John_, a male, and _Sarah_, a female, and _book_ and _leaves_, things which are inanimate and neither male nor female, is called _Gender_; and the distinction of state between _John_, the person who tore the book, and the subject of the affirmation, _Mary_, the owner of the book, _leaves_ the objects torn, and _book_ the object related to leaves, as the whole of which they were a part, is called _Case_.


An _adjective_ is a word which qualifies a noun, that is, shows or points out some distinguishing mark or feature of the noun; as, A _black_ dog.

Adjectives have three forms called degrees of comparison, the _positive_, the _comparative_ and the _superlative_.


The _positive_ is the simple form of the adjective without expressing increase or diminution of the original quality: _nice_.


The _comparative_ is that form of the adjective which expresses increase or diminution of the quality: _nicer_.


The _superlative_ is that form which expresses the greatest increase or diminution of the quality: _nicest_.




An adjective is in the positive form when it does not express comparison; as, "A _rich_ man."

An adjective is in the comparative form when it expresses comparison between two or between one and a number taken collectively, as, "John is _richer_ than James"; "he is _richer_ than all the men in Boston."

An adjective is in the superlative form when it expresses a comparison between one and a number of individuals taken separately; as, "John is the _richest_ man in Boston."

Adjectives expressive of properties or circumstances which cannot be increased have only the positive form; as, A _circular_ road; the _chief_ end; an _extreme_ measure.

Adjectives are compared in two ways, either by adding _er_ to the positive to form the comparative and _est_ to the positive to form the superlative, or by prefixing _more_ to the positive for the comparative and _most_ to the positive for the superlative; as, _handsome_, _handsomer_, _handsomest_ or _handsome_, _more handsome_, _most handsome_.

Adjectives of two or more syllables are generally compared by prefixing more and most.


Many adjectives are irregular in comparison; as, Bad, worse, worst; Good, better, best.



A _pronoun_ is a word used in place of a noun; as, "John gave his pen to James and _he_ lent it to Jane to write _her_ copy with _it_." Without the pronouns we would have to write this sentence,--"John gave John's pen to James and James lent the pen to Jane to write Jane's copy with the pen."

There are three kinds of pronouns--Personal, Relative and Adjective Pronouns.

_Personal_ Pronouns are so called because they are used instead of the names of persons, places and things. The Personal Pronouns are _I_, _Thou_, _He_, _She_, and _It_, with their plurals, _We_, _Ye_ or _You_ and _They_.

_I_ is the pronoun of the first person because it represents the person speaking.


_Thou_ is the pronoun of the second person because it represents the person spoken to.


_He_, _She_, _It_ are the pronouns of the third person because they represent the persons or things of whom we are speaking.

Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number, gender and case. The gender of the first and second person is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are thus declined:

First Person. M. or F.

Sing. Plural. N. I We P. Mine Ours O. Me Us Second Person.

M. or F.

Sing. Plural. N. Thou You P. Thine Yours O. Thee You

Third Person. M.

Sing. Plural. N. He They P. His Theirs O. Him Them

Third Person. F.

Sing. Plural. N. She They P. Hers Theirs O. Her Them

Third Person. Neuter.

Sing. Plural. N. It They P. Its Theirs O. It Them

N. B.--In colloquial language and ordinary writing Thou, Thine and Thee are seldom used, except by the Society of Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the nominative and objective singular in the second person and Yours is generally used in the possessive in place of Thine.

The _Relative_ Pronouns are so called because they relate to some word or phrase going before; as, "The boy _who_ told the truth;" "He has done well, _which_ gives me great pleasure."

Here _who_ and _which_ are not only used in place of other words, but _who_ refers immediately to boy, and _which_ to the circumstance of his having done well.

The word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called the _Antecedent_.


The Relative Pronouns are _who_, _which_, _that_ and _what_.


_Who_ is applied to persons only; as, "The man _who_ was here."


_Which_ is applied to the lower animals and things without life; as, "The horse _which_ I sold." "The hat _which_ I bought."


_That_ is applied to both persons and things; as, "The friend _that_ helps." "The bird _that_ sings." "The knife _that_ cuts."

_What_ is a compound relative, including both the antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to _that which_; as, "I did what he desired," i. e. "I did _that which_ he desired."

Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.


_Who_ is either masculine or feminine; _which_ and _that_ are masculine, feminine or neuter; _what_ as a relative pronoun is always neuter.


_That_ and _what_ are not inflected.


_Who_ and _which_ are thus declined:


Sing. and Plural Sing. and Plural

N. Who N. Which P. Whose P. Whose O. Whom O. Which

_Who_, _which_ and _what_ when used to ask questions are called _Interrogative Pronouns_.


_Adjective_ Pronouns partake of the nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as follows:

_Demonstrative Adjective Pronouns_ which directly point out the person or object. They are _this_, _that_ with their plurals _these_, _those_, and _yon_, _same_ and _selfsame_.

_Distributive Adjective Pronouns_ used distributively. They are _each_, _every_, _either_, _neither_.


_Indefinite Adjective Pronouns_ used more or less indefinitely. They are _any_, _all_, _few_, _some_, _several_, _one_, _other_, _another_, _none_.


_Possessive Adjective Pronouns_ denoting possession. They are _my_, _thy_, _his_, _her_, _its_, _our_, _your_, _their_.

N. B.--(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter can stand _alone_ while the former _cannot_. "Who owns that book?" "It is _mine_." You cannot say "it is _my_,"--the word book must be repeated.)



A _verb_ is a word which implies action or the doing of something, or it may be defined as a word which affirms, commands or asks a question.

Thus, the words _John the table_, contain no assertion, but when the word _strikes_ is introduced, something is affirmed, hence the word _strikes_ is a verb and gives completeness and meaning to the group.

The simple form of the verb without inflection is called the _root_ of the verb; _e. g. love_ is the root of the verb,--"To Love."


Verbs are _regular_ or _irregular_, _transitive_ or _intransitive_.

A verb is said to be _regular_ when it forms the past tense by adding _ed_ to the present or _d_ if the verb ends in _e_. When its past tense does not end in _ed_ it is said to be _irregular_.

A _transitive_ verb is one the action of which passes over to or affects some object; as "I struck the table." Here the action of striking affected the object table, hence struck is a transitive verb.

An _intransitive_ verb is one in which the action remains with the subject; as _"I walk,"_ _"I sit,"_ _"I run."_


Many intransitive verbs, however, can be used transitively; thus, "I _walk_ the horse;" _walk_ is here transitive.


Verbs are inflected by _number_, _person_, _tense_ and _mood_.

_Number_ and _person_ as applied to the verb really belong to the subject; they are used with the verb to denote whether the assertion is made regarding one or more than one and whether it is made in reference to the person speaking, the person spoken to or the person or thing spoken about.


In their tenses verbs follow the divisions of time. They have _present tense_, _past tense_ and _future tense_ with their variations to express the exact time of action as to an event happening, having happened or yet to happen.



There are four simple moods,--the _Infinitive_, the _Indicative_, the _Imperative_ and the _Subjunctive_.

The Mood of a verb denotes the mode or manner in which it is used. Thus if it is used in its widest sense without reference to person or number, time or place, it is in the _Infinitive_ Mood; as "To run." Here we are not told who does the running, when it is done, where it is done or anything about it.

When a verb is used to indicate or declare or ask a simple question or make any direct statement, it is in the _Indicative_ Mood. "The boy loves his book." Here a direct statement is made concerning the boy. "Have you a pin?" Here a simple question is asked which calls for an answer.

When the verb is used to express a command or entreaty it is in the _Imperative_ Mood as, "Go away." "Give me a penny."

When the verb is used to express doubt, supposition or uncertainty or when some future action depends upon a contingency, it is in the subjunctive mood; as, "If I come, he shall remain."

Many grammarians include a fifth mood called the _potential_ to express _power_, _possibility_, _liberty_, _necessity_, _will_ or _duty_. It is formed by means of the auxiliaries _may_, _can_, _ought_ and _must_, but in all cases it can be resolved into the indicative or subjunctive. Thus, in "I may write if I choose," "may write" is by some classified as in the potential mood, but in reality the phrase _I may write_ is an indicative one while the second clause, _if I choose_, is the expression of a condition upon which, not my liberty to write, depends, but my actual writing.

Verbs have two participles, the present or imperfect, sometimes called the _active_ ending in _ing_ and the past or perfect, often called the _passive_, ending in _ed_ or _d_.

The _infinitive_ expresses the sense of the verb in a substantive form, the participles in an adjective form; as "To rise early is healthful." "An early rising man." "The newly risen sun."

The participle in _ing_ is frequently used as a substantive and consequently is equivalent to an infinitive; thus, "To rise early is healthful" and "Rising early is healthful" are the same.

The principal parts of a verb are the Present Indicative, Past Indicative and Past Participle; as:


Love Loved Loved


Sometimes one or more of these parts are wanting, and then the verb is said to be defective.


Present Past Passive Participle

Can Could (Wanting) May Might " Shall Should " Will Would "

Ought Ought "

Verbs may also be divided into _principal_ and _auxiliary_. A _principal_ verb is that without which a sentence or clause can contain no assertion or affirmation. An _auxiliary_ is a verb joined to the root or participles of a principal verb to express time and manner with greater precision than can be done by the tenses and moods in their simple form. Thus, the sentence, "I am writing an exercise; when I shall have finished it I shall read it to the class." has no meaning without the principal verbs _writing_, _finished read_; but the meaning is rendered more definite, especially with regard to time, by the auxiliary verbs _am_, _have_, _shall_.

