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Prose.—The term Prose is applied to all composition which is not in verse. It means the ordinary, straightforward manner of discourse, in distinction from the inverted order so common in poetry.
Although no exact classification has been made of the varieties of prose composition, the principal forms are Discourses, Letters, Essays, Treatises, Travels, History, Fiction, Biography, News.
A Discourse differs from other kinds of composition in the fact that it is intended to be read or spoken to the persons addressed, instead of being read by them.
The principal kinds of discourses are Orations, Addresses, Sermons, Lectures, and Speeches. Conversation is discourse between two or more people; its value as a preparation to written discourse is beyond estimate. It widens one's view of his subject, puts him in better possession of his thought, teaches him how to communicate it, and gives him the art of putting it so as to make it most effective.
An Oration is a discourse of the most formal and elaborate kind. It is generally in commemoration of some great event, or in eulogy of some distinguished person, or on an occasion justifying the most careful preparation. It
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is, therefore, never familiar and colloquial, but graceful, polished, and dignified, disclosing rare scholarship, and abounding, often, in classic allusion. Everett's oration on “Washington" is a fine example.
An Address is nearly akin to an oration, but somewhat less formal in character, and much less restricted in regard to the occasion and the subject. The occasions demanding an address are many and vari
The Governor of a State, the President of a College, or the President of an Association, on entering upon the duties of his office, usually delivers an address.
A Sermon is a formal discourse delivered by a clergyman before a religious body. It is founded usually on some passage of Scripture, and is intended for religious instruction. No other species of oral discourse ranks with the sermon in variety and dignity of topics, and in the importance of the motives arrayed and of the ends presented.
A Lecture is a discourse on any subject, secular or religious. Lectures are usually formal or methodical discourses, intended for instruction, though not a few are meant to amuse, and some to persuade. Those whose sole object is to create amusement, and that not of the most elevated kind, have no legitimate claim to the title of lecture.
A Speech is always intended to be spoken, and it is limited to no particular subject or occasion.
The most common places for making speeches are legislative assemblies, courts of justice, and various kinds of popular conventions, political, educational, and religious.
The subject matter of these speeches is usually thoroughly prepared, but commonly the speeches are not written outthe wording of the thought being left to the occasion;
sometimes, however, thought and expression are inspired by the occasion, and the speech is delivered extemporaneously,—composed at the time and in the act of delivery.
In the construction of all the more formal kinds of discourse certain principles are to be observed. First, the discourse must maintain a certain unity of subject, — the topics introduced must have some common bond of union, connecting and subordinating them all to one leading thought or purpose. Secondly, it should be adapted to the hearers, both in the subject selected and in the manner of treating it. Thirdly, it should be symmetrical, —the parts should be related each to each in due order and proportion.
The parts of a discourse are: (1) The introduction; (2) The statement of the subject; (3) The main discourse; (4) The conclusion.
1. The Introduction, or Exordium, is one of the most important and one of the most difficult parts of a discourse. Its object is to render the hearers well disposed, attentive, and open to persuasion. It should be easy and natural, accurate, calm, and modest; further, it should not anticipate any of the main points of the discourse.
2. The Statement should be made in few and simple words, and with the utmost possible clearness.
3. The Main Discourse must be left much to the judgment and invention of the writer or speaker. No two subjects ordinarily are to be handled precisely alike; no two writers handle the same topic exactly in the same way under different circumstances; but whatever be the method of treatment, the discussion should be honest and thorough.
4. The Conclusion, or Peroration, like the Introduction, requires special care. The object in the conclusion is to leave as strong an impression as possible upon the minds of the audience.
Letters are written communications addressed by the writer to some other person or persons. Not every one can reasonably aspire to write histories or works of fiction, or any of the other varieties of composition; but every one writes letters, and the difference between a letter well written and one badly written is so great as to demand the most careful consideration of the subject.
Usually letters are upon matters purely personal and private, and are prompted by friendship or by business; sometimes they are upon topics of general interest, and are thought worthy of publication. The letters of distinguished persons, from the universal desire to learn all that can be known of the writer's character and situation, by reason of the importance of the subject discussed or by the exquisite style in which his thoughts are couched, have been gathered into volumes, and form a valuable part of literature.
Letters should be natural and simple in style; a stiff and labored manner is to be as much condemned as an affectation of brilliancy. The style of a letter should not be too highly polished; it ought to be neat and correct, smoothly flowing, and graceful through sprightliness and wit.
The Form.-In writing a letter there are five things to consider—the heading, the address, the body of the letter, the subscription, or conclusion, and the superscription.
The Heading includes two points, namely, the place where, and the time when, the letter is written. If you write from a city, you should give the street and number as well as the city and State. If you write from a small country place, give your post-office address, the name of
the county, and that of the State. The date consists of the month, the day of the month, and the year.
The heading is usually begun on the first ruled line, and a little to the left of the middle of the page. If the heading is short, it may stand on one line. If it occupies more than one line, the second line should begin farther to the right than the first, and the third farther to the right than the second. If the heading occupies more than one line, the date should stand upon a line by itself. The number of the house, the day of the month, and the year, are written in figures, the rest in words. Each important word begins with a capital letter, each item is set off by a comma, and the whole closes with a period. Thus:
Scioto, Ohio, Nov. 2, 1886.
Fune 4, 1875.
221 W. Franklin St.,
Fuly 8, 1880.
Glendower, Albemarle Co., Va.,
November 10, 1887.
The Address consists of the name, the title, and the place of business or the residence of the one addressed, and the salutation. It is necessary in addressing a letter to know what title to give. A young lad usually has the prefix Master; an unmarried woman, Miss; a married woman or widow, Mrs.; a man who has no other title,