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HOW TO DESCRIBE A THING WELL

31

Try to make your description as clear and beautiful as a mountain lake. Think it all out carefully so that you can give it in class.

If you can find any pictures of mountain lakes, study them and bring them to school.

II. TRYING TO DESCRIBE FAMILIAR

THINGS

Your teacher will tell you what to do.

III. HOW TO DESCRIBE A THING WELL Read again The Sailor's Story (p. 29).

Did the sailor tell the truth about the people of the United States ?

About how many millions of people are there in the United States ?

How many did the sailor see?

How many people do you think you have ever seen?

How many cripples have you ever seen?

Did the sailor tell the truth about the people of the United States as he saw them?

If he had first traveled through the country, visiting the large cities, would he have said what he did about the number of people? Would he have said what he did about cripples ?

Note to the teacher: You will find full, detailed directions in your Manual, page 31.

Often people tell what is not true about people and things - misrepresent them, we say — not because they mean to give wrong ideas, but because they do not observe long and carefully enough before talking.

Let us make up our minds at the beginning of our work in this book not to make this mistake. Let us determine to find out about things before we try to describe them; then what we say will be true.

We can find out about things in three ways: by observing, studying the things themselves; by asking questions of those who know; and by reading

You may think it very easy to avoid the mistake of the simple traveler and to describe something so exactly that everyone can see the thing in his mind just as it is. Try it. Choose some object in the classroom. Think just how you will describe it when your teacher calls on you. In making your description, remember that you are trying to make your hearers see the object just as it is; so do not say something that will lead them merely to guess at it.

Suppose you were to say:

I carry something in my pocket that tells me the time.

HOW TO DESCRIBE A THING WELL

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Everyone would guess that you mean a watch ; but you have not described the watch you mean. You can see in your mind the watch that is in your pocket; but you have said nothing to make anyone else see that particular watch. What you have said might be true of any watch.

But suppose you were to say:

I have something in my pocket that reminds me of a person. It has a white face and two golden hands. It must be very shy, for it always holds its hands before its face. Like some people, it is always talking, but its voice is very soft and low. The face is uncovered so that I can see it whenever I wish ; but the back is covered with silver. In the middle of the back are carved my initials. If once every day I turn a little screw on the top until it will turn no more, my little friend will see that I am always on time.

Now you have described your watch. From what you have said about it anyone can see in his mind the particular watch that you carry in your pocket. One can see an open-faced, silver watch, with your initials cut on the back; a stem-winder, with white face and golden hands; and one

can hear, in imagination, its soft “tick-tick.” You have not only given a good description of your watch; you have made your description interesting.

Is your description complete? Have you told everything about your watch? No, you have told only a few things about it. You have said nothing about its size, shape, or thickness; nothing about its general appearance, whether bright and new, or old and worn; nothing about the surface of the case, whether smooth or chased; and nothing about the inside of the watch. But you have probably told enough to distinguish your watch from any other, enough so that one could pick your watch out from a hundred watches that might be gathered together. Descriptions need not be complete; they should be true and distinguishing

Try to make the description of the object that you have chosen to describe true and distinguishing; that is, try to describe it so that one can see clearly in his mind the object you mean and pick it out from all others. Try, also, to make your description interesting.

FOR

IV. CHOOSING THE BEST WORDS

MOVEMENTS OF ANIMALS

You who have signed the American Speech Pledge will try constantly to increase the number of words that you can use. Why? Because to tell about the new things that you see and hear and

BEST WORDS FOR MOVEMENTS OF ANIMALS

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learn and the new thoughts that you have, requires the use of many new words; and only by having a large number of words from which to choose can you “speak the speech of America correctly, clearly, and sincerely.” To make a clear, correct description, you must choose words that picture exactly what you want your hearers to see.

If you should say, “The duck glided down the road,” would the word "glided” give a true picture of the duck's awkward, swaying walk or waddle? But, if you, say, “The duck glided over the smooth waters of the pond,” the words give a true picture of the swimming duck's movement.

Below is a list of words that describe movements of animals. Copy it, writing before each word the name of the animal, or the names of animals, whose movement the word describes, as :

Worms crawl.
Fish, turtles, ducks, geese, and swans swim.

[blocks in formation]

Add to the above list any other words you can think of that tell how animals move.

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