There are nine auxiliary or helping verbs, viz., _Be_, _have_, _do_, _shall_, _will_, _may_, _can_, _ought_, and _must_. They are called helping verbs, because it is by their aid the compound tenses are formed.


The verb _To Be_ is the most important of the auxiliary verbs. It has eleven parts, viz., _am, art, is, are, was, wast, were, wert; be, being_ and _been_.


The _active voice_ is that form of the verb which shows the Subject not being acted upon but acting; as, "The cat _catches_ mice." "Charity _covers_ a multitude of sins."

The _passive voice_: When the action signified by a transitive verb is thrown back upon the agent, that is to say, when the subject of the verb denotes the recipient of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. "John was loved by his neighbors." Here John the subject is also the object affected by the loving, the action of the verb is thrown back on him, hence the compound verb _was loved_ is said to be in the _passive voice_. The passive voice is formed by putting the perfect participle of any _transitive_ verb with any of the eleven parts of the verb _To Be_.



The _conjugation_ of a verb is its orderly arrangement in voices, moods, tenses, persons and numbers.


Here is the complete conjugation of the verb "Love"--_Active Voice_.




Present Past Past Participle Love Loved Loved


Infinitive Mood


To Love


Indicative Mood PRESENT TENSE

Sing. Plural
1st person I love We love
2nd person You love You love
3rd person He loves They love


Sing. Plural
1st person
2nd person
3rd person I loved We loved You loved You loved He loved They loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I shall love They will love
2nd person You will love You will love
3rd person He will love We shall love PRESENT PERFECT TENSE

Sing. Plural
1st person I have loved We have loved
2nd person You have loved You have loved
3rd person He has loved They have loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I had loved We had loved
2nd person You had loved You had loved
3rd person He had loved They had loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I shall have loved We shall have loved
2nd person You will have loved You will have loved
3rd person He will have loved They will have loved

Imperative Mood




Sing. Plural


2nd person Love (you) Love (you)


Subjunctive Mood PRESENT TENSE

Sing. Plural
1st person
2nd person
3rd person If I love If we love If you love If you love If he love If they love


Sing. Plural
1st person
2nd person
3rd person If I loved If we loved If you loved If you loved If he loved If they loved

1st person If I have loved If we have loved

2nd person If you have loved If you have loved 3rd person If he has loved If they have loved



Sing. Plural
1st person If I had loved If we had loved
2nd person If you had loved If you had loved
3rd person If he had loved If they had loved



Present Perfect To love To have loved




Present Past Perfect Loving Loved Having loved

CONJUGATION OF "To Love" Passive Voice
Indicative Mood


Sing. Plural
1st person I am loved We are loved
2nd person You are loved You are loved
3rd person He is loved They are loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I was loved We were loved
2nd person You were loved You were loved
3rd person He was loved They were loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I shall be loved We shall be loved
2nd person You will be loved You will be loved
3rd person He will be loved They will be loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I have been loved We have been loved
2nd person You have been loved You have been loved
3rd person He has been loved They have been loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I had been loved We had been loved
2nd person You had been loved You had been loved
3rd person He had been loved They had been loved


Sing. Plural
1st person I shall have been loved We shall have been loved
2nd person You will have been loved You will have been loved
3rd person He will have been loved They will have been loved

Imperative Mood




Sing. Plural


2nd person Be (you) loved Be (you) loved


Subjunctive Mood PRESENT TENSE

1st person
2nd person
3rd person Sing. Plural
If I be loved If we be loved If you be loved If you be loved If he be loved If they be loved


Sing. Plural
1st person If I were loved If they were loved
2nd person If you were loved
3rd person If he were loved If you were loved If we were loved PRESENT PERFECT TENSE

Sing. Plural
1st person If I have been loved If we have been loved
2nd person If you have been loved If you have been loved
3rd person If he has been loved If they have been loved


Sing. Plural
1st person If I had been loved If we had been loved
2nd person If you had been loved If you had been loved
3rd person If he had been loved If they had been loved



Present Perfect


To be loved To have been loved




Present Past Perfect


Being loved Been loved Having been loved

(N. B.--Note that the plural form of the personal pronoun, _you_, is used in the second person singular throughout. The old form _thou_, except in the conjugation of the verb "To Be," may be said to be obsolete. In the third person singular he is representative of the three personal pronouns of the third person, _He_, _She_ and _It_.)


An _adverb_ is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Thus, in the example--"He writes _well_," the adverb shows the manner in which the writing is performed; in the examples--"He is remarkably diligent" and "He works very faithfully," the adverbs modify the adjective _diligent_ and the other adverb _faithfully_ by expressing the degree of diligence and faithfulness.

Adverbs are chiefly used to express in one word what would otherwise require two or more words; thus, _There_ signifies in that place; _whence_, from what place; _usefully_, in a useful manner. Adverbs, like adjectives, are sometimes varied in their terminations to express comparison and different degrees of quality.

Some adverbs form the comparative and superlative by adding _er_ and _est_; as, _soon_, _sooner_, _soonest_.


Adverbs which end in _ly_ are compared by prefixing _more_ and _most_; as, _nobly_, _more nobly_, _most nobly_.


A few adverbs are irregular in the formation of the comparative and superlative; as, _well_, _better_, _best_.



A _preposition_ connects words, clauses, and sentences together and shows the relation between them. "My hand is on the table" shows relation between hand and table.

Prepositions are so called because they are generally placed _before_ the words whose connection or relation with other words they point out.




A _conjunction_ joins words, clauses and sentences; as "John _and_ James." "My father and mother have come, _but_ I have not seen them."

The conjunctions in most general use are _and, also; either, or; neither, nor; though, yet; but, however; for, that; because, since; therefore, wherefore, then; if, unless, lest_.


An _interjection_ is a word used to express some sudden emotion of the mind. Thus in the examples,--"Ah! there he comes; alas! what shall I do?" _ah_, expresses surprise, and _alas_, distress.

Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs become interjections when they are uttered as exclamations, as, _nonsense! strange! hail! away!_ etc.

We have now enumerated the parts of speech and as briefly as possible stated the functions of each. As they all belong to the same family they are related to one another but some are in closer affinity than others. To point out the exact relationship and the dependency of one word on another is called _parsing_ and in order that every etymological connection may be distinctly understood a brief resume of the foregoing essentials is here given:
The signification of the noun is _limited_ to _one_, but to any _one_ of the kind, by the _indefinite_ article, and to some _particular_ one, or some particular _number_, by the _definite_ article.

_Nouns_, in one form, represent _one_ of a kind, and in another, _any number_ more than one; they are the _names of males_, or _females_, or of objects which are neither male nor female; and they represent the _subject_ of an affirmation, a command or a question,--the _owner_ or _possessor_ of a thing,--or the _object_ of an action, or of a relation expressed by a preposition.

_Adjectives_ express the _qualities_ which distinguish one person or thing from another; in one form they express quality _without comparison_; in another, they express comparison _between two_, or between _one_ and a number taken collectively,--and in a third they express comparison between _one_ and a _number_ of others taken separately.

_Pronouns_ are used in place of nouns; one class of them is used merely as the _substitutes_ of _names_; the pronouns of another class have a peculiar _reference_ to some _preceding words_ in the _sentence_, of which they are the substitutes,--and those of a third class refer adjectively to the persons or things they represent. Some pronouns are used for both the _name_ and the _substitute_; and several are frequently employed in _asking questions_.

_Affirmations_ and _commands_ are expressed by the verb; and different inflections of the verb express _number_, _person_, _time_ and _manner_. With regard to _time_, an affirmation may be _present_ or _past_ or _future_; with regard to manner, an affirmation may be _positive_ or _conditional_, it being doubtful whether the condition is fulfilled or not, or it being implied that it is not fulfilled;--the verb may express _command_ or _entreaty_; or the sense of the verb may be expressed _without affirming_ or _commanding_. The verb also expresses that an action or state _is_ or _was_ going on, by a form which is also used sometimes as a noun, and sometimes to qualify nouns.

_Affirmations_ are _modified_ by _adverbs_, some of which can be inflected to express different degrees of modification.

Words are joined together by _conjunctions_; and the various _relations_ which one thing bears to another are expressed by _'prepositions. Sudden emotions_ of the mind, and _exclamations_ are expressed by _interjections_.

Some words according to meaning belong sometimes to one part of speech, sometimes to another. Thus, in "After a storm comes a _calm_," _calm_ is a noun; in "It is a _calm_ evening," _calm_ is an adjective; and in "_Calm_ your fears," _calm_ is a verb.

The following sentence containing all the parts of speech is parsed etymologically:


_"I now see the old man coming, but, alas, he has walked with much difficulty."_


_I_, a personal pronoun, first person singular, masculine or feminine gender, nominative case, subject of the verb _see_.


_now_, an adverb of time modifying the verb _see_.


_see_, an irregular, transitive verb, indicative mood, present tense, first person singular to agree with its nominative or subject I.


_the_, the definite article particularizing the noun man.


_old_, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun man.


_man_, a common noun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, objective case governed by the transitive verb _see_.


_coming_, the present or imperfect participle of the verb "to come" referring to the noun man.


_but_, a conjunction.


_alas_, an interjection, expressing pity or sorrow.


_he_, a personal pronoun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, nominative case, subject of verb has walked.


_has walked_, a regular, intransitive verb, indicative mood, perfect tense, 3rd person singular to agree with its nominative or subject _he_.


_with_, a preposition, governing the noun difficulty.


_much_, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun difficulty.


_difficulty_, a common noun, 3rd person singular, neuter gender, objective case governed by the preposition _with_.


N.B.--_Much_ is generally an adverb. As an adjective it is thus compared:


Positive Comparative Superlative much more most




Different Kinds--Arrangement of Words--Paragraph

A sentence is an assemblage of words so arranged as to convey a determinate sense or meaning, in other words, to express a complete thought or idea. No matter how short, it must contain one finite verb and a subject or agent to direct the action of the verb.

"Birds fly;" "Fish swim;" "Men walk;"--are sentences.

A sentence always contains two parts, something spoken about and something said about it. The word or words indicating what is spoken about form what is called the _subject_ and the word or words indicating what is said about it form what is called the _predicate_.

In the sentences given, _birds_, _fish_ and _men_ are the subjects, while _fly_, _swim_ and _walk_ are the predicates.


There are three kinds of sentences, _simple_, _compound_ and _complex_.


The _simple sentence_ expresses a single thought and consists of one subject and one predicate, as, "Man is mortal."

A _compound sentence_ consists of two or more simple sentences of equal importance the parts of which are either expressed or understood, as, "The men work in the fields and the women work in the household," or "The men work in the fields and the women in the household" or "The men and women work in the fields and in the household."

A _complex sentence_ consists of two or more simple sentences so combined that one depends on the other to complete its meaning; as; "When he returns, I shall go on my vacation." Here the words, "when he returns" are dependent on the rest of the sentence for their meaning.

A _clause_ is a separate part of a complex sentence, as "when he returns" in the last example.


A _phrase_ consists of two or more words without a finite verb.


Without a finite verb we cannot affirm anything or convey an idea, therefore we can have no sentence.

Infinitives and participles which are the infinite parts of the verb cannot be predicates. "I looking up the street" is not a sentence, for it is not a complete action expressed. When we hear such an expression as "A dog running along the street," we wait for something more to be added, something more affirmed about the dog, whether he bit or barked or fell dead or was run over.
Thus in every sentence there must be a finite verb to limit the subject.

When the verb is transitive, that is, when the action cannot happen without affecting something, the thing affected is called the _object_.


Thus in "Cain killed Abel" the action of the killing affected Abel. In "The cat has caught a mouse," mouse is the object of the catching.



Of course in simple sentences the natural order of arrangement is subject--verb--object. In many cases no other form is possible. Thus in the sentence "The cat has caught a mouse," we cannot reverse it and say "The mouse has caught a cat" without destroying the meaning, and in any other form of arrangement, such as "A mouse, the cat has caught," we feel that while it is intelligible, it is a poor way of expressing the fact and one which jars upon us more or less.

In longer sentences, however, when there are more words than what are barely necessary for subject, verb and object, we have greater freedom of arrangement and can so place the words as to give the best effect. The proper placing of words depends upon perspicuity and precision. These two combined give _style_ to the structure.

Most people are familiar with Gray's line in the immortal _Elegy_--"The ploughman homeward plods his weary way." This line can be paraphrased to read 18 different ways. Here are a few variations:

Homeward the ploughman plods his weary way. The ploughman plods his weary way homeward. Plods homeward the ploughman his weary way. His weary way the ploughman homeward plods. Homeward his weary way plods the ploughman. Plods the ploughman his weary way homeward. His weary way the ploughman plods homeward. His weary way homeward the ploughman plods. The ploughman plods homeward his weary way. The ploughman his weary way plods homeward.

and so on. It is doubtful if any of the other forms are superior to the one used by the poet. Of course his arrangement was made to comply with the rhythm and rhyme of the verse. Most of the variations depend upon the emphasis we wish to place upon the different words.

In arranging the words in an ordinary sentence we should not lose sight of the fact that the beginning and end are the important places for catching the attention of the reader. Words in these places have greater emphasis than elsewhere.
In Gray's line the general meaning conveyed is that a weary ploughman is plodding his way homeward, but according to the arrangement a very slight difference is effected in the idea. Some of the variations make us think more of the ploughman, others more of the plodding, and still others more of the weariness.

As the beginning and end of a sentence are the most important places, it naturally follows that small or insignificant words should be kept from these positions. Of the two places the end one is the more important, therefore, it really calls for the most important word in the sentence. Never commence a sentence with _And_, _But_, _Since_, _Because_, and other similar weak words and never end it with prepositions, small, weak adverbs or pronouns.

The parts of a sentence which are most closely connected with one another in meaning should be closely connected in order also. By ignoring this principle many sentences are made, if not nonsensical, really ridiculous and ludicrous. For instance: "Ten dollars reward is offered for information of any person injuring this property by order of the owner." "This monument was erected to the memory of John Jones, who was shot by his affectionate brother."

In the construction of all sentences the grammatical rules must be inviolably observed. The laws of concord, that is, the agreement of certain words, must be obeyed.

(1) The verb agrees with its subject in person and number. "I have," "Thou hast," (the pronoun _thou_ is here used to illustrate the verb form, though it is almost obsolete), "He has," show the variation of the verb to agree with the subject. A singular subject calls for a singular verb, a plural subject demands a verb in the plural; as, "The boy writes," "The boys write."

The agreement of a verb and its subject is often destroyed by confusing (1) collective and common nouns; (2) foreign and English nouns; (3) compound and simple subjects; (4) real and apparent subjects.

(1) A collective noun is a number of individuals or things regarded as a whole; as, _class regiment_. When the individuals or things are prominently brought forward, use a plural verb; as The class _were_ distinguished for ability. When the idea of the whole as a unit is under consideration employ a singular verb; as The regiment _was_ in camp. (2) It is sometimes hard for the ordinary individual to distinguish the plural from the singular in foreign nouns, therefore, he should be careful in the selection of the verb. He should look up the word and be guided accordingly. "He was an _alumnus_ of Harvard." "They were _alumni_ of Harvard." (3) When a sentence with one verb has two or more subjects denoting different things, connected by _and_, the verb should be plural; as, "Snow and rain _are_ disagreeable." When the subjects denote the same thing and are connected by _or_ the verb should be singular; as, "The man or the woman is to blame." (4) When the same verb has more than one subject of different persons or numbers, it agrees with the most prominent in thought; as, "He, and not you, _is_ wrong." "Whether he or I _am_ to be blamed."

(2) Never use the past participle for the past tense nor _vice versa_. This mistake is a very common one. At every turn we hear "He done it" for "He did it." "The jar was broke" instead of broken. "He would have went" for "He would have gone," etc.

(3) The use of the verbs _shall_ and _will_ is a rock upon which even the best speakers come to wreck. They are interchanged recklessly. Their significance changes according as they are used with the first, second or third person. With the first person _shall_ is used in direct statement to express a simple future action; as, "I shall go to the city to-morrow." With the second and third persons _shall_ is used to express a determination; as, "You _shall_ go to the city to-morrow," "He _shall_ go to the city to-morrow."

With the first person _will_ is used in direct statement to express determination, as, "I will go to the city to-morrow." With the second and third persons _will_ is used to express simple future action; as, "You _will_ go to the city to-morrow," "He _will_ go to the city to-morrow."

A very old rule regarding the uses of _shall_ and _will_ is thus expressed in rhyme:

In the first person simply _shall_ foretells, In _will_ a threat or else a promise dwells. _Shall_ in the second and third does threat, _Will_ simply then foretells the future feat.

(4) Take special care to distinguish between the nominative and objective case. The pronouns are the only words which retain the ancient distinctive case ending for the objective. Remember that the objective case follows transitive verbs and prepositions. Don't say "The boy who I sent to see you," but "The boy whom I sent to see you." _Whom_ is here the object of the transitive verb sent. Don't say "She bowed to him and I" but "She bowed to him and me" since me is the objective case following the preposition _to_ understood. "Between you and I" is a very common expression. It should be "Between you and me" since _between_ is a preposition calling for the objective case.

(5) Be careful in the use of the relative pronouns _who_, _which_ and _that_. Who refers only to persons; which only to things; as, "The boy who was drowned," "The umbrella which I lost." The relative _that_ may refer to both persons and things; as, "The man _that_ I saw." "The hat _that_ I bought."

(6) Don't use the superlative degree of the adjective for the comparative; as "He is the richest of the two" for "He is the richer of the two." Other mistakes often made in this connection are (1) Using the double comparative and superlative; as, "These apples are much _more_ preferable." "The most universal motive to business is gain." (2) Comparing objects which belong to dissimilar classes; as "There is no nicer _life_ than a _teacher_." (3) Including objects in class to which they do not belong; as, "The fairest of her daughters, Eve." (4) Excluding an object from a class to which it does belong; as, "Caesar was braver than any ancient warrior."

(7) Don't use an adjective for an adverb or an adverb for an adjective. Don't say, "He acted nice towards me" but "He acted nicely toward me," and instead of saying "She looked _beautifully_" say "She looked _beautiful_."

(8) Place the adverb as near as possible to the word it modifies. Instead of saying, "He walked to the door quickly," say "He walked quickly to the door."

(9) Not alone be careful to distinguish between the nominative and objective cases of the pronouns, but try to avoid ambiguity in their use.

The amusing effect of disregarding the reference of pronouns is well illustrated by Burton in the following story of Billy Williams, a comic actor who thus narrates his experience in riding a horse owned by Hamblin, the manager:

"So down I goes to the stable with Tom Flynn, and told the man to put the saddle on him."


"On Tom Flynn?"


"No, on the horse. So after talking with Tom Flynn awhile I mounted him."


"What! mounted Tom Flynn?"


"No, the horse; and then I shook hands with him and rode off."


"Shook hands with the horse, Billy?"

