Writing: Most beautiful and most useful of studies

in-nuce.com: Girl writing
Source: Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1871
Alright, I know it's controversial, but somebody's got to say it. 

Writing is the “most useful and most beautiful” of all studies.

This might not be your sentiment at midnight the night before a seven-page paper is due. However, according to William Swinton, the “art of expressing our thoughts on paper, the art of writing good English”, the art of composition, gives us confidence to proceed in any discipline. 

Composition is all about putting thoughts into sentences and then arranging them to end up with a theme. Depending on its complexity, the number of ways a sentence can be arranged is so high that non-math types say it's infinite. It's not. But the odds are infinitesimal that anyone will write exactly the same thing in exactly the same way that you do.

You're special.

Here Swinton lays out the basics of introductory composition. It's what you should have internalized by the time you entered middle school, but maybe were never taught:
1. A thought may be expressed in different ways. So the sentence may be—

Affirmative; as, Life is short.
Negative; as, Man shall not live by bread alone.
Imperative; as, Sound the loud timbrel.
Interrogative; as, Who saw the sun today?
Exclamatory; as, What a piece of work is man!

2. A sentence consists of two essential parts—Subject and Predicate.
The Subject is that part of a sentence which names the thing spoken of; the Predicate, that which affirms something of the subject; as, Little drops of water (subject) make the mighty ocean (predicate).

3. No collection of words is a sentence unless it contains both a subject and a predicate, and expresses a complete thought.

4. A collection of words in a sentence containing a subject and a predicate, but not expressing a complete thought, is called a Clause; as, When spring returned, the campaign was begun.

5. A combination of words forming an element of a sentence, but not containing subject or predicate, is a Phrase

6. There are two main classes of phrases:
The Prepositional phrase, introduced by a preposition.
The Participial phrase, of which the keyword will always be a participle.

Persons of a quarrelsome disposition are
dangerous associates.
Come into the garden, Maud.
Beneath the lowest deep, a lower deep, still threatening to devour me, opens wide.
The vessel, having encountered a storm, was completely wrecked.
Unaccustomed to obey, he could not command.
Beneath the lowest deep, a lower deep, still threatening to devour me, opens wide.

7. Sentences are of three kinds: Simple, Complex, and Compound [more on this later]. 

8. Punctuation matters. In beginning the work of composition-writing observe the following points:
Terminal Marks. Use a period (.) at the end of every complete statement; a point of interrogation (?) at the end of a direct question; and a point of exclamation (!) at the end of every exclamatory sentence.
  • A Period is used after every abbreviated word: as, G. Washington; C. O. D.
  • Capitals. A Capital letter should begin—
  • The first word of every sentence.
  • The first word of every line of poetry [though not necessarily in free verse].
  • The first word of every direct quotation.
  • All proper nouns, and adjectives derived from them.
  • Names of things used as persons.
  • Names of the days of the week, and of the months of the year; but not of the seasons.
  • All words used as titles, or particular names.
  • Names of the Supreme Being, and generally a personal pronoun that refers to Him [depends on editorial preference].
  • The pronoun I, the interjection 'O', and single letters forming abbreviations should be capitals.
Source: Swinton.

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