ON LEARNING TO WRITE

(Outline)

從「因字生句,積句成章,積章成篇」談如何學習英文寫作

July 2, 2000

1.Prerequisites for writing
劉勰文心雕龍章句篇:「夫人之立言,因字而生句,積句而成章,積章而成篇。」
Words make up the sentence; sentences make up the paragraph; paragraphs make up
 the whole composition.
Two basic vocabularies: reading vocabulary & writing vocabulary
 

a. words (pp.19-65, Practical English Grammar & Rhetoric)


 

(1)spelling by prefix

(2)spelling by stem

(3)spelling by suffix

pre-

dict (tell, say)

-able

in-

cred (believe)

-ible

a-

the (god)

-ist


 

prefix +

prefix +

stem +

suffix +

suffix=

word

 

pre

dict

 

 

predict

 

pre

dict

able

 

predictable

 

pre

dict

ive

 

predictive

 

pre

dict

able

ly

predictably

 

pre

dict

able

ity

predictability

 

pre

dict

or

 

predictor

 

pre

dict

ion

 

prediction

 

pre

dict

able

 

unpredictable

un

pre

dict

able

ly

unpredictably

un

pre

dict

able

ity

unpredictability

1+9=10 words


 

root +

suffix =

word

respect

able

respectable

respect

ful

respectful

honor

able

honorable

honor

ary

honorary

digest

ible

digestible

digest

ive

digestive

defense

ible

defensible

defense

ive

defensive

(4)spelling by similarity:
birth (control) / girth (control); pleasant / pheasant
 雉雞

(5)spelling by association:
discuss / discus; diploma / diplomat

(6)spelling by division:
break-fast / to-get-her / can-did-ate / Church-ill

(7)spelling by pronunciation:
ac-ci-den-tal-ly / u-ni-ver-si-ty / Sep-tem-ber / Oc-to-ber

(8)spelling by rules:
prefer-red / prefer-ence / edit-ed /
achieve /r eceive( When ei or ie is pronounced /i/, put i before e except after c.)

(9)spelling by concentration:
enviro (n) ment / a (c) knowledge
 

(10)   spelling by entering new words on small card


 

aftermath

 

result

Misