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· English Style's Logical Character — William Shakespeare ·

My comp students last week were tweaking characters. I mean they were learning to match grammatical subjects stylistically to persons in their essays. It's a stylistic trick Joseph M. Williams recommends, calling it his "first principle of clarity" (and he is right) — for as Williams claims, readers typically watch people, and all skilled writers usually try to keep persons up front syntactically.

Take my "comp students," adding as well my "I," "they," "Joseph M. Williams," "he," "readers," and "all skilled writers." They are all characters — and if you're like my noon class, you're already good at spotting them.

Last week we divvied them up into two helpful types, called the "rhetorical" and the "logical." The first — the words "I," "You," "One," and "We" — are those "topic-independent personal pronouns rhetorically governing reader-writer relations." They let us be as formal or informal, familiar or distant, as we might wish, serving typically to keep readers in tow.

By contrast, personal nouns come next, naming only those folks we might logically associate with whatever subject we're exploring. But my students ran into trouble Friday. We were all brain-storming their kinds — singular and plural, common and proper — when to my surprise, asked to name the most famous of our writers, they stumbled. Consider:

Danielle Steele? John Grisham? Stephen King?


Edgar Allen Poe? · Winking Will ·





He's having his 441st birthday tomorrow, and his name is William Shakespeare.


If you've also forgotten this, I have a memorable quote just for the occasion:

They had not skill enough your worth to sing;
     For we, which now behold these present days,
     Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise. Sonnet 106, 'When in the chronicle of wasted time'

And so goes my English teaching today.


Keep up the good work, Styles.

Education: It's not over till it's over.

Posted by Aunt Huldah on April 25, 2005 09:22 PM

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