"No, with Tom Flynn; and then I rode off up the Bowery, and who should I meet but Tom Hamblin; so I got off and told the boy to hold him by the head."

"What! hold Hamblin by the head?" "No, the horse; and then we went and had a drink together."


"What! you and the horse?"


"No, _me_ and Hamblin; and after that I mounted him again and went out of town."


"What! mounted Hamblin again?"

"No, the horse; and when I got to Burnham, who should be there but Tom Flynn,--he'd taken another horse and rode out ahead of me; so I told the hostler to tie him up."

"Tie Tom Flynn up?"


"No, the horse; and we had a drink there."


"What! you and the horse?"


"No, me and Tom Flynn."

Finding his auditors by this time in a _horse_ laugh, Billy wound up with: "Now, look here,--every time I say horse, you say Hamblin, and every time I say Hamblin you say horse: I'll be hanged if I tell you any more about it."


There are two great classes of sentences according to the general principles upon which they are founded. These are termed the _loose_ and the _periodic_.

In the _loose_ sentence the main idea is put first, and then follow several facts in connection with it. Defoe is an author particularly noted for this kind of sentence. He starts out with a leading declaration to which he adds several attendant connections. For instance in the opening of the story of _Robinson Crusoe_ we read: "I was born in the year 1632 in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; he got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good family in the country and from I was called Robinson Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves, and write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always called me."
In the periodic sentence the main idea comes last and is preceded by a series of relative introductions. This kind of sentence is often introduced by such words as _that_, _if_, _since_, _because_. The following is an example:

"That through his own folly and lack of circumspection he should have been reduced to such circumstances as to be forced to become a beggar on the streets, soliciting alms from those who had formerly been the recipients of his bounty, was a sore humiliation."

On account of its name many are liable to think the _loose_ sentence an undesirable form in good composition, but this should not be taken for granted. In many cases it is preferable to the periodic form.

As a general rule in speaking, as opposed to writing, the _loose_ form is to be preferred, inasmuch as when the periodic is employed in discourse the listeners are apt to forget the introductory clauses before the final issue is reached.

Both kinds are freely used in composition, but in speaking, the _loose_, which makes the direct statement at the beginning, should predominate.


As to the length of sentences much depends on the nature of the composition.

However the general rule may be laid down that short sentences are preferable to long ones. The tendency of the best writers of the present day is towards short, snappy, pithy sentences which rivet the attention of the reader. They adopt as their motto _multum in parvo_ (much in little) and endeavor to pack a great deal in small space. Of course the extreme of brevity is to be avoided. Sentences can be too short, too jerky, too brittle to withstand the test of criticism. The long sentence has its place and a very important one. It is indispensable in argument and often is very necessary to description and also in introducing general principles which require elaboration. In employing the long sentence the inexperienced writer should not strain after the heavy, ponderous type. Johnson and Carlyle used such a type, but remember, an ordinary mortal cannot wield the sledge hammer of a giant. Johnson and Carlyle were intellectual giants and few can hope to stand on the same literary pedestal. The tyro in composition should never seek after the heavy style. The best of all authors in the English language for style is Addison. Macaulay says: "If you wish a style learned, but not pedantic, elegant but not ostentatious, simple yet refined, you must give your days and nights to the volumes of Joseph Addison." The simplicity, apart from the beauty of Addison's writings causes us to reiterate the literary command--"Never use a big word when a little one will convey the same or a similar meaning."

Macaulay himself is an elegant stylist to imitate. He is like a clear brook kissed by the noon-day sun in the shining bed of which you can see and count the beautiful white pebbles. Goldsmith is another writer whose simplicity of style charms.

The beginner should study these writers, make their works his _vade mecum_, they have stood the test of time and there has been no improvement upon them yet, nor is there likely to be, for their writing is as perfect as it is possible to be in the English language.

Apart from their grammatical construction there can be no fixed rules for the formation of sentences. The best plan is to follow the best authors and these masters of language will guide you safely along the way.


The paragraph may be defined as a group of sentences that are closely related in thought and which serve one common purpose. Not only do they preserve the sequence of the different parts into which a composition is divided, but they give a certain spice to the matter like raisins in a plum pudding. A solid page of printed matter is distasteful to the reader; it taxes the eye and tends towards the weariness of monotony, but when it is broken up into sections it loses much of its heaviness and the consequent lightness gives it charm, as it were, to capture the reader.

Paragraphs are like stepping-stones on the bed of a shallow river, which enable the foot passenger to skip with ease from one to the other until he gets across; but if the stones are placed too far apart in attempting to span the distance one is liable to miss the mark and fall in the water and flounder about until he is again able to get a foothold. 'Tis the same with written language, the reader by means of paragraphs can easily pass from one portion of connected thought to another and keep up his interest in the subject until he gets to the end.

Throughout the paragraph there must be some connection in regard to the matter under consideration,--a sentence dependency. For instance, in the same paragraph we must not speak of a house on fire and a runaway horse unless there is some connection between the two. We must not write consecutively:

"The fire raged with fierce intensity, consuming the greater part of the large building in a short time." "The horse took fright and wildly dashed down the street scattering pedestrians in all directions." These two sentences have no connection and therefore should occupy separate and distinct places. But when we say--"The fire raged with fierce intensity consuming the greater part of the large building in a short time and the horse taking fright at the flames dashed wildly down the street scattering pedestrians in all directions,"--there is a natural sequence, viz., the horse taking fright as a consequence of the flames and hence the two expressions are combined in one paragraph.

As in the case of words in sentences, the most important places in a paragraph are the beginning and the end. Accordingly the first sentence and the last should by virtue of their structure and nervous force, compel the reader's attention. It is usually advisable to make the first sentence short; the last sentence may be long or short, but in either case should be forcible. The object of the first sentence is to state a point _clearly_; the last sentence should _enforce_ it.

It is a custom of good writers to make the conclusion of the paragraph a restatement or counterpart or application of the opening.

In most cases a paragraph may be regarded as the elaboration of the principal sentence. The leading thought or idea can be taken as a nucleus and around it constructed the different parts of the paragraph. Anyone can make a context for every simple sentence by asking himself questions in reference to the sentence. Thus--"The foreman gave the order"-- suggests at once several questions; "What was the order?" "to whom did he give it?" "why did he give it?" "what was the result?" etc. These questions when answered will depend upon the leading one and be an elaboration of it into a complete paragraph.

If we examine any good paragraph we shall find it made up of a number of items, each of which helps to illustrate, confirm or enforce the general thought or purpose of the paragraph. Also the transition from each item to the next is easy, natural and obvious; the items seem to come of themselves. If, on the other hand, we detect in a paragraph one or more items which have no direct bearing, or if we are unable to proceed readily from item to item, especially if we are obliged to rearrange the items before we can perceive their full significance, then we are justified in pronouncing the paragraph construction faulty.

No specific rules can be given as to the construction of paragraphs. The best advice is,--Study closely the paragraph structure of the best writers, for it is only through imitation, conscious or unconscious of the best models, that one can master the art.

The best paragraphist in the English language for the essay is Macaulay, the best model to follow for the oratorical style is Edmund Burke and for description and narration probably the greatest master of paragraph is the American Goldsmith, Washington Irving.

A paragraph is indicated in print by what is known as the indentation of the line, that is, by commencing it a space from the left margin.




FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE Figures of Speech--Definitions and Examples--Use of Figures

In _Figurative Language_ we employ words in such a way that they differ somewhat from their ordinary signification in commonplace speech and convey our meaning in a more vivid and impressive manner than when we use them in their every-day sense. Figures make speech more effective, they beautify and emphasize it and give to it a relish and piquancy as salt does to food; besides they add energy and force to expression so that it irresistibly compels attention and interest. There are four kinds of figures, viz.: (1) Figures of Orthography which change the spelling of a word; (2) Figures of Etymology which change the form of words; (3) Figures of Syntax which change the construction of sentences; (4) Figures of Rhetoric or the art of speaking and writing effectively which change the mode of thought.

We shall only consider the last mentioned here as they are the most important, really giving to language the construction and style which make it a fitting medium for the intercommunication of ideas.

Figures of Rhetoric have been variously classified, some authorities extending the list to a useless length. The fact is that any form of expression which conveys thought may be classified as a Figure.

The principal figures as well as the most important and those oftenest used are, _Simile, Metaphor, Personification, Allegory, Synechdoche, Metonymy, Exclamation, Hyperbole, Apostrophe, Vision, Antithesis, Climax, Epigram, Interrogation_ and _Irony_.

The first four are founded on _resemblance_, the second six on _contiguity_ and the third five, on _contrast_.

A _Simile_ (from the Latin _similis_, like), is the likening of one thing to another, a statement of the resemblance of objects, acts, or relations; as "In his awful anger he was _like_ the storm-driven waves dashing against the rock." A simile makes the principal object plainer and impresses it more forcibly on the mind. "His memory is like wax to receive impressions and like marble to retain them." This brings out the leading idea as to the man's memory in a very forceful manner. Contrast it with the simple statement--"His memory is good." Sometimes _Simile_ is prostituted to a low and degrading use; as "His face was like a danger signal in a fog storm." "Her hair was like a furze-bush in bloom." "He was to his lady love as a poodle to its mistress." Such burlesque is never permissible. Mere _likeness_, it should be remembered, does not constitute a simile. For instance there is no simile when one city is compared to another. In order that there may be a rhetorical simile, the objects compared must be of different classes. Avoid the old _trite_ similes such as comparing a hero to a lion. Such were played out long ago. And don't hunt for farfetched similes. Don't say--"Her head was glowing as the glorious god of day when he sets in a flambeau of splendor behind the purple-tinted hills of the West." It is much better to do without such a simile and simply say--"She had fiery red hair."

