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LEWIS WORTHINGTON SMITH
Professor of English in Drake University
AMERICAN BRANCH: 35 WEST 52ND STREET
LONDON, TORONTO, MELBOURNE, AND BOMBAY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This book is the result of a conviction that telling students how to write, lecturing at them or to them, giving them rules and principles and counselings will not make writers. Nothing but an intimate acquaintance with the work of those who have in some high degree mastered the problem of literary expression will materially help them to a like command of the resources of style. The problem is one of method. How shall a student be induced to focus his attention long enough and minutely enough upon the intricacies of written speech? How can he be led to turn sentences over and over until the rationale of their form and ordering settles into his consciousness as an almost instinctive understanding?
There may be various satisfactory answers to these questions, but the answer of this volume is embodied primarily in Chapter IX and in the reference of the questions there to specific portions of the texts. This direct application of the questions will be found at the bottom of each page of the extracts. No doubt to many this method will seem somewhat mechanical. It has been developed as a system of precision, a system for achieving a degree of scholarly certitude in a subject in which such certitude is unusually difficult. By reason of that difficulty, ease and assurance in reaching this end cannot be expected through a method that is not fairly rigid. It will then inevitably be more or less mechanical. If the individual instructor feels that he has other and more adequate means of arriving at this result there is no reason for his not employing his own system.
The selections provided for the study of style are, in the writer's judgment, abundantly various. It is assumed that no one will wish to use them all. Presumably the instructor will make choice of such a body of them as will familiarize the student with a number of styles rather sharply contrasted. Dealt with in the detailed fashion for which provision is made, and, for that reason, so dealt with only in part, they still give opportunity for some considerable range of selection on the part of the teacher. It will be observed that the method of questioning employed in the book permits of a great deal of clerical economy in use.
Should it seem advisable to study anything not found in the book, the work of putting the numbers and letters of the questions into the students' hands need not be serious. Further, by reason of the conciseness of the method, the work provided in the book will be found to be more extensive than may at first appear.
It will perhaps be worth noting that this way of studying the work of the writers represented in the selections has an organizing tendency. The repetition of the same question is a piling up of material for an increasingly obvious process of inductive reasoning. The conclusion reached is easily verified, as far as the writing presented is sufficient, by a reconsideration of its grounds, the letter itself, or number, furnishing an easy index. Further, it will serve as an index, not to the one selection alone, but to the other selections for comparison. Again, the instructor will find it a simple matter to confine the study of any selection to such phases of the work as he may choose. He need only direct students to ignore all questions, except, for instance, f, m, and s, or such others as he may elect.
It is believed that while the selections are stylistically various, they are various also in their interest, both historically and humanly. They have not been chosen, however, for the purpose of illustrating the growth of English style. Largely they are the work of writers of our own day, and much of the material is copyright. For the possibility of including such fresh work, the author is glad to acknowledge his obligations to the generosity of the publishers who are specifically named in connection with the writings which, by their pleasant permission, are reprinted here.