Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Curious quotes from my book




A selection of some of the curious quotations included in my new book, The Art of Connection.
‘After a while, finding that nothing more happened, she decided on going into the garden at once;’ (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865)
‘At present, we may truly be thankful that a reform in this matter has commenced.’ (Albert Day, Methomania: A treatise on Alcoholic Poisoning, 1867)
‘Before I dismiss the uses of architecture, and indeed of the Arts generally, I cannot but dwell for a moment on the amazing effects they have had, on the labour and mechanical skill of our country.’ (Henry Dilworth Gilpin, An annual discourse before the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1827)
‘But finally they lost patience, seeing that their reformatory efforts went for nothing, and threw both friends and strangers overboard.’ (Mark Twain, What is Man? and Other Essays, 1906)
‘Forthwith he made the well his objective. In that country wells were not plentiful.’ (Oscar Micheaux, The Homesteader: A Novel, 1917)
‘Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning; and the candles went on flickering and guttering, and there were no snuffers—until the young gentleman by and by brought a very dirty pair—for two hours.’ (Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852)
‘To begin with, she had a sneaking fondness for Arthur, begotten of old associations.’ (Macmillan’s Magazine, 1872)
‘Additionally, it may be noted down here, that tickling and itching, form two kinds of sensual feelings, strictly belonging to bodily feeling.’ (Peter Kaufmann, The Temple of Truth: Or the Science of Ever-progressive Knowledge..., 1858)
‘Also it must often happen that various prolixities and redundancies occur in the course of an interchange of letters, which must hang as a dead weight on the progress of the narrative.’ (Walter Scott, Redgauntlet, 1824)
‘As a rule, he is deficient in vitality (The Popular Science Monthly, 1885)
‘By the same token he rode safely—the looseness of his bones accommodating itself with singular facility to the irregularities in the pace of the surprised animal beneath him.’  (The New York Mirror, 1834)
‘Well, to be sure, it is curious; but some such there have been, and always will be, in the gay world ; and indeed they are very amusing; it is beyond belief how they divert one.’ (Charlotte Campbell Bury, Flirtation: a Novel, 1827)
‘As a result 136 rats were killed during the first twenty nights, when the losses practically ceased, and the method has been continued in the store ever since with satisfactory results. Guillotine traps should be baited with small pieces of Vienna sausage (Wienerwurst) or bacon.’ (David Ernest Lantz, Methods of Destroying Rats, 1907).
‘It is due to ourselves; it is due to the President ; it is due to the country, that we should express an opinion.’ (Debates in Congress, 1826)
‘If we may be excused the antithesis, we should say that eloquence is heard, poetry is overheard.’ (John Stuart Mill, Thoughts on Poetry and Its Varieties, 1859)
‘Since the death of her aunt, her mind had acquired new firmness and vigour.’ (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus, 1818)

Grammarly perfection tested


Further to my recent post examining the effectiveness of software designed to assist with grammar, punctuation, and style, I wanted to find out whether it was possible to score 100% on the grammarly.com software.

I tried to test www.grammarly.com by using text taken from their own website. That does not work, however, as they recognize their own work and they have already marked it as 'perfection.' They award themselves 100% for their own work. Is that surprising?

Nonetheless, if we select text from www.grammarcheck.net, their text has a variety of errors - according  to www.grammarly.com. Similarly, text taken from the  www.grammarly.com website fares badly when it is tested by www.grammarcheck.net. These results suggest that the software programmes have not managed to create a reliable and universal system that successfully tests and verifies grammar, style and punctuation. Whichever system is used there is a typical 35% reporting of errors in the text submitted. Clearly, they are playing on this margin of error in order to convince us that we are in urgent need of their services.

Apparently it is possible to score 100%. I tried this:

There is a balance between pedantry and charity. The pigs are chattering in the trees. In fact, the birds dislike flying. Parasitic earthworms invented grammar. As a result, punctuation is no longer revolutionary. The trees have stolen the semicolons from the elephants. Biologists never use punctuation. It is unfair to test children under the age of fifty. We published the results of the research in a journal. The red bird snorted and guffawed. Is this a sentence? Is this an answer? Creative writing employs unusual techniques.

