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Presentations text content in Grammar as Rhetoric and Style


Grammar as Rhetoric and Style


The Language of Composition


Direct, Precise, and Active Verbs

Add energy to writing

Language of Composition –

pp. 498-499

Read the examples and the analysis of the effects of the verbs.

Direct Verbs

– use forms of “to be” sparingly in favor of more direct verbs

Precise Verbs

– verbs that create a more vivid image of the action

Active Verbs

– use active over passive voice


Verbs Practice

Improve the sentence below by replacing one or more verbs with a more effective verb—more vivid, precise, and active verb. Discuss the rhetorical impact of your choice.

It was not very long before she regretted buying the very expensive handbag.

More Practice

: Before next class, review your college essay for verb choice. Choose more vivid, precise, and active verbs in favor of forms of “to be” and passive voice.


Concise Diction

Use language that is as straightforward as possible.

Pitfalls to Avoid – See


pp. 592-593 for examples.


– changing a verb into a noun, often resulting in wordiness (ex: discuss

 discussion; depend  dependence)

Showy Vocabulary

– using “fancy” language without a purpose (is the word really more precise?)


Concise Diction Practice

Revise each sentence as necessary to improve clarity and concision.

A person who has a dependence on constant approval from others is usually insecure.

A key step toward losing weight is to make a reduction in the amount of food you consume.

A recalcitrant attitude has resulted from too many of our colleagues becoming mired in quotidian concerns.



Words that take the place of a noun

Define viewpoint in writing

First person, second person, third person

Consistency is key for clarity (like we have talked about with pronoun agreement)


Pronouns and Sexism

The problem: third person singular pronoun to refer to either a male or a female


Combine the male and female pronouns:

he or she

Use the plural form of the pronoun:


(change the sentence accordingly for agreement)

Alternate the genders of the pronouns

What are the implications in the following sentence?

I hope I am not giving away professional secrets if I say that a novelist’s chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible. He has to induce in himself a state of perpetual lethargy.

Considering and correcting sexist pronoun use can help a writer to enhance credibility.


Pronouns and Style

First person pronouns

More informal, emphasize personal experience

Second person pronouns

Reserved for informal situations where you want to directly address and engage the reader (ex: editorials, speeches)

Third person pronouns

More formal, objective


Pronoun Practice

Complete Exercise 2 on pages 424-425 according to the directions.



Noun or noun phrase that tells you something about a nearby noun or pronoun

It turned out that one of the top students,

Denny Davies

, had learned of this rule.


a wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut

, was in 1997 the principal of Sarasota High School.


Functions of Appositives

Clarify a term

…an automaton,

a machine

, can be made to keep a school so.

Yet in other genres—

fiction and memoir

—the news is far more upsetting.

Smooth choppy writing.

Without the appositive

An automaton is a machine. The automaton can be made to keep a school so.


Appositives - Punctuation

Usually, appositives are set off with punctuation

No punctuation needed if the sentence cannot be understood without the appositive

Punctuation Options



a wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut

, was in 1997 the principal of Sarasota High School.

Dashes – add emphasis or clarity

In 1981, two professors…began following the lives of eighty-one high-school valedictorians—

forty-six women and thirty-five men from Illinois.

Colon – add emphasis or clarity

We are given plenty of instruction about the specifics of writing:

word choice, description, style.


Appositives - Position

Before or after the noun?


A wiry fifty-nine-year-old who has a stern buzz cut,

Daniel Kennedy was in 1997 the principal of Sarasota High School.

What effect does this move have on the sentence?


Appositive Practice

Identify the appositive and the word or phrase it modifies

My father, a truly exceptional man, worked at an ordinary job and was unknown outside of the small town where he lived.

The eruptions in the early part of our century—the time of world wars and emergent modernity—were premonitions of a sort.


Turn to page 171 in your books. Complete 1-5 in exercise 3.

Choose one of the sentences in exercise 5 on page 173. Complete the exercise for that particular sentence following the directions listed.



Describes, focuses, qualifies the nouns, pronouns, and verbs they modify

Adjective, phrase, clause

Consider the following example. Where are the modifiers and what are their effect?