A _Metaphor_ (from the Greek _metapherein_, to carry over or transfer), is a word used to _imply_ a resemblance but instead of likening one object to another as in the _simile_ we directly substitute the action or operation of one for another. If, of a religious man we say,--"He is as a great pillar upholding the church," the expression is a _simile_, but if we say--"He is a great pillar upholding the church" it is a metaphor. The metaphor is a bolder and more lively figure than the simile. It is more like a picture and hence, the graphic use of metaphor is called "word-painting." It enables us to give to the most abstract ideas form, color and life. Our language is full of metaphors, and we very often use them quite unconsciously. For instance, when we speak of the _bed_ of a river, the _shoulder_ of a hill, the _foot_ of a mountain, the _hands_ of a clock, the _key_ of a situation, we are using metaphors.

Don't use mixed metaphors, that is, different metaphors in relation to the same subject: "Since it was launched our project has met with much opposition, but while its flight has not reached the heights ambitioned, we are yet sanguine we shall drive it to success." Here our project begins as a _ship_, then becomes a _bird_ and finally winds up as a _horse_.

_Personification_ (from the Latin _persona_, person, and _facere_, to make) is the treating of an inanimate object as if it were animate and is probably the most beautiful and effective of all the figures.

"The mountains _sing_ together, the hills _rejoice_ and _clap_ their hands."


"Earth _felt_ the wound; and Nature from her seat, _Sighing_, through all her works, gave signs of woe."

Personification depends much on a vivid imagination and is adapted especially to poetical composition. It has two distinguishable forms: (1) when personality is ascribed to the inanimate as in the foregoing examples, and (2) when some quality of life is attributed to the inanimate; as, a _raging_ storm; an _angry_ sea; a _whistling_ wind, etc.

An _Allegory_ (from the Greek _allos_, other, and _agoreuein_, to speak), is a form of expression in which the words are symbolical of something. It is very closely allied to the metaphor, in fact is a continued metaphor.

_Allegory_, _metaphor_ and _simile_ have three points in common,--they are all founded on resemblance. "Ireland is like a thorn in the side of England;" this is simile. "Ireland _is_ a thorn in the side of England;" this is metaphor. "Once a great giant sprang up out of the sea and lived on an island all by himself. On looking around he discovered a little girl on another small island near by. He thought the little girl could be useful to him in many ways so he determined to make her subservient to his will. He commanded her, but she refused to obey, then he resorted to very harsh measures with the little girl, but she still remained obstinate and obdurate. He continued to oppress her until finally she rebelled and became as a thorn in his side to prick him for his evil attitude towards her;" this is an allegory in which the giant plainly represents England and the little girl, Ireland; the implication is manifest though no mention is made of either country. Strange to say the most perfect allegory in the English language was written by an almost illiterate and ignorant man, and written too, in a dungeon cell. In the "Pilgrim's Progress," Bunyan, the itinerant tinker, has given us by far the best allegory ever penned. Another good one is "The Faerie Queen" by Edmund Spenser.

_Synecdoche_ (from the Greek, _sun_ with, and _ekdexesthai_, to receive), is a figure of speech which expresses either more or less than it literally denotes. By it we give to an object a name which literally expresses something more or something less than we intend. Thus: we speak of the world when we mean only a very limited number of the people who compose the world: as, "The world treated him badly." Here we use the whole for a part. But the most common form of this figure is that in which a part is used for the whole; as, "I have twenty head of cattle," "One of his _hands_ was assassinated," meaning one of his men. "Twenty _sail_ came into the harbor," meaning twenty ships. "This is a fine marble," meaning a marble statue.

_Metonymy_ (from the Greek _meta_, change, and _onyma_, a name) is the designation of an object by one of its accompaniments, in other words, it is a figure by which the name of one object is put for another when the two are so related that the mention of one readily suggests the other. Thus when we say of a drunkard--"He loves the bottle" we do not mean that he loves the glass receptacle, but the liquor that it is supposed to contain. Metonymy, generally speaking, has, three subdivisions: (1) when an effect is put for cause or _vice versa_: as "_Gray hairs_ should be respected," meaning old age. "He writes a fine hand," that is, handwriting. (2) when the _sign_ is put for the _thing signified_; as, "The pen is mightier than the sword," meaning literary power is superior to military force. (3) When the _container_ is put for the thing contained; as "The _House_ was called to order," meaning the members in the House.

_Exclamation_ (from the Latin _ex_, out, and _clamare_, to cry), is a figure by which the speaker instead of stating a fact, simply utters an expression of surprise or emotion. For instance when he hears some harrowing tale of woe or misfortune instead of saying,--"It is a sad story" he exclaims "What a sad story!"

Exclamation may be defined as the vocal expression of feeling, though it is also applied to written forms which are intended to express emotion. Thus in describing a towering mountain we can write "Heavens, what a piece of Nature's handiwork! how majestic! how sublime! how awe-inspiring in its colossal impressiveness!" This figure rather belongs to poetry and animated oratory than to the cold prose of every-day conversation and writing.

_Hyperbole_ (from the Greek _hyper_, beyond, and _ballein_, to throw), is an exaggerated form of statement and simply consists in representing things to be either greater or less, better or worse than they really are. Its object is to make the thought more effective by overstating it. Here are some examples:--"He was so tall his head touched the clouds." "He was as thin as a poker." "He was so light that a breath might have blown him away." Most people are liable to overwork this figure. We are all more or less given to exaggeration and some of us do not stop there, but proceed onward to falsehood and downright lying. There should be a limit to hyperbole, and in ordinary speech and writing it should be well qualified and kept within reasonable bounds.

An _Apostrophe_ (from the Greek _apo_, from, and _strephein_, to turn), is a direct address to the absent as present, to the inanimate as living, or to the abstract as personal. Thus: "O, illustrious Washington! Father of our Country! Could you visit us now!"

"My Country tis of thee-- Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing."

"O! Grave, where is thy Victory, O! Death where is thy sting!" This figure is very closely allied to Personification.

_Vision_ (from the Latin _videre_, to see) consists in treating the past, the future, or the remote as if present in time or place. It is appropriate to animated description, as it produces the effect of an ideal presence. "The old warrior looks down from the canvas and tells us to be men worthy of our sires."

This figure is much exemplified in the Bible. The book of Revelation is a vision of the future. The author who uses the figure most is Carlyle.

An _Antithesis_ (from the Greek _anti_, against, and _tithenai_, to set) is founded on contrast; it consists in putting two unlike things in such a position that each will appear more striking by the contrast.

"Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring out the false, ring in the true."


"Let us be _friends_ in peace, but _enemies_ in war."

Here is a fine antithesis in the description of a steam engine--"It can engrave a seal and crush masses of obdurate metal before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as a gossamer; and lift up a ship of war like a bauble in the air; it can embroider muslin and forge anchors; cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of winds and waves."
_Climax_ (from the Greek, _klimax_, a ladder), is an arrangement of thoughts and ideas in a series, each part of which gets stronger and more impressive until the last one, which emphasizes the force of all the preceding ones. "He risked truth, he risked honor, he risked fame, he risked all that men hold dear,--yea, he risked life itself, and for what?--for a creature who was not worthy to tie his shoe-latchets when he was his better self."

_Epigram_ (from the Greek _epi_, upon, and _graphein_, to write), originally meant an inscription on a monument, hence it came to signify any pointed expression. It now means a statement or any brief saying in prose or poetry in which there is an apparent contradiction; as, "Conspicuous for his absence." "Beauty when unadorned is most adorned." "He was too foolish to commit folly." "He was so wealthy that he could not spare the money."

_Interrogation_ (from the Latin _interrogatio_, a question), is a figure of speech in which an assertion is made by asking a question; as, "Does God not show justice to all?" "Is he not doing right in his course?" "What can a man do under the circumstances?"

_Irony_ (from the Greek _eironcia_, dissimulation) is a form of expression in which the opposite is substituted for what is intended, with the end in view, that the falsity or absurdity may be apparent; as, "Benedict Arnold was an _honorable_ man." "A Judas Iscariot never _betrays_ a friend." "You can always _depend_ upon the word of a liar."

Irony is cousin germain to _ridicule_, _derision_, _mockery_, _satire_ and _sarcasm_. _Ridicule_ implies laughter mingled with contempt; _derision_ is ridicule from a personal feeling of hostility; _mockery_ is insulting derision; _satire_ is witty mockery; _sarcasm_ is bitter satire and _irony_ is disguised satire.

There are many other figures of speech which give piquancy to language and play upon words in such a way as to convey a meaning different from their ordinary signification in common every-day speech and writing. The golden rule for all is to _keep them in harmony with the character and purpose of speech and composition_.




Principal Points--Illustrations--Capital Letters. Lindley Murray and Goold Brown laid down cast-iron rules for punctuation, but most of them have been broken long since and thrown into the junk-heap of disuse. They were too rigid, too strict, went so much into _minutiae_, that they were more or less impractical to apply to ordinary composition. The manner of language, of style and of expression has considerably changed since then, the old abstruse complex sentence with its hidden meanings has been relegated to the shade, there is little of prolixity or long-drawn-out phrases, ambiguity of expression is avoided and the aim is toward terseness, brevity and clearness. Therefore, punctuation has been greatly simplified, to such an extent indeed, that it is now as much a matter of good taste and judgment as adherence to any fixed set of rules. Nevertheless there are laws governing it which cannot be abrogated, their principles must be rigidly and inviolably observed.