"Grammarly found no writing issues in your text. Score: 100 of 100 (good)"

However, the postmodern text generator also fared quite well (if spelling is discounted)


In the works of Tarantino, a predominant concept is the distinction between opening and closing. The primary theme of the works of Tarantino is the role of the reader as writer. However, Sartre uses the term ‘the postdialectic paradigm of reality’ to denote the economy, and eventually the paradigm, of semantic class.
The example of posttextual discourse depicted in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown is also evident in Reservoir Dogs. In a sense, the premise of precultural theory suggests that sexuality, perhaps ironically, has intrinsic meaning.If subconstructivist libertarianism holds, we have to choose between posttextual discourse and capitalist feminism. Therefore, Lacan promotes the use of Marxist class to challenge capitalism.
The postdialectic paradigm of reality implies that expression is created by the masses, given that art is equal to reality. It could be said that Baudrillard uses the term ‘subdialectic modern theory’ to denote the role of the participant as artist.

Grammarly found 10 critical writing issues in your text.

Score: 53 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
Plagiarism !
  • Unoriginal text detected
Contextual Spelling Check 7 issues
  • Spelling (7)
  • Ignored words
  • Commonly confused words
Grammar 1 issue
  • Passive voice use (1)
  • Use of articles
  • Use of conjunctions
Punctuation 1 issue
  • Punctuation within a sentence (1)
  • Closing punctuation
  • Formal punctuation
Style and Word Choice
  • Writing style
  • Vocabulary use

Monday, 16 December 2013

Testing the Grammar Check Test



The march of technology into every corner of contemporary education often leads to the harsh judgment that traditional teachers have become - or will soon become - a redundant human resource. 

Are the rumours of pedagogic extinction justified?

With the perfection of advanced linguistic software, a brave new world of error-free writing has emerged. Machine-generated clarity and precision is leading us to a written world that will be ruthlessly stripped of recurring lapses and common mistakes. Foggy chasms of fatal confusion will be banished from the linguistic ecology of the planet.

There will be no more sleepless nights; no more worrying about the comma splice, sentence fragments, and dangling modifiers. Indeed, an inexpensive monthly subscription provides an enticing opportunity to join the new democratic republic of letters - a nation of automated stop-keepers.

After all, the technology has now conquered the checking of spelling, grammar and style. Indeed, some of the  most celebrated providers of software boast millions of 'followers' and 'likes' in social media.

Is it true that the days of the grammatical pedants, composition instructors, and style fascists are numbered?

With this question, and these common reflections in mind, I set out to test the standard of writing of several major writers.

I'm sorry to say that all of them failed the test. In fact, they all failed so badly that I am led to question whether any of the classics are suitable (fit-for-purpose) in the modern world of computerised SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar).

In the examples examined, the grades awarded by the Chief Examiner ranged from Poor to Weak.

(The plagiarism check was, however, excellent in each of extracts tested. Nonetheless, in more subtle cases the results from other reviewers were far more critical.)

This was a Bad Year for classic writers, but perhaps a good one for real-life (RL) teachers.

Don't give up your day jobs!


THE GRAMMARLY TEST RESULTS

Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they moved so distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever hearing of each other's existence during the eleven following years, or, at least, to make it very wonderful to Sir Thomas that Mrs. Norris should ever have it in her power to tell them, as she now and then did, in an angry voice, that Fanny had got another child. By the end of eleven years, however, Mrs. Price could no longer afford to cherish pride or resentment, or to lose one connexion that might possibly assist her. A large and still increasing family, an husband disabled for active service, but not the less equal to company and good liquor, and a very small income to supply their wants, made her eager to regain the friends she had so carelessly sacrificed; and she addressed Lady Bertram in a letter which spoke so much contrition and despondence, such a superfluity of children, and such a want of almost everything else, as could not but dispose them all to a reconciliation. She was preparing for her ninth lying-in; and after bewailing the circumstance, and imploring their countenance as sponsors to the expected child, she could not conceal how important she felt they might be to the future maintenance of the eight already in being. Her eldest was a boy of ten years old, a fine spirited fellow, who longed to be out in the world; but what could she do? Was there any chance of his being hereafter useful to Sir Thomas in the concerns of his West Indian property? No situation would be beneath him; or what did Sir Thomas think of Woolwich? or how could a boy be sent out to the East?

[Jane Austen, Mansfield Park]

Dear Jane,

Grammarly found 13 critical writing issues in your text.