Sprawling and dull in class, he comes alive in the halls and in the cafeteria.

Incorrectly or overusing modifiers can make writing too wordy or unclear


Modifiers for Style

Placement is important—what is the difference in effect here?

Physically awkward, she walks like a seal crossing a beach, and is prone to drop her books and dither in terror when she stands before a handsome boy.

When she stands before the handsome boy, physically awkward, she walks like a seal crossing a beach, and is prone to drop her books and dither in terror.


A Word of Caution

Don’t use too many

The bright yellow compact car with the pun-laden, out-of-state vanity plates was like beautiful, warm sunshine on the gray, dreary Tuesday afternoon.

Don’t rely on adjectives over strong verbs

Elaine walked with a confident and quick stride.

Elaine strutted.

Don’t add too many qualifiers (especially





Troy felt really sad.

Troy felt discouraged.


Modifiers Practice

Complete Exercise 3 from page 794 according to the directions.


Short Simple Sentences and Fragments

Simple Sentence – consists of one independent clause (S-V-complete thought)

Finally she tells me not to worry.

The emails and phone messages addressed to my former self come from a distant race of people with exotic concerns and far too much time on their hands.

Can be short, but can also be quite long with compound subjects, verbs, and modifiers.

Fragment – incomplete sentence, missing subject, verb, or both

Hurry, I urge my country.

Before it’s too late



Short Simple Sentences and Fragments - Style

Short simple sentences can be effective in several situations

After several long sentences

As a summary of important ideas

As a transition between sentences or paragraphs

Too many can make writing sound monotonous

Fragments should be used sparingly, but can be effective

To make a transition

To signal a conclusion

To emphasize a point


Short Sentences and Fragments - Practice

Complete Exercise 3 on page 255 according to the directions.



Structures within sentences take the same form

Words, phrases, and clauses


Why should we live with such a

hurry and waste

for life?


Men esteem truth remote,


the outskirts of the system,


the farthest star,


Adam and


the last man



If we are really dying


let us hear

the rattle in our throats and feel the cold in the extremities;

if we are alive


let us go

about our business.

Parallelism creates a feeling of balance and can show that two or more ideas are of equal weight


When parallelism is broken…

Consider the difference in the following sentence:

Why should we live with such a hurry and to waste life?

What happens to the sentence when parallel structure is broken?


Types of Parallelism

Anaphora: repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses

Exercise builds stamina in

young children;

exercise builds stamina in

teenagers and adults;

exercise builds stamina in

older adults and senior citizens.


: Repetition of the same group of words at the end of successive clauses.

To become a top-notch player, I thought

like an athlete

; I trained

like an athlete

; I ate

like an athlete


Antithesis: the contrast of thoughts in two phrases, clauses, or sentences

Freedom is never voluntary given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.


Types of Parallelism, cont.


: The repetition of words in one phrase or clause in the reverse order in the next phrase or clause

We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.


: one part of speech (usually a verb) is related to another part of speech in a way that is consistent with grammar but incongruous with meaning.

Kill the boys and the luggage!

Can make for an ironic or humorous effect.


Parallelism Practice

Complete Exercise 1 on page 343.

Choose one option in Exercise 2 on page 343 and complete according to the directions.


Coordination in the Compound Sentence

Coordination gives equal value and significance to two or more elements in a sentence.

Join words, phrases, and independent clauses

Use coordination to join two independent clauses to create a compound sentence

Creating compound sentences

Coordinating conjunctions(FANBOYS)

Correlative conjunction (not only…but also; either…or; just as…so also)

Semicolon and conjunctive adverb


Effect of Coordination

Coordinating Conjunctions Combining Main Clauses

Morbid curiosity is an occupational hazard for a writer, I suppose. I’ve never been bothered by it before.

Morbid curiosity is an occupational hazard for a writer, I suppose, but I’ve never been bothered by it before.

Semicolons Joining Main Clauses

Nature was then. This is Now

Nature was then; this is now.

