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TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Composition Is. – You and I are constantly being called upon to tell our thoughts and sensations and experiences to others. Communication is necessary for us; SO necessary, indeed, that those who are deprived of the power of speaking and writing are taught unusual methods for making their wants and wishes known. We have seen that even dogs, horses, and other animals devise means of expression, which, however crude, are nevertheless easily understood. Nature has been kinder to us than to these creatures, however. She has given us two distinct methods by means of which we may express ourselves — speech and writing; yet with both of these means at our command we sometimes communicate with one another almost as awkwardly as our dog or our horse communicates with us.
However brief and of whatever form communication among us may be, it requires Composition. When we are talking to one another we are composing — putting our thoughts together, and voicing them in order to make them understood. When we are writing, we are again composing, but expressing ourselves in another way. Expression by means of the voice is called Oral Composition. Expression by means
of writing is called Written Composition.
* The Necessity for Composition.—There are certain things that you and I are obliged to talk or write about almost every day of our lives. If we lose our way in a country road or a city street, we ask for information. Sometimes the request involves a somewhat lengthy conversation; sometimes it consists of only question and answer. We are constantly wanting to know about this or that or the other. We inquire the why and the wherefore, the where and the what, or the who and the how of things, and the process of inquiry and of informing is oral composition. But if we make our requests in writing, or if we give our information in writing, we are then making use of written composition. Perhaps it is a letter we have to write in order to find out something. Perhaps we are called upon to write an advertisement or a telegram. Again, perhaps we have been asked to give information in writing regarding our work or our place of residence. Or it may be that the information gathered from a textbook the night before must be composed into intelligible form and expressed in class the next morning. In all these and many other cases, we find it most necessary to be able to put together our thoughts and express ourselves, either by speech or pen, clearly and concisely. We could not get along without this power of dual expression. It is part and parcel of our very lives. So common and universal is it, indeed, that we take it too much for granted, and often fail to realize how much more difficult is our daily work when slipshod methods of speech or writing make it hard for us to speak quickly or write
clearly. There is a famous mining engineer, now practising his
profession, who says that one third of his great income is due to
are daily confronted with experiences which are interesting and which, as a result of their interest, we desire to record or to tell others about. If presented in good oral or written form, they will prove entertaining, informing, or valuable to others as well as to ourselves. In other words, there are many daily experiences which it may not be necessary to write about, but of which we are sure to wish to write or speak. We may have seen a baseball game of which our friend Dick would like to hear; we may have seen a runaway that would interest father; there may have been a school entertainment of which mother would enjoy reading or hearing. To be sure, it is not necessary that we give an account of any of these affairs. But it will be agreeable and worth while to do so, and, if we are normally constituted individuals, we shall desire it. Therefore, we must know how to compose our account in order that it may be true, intelligible, and interesting.
Experience and Observation.—The first thing to consider, of course, is the substance, that is, the thoughts, or experiences, or information about which we write or talk. There is little use in keeping a cash account if the figures do not represent real money and real expenditures. And there is little value in a written or spoken account unless thoughts, experiences, facts worth telling of, are waiting to be expressed.
But the boy or girl with nothing worth expressing does not exist outside of the asylums for the feeble-minded. Walking to and from school every day, going here and there on Saturdays, conversing with schoolmates and parents, you and I daily have a sufficient wealth of experiences to supply us with almost an infinite necessity for oral or written composition. If we go about our daily round with observant eyes