Score: 43 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
 
Plagiarism !
  • Unoriginal text detected

    Grammar 7 issues
    • Use of articles (2)
    • Verb form use (1)
    • Other (1)
    Punctuation 5 issues
    • Punctuation within a sentence (4)
    • Capitalization (1)
    • Closing punctuation


    The nature of the following work will be best understood by a brief account of how it came to be written. During many years I collected notes on the origin or descent of man, without any intention of publishing on the subject, but rather with the determination not to publish, as I thought that I should thus only add to the prejudices against my views. It seemed to me sufficient to indicate, in the first edition of my 'Origin of Species,' that by this work "light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history;" and this implies that man must be included with other organic beings in any general conclusion respecting his manner of appearance on this earth. Now the case wears a wholly different aspect. When a naturalist like Carl Vogt ventures to say in his address as President of the National Institution of Geneva (1869), "personne, en Europe au moins, n'ose plus soutenir la creation indépendante et de toutes pièces, des espèces," it is manifest that at least a large number of naturalists must admit that species are the modified descendants of other species; and this especially holds good with the younger and rising naturalists. The greater number accept the agency of natural selection; though some urge, whether with justice the future must decide, that I have greatly overrated its importance. Of the older and honoured chiefs in natural science, many unfortunately are still opposed to evolution in every form.

    [Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man]

    Dear Charles,

    Grammarly found 18 critical writing issues in your text.

    Score: 32 of 100 (poor, revision necessary)
     
    Plagiarism !
    • Unoriginal text detected
    Contextual Spelling Check 8 issues
    • Spelling (8)
    • Ignored words
    • Commonly confused words
    Grammar 5 issues
    • Comparing two or more things (1)
    • Verb form use (1)
    • Wordiness (1)
    Punctuation 3 issues
    • Punctuation within a sentence (3)
    • Closing punctuation
    • Formal punctuation
    Style and Word Choice 1 issue
    • Writing style (1)
    • Vocabulary use


    Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little 'prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

    [Charles Dickens, Bleak House]

    Dear Charles,

    Grammarly found 8 critical writing issues in your text.

    Score: 50 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
     
    Plagiarism !
    • Unoriginal text detected
    Contextual Spelling Check 2 issues
    • Spelling (2)
    • Ignored words
    • Commonly confused words
    Grammar 2 issues
    • Faulty parallelism (1)
    • Sentence structure (1)
    • Use of articles
    Punctuation 3 issues
    • Punctuation within a sentence (3)
    • Closing punctuation
    • Formal punctuation


    In a remote solitude, vanity may still whisper in my ear, that my readers, perhaps, may inquire whether, in the conclusion of the present work, I am now taking an everlasting farewell. They shall hear all that I know myself, and all that I could reveal to the most intimate friend. The motives of action or silence are now equally balanced; nor can I pronounce, in my most secret thoughts, on which side the scale will preponderate. I cannot dissemble that six quartos must have tried, and may have exhausted, the indulgence of the Public; that, in the repetition of similar attempts, a successful Author has much more to lose than he can hope to gain; that I am now descending into the vale of years; and that the most respectable of my countrymen, the men whom I aspire to imitate, have resigned the pen of history about the same period of their lives. Yet I consider that the annals of ancient and modern times may afford many rich and interesting subjects; that I am still possessed of health and leisure; that by the practice of writing, some skill and facility must be acquired; and that, in the ardent pursuit of truth and knowledge, I am not conscious of decay. To an active mind, indolence is more painful than labor; and the first months of my liberty will be occupied and amused in the excursions of curiosity and taste. By such temptations, I have been sometimes seduced from the rigid duty even of a pleasing and voluntary task: but my time will now be my own; and in the use or abuse of independence, I shall no longer fear my own reproaches or those of my friends. I am fairly entitled to a year of jubilee: next summer and the following winter will rapidly pass away; and experience only can determine whether I shall still prefer the freedom and variety of study to the design and composition of a regular work, which animates, while it confines, the daily application of the Author.

    (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

    Dear Edward,

    Grammarly found 13 critical writing issues in your text.

    Score: 43 of 100 (weak, needs revision) 
    Plagiarism !
    • Unoriginal text detected
    Contextual Spelling Check 1 issue
    • Commonly confused words (1)
    • Spelling
    • Ignored words
    Grammar 7 issues
    • Use of articles (1)
    • Other (1)
    • Wordiness (1)
    Punctuation 4 issues
    • Punctuation within a sentence (4)
    • Closing punctuation
    • Formal punctuation




     The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under the republic; and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied with preserving those dominions which had been acquired by the policy of the senate, the active emulations of the consuls, and the martial enthusiasm of the people. The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils. Inclined to peace by his temper and situation, it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her present exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear from the chance of arms; and that, in the prosecution of remote wars, the undertaking became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, and the possession more precarious, and less beneficial. The experience of Augustus added weight to these salutary reflections, and effectually convinced him that, by the prudent vigor of his counsels, it would be easy to secure every concession which the safety or the dignity of Rome might require from the most formidable barbarians. Instead of exposing his person and his legions to the arrows of the Parthians, he obtained, by an honorable treaty, the restitution of the standards and prisoners which had been taken in the defeat of Crassus.