The chief end of punctuation is to mark the grammatical connection and the dependence of the parts of a composition, but not the actual pauses made in speaking. Very often the points used to denote the delivery of a passage differ from those used when the passage is written. Nevertheless, several of the punctuation marks serve to bring out the rhetorical force of expression.

The principal marks of punctuation are:


1. The Comma [,]


2. The Semicolon [;]


3. The Colon [:]


4. The Period [.]


5. The Interrogation [?]


6. The Exclamation [!]


7. The Dash [--]


8. The Parenthesis [()]


9. The Quotation [" "]

There are several other points or marks to indicate various relations, but properly speaking such come under the heading of Printer's Marks, some of which are treated elsewhere.

Of the above, the first four may be styled the grammatical points, and the remaining five, the rhetorical points.

The _Comma_: The office of the Comma is to show the slightest separation which calls for punctuation at all. It should be omitted whenever possible. It is used to mark the least divisions of a sentence.

(1) A series of words or phrases has its parts separated by commas:-- "Lying, trickery, chicanery, perjury, were natural to him." "The brave, daring, faithful soldier died facing the foe." If the series is in pairs, commas separate the pairs: "Rich and poor, learned and unlearned, black and white, Christian and Jew, Mohammedan and Buddhist must pass through the same gate."

(2) A comma is used before a short quotation: "It was Patrick Henry who said, 'Give me liberty or give me death.'"

(3) When the subject of the sentence is a clause or a long phrase, a comma is used after such subject: "That he has no reverence for the God I love, proves his insincerity." "Simulated piety, with a black coat and a sanctimonious look, does not proclaim a Christian."

(4) An expression used parenthetically should be inclosed by commas: "The old man, as a general rule, takes a morning walk."


(5) Words in apposition are set off by commas: "McKinley, the President, was assassinated."


(6) Relative clauses, if not restrictive, require commas: "The book, which is the simplest, is often the most profound."

(7) In continued sentences each should be followed by a comma: "Electricity lights our dwellings and streets, pulls cars, trains, drives the engines of our mills and factories."

(8) When a verb is omitted a comma takes its place: "Lincoln was a great statesman; Grant, a great soldier."


(9) The subject of address is followed by a comma: "John, you are a good man."


(10) In numeration, commas are used to express periods of three figures: "Mountains 25,000 feet high; 1,000,000 dollars."

The _Semicolon_ marks a slighter connection than the comma. It is generally confined to separating the parts of compound sentences. It is much used in contrasts:

(1) "Gladstone was great as a statesman; he was sublime as a man."

(2) The Semicolon is used between the parts of all compound sentences in which the grammatical subject of the second part is different from that of the first: "The power of England relies upon the wisdom of her statesmen; the power of America upon the strength of her army and navy."

(4) The Semicolon is used before words and abbreviations which introduce particulars or specifications following after, such as, _namely, as, e.g., vid., i.e., etc._: "He had three defects; namely, carelessness, lack of concentration and obstinacy in his ideas." "An island is a portion of land entirely surrounded by water; as Cuba." "The names of cities should always commence with a capital letter; _e.g._, New York, Paris." "The boy was proficient in one branch; viz., Mathematics." "No man is perfect; i.e., free from all blemish."

The _Colon_ except in conventional uses is practically obsolete.


(1) It is generally put at the end of a sentence introducing a long quotation: "The cheers having subsided, Mr. Bryan spoke as follows:"


(2) It is placed before an explanation or illustration of the subject under consideration: "This is the meaning of the term:"


(3) A direct quotation formally introduced is generally preceded by a colon: "The great orator made this funny remark:"

(4) The colon is often used in the title of books when the secondary or subtitle is in apposition to the leading one and when the conjunction _or_ is omitted: "Acoustics: the Science of Sound."

(5) It is used after the salutation in the beginning of letters: "Sir: My dear Sir: Gentlemen: Dear Mr. Jones:" etc. In this connection a dash very often follows the colon.

(6) It is sometimes used to introduce details of a group of things already referred to in the mass: "The boy's excuses for being late were: firstly, he did not know the time, secondly, he was sent on an errand, thirdly, he tripped on a rock and fell by the wayside."

The _Period_ is the simplest punctuation mark. It is simply used to mark the end of a complete sentence that is neither interrogative nor exclamatory.

(1) After every sentence conveying a complete meaning: "Birds fly." "Plants grow." "Man is mortal."


(2) In abbreviations: after every abbreviated word: Rt. Rev. T. C. Alexander, D.D., L.L.D.

(3) A period is used on the title pages of books after the name of the book, after the author's name, after the publisher's imprint: _American Trails_. By Theodore Roosevelt. New York. Scribner Company. The _Mark of Interrogation_ is used to ask or suggest a question.

(1) Every question admitting of an answer, even when it is not expected, should be followed by the mark of interrogation: "Who has not heard of Napoleon?"

(2) When several questions have a common dependence they should be followed by one mark of interrogation at the end of the series: "Where now are the playthings and friends of my boyhood; the laughing boys; the winsome girls; the fond neighbors whom I loved?"

(3) The mark is often used parenthetically to suggest doubt: "In 1893 (?) Gladstone became converted to Home Rule for Ireland."


The _Exclamation_ point should be sparingly used, particularly in prose. Its chief use is to denote emotion of some kind.


(1) It is generally employed with interjections or clauses used as interjections: "Alas! I am forsaken." "What a lovely landscape!"


(2) Expressions of strong emotion call for the exclamation: "Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!"


(3) When the emotion is very strong double exclamation points may be used: "Assist him!! I would rather assist Satan!!"

The _Dash_ is generally confined to cases where there is a sudden break from the general run of the passage. Of all the punctuation marks it is the most misused.

(1) It is employed to denote sudden change in the construction or sentiment: "The Heroes of the Civil War,--how we cherish them." "He was a fine fellow--in his own opinion."

(2) When a word or expression is repeated for oratorical effect, a dash is used to introduce the repetition: "Shakespeare was the greatest of all poets--Shakespeare, the intellectual ocean whose waves washed the continents of all thought."

(3) The Dash is used to indicate a conclusion without expressing it: "He is an excellent man but--"

(4) It is used to indicate what is not expected or what is not the natural outcome of what has gone before: "He delved deep into the bowels of the earth and found instead of the hidden treasure--a button." (5) It is used to denote the omission of letters or figures: "J--n J--s" for John Jones; 1908-9 for 1908 and 1909; Matthew VII:5-8 for Matthew VII:5, 6, 7, and 8.

(6) When an ellipsis of the words, _namely, that is, to wit_, etc., takes place, the dash is used to supply them: "He excelled in three branches-- arithmetic, algebra, and geometry."

(7) A dash is used to denote the omission of part of a word when it is undesirable to write the full word: He is somewhat of a r----l (rascal). This is especially the case in profane words.

(8) Between a citation and the authority for it there is generally a dash: "All the world's a stage."--_Shakespeare_.

(9) When questions and answers are put in the same paragraph they should be separated by dashes: "Are you a good boy? Yes, Sir.--Do you love study? I do."

_Marks of Parenthesis_ are used to separate expressions inserted in the body of a sentence, which are illustrative of the meaning, but have no essential connection with the sentence, and could be done without. They should be used as little as possible for they show that something is being brought into a sentence that does not belong to it.

(1) When the unity of a sentence is broken the words causing the break should be enclosed in parenthesis: "We cannot believe a liar (and Jones is one), even when he speaks the truth."

(2) In reports of speeches marks of parenthesis are used to denote interpolations of approval or disapproval by the audience: "The masses must not submit to the tyranny of the classes (hear, hear), we must show the trust magnates (groans), that they cannot ride rough-shod over our dearest rights (cheers);" "If the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown), will not be our spokesman, we must select another. (A voice,--Get Robinson)."

When a parenthesis is inserted in the sentence where no comma is required, no point should be used before either parenthesis. When inserted at a place requiring a comma, if the parenthetical matter relates to the whole sentence, a comma should be used before each parenthesis; if it relates to a single word, or short clause, no stop should come before it, but a comma should be put after the closing parenthesis.

The _Quotation marks_ are used to show that the words enclosed by them are borrowed.

(1) A direct quotation should be enclosed within the quotation marks: Abraham Lincoln said,--"I shall make this land too hot for the feet of slaves."

(2) When a quotation is embraced within another, the contained quotation has only single marks: Franklin said, "Most men come to believe 'honesty is the best policy.'"

(3) When a quotation consists of several paragraphs the quotation marks should precede each paragraph.


(4) Titles of books, pictures and newspapers when formally given are quoted.


(5) Often the names of ships are quoted though there is no occasion for it.

The _Apostrophe_ should come under the comma rather than under the quotation marks or double comma. The word is Greek and signifies a turning away from. The letter elided or turned away is generally an _e_. In poetry and familiar dialogue the apostrophe marks the elision of a syllable, as "I've for I have"; "Thou'rt for thou art"; "you'll for you will," etc. Sometimes it is necessary to abbreviate a word by leaving out several letters. In such case the apostrophe takes the place of the omitted letters as "cont'd for continued." The apostrophe is used to denote the elision of the century in dates, where the century is understood or to save the repetition of a series of figures, as "The Spirit of '76"; "I served in the army during the years 1895, '96, '97, '98 and '99." The principal use of the apostrophe is to denote the possessive case. All nouns in the singular number whether proper names or not, and all nouns in the plural ending with any other letter than _s_, form the possessive by the addition of the apostrophe and the letter _s_. The only exceptions to this rule are, that, by poetical license the additional _s_ may be elided in poetry for sake of the metre, and in the scriptural phrases "For goodness' sake." "For conscience' sake," "For Jesus' sake," etc. Custom has done away with the _s_ and these phrases are now idioms of the language. All plural nouns ending in _s_ form the possessive by the addition of the apostrophe only as boys', horses'. The possessive case of the personal pronouns never take the apostrophe, as ours, yours, hers, theirs.


