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Expository Writing by Mervin James Curl

Expository Writing

by Mervin James Curl

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Expository Writing
All writing—except mere exercise and what the author intends for himself alone—is a problem in strategy. The successful author will always regard his writing as a problem of manipulation of material wisely chosen to accomplish an objective against the enemy. The enemy is the reader. He is armed with two terrible weapons, lack of interest and lack of comprehension. Sometimes one weapon is stronger than the other, but a wise author always has an eye for both. The strategic problem is, then, so to choose material, and so to order and express it, that the reader will be forced to become interested, to comprehend, to arrive, in other words, at the point in his feeling and thinking to which the author wishes to lead him. The author's objective is always an effect in the reader's mind. In so far as the author creates this effect he is successful. And the time to consider the effect, to make sure of its accomplishment, is before the pen touches the paper.

Sometimes the author makes a mistake in his planning, as did the composer Handel when he wrote the oratorio of "The Messiah." He placed the "Hallelujah Chorus" at the end of the oratorio. But when, toward the end of the second section, he saw from his place on the stage that the audience was not so enthusiastic as he had expected it to be at that point, he changed his plan, with practical shrewdness rushed to the front and shifted the famous chorus from the end of the third section to the end of the second, and had the satisfaction of seeing the audience so moved that first the King rose, and then, of course, the audience with him. The chorus has stood at the end of the second part to this day; that is the place for it—it brings about the effect that Handel desired much better there than if it were saved for the end of the oratorio. The oratorio is, in other words, a greater work than it would have been had not the author kept a keen eye for the audience, for the effect, and a willingness to change his plans whenever the gaining of the effect required a change. Just so the writer should constantly scan the horizon of the reader's mind for signs of interest and for shafts of intelligence. ( )
  amzmchaichun | Jul 19, 2013 |
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To All Students Who Would Like to Enjoy Writing
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"The Anglo-Saxons," Emerson said, "are the hands of the world" -- they, more than any other people, turn the wheels of the world, do its work, keep things moving.
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