    (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

    Dear Edward,

    Grammarly found 10 critical writing issues in your text.

    Score: 40 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
     
    Plagiarism !
    • Unoriginal text detected



    Grammar 8 issues
    • Confusing modifiers (1)
    • Wordiness (1)
    • Passive voice use (6)
    Punctuation 1 issue
    • Punctuation within a sentence (1)
    • Closing punctuation
    • Formal punctuation

    Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling.  ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.  Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.  Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.
    Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500,’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’  I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner; but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience previous to inspecting the penetralium.

    (Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights) -

    Dear Emily,

    Grammarly found 5 critical writing issues in your text.

    Score: 60 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
     
    Plagiarism !
    • Unoriginal text detected

      Grammar 4 issues
      • Verb form use (1)
      • Wordiness (1)
      • Passive voice use (2)

      The Prince had always liked his London, when it had come to him; he was one of the modern Romans who find by the Thames a more convincing image of the truth of the ancient state than any they have left by the Tiber. Brought up on the legend of the City to which the world paid tribute, he recognised in the present London much more than in contemporary Rome the real dimensions of such a case. If it was a question of an Imperium, he said to himself, and if one wished, as a Roman, to recover a little the sense of that, the place to do so was on London Bridge, or even, on a fine afternoon in May, at Hyde Park Corner. It was not indeed to either of those places that these grounds of his predilection, after all sufficiently vague, had, at the moment we are concerned with him, guided his steps; he had strayed, simply enough, into Bond Street, where his imagination, working at comparatively short range, caused him now and then to stop before a window in which objects massive and lumpish, in silver and gold, in the forms to which precious stones contribute, or in leather, steel, brass, applied to a hundred uses and abuses, were as tumbled together as if, in the insolence of the Empire, they had been the loot of far-off victories. The young man's movements, however, betrayed no consistency of attention—not even, for that matter, when one of his arrests had proceeded from possibilities in faces shaded, as they passed him on the pavement, by huge beribboned hats, or more delicately tinted still under the tense silk of parasols held at perverse angles in waiting victorias. And the Prince's undirected thought was not a little symptomatic, since, though the turn of the season had come and the flush of the streets begun to fade, the possibilities of faces, on the August afternoon, were still one of the notes of the scene. He was too restless—that was the fact—for any concentration, and the last idea that would just now have occurred to him in any connection was the idea of pursuit.

      (Henry James, The Golden Bowl)

      Dear Henry,

      Grammarly found 11 critical writing issues and generated 1 word choice correction for your text.

      Score: 44 of 100 (weak, needs revision)
       
      Plagiarism !
      • Unoriginal text detected
      Contextual Spelling Check 1 issue
      • Commonly confused words (1)
      • Spelling
      • Ignored words
      Grammar 6 issues
      • Use of articles (1)
      • Conditional sentences (1)
      • Sentence structure (2)
      Punctuation 2 issues
      • Punctuation within a sentence (2)
      • Closing punctuation
      • Formal punctuation
      Style and Word Choice 1 issue
      • Vocabulary use (1)
      • Writing style


      Nothing is more usual and more natural for those, who pretend to discover anything new to the world in philosophy and the sciences, than to insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those, which have been advanced before them. And indeed were they content with lamenting that ignorance, which we still lie under in the most important questions, that can come before the tribunal of human reason, there are few, who have an acquaintance with the sciences, that would not readily agree with them. It is easy for one of judgment and learning, to perceive the weak foundation even of those systems, which have obtained the greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest to accurate and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are every where to be met with in the systems of the most eminent philosophers, and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself.
      Nor is there required such profound knowledge to discover the present imperfect condition of the sciences, but even the rabble without doors may, judge from the noise and clamour, which they hear, that all goes not well within. There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in which men of learning are not of contrary opinions. The most trivial question escapes not our controversy, and in the most momentous we are not able to give any certain decision. Disputes are multiplied, as if every thing was uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if every thing was certain. Amidst all this bustle it is not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagant hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favourable colours. The victory is not gained by the men at arms, who manage the pike and the sword; but by the trumpeters, drummers, and musicians of the army.

      (David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature)

      Dear David,

      Grammarly found 19 critical writing issues in your text.

      Score: 38 of 100 (poor, revision necessary)
       
      Plagiarism !
      • Unoriginal text detected
      Contextual Spelling Check 3 issues
      • Spelling (3)
      • Ignored words
      • Commonly confused words
      Grammar 9 issues
      • Use of articles (1)
      • Incorrect use of prepositions (1)
      • Subject and verb agreement (1)
      Punctuation 4 issues
      • Punctuation within a sentence (4)
      • Closing punctuation
      • Formal punctuation
      Style and Word Choice 2 issues
      • Writing style (1)
      • Vocabulary use (1)
      I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost;—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that in which the reader is likely to see me.—Believe me, good folks, this is not so inconsiderable a thing as many of you may think it;—you have all, I dare say, heard of the animal spirits, as how they are transfused from father to son, &c. &c.—and a great deal to that purpose:—Well, you may take my word, that nine parts in ten of a man's sense or his nonsense, his successes and miscarriages in this world depend upon their motions and activity, and the different tracks and trains you put them into, so that when they are once set a-going, whether right or wrong, 'tis not a half-penny matter,—away they go cluttering like hey-go mad; and by treading the same steps over and over again, they presently make a road of it, as plain and as smooth as a garden-walk, which, when they are once used to, the Devil himself sometimes shall not be able to drive them off it.

      (Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy)

      Dear Laurence,

      Grammarly found 20 critical writing issues in your text.

      Score: 10 of 100 (poor, revision necessary)
      Plagiarism !
      • Unoriginal text detected
      Contextual Spelling Check 4 issues
      • Spelling (4)
      • Ignored words
      • Commonly confused words
      Grammar 6 issues
      • Wordiness (1)
      • Passive voice use (5)
      • Use of articles
      Punctuation 7 issues
      • Punctuation within a sentence (7)
      • Closing punctuation
      • Formal punctuation
      Style and Word Choice 2 issues
      • Writing style (2)
      • Vocabulary use

      Why not go to grammarly.com and paste in your own samples? No genius is safe.

      Incidentally, my introduction (above) scored 69/100 ( = "Weak, needs revision")

       Apparently, I have already plagiarized myself,  * prior * to the publication of this blog.

      Now that's clever.

      Napoleon?

      Thursday, 12 December 2013

      Creating a Map of Connection and Transition

      Students create their own maps of connection

      "The creative journey has more departures than arrivals."

       

      Students often have problems thinking about the flow of their ideas within a paragraph. This is not surprising as different thought-pathways occur at each (full) stop. 

      For instance, having expressed one idea, the next one might illustrate, supplement, qualify, or reverse the preceding sentence. 

      As a result, our sentence journeys quickly become very complicated. A complex argument often degenerates into confusion, and the sense of feeling lost. Writers and readers need signposts, and they need a map.

      In reality, writing involves weaving together a complex and dense thread of connectives and transitions. These words have the special function of signalling the direction of travel. They help to maintain a sense of purpose and direction. By using them effectively the writer is able to stick to a plan. Transitions help writing to flow.

      By thinking about the different kinds of transition needed in writing it is possible to create word and phrase clusters for each one. 

      In visual terms each cluster can become a line that has many variations: 

      the Location Line, 
      the Timing Line, 
      the Comparison Line, 
      the Contrast and Difference Line, 
      the Supplement Line, 
      the Disputation line, 
      the Sequence Line, 
      the Example and Illustration Line,
      the Summary Line. 

      My book provides lists of these word clusters, together with hundreds of examples of their usage drawn from published writers in all fields of work.

      I have also provided a useful summary of the most frequently used transition words and phrases at the end of this blog.

      It is easy to create your own multiple-line personalised maps:

      Pairs of students research and select the key words that will stand in as the stations. 

      They draw coloured lines with sufficient stations and then add the words to create their personalised map of connection.  

      They will be learning about connection by making links.

      A traditional - and easy - way to create a London Tube-style connection map is to use coloured wool and drawing pins on a noticeboard. Each station then becomes one of the key words or phrases used to signal a sentence connection or transition. The cluster then represents the colour of the line.

      Lines of writing can also be demonstrated in the classroom by using human subjects as the 'stations' and throwing around a ball of coloured wool. But be warned, this activity can create a tangled web. Yet this experience usefully serves an apt metaphor to express the idea that complex writing sometimes works - and sometimes fails. Sentences are social; they require teamwork.

      A useful follow-up game is to guess the line:

      "If am at station X and move to station Y, which line am I on?"

      Logic line clusters can also be used to analyse an essay. This involves highlighting the writer's choice (or implied choice) of connection and transition, sentence by sentence. In this process we stick back in and stress the otherwise invisible moments of connection and transition.

      Clearly, a high frequency of time-based words suggests narrative; a high frequency of space-based words will be evident in description; multiple sequence words are crucial for argument, &c.

      I also like to use the idea of the electronic circuit board. We are not always using all of the elements on the board. Nonetheless, a broken circuit will sometime lead to a fatal system error.

      I'd love to see your connectivity maps if your have tried out this activity! 


      Images for Connectivity on Pinterest

       




      The Nine Lines of Connection:



      The Space Line

      A sense of where something is in relation to something else. This use is rather like using a preposition or an adverbial phrase. The words associated with this usage are: above, across, adjacent, adjacent to, alongside, amid, among, around, at the side, before, behind, below, beneath, beside,  between, beyond, down, from, further, here, here and there, in front of, in the back, in the background, in the centre of, in the distance, in the foreground, in the front, in the middle, near, nearby, next, on this side, opposite to, over, there, to the left, to the right, to the side, under, up, where, wherever. These words all suggest a sense of place or location and are therefore very useful for visual description.

      The Timing Line

      Supply a sense of when something is happening, or to communicate the sense of a logical sequence in time. Examples of this usage of transitional words and phrases: about, after, afterwards, all of a sudden, as soon as, at the present time, at the same time, at this instant, before, currently, during, eventually, finally, first, formerly, forthwith, fourth, from time to time, further, hence, henceforth, immediately, in a moment, in due time, in the first place, in the future, in the meantime, in the past, in time, instantly, last, later, meanwhile, next, now, occasionally, often, once, presently, prior to, quickly, second, shortly, since, sometimes, soon, sooner or later, straightaway, subsequently, suddenly, then, third, to begin with, today, until, until now, up to the present time, when, whenever, without delay.

      The Comparison Line

      Point to a comparison of two ideas. This may be achieved by deploying words such as additionally, again, also, and, as, as a matter of fact, as well as, by the same token, comparatively, correspondingly, coupled with, equally, equally important; first, second, third, fourth, fifth; furthermore, identically, in addition, in like manner, in the light of, in the same fashion, in the same way, like, likewise, moreover, not only ... but also, not to mention, of course, similarly, to say nothing of, together with, too. As these examples demonstrate the ruling idea is similarity.
      Tube map of the Art of Connection with key words presented as stations
      Another Map showing The Art of Connection

      The Difference Line

      Indicate a contrast. English provides many examples to signal the notion of difference. The most common examples are and still, and yet, above all, after all, albeit, although, although this may be true, at the same time, be that as it may, besides, but, conversely, despite, different from, even so, even though, however, in contrast, in reality, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand, or, otherwise, rather, regardless of, still, then again, unlike, whereas, while, yet.

      The Supplement Line

      If the writer wants to present additional or supplementary ideas the most common options are: also, and, as well, moreover, then, too, besides, equally, furthermore, in addition.

      The Argument Line

      In the process of disputation, argument, or debate a writer sometimes indicates that a point has been agreed or already taken into account. In order to suggest that a point has been conceded the following words and phrases may be used: granted, obviously, to be sure, agreed, certainly, of course.

      The Sequence Line

      In order to provide a sense of logical sequence the writer uses words such as accordingly, as long as, as a result, because, because of, consequently, due to, even if, for fear that, for this reason, for the purpose of, forthwith, given that, granted (that), hence, henceforth, if, in case, in order to, in that case, in the event that, in the hope that, in view of, inasmuch as, lest, on account of, on (the) condition (that), only, owing to, provided that, seeing that, since, so,  so as to, so long as, so that, thereby, therefore, thereupon, thus, to the end that, under those circumstances, unless, when, whenever, while, with this in mind, with this intention. In these examples there may be a sense of cause and effect, or the sense that one idea results from another. In some cases there is the sense of conditionality or a specific relation of purpose.