_Capital letters_ are used to give emphasis to or call attention to certain words to distinguish them from the context. In manuscripts they may be written small or large and are indicated by lines drawn underneath, two lines for SMALL CAPITALS and three lines for CAPITALS.

Some authors, notably Carlyle, make such use of Capitals that it degenerates into an abuse. They should only be used in their proper places as given in the table below.
(1) The first word of every sentence, in fact the first word in writing of any kind should begin with a capital; as, "Time flies." "My dear friend."

(2) Every direct quotation should begin with a capital; "Dewey said,-- 'Fire, when you're ready, Gridley!'"


(3) Every direct question commences with a capital; "Let me ask you; 'How old are you?'"


(4) Every line of poetry begins with a capital; "Breathes there a man with soul so dead?"

(5) Every numbered clause calls for a capital: "The witness asserts: (1) That he saw the man attacked; (2) That he saw him fall; (3) That he saw his assailant flee."

(6) The headings of essays and chapters should be wholly in capitals; as, CHAPTER VIII--RULES FOR USE OF CAPITALS.


(7) In the titles of books, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs should begin with a capital; as, "Johnson's Lives of the Poets."


(8) In the Roman notation numbers are denoted by capitals; as, I II III V X L C D M--1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000.


(9) Proper names begin with a capital; as, "Jones, Johnson, Caesar, Mark Antony, England, Pacific, Christmas."

Such words as river, sea, mountain, etc., when used generally are common, not proper nouns, and require no capital. But when such are used with an adjective or adjunct to specify a particular object they become proper names, and therefore require a capital; as, "Mississippi River, North Sea, Alleghany Mountains," etc. In like manner the cardinal points north, south, east and west, when they are used to distinguish regions of a country are capitals; as, "The North fought against the South."

When a proper name is compounded with another word, the part which is not a proper name begins with a capital if it precedes, but with a small letter if it follows, the hyphen; as "Post-homeric," "Sunday-school."

(10) Words derived from proper names require a Capital; as, "American, Irish, Christian, Americanize, Christianize."

In this connection the names of political parties, religious sects and schools of thought begin with capitals; as, "Republican, Democrat, Whig, Catholic, Presbyterian, Rationalists, Free Thinkers."

(11) The titles of honorable, state and political offices begin with a capital; as, "President, Chairman, Governor, Alderman."

(12) The abbreviations of learned titles and college degrees call for capitals; as, "LL.D., M.A., B.S.," etc. Also the seats of learning conferring such degrees as, "Harvard University, Manhattan College," etc.

(13) When such relative words as father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, etc., precede a proper name, they are written and printed with capitals; as, Father Abraham, Mother Eddy, Brother John, Sister Jane, Uncle Jacob, Aunt Eliza. Father, when used to denote the early Christian writer, is begun with a capital; "Augustine was one of the learned Fathers of the Church."

(14) The names applied to the Supreme Being begin with capitals: "God, Lord, Creator, Providence, Almighty, The Deity, Heavenly Father, Holy One." In this respect the names applied to the Saviour also require capitals: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Man of Galilee, The Crucified, The Anointed One." Also the designations of Biblical characters as "Lily of Israel, Rose of Sharon, Comfortress of the Afflicted, Help of Christians, Prince of the Apostles, Star of the Sea," etc. Pronouns referring to God and Christ take capitals; as, "His work, The work of Him, etc."

(15) Expressions used to designate the Bible or any particular division of it begin with a capital; as, "Holy Writ, The Sacred Book, Holy Book, God's Word, Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel of St. Matthew, Seven Penitential Psalms."

(16) Expressions based upon the Bible or in reference to Biblical characters begin with a capital: "Water of Life, Hope of Men, Help of Christians, Scourge of Nations."

(17) The names applied to the Evil One require capitals: "Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness, Satan, King of Hell, Devil, Incarnate Fiend, Tempter of Men, Father of Lies, Hater of Good."

(18) Words of very special importance, especially those which stand out as the names of leading events in history, have capitals; as, "The Revolution, The Civil War, The Middle Ages, The Age of Iron," etc.

(19) Terms which refer to great events in the history of the race require capitals; "The Flood, Magna Charta, Declaration of Independence."


(20) The names of the days of the week and the months of the year and the seasons are commenced with capitals: "Monday, March, Autumn."

(21) The Pronoun _I_ and the interjection _O_ always require the use of capitals. In fact all the interjections when uttered as exclamations commence with capitals: "Alas! he is gone." "Ah! I pitied him."

(22) All _noms-de-guerre_, assumed names, as well as names given for distinction, call for capitals, as, "The Wizard of the North," "Paul Pry," "The Northern Gael," "Sandy Sanderson," "Poor Robin," etc.

(23) In personification, that is, when inanimate things are represented as endowed with life and action, the noun or object personified begins with a capital; as, "The starry Night shook the dews from her wings." "Mild-eyed Day appeared," "The Oak said to the Beech--'I am stronger than you.'"





Principles of Letter-Writing--Forms--Notes

Many people seem to regard letter-writing as a very simple and easily acquired branch, but on the contrary it is one of the most difficult forms of composition and requires much patience and labor to master its details. In fact there are very few perfect letter-writers in the language. It constitutes the direct form of speech and may be called conversation at a distance. Its forms are so varied by every conceivable topic written at all times by all kinds of persons in all kinds of moods and tempers and addressed to all kinds of persons of varying degrees in society and of different pursuits in life, that no fixed rules can be laid down to regulate its length, style or subject matter. Only general suggestions can be made in regard to scope and purpose, and the forms of indicting set forth which custom and precedent have sanctioned.

The principles of letter-writing should be understood by everybody who has any knowledge of written language, for almost everybody at some time or other has necessity to address some friend or acquaintance at a distance, whereas comparatively few are called upon to direct their efforts towards any other kind of composition.

Formerly the illiterate countryman, when he had occasion to communicate with friends or relations, called in the peripatetic schoolmaster as his amanuensis, but this had one draw-back,--secrets had to be poured into an ear other than that for which they were intended, and often the confidence was betrayed.

Now, that education is abroad in the land, there is seldom any occasion for any person to call upon the service of another to compose and write a personal letter. Very few now-a-days are so grossly illiterate as not to be able to read and write. No matter how crude his effort may be it is better for any one to write his own letters than trust to another. Even if he should commence,--"deer fren, i lift up my pen to let ye no that i hove been sik for the past 3 weeks, hopping this will findye the same," his spelling and construction can be excused in view of the fact that his intention is good, and that he is doing his best to serve his own turn without depending upon others.

The nature, substance and tone of any letter depend upon the occasion that calls it forth, upon the person writing it and upon the person for whom it is intended. Whether it should be easy or formal in style, plain or ornate, light or serious, gay or grave, sentimental or matter-of-fact depend upon these three circumstances.

In letter writing the first and most important requisites are to be natural and simple; there should be no straining after effect, but simply a spontaneous out-pouring of thoughts and ideas as they naturally occur to the writer. We are repelled by a person who is stiff and labored in his conversation and in the same way the stiff and labored letter bores the reader. Whereas if it is light and in a conversational vein it immediately engages his attention.

The letter which is written with the greatest facility is the best kind of letter because it naturally expresses what is in the writer, he has not to search for his words, they flow in a perfect unison with the ideas he desires to communicate. When you write to your friend John Browne to tell him how you spent Sunday you have not to look around for the words, or study set phrases with a view to please or impress Browne, you just tell him the same as if he were present before you, how you spent the day, where you were, with whom you associated and the chief incidents that occurred during the time. Thus, you write natural and it is such writing that is adapted to epistolary correspondence.

There are different kinds of letters, each calling for a different style of address and composition, nevertheless the natural key should be maintained in all, that is to say, the writer should never attempt to convey an impression that he is other than what he is. It would be silly as well as vain for the common street laborer of a limited education to try to put on literary airs and emulate a college professor; he may have as good a brain, but it is not as well developed by education, and he lacks the polish which society confers. When writing a letter the street laborer should bear in mind that only the letter of a street-laborer is expected from him, no matter to whom his communication may be addressed and that neither the grammar nor the diction of a Chesterfield or Gladstone is looked for in his language. Still the writer should keep in mind the person to whom he is writing. If it is to an Archbishop or some other great dignitary of Church or state it certainly should be couched in terms different from those he uses to John Browne, his intimate friend. Just as he cannot say "Dear John" to an Archbishop, no more can he address him in the familiar words he uses to his friend of everyday acquaintance and companionship. Yet there is no great learning required to write to an Archbishop, no more than to an ordinary individual. All the laborer needs to know is the form of address and how to properly utilize his limited vocabulary to the best advantage. Here is the form for such a letter:

17 Second Avenue, New York City.


January 1st, 1910.


Most Rev. P. A. Jordan, Archbishop of New York.

Most Rev. and dear Sir:--
While sweeping the crossing at Fifth
Avenue and 50th street on last Wednesday
morning, I found the enclosed Fifty Dollar
Bill, which I am sending to you in the hope
that it may be restored to the rightful
I beg you will acknowledge receipt and
should the owner be found I trust you will
notify me, so that I may claim some reward
for my honesty.
I am, Most Rev. and dear Sir,

Very respectfully yours, Thomas Jones.

