PROSE STYLES:
TOUGH, SWEET AND STUFFY
by Don L. F. Nilsen
and Alleen Pace Nilsen
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Discourse Maturity
• Smith & Wilhelm want their students to move from:
– self to other (writer-based to reader based)
– Personal experiences to the new and unknown
– Concrete to abstract
– Visual to nonvisual
– Short texts to longer texts
– Simple concepts to complex concepts
– Basic structures to more elaborate structures
(Smith & Wilhelm 72-73)
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Student Writing:
Notice the speaking styles:
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Scene: Thanksgiving Dinner
Characters: Grandma, a Rap Star and a Valley Girl
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RAP STAR: Yo, yo, G-ma, slip me some poes.
GRAMDMA: Pardon?
VALLEY GIRL: Duh, grandma. He’s all like, “Pass the poes,” and you,
like, don’t get it. He totally wants the potatoes.
GRANDMA: Then he should have asked for that in the first place.
RAP STAR: Hey; you dissin’ me?
GRANDMA: He wants a dish of what?
VALLEY GIRL: Ugh! This is so totally uncool.
GRANDMA: Oh, dear, are the potatoes too hot?
(Smith & Wilhelm 102)
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Useful Words in
Five Types of Organization
NARRATION (Time): after, as, before,
during, finally, first, later, meanwhile,
next, now, second, simultaneously,
then, until, when, while
DESCRIPTION (Space): above, across
from, below, beyond, farther, here,
nearby, next to, over, opposite, there,
left-right, top-bottom
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ELABORATION: again, also, another, besides. E.g.,
finally, for example, for instance, furthermore, i.e. in
addition, likewise, moreover, similarly, such as, too,
again, viz.
CAUSE & EFFECT (avoid post hoc ergo propter hoc):
accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for,
hence, if…then, since…then, therefore, thus
COMPARISON & CONTRAST (requires mastery of
semicolons): although, however, nevertheless, on the
one hand, on the other hand, otherwise, still, yet
(Smith & Wilhelm 111-112)
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Student Writing for the SAT Test
For Best Score:
It effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue
and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly
appropriate examples, reasons, and other evidence to support
its position.
It is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear
coherence and smooth progression of ideas.
It exhibits skillful use of language, employing a varied, accurate,
and apt vocabulary.
It demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure.
It is free of most errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics.
(Smith & Wilhelm 142)
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Modeling: A Poem by Stephen Crane
A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” said the universe,
“That fact has not created in me
Any sense of obligation.”
(Smith & Wilhelm 115)
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Modeling: Sensorium (Descriptive Detail)
Parallelism & Punctuation (commas & dashes)
That hump of a man bunching chrysanthemums,
Or pinching back asters, or planting azaleas,
Tamping and stamping dirt into pots—
How he could flick and pick
Rotten leaves or yellow petals,
Or scoop out a weed close to the flourishing roots,
Or make the dust buzz with a light spray,
Or down a bug in one spit of tobacco juice,
Or fan life into wilted sweet peas with his hat,
Or stand all night watering roses,
His feet blue in rubber boots.
(“Old Florist” by Theodore Roethke)
(Smith & Wilhelm 135)
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Modeling: Comparison and Contrast plus Sensorium
from Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (6-7)
Poetic License: Run-On Sentences & Fragments for Effect
“Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papa’s hair is like a
broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys
barrettes or bands. Carlos’ hair is thick and straight. He doesn’t need
to comb it. Nenny’s hair is slippery—slides right out of your hand.
And Kiki, who is the youngest, has hair like fur.”
“But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little
candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all
day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you
and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the
smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm
from her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa
snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama’s hair that smells like
bread.”
(Smith & Wilhelm 135-136)
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Modeling: A Parody
by Jorge Luis Borges
“In a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial
Emporium of Benelovent Knowledge…it is written
that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to
the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are
trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous
ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in
this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they
were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with
a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those
that have just broken a flower vase, and (n) those
that resemble flies from a distance.”