      The Illustration Line

      If the writer has been using concepts, ideas, or theories, it is often helpful to provide an illustration or an example. For this purpose we deploy words such as: another key point, as an illustration, by all means, certainly, chiefly, especially, first thing to remember, for example, for instance, for one thing, for this reason, frequently, important to realize, in detail, in fact, in general, in other words, in particular, in this case, including, indeed, like, issues to consider, markedly, most compelling evidence, must be remembered, namely, notably, on the negative side, on the positive, point often overlooked, recalling, significantly, specifically, such as, surely, surprisingly, that is to say, taking into account, to be sure, to clarify, to demonstrate, to emphasize, to enumerate, to explain, to point out, to put it another way, to put it differently, to repeat, truly, with attention to, with regard to, with this in mind.

      The Summary Line


      Useful connective words include: after all, all in all, all things considered, altogether, as can be seen, as has been demonstrated, as has been noted, as shown,  above, by and large, finally, for the most part, generally speaking, given these points, hence, in a word, in any event, in brief, in conclusion, in conclusion, in either case, in essence, in fact, in short, in summary, in the final analysis, in the long run, on balance, on the whole, ordinarily, overall, that is to say, that is, to sum up, to summarize, usually.



      It will be clear that many transitional words have multiple and overlapping functions. The summary, for instance, also signals the end of a sequence. Similarly, examples may also be supplements, because they provide additional illustrations or instances.

      Download a sample of this book.

      The Art of Connection.

      Illustration of connectives and transition words used in English composition
      This was produced by a boy of  10 years

      Wednesday, 11 December 2013

      A remarkable instance of long-windedness: sprawling sentences

      Essays often fall into two categories: the short and the long. While there is often a virtue in brevity there is more often a vice in prolixity. Writing should avoid repetition and restatement. On the whole, a concise but well thought out response will score higher marks than a sprawling and rambling composition.

      More specifically, sentences which are too long, or too complex, often prove to be confusing. On the surface, these kinds of sentence may look impressive, but they often come in for critical censure. In his book, Composition and Punctuation familiarly explained, (1865), Justin Brenan discussed a classic example of the long-winded style of writing.

      VERY REMARKABLE INSTANCE OF LONG-WINDEDNESS.

      I Thought that I had exhausted this subject. Yes, I believed that I had furnished the most glaring examples, but here is one that eclipses them all, and I give it because you cannot have a better lesson. It is from the History of England (Cabinet Cyclopaedia), by Sir James Mackintosh, and I copy from a critique in the Monthly Review of August, 1830 :—

      The king, with angry murmurs, turned aside, and Robert, whose spirit was awakened by this unbrotherly repulse, returned to the duchy to try his fortune, whither Henry pursued him, and after an obstinate conflict at Tinchebrai, on the 27th of September, 1106, in which Robert made the last display of his brilliant qualities as a commander and a soldier, he was completely routed, and sent prisoner to England; where his imprisonment appears first to have been mild, but having yielded to the impulse of nature in attempting to escape from prison, by the command of his unrelenting brother, his eyes were put out, and after passing near thirty years of blindness in several fortresses, he died in 1135, at Cardiff Castle, in Glamorganshire, at the age of eighty, when all the other chiefs who had shared the glory of rescuing Jerusalem had been laid low.

      The Editor of the Review comments, in strong terms, on the numerous faults of this sentence, and thus concludes his strictures, "Finally we would ask whether 'all the other chiefs' had been laid low in the year 1135, or at the age of eighty, or both? We have seldom seen a worse piece of writing than this, in whatever way it be contemplated." It, is certainly a reproach to Sir James, for, supposing him in a hurry when writing, it is to be presumed that he corrected his own proof sheets, and then he had an opportunity of seeing this unwieldy sentence in all its deformity. Such an exhibition is calculated to injure even a respectable author like him, because it might prejudice the public against his .style, while it would probably ruin one who was struggling for fame. Now I shall offer no amendment. Study my directions for correcting long-windedness, and you can make this crude mass of confused relatives perfectly intelligible, and pleasing to read, by a proper distribution of the members, and a little exercise of judgment in connection. This, I say over again, is the best way to improve your own style.

      (Justin Brenan, Composition and Punctuation familiarly explained, 1865, pp. 110-111)


      Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
      (Quibble Academic, 2013)

      Tuesday, 10 December 2013

      The Idea of the Ludicrous





      In this post Alexander Bain offers definitions and examples of the ludicrous.

      108. The Ludicrous and the Laughable are names for what excites laughter.

      Among the causes of laughter we may name abundance of animal spirits, any sudden accession of pleasure, the special elation of power and superiority, or an unexpected diversion of the mind when under excitement.

      109. The Ludicrous in composition is for the most part based on the degradation, direct or indirect, of some person or interest—something associated with power, dignity, or gravity. It is farther requisite that the circumstances of this degradation should not be such as to produce any other strong emotion, as pity, anger, or fear.