Semicolons and Conjunctive Adverbs Joining Main Clauses

Now he no longer let the dog go to the lighted tunnel at once. He put out the light, and then kept the dog waiting a little while before he let him go.

Now he no longer let the dog go to the lighted tunnel at once; instead, he put out the light, and then kept the dog waiting a little while before he let him go.


Coordination for Style

Coordinating conjunctions smooth two shorter sentences

Conjunctions specify the relationships between two ideas

Semicolons can indicate a closer relationship than a period or conjunction


Starting With a Conjunction

Beginning with a conjunction is acceptable and can be effective

Don’t overuse it

Discuss the effect of this technique in the following example:

I feel very strongly that our present technological trends drive us toward a decrease in the space—be it in the soundscape, the landscape, or the mindscape—in which the unplanned and the


can happen. Yet silence has to remain available in the soundscape, the landscape, and the mindscape.


Polysyndeton and Asyndeton

These techniques influence pace, emphasis, and complexity.


: the deliberate use of a series of conjunctions

When you get to college you may study history and psychology and literature and mathematics and botany.

Asyndeton: the deliberate omission of conjunctions

From his wealthy parents he received his wardrobe, his car, his tuition, his vacation, his attitude.


Coordination Practice

Choose one passage from Exercise 4 on pages 704-705.

Analyze the use of coordination in the passage according the directions.


Subordination in the Complex Sentence

Subordination: making the meaning of one clause dependent upon another clause

Uses a subordinating conjunction (ex: if, because, when, although, etc.)

Complex Sentence: sentenced formed by an independent clause and a dependent clause

Subordination tells how ideas in a complex sentence are related


Subordination and Relationships

Contrast or Concession


although, even though, thought, while, whereas


Although the book was not entirely free of the stereotypes of contemporary British colonial writing,

it was in some ways remarkably advanced for its time.

Cause and Effect or Reason



ecause, since, so that


Because neither island was well suited to agriculture

, the company in 1733 purchased St. Croix from France.



if, once, unless

Ex: I can think of no one objection that will possible be raised against this proposal

unless it should be urged that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom.



when, whenever, after, before, as, once, since, while

Ex: I had committed myself to doing it

when I sent for the rifle.


Subordination for Style

Which clause should be dependent?

Independent clause will carry the most force—use this clause to add emphasis.

Where to put the subordinate clause?

How does the effect change in the second sentence?

Though it was still August, the air had a lovely smell of October, football season, piles of yellow-red leaves, everything crisp and clean.

The air already had the smell of October, football season, piles of yellow-red leaves, everything crisp and clean, though it was still August.


Subordination Practice

Review passage #4 in Exercise 3 on 1005 and follow the directions given. In your journal, discuss how Thoreau uses subordination in this passage to inspire his reader. Consider not only what is subordinated, but where the subordinate clauses are placed and the relationships between subordinate and main clauses.


Cumulative, Periodic, and Inverted Sentences

Cumulative (Loose) Sentence: begins with a

standard sentence pattern

and adds multiple details


it. These details accumulate at the end of the sentence.

The women moved through the streets as winged messengers

, twirling around each other in slow motion, peeking inside homes and watching the easy sleep of men and women.

Periodic Sentence: Begins with multiple details and ends with the

standard sentence pattern


Often, after filling several notebooks with dozens of interviews, reading several books, diving into all manner of research materials, and making research trips, when I sit down to write,

I do so without looking at my notes at all


Inverted sentence: Verb comes before the subject

Everywhere was a shadow of death.


Unusual Patterns for Style

Unusual sentence patterns call attention to specific sentences and ideas.

Use for emphasis, rhythm, tension, dramatic effect

Identify the pattern and consider the effect in the following sentences.

In the woods, is perpetual youth.

It is a wilderness that is beautiful, dangerous, abundant, oblivious of us, mysterious, never to be conquered or controlled or second-guessed, or known more than a little.

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of a special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.


Unusual Patterns Practice

Complete Exercise 1 on pages 897-898 according to the directions.

Choose one item from Exercise 5 on pages 899-900 and complete according to the directions.

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