Observe the brevity of the letter. Jones makes no suggestions to the Archbishop how to find the owner, for he knows the course the Archbishop will adopt, of having the finding of the bill announced from the Church pulpits. Could Jones himself find the owner there would be no occasion to apply to the Archbishop.

This letter, it is true, is different from that which he would send to Browne. Nevertheless it is simple without being familiar, is just a plain statement, and is as much to the point for its purpose as if it were garnished with rhetoric and "words of learned length and thundering sound."

Letters may be divided into those of friendship, acquaintanceship, those of business relations, those written in an official capacity by public servants, those designed to teach, and those which give accounts of the daily happenings on the stage of life, in other words, news letters.

_Letters of friendship_ are the most common and their style and form depend upon the degree of relationship and intimacy existing between the writers and those addressed. Between relatives and intimate friends the beginning and end may be in the most familiar form of conversation, either affectionate or playful. They should, however, never overstep the boundaries of decency and propriety, for it is well to remember that, unlike conversation, which only is heard by the ears for which it is intended, written words may come under eyes other than those for whom they were designed. Therefore, it is well never to write anything which the world may not read without detriment to your character or your instincts. You can be joyful, playful, jocose, give vent to your feelings, but never stoop to low language and, above all, to language savoring in the slightest degree of moral impropriety.

_Business letters_ are of the utmost importance on account of the interests involved. The business character of a man or of a firm is often judged by the correspondence. On many occasions letters instead of developing trade and business interests and gaining clientele, predispose people unfavorably towards those whom they are designed to benefit. Ambiguous, slip-shod language is a detriment to success. Business letters should be clear, concise, to the point and, above all, honest, giving no wrong impressions or holding out any inducements that cannot be fulfilled. In business letters, just as in business conduct, honesty is always the best policy.

_Official letters_ are mostly always formal. They should possess clearness, brevity and dignity of tone to impress the receivers with the proper respect for the national laws and institutions.

Letters designed to teach or _didactic letters_ are in a class all by themselves. They are simply literature in the form of letters and are employed by some of the best writers to give their thoughts and ideas a greater emphasis. The most conspicuous example of this kind of composition is the book on Etiquette by Lord Chesterfield, which took the form of a series of letters to his son.

_News letters_ are accounts of world happenings and descriptions of ceremonies and events sent into the newspapers. Some of the best authors of our time are newspaper men who write in an easy flowing style which is most readable, full of humor and fancy and which carries one along with breathless interest from beginning to end.

The principal parts of a letter are (1) the _heading_ or introduction; (2) the _body_ or substance of the letter; (3) the _subscription_ or closing expression and signature; (4) the _address_ or direction on the envelope. For the _body_ of a letter no forms or rules can be laid down as it altogether depends on the nature of the letter and the relationship between the writer and the person addressed.

There are certain rules which govern the other three features and which custom has sanctioned. Every one should be acquainted with these rules.




The _Heading_ has three parts, viz., the name of the place, the date of writing and the designation of the person or persons addressed; thus:


73 New Street, Newark, N. J., February 1st, 1910. Messr. Ginn and Co.,


New York



The name of the place should never be omitted; in cities, street and number should always be given, and except when the city is large and very conspicuous, so that there can be no question as to its identity with another of the same or similar name, the abbreviation of the State should be appended, as in the above, Newark, N. J. There is another Newark in the State of Ohio. Owing to failure to comply with this rule many letters go astray. The _date_ should be on every letter, especially business letters. The date should never be put at the bottom in a business letter, but in friendly letters this may be done. The _designation_ of the person or persons addressed differs according to the relations of the correspondents. Letters of friendship may begin in many ways according to the degrees of friendship or intimacy. Thus:

My dear Wife:
My dear Husband: My dear Friend: My darling Mother: My dearest Love: Dear Aunt:
Dear Uncle:
Dear George: etc.

To mark a lesser degree of intimacy such formal designations as the following may be employed:

Dear Sir:
My dear Sir:
Dear Mr. Smith: Dear Madam: etc.

For clergymen who have the degree of Doctor of Divinity, the designation is as follows:

Rev. Alban Johnson, D. D.
My dear Sir: or Rev. and dear Sir: or more familiarly Dear Dr. Johnson:

Bishops of the Roman and Anglican Communions are addressed as _Right Reverend_.

The Rt. Rev., the Bishop of Long Island. or The Rt. Rev. Frederick Burgess, Bishop of Long Island. Rt. Rev. and dear Sir:

Archbishops of the Roman Church are addressed as _Most Reverend_ and Cardinals as _Eminence_. Thus:


The Most Rev. Archbishop Katzer. Most Rev. and dear Sir:


His Eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore. May it please your Eminence:

The title of the Governor of a State or territory and of the President of the United States is _Excellency_. However, _Honorable_ is more commonly applied to Governors:--

His Excellency, William Howard Taft, President of the United States.




His Excellency, Charles Evans Hughes, Governor of the State of New York.




Honorable Franklin Fort, Governor of New Jersey.



The general salutation for Officers of the Army and Navy is _Sir_. The rank and station should be indicated in full at the head of the letter, thus:

General Joseph Thompson,


Commanding the Seventh Infantry.




Rear Admiral Robert Atkinson, Commanding the Atlantic Squadron.




The title of officers of the Civil Government is Honorable and they are addressed as _Sir_.


Hon. Nelson Duncan, Senator from Ohio. Sir:


Hon. Norman Wingfield, Secretary of the Treasury.




Hon. Rupert Gresham, Mayor of New York.




Presidents and Professors of Colleges and Universities are generally addressed as _Sir_ or _Dear Sir_.


Professor Ferguson Jenks, President of .......... University.


Sir: or Dear Sir:


Presidents of Societies and Associations are treated as business men and addressed as _Sir_ or _Dear Sir_.


Mr. Joseph Banks,


President of the Night Owls.


Dear Sir: or Sir:


Doctors of Medicine are addressed as _Sir: My dear Sir: Dear Sir:_ and more familiarly My dear Dr: or Dear Dr: as

Ryerson Pitkin, M. D. Sir:
Dear Sir:
My dear Dr:

Ordinary people with no degrees or titles are addressed as Mr. and Mrs. and are designed Dear Sir: Dear Madam: and an unmarried woman of any age is addressed on the envelope as Miss So-and-so, but always designed in the letter as

Dear Madam:


The plural of Mr. as in addressing a firm is _Messrs_, and the corresponding salutation is _Dear Sirs: or Gentlemen:_

In England _Esq._ is used for _Mr._ as a mark of slight superiority and in this country it is sometimes used, but it is practically obsolete. Custom is against it and American sentiment as well. If it is used it should be only applied to lawyers and justices of the peace.


The _Subscription_ or ending of a letter consists of the term of respect or affection and the signature. The term depends upon the relation of the person addressed. Letters of friendship can close with such expressions as:

Yours lovingly,
Yours affectionately, Devotedly yours, Ever yours, etc.

as between husbands and wives or between lovers. Such gushing terminations as Your Own Darling, Your own Dovey and other pet and silly endings should be avoided, as they denote shallowness. Love can be strongly expressed without dipping into the nonsensical and the farcical.

Formal expressions of Subscription are:

Yours Sincerely, Yours truly,
Respectfully yours,

and the like, and these may be varied to denote the exact bearing or attitude the writer wishes to assume to the person addressed: as,

Very sincerely yours, Very respectfully yours, With deep respect yours, Yours very truly, etc.

Such elaborate endings as

"In the meantime with the highest respect, I am yours to command," "I have the honor to be, Sir, Your humble Servant,"
"With great expression of esteem, I am Sincerely yours," "Believe me, my dear Sir, Ever faithfully yours,"

are condemned as savoring too much of affectation.

It is better to finish formal letters without any such qualifying remarks. If you are writing to Mr. Ryan to tell him that you have a house for sale, after describing the house and stating the terms simply sign yourself

Your obedient Servant Yours very truly,


Yours with respect, James Wilson.

Don't say you have the honor to be anything or ask him to believe anything, all you want to tell him is that you have a house for sale and that you are sincere, or hold him in respect as a prospective customer.

Don't abbreviate the signature as: _Y'rs Resp'fly_ and always make your sex obvious. Write plainly


Yours truly, _John Field_


and not _J. Field_, so that the person to whom you send it may not take you for _Jane Field_.


It is always best to write the first name in full. Married women should prefix _Mrs._ to their names, as


Very sincerely yours, _Mrs._ Theodore Watson.

If you are sending a letter acknowledging a compliment or some kindness done you may say, _Yours gratefully,_ or _Yours very gratefully,_ in proportion to the act of kindness received.

It is not customary to sign letters of degrees or titles after your name, except you are a lord, earl or duke and only known by the title, but as we have no such titles in America it is unnecessary to bring this matter into consideration. Don't sign yourself,

Sincerely yours,


Obadiah Jackson, M.A. or L.L. D.

If you're an M. A. or an L.L. D. people generally know it without your sounding your own trumpet. Many people, and especially clergymen, are fond of flaunting after their names degrees they have received _honoris causa_, that is, degrees as a mark of honor, without examination. Such degrees should be kept in the background. Many a deadhead has these degrees which he could never have earned by brain work.

Married women whose husbands are alive may sign the husband's name with the prefix _Mrs:_ thus,


Yours sincerely,


_Mrs._ William Southey.


but when the husband is dead the signature should be--


Yours sincerely, _Mrs._ Sarah Southey.