      Comedy took its rise from the jeering and personal vituperation indulged in during the processions in honor of the god Dionysus, or Bacchus. In the regular comedy, and in every kind of composition aiming at the laughable, the essential in gradient is the vilifying and degrading of men or institutions commanding some degree of veneration or respect.

      The pleasure thus afforded is very great, and has a strong affinity with that feeling of exalted energy entering into the sublime. To throw down anything from a height is a signal manifestation of power, and, as such, gratifies the agent and those that enter into his feelings. Even where the prostration is not designed by a conscious agent, as when any one tumbles in the mud, or takes fright at an unexpected appearance, we experience a degree of enjoyment corresponding to the greatness of the effect. When our sympathy is with the object thrown down, the tendency to laughter is arrested, and some other feeling takes its place.

      The following are examples of this degradation. When Moliere introduces the celestial messenger of the gods, sitting tired on a cloud, and complaining of the number of Jupiter's errands, Night expresses surprise that a god should be weary; whereupon Mercury indignantly asks, "Are the gods made of iron?" This degradation of divine personages is ludicrous and delightful to unbelievers. Accordingly, in the decline of Paganism, the gods came to be a subject of mirth in such compositions as the Dialogues of Lucian.

      A Frenchman, disappointed with English cookery, exclaimed, 'Behold a land with sixty religions, and only one sauce.'  The putting of religion and sauce upon a level partly degrades religion, but still more degrades the speaker; and there is a complex effect of the ludicrous.

      The lines of Hudibras,

      And, like a lobster boiled, the morn
      From black to red began to turn,

      contain an obvious degradation of a dignified subject, although belonging to the inanimate world. Whatever inspires us with lofty feelings of admiration or awe can be a subject of ludicrous prostration, if we are disposed to exult over the fall. We usually enjoy the laugh at something that we observe other people respecting, but do not ourselves respect.

      The incident of Queen Sophie Charlotte's taking a pinch of snuff during the pompous and protracted coronation ceremonial of her husband Friedrich I., of Prussia, is intensely ludicrous. The rules of decorum were treated with contempt, and the splendor of a pageant suddenly dashed by an act suggestive of ennui.

      The Burlesque, the Mock-heroic, Parody, Travesty, Caricature, are modes of composition answering to the general character of the ludicrous. Either some elevated object is treated in a low and vulgar style, or a mean object in the style of things dignified; in both cases, there is an effect of degradation.

      110. The circumstances of the laughable may vary between two extremes :—

      For the one extreme, we have the pure pleasure of power shading into malignity, as seen in the laugh of victory, derision, ridicule, scorn, contumely, contempt.

      In composition, this is exemplified in the writings of Swift and Voltaire, in the letters of Junius, and in the comedies of Aristophanes. Unmeasured denunciation, abuse, sarcasm, give this pleasure, provided they do not rouse sympathy towards the victim.

      111. At the other end of the scale, the exultation of power is disguised by various arts; and the laugh assumes a genial and kindly character. This is Humour. 

      (English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual, 1867.)

      Adversative conjunctions


      If you have been enjoying my book, The Art of Connection, you might be interested to read what Alexander Bain had to say on the topic of Adversative conjunctions:

      Certain of the Adversative conjunctions are used to indicate the mutual bearing of consecutive sentences.

      Some of the members of this subdivision are termed Exclusive, because they indicate the exclusion of some circumstances that would otherwise be allowable. "Else," " otherwise," are the chief examples; they occasionally introduce sentences, but owing to the intimacy of union that they express, their chief use is to unite clauses.

      Those termed Alternative sometimes form a link between two sentences; for example, or and nor. When nor is used without neither preceding, it is commonly in the sense of and not: "Nor would he have been mistaken;" "And he would not have been mistaken."

      We may have one sentence commencing with either and the next with or; and so with neither and nor. But, in general, these intimate a closeness of connection, such as requires the members to be kept within the same sentence.

      The group of Adversative conjunctions represented by But (called Arrestive) very often institute relations between consecutive sentences. They are—But then, still, yet, only, nevertheless, however, at the same time, for all that. These may operate on a great scale, covering, not only the sentence, but the paragraph. An entire paragraph is not unfrequently devoted to arresting or preventing a seeming inference from one preceding, and is therefore appropriately opened by but, still, &c.

      (English Composition and Rhetoric: A Manual, 1867.)