(Smith & Wilhelm 122)
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Vernacular Literature
Analyze the following prose styles:
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Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game
Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street
Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books
Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
Daniel Handler’s Lemony Snicket books
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
Ian Martel’s The Life of Pi
Walter Dean Myers’ Monster
J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books
Louis Sacher’s Holes
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books
Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac McGhee
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
(Smith & Wilhelm 55-56)
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POINT OF VIEW:
THE NOVEL:
THE AD:
THE TEXT BOOK:
ETHOS
PATHOS
LOGOS
TOUGH
SWEET
STUFFY
1ST PERSON
2ND PERSON
3RD PERSON
SUBJECTIVE
SUBJECTIVE
OBJECTIVE
INFORMAL
INTIMATE
FORMAL
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TOUGH LANGUAGE
• Tough language is the rhetoric of Frederic
Henry in Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to
Arms:
• “In the late summer of that year we lived in a
house in a village that looked across the
river and the plain to the mountains. In the
bed of the river there were pebbles and
boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the
water was clear and swiftly moving and blue
in the channels.”
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• It is the language of intimacy, the language of
no pretentions. The words are simple and the
grammar is simple.
• The writing is not planned, but just happens,
in a stream of consciousness kind of way—
you are there.
• The sentences are short and choppy. If there
is conjunction it is coordination, not
subordination.
• It is the language of the loosened tie and the
rolled up shirt sleeves, with no pretentious
multi-syllable or low-frequency words.
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• Being egocentric, it is subjective, and
whether it is written from the author
participant or the author omniscient point of
view, it is concerned with communicating
people’s innermost feelings.
• Tough language is the language of fiction,
and therefore the process of “in medias res”
is totally appropriate to this style—“In the late
summer of that year we lived in a house in a
village that looked across the river and the
plain to the mountain.”
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SWEET LANGUAGE
• Sweet language is the language of
advertisers. Walker Gibson calls this
language AROMA (Advertising Rhetoric
of Madison Avenue).
• Sweet language is listener-oriented in
an attempt to seduce listeners into
buying products they don’t want or
need.
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• It is language full of innovative
spellings, creative grammar, and wild
punctuation.
• Sweet writing contains many sentence
fragments, and would rather flaunt a
grammatical rule than conform to it:
“Winston tastes good like a cigarette
should. What do you want, good
grammar, or good taste?”
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• Sweet language is the language of
sensationalism, the language of superlatives
and hyperbole.
• It is the language of diversion; it plays tricks
on the reader with its puns, its word
coinages, its humor, its packaging, its sex,
and other aspects which have nothing to do
with the product itself.
• It is informal, or sometimes even intimate or
cutesy in tone.
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• Contractions, clippings, blendings, and
deletions abound, making it all the more
cryptic and intimate.
• It’s full of slang expressions like “no
doubt about it,” “cut it out,” and “where
else?” It can be cutesy, as in “Dry skin?
Not me, darling. Every inch of little me
is as smooth as (well, you know what).”
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• Gibson says that a common kind of coinage
in sweet language is the noun-adjunct
construction (a noun modified by another
noun).
• We see this kind of coinage in
“Speakerphone,” “Fooderama living,”
“decorator colors,” and “Supermarket
selection.”
• The Bell Company praises the beauties of its
“hands-free, group-talk, across-the-room
telephone.”
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STUFFY LANGUAGE
• Where tough language is I-oriented,
and sweet language is you-oriented,
stuffy language is it-oriented.
• It is the language of laboratory
experiments, of research papers and
theses and dissertations and scholarly
books, and academia in general.
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• Stuffy language is highly grammatical
and highly formal.
• The syntax contains a great deal of
subordination, and the sentences are
frequently long and complex.
• Infinitives, gerunds, present and past
participial constructions, nominative
absolutes, perfect, progressive, and
passive constructions are almost
totally confined to this style of writing.
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• It is an impersonal style to the extent that
first-person pronouns are seldom allowed.
For this and other reasons, passive
constructions and impersonal constructions
with abstract subjects are common.
• Stuffy language is also the language of
limitations, restrictions and qualifications
because the writer doesn’t want to make
claims beyond the evidence.
• Limiting (as opposed to descriptive)
adjectives are frequent, as are prepositional
phrases and relative clauses.
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THE BIRMINGHAM RIOTS:
REPORTED IN THREE DIFFERENT STYLES
• “The police and firemen drove
hundreds of rioting Negroes off
the streets today with high
pressure hoses and an
armored car.”
(New York Times May 8, 1963)
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• “Three times during the day, waves
of shouting, rock-throwing Negroes
had poured into the downtown
business district, to be scattered
and driven back by battering
streams of water from highpressure hoses and swinging clubs
of policemen and highway
patrolmen.”
(New York Herald Tribune)
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• “The blaze of bombs, the
flash of blades, the eerie
glow of fire, the keening
cries of hatred, the wild
dance of terror at night—all
this was Birmingham,
Alabama.”
(Time, May 7, 1963)
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!SUMMARY OF WORD DEVELOPMENT:
THE NOVEL:
THE AD:
THE TEXT BOOK:
COLLOQUIAL
COLLOQUIAL
FORMAL
SLANG: CHARACTER
DEPENDENT
SLANG: AD
DEPENDENT
NO SLANG
MODALS
GERUNDS
INFINITIVES
PERFECTS
PROGRESSIVES
SPELLING =
CHARACTERS
SPELLINGS =
CREATIVE
SPELLINGS =
CORRECT
ANGLO-SAXON
WORDS
ANGLO-SAXON
WORDS
INKHORN TERMS
GREEK & LATIN
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!SUMMARY OF SENTENCE DEVELOPMENT:
THE NOVEL:
SIMPLE
THE AD:
THE TEXT BOOK:
SHORT, CHOPPY
LONG, COMPLICATED
FRAGMENTS
COMMA SPLICES
PERFECT GRAMMAR
SIMPLE
LONG & COMPLEX
RESTRICTIVE MODIFIER
COMPOUND &
COMPLEX SENTENCES
CASUAL PUNCTUATION
PERFECT PUNCTUATION
RHETORICAL
QUESTIONS
IMPERATIVES
THEY,YOU,
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SENTENCES DON’T
MAKE CLAIMS BEYOND
EVIDENCE
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!SUMMARY OF PARAGRAPH AND DISCOURSE DEVELOPMENT!
THE NOVEL:
THE AD:
THE TEXT BOOK:
STREAM OF
CONSCIOUSNESS
CASUAL
STRUCTURED
INDUCTIVE
WHATEVER
DEDUCTIVE
NOTE: THE NEWSPAPER IS SUPER DEDUCTIVE BECAUSE
PEOPLE READ HEADLINES; AND MAYBE FIRST PARAGRAPHS
(WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY, WHERE, HOW); AND LATER
MATERIALS GET BURIED OR CUT
MUCH INUENDO
AND IMPLICATION
INTIMATE & CUTESY CAUSAL
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!!SUMMARY OF USE OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
THE NOVEL:
THE AD:
AUTHOR PARTICIPANT
AUTHOR OBSERVANT
AUTHOR OMNISCIENT
MAINLY TROPES:
IN MEDIAS RES
METAPHOR
IRONY
POETIC JUSTICE
SIMILES
ALLEGORIES
THE TEXT BOOK:
?
AUTHOR
OBSERVANT
MAINLY SCHEMES:
ALLITERATION
ASSONANCE
RHYME
CUTESY TONE
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LITERAL
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!!!SUMMARY OF PUNCTUATION
THE NOVEL:
THE AD:
THE TEXT BOOK:
CREATIVE
PUNCTUATION
CREATIVE
PUNCTUATION
FORMAL USE OF:
SEMI COLONS
PERIODS
PARENTHESES
DASHES
HYPHENS
RESTRICTIVE AND
NON-RESTRICTIVE
CLAUSES
PROPER
CAPITALIZATION
USE OF ELIPSES …
[SIC]
BRACKETS, ETC.
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References # 1:
Barry, Anita K. English Grammar: Language as Human Behavior,
2nd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2002.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” lin
Other Inquisitions: 1937-1952. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Retrieved January 28, 2007 from
http://www.themodernworld.com/borges/borges_quotes.html .
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York, NY:
Vintage Books, 1984.
Eschholz, Paul, Alfred Rosa, and Virginia Clark. Language
Awareness, 10th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.
Gee, James. What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning
and Literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
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References # 2:
Gibson, Walker. Tough, Sweet and Stuffy: An Essay on Modern
American Prose Styles. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1966.
Nilsen, Alleen, and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th
Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
Roethke, Theodore. The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke.
New York, NY: Doubleday, 1946.
Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. Getting It Right: Fresh
Approaches to Teaching Grammar, Usage, and Correctness.
New York, NY: Scholastic, 2007.
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