"Talks on Writing English" from Arlo Bates. American author, educator and newspaperman (1850 - 1918).
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Ill COMPOSITION AND REVISION Composition and revision are processes made up of the same ingredients, so to say, but of these mixed in different proportions. In composition the stress of thought is upon what is to be said, while yet steadily is kept in mind the manner of saying; in revision the matter of what is said is still considered, but for the time being is less dwelt upon than perfection of expression. In both must the double consciousness of creator and critic exist in the writer, but in composition it is the creator who is in command, and in revision the critic. The first assumption in writing is a reader. This might seem too obvious to need to be said; but the case is not unlike that of dear old ladies whose missing spectacles are on the top of their white- haired heads. The fact is obvious even to absurdity, yet it is necessary to mention it. Untrained writers seldom consider the reader; and many men of no small reputation not unfrequently go on for page after page without the smallest notion of the person addressed. They are pleasing themselves by saying things, but they are not considering any reader who will be compelled by irresistible interest to heed these when said. Only the best trainedwriters may be counted upon always to have in mind and to realize a definite audience. One of the first things taught to any class in composition should be this necessity of realizing who is to read. Students should be instructed to write every sentence of theme or composition with the idea that it is to be read by some definite person. Nor should this person, except in rare cases, be a teacher. The pupil should write for his peers. The letters of young persons are often notablybetter than their compositions. In part this is due to the fact that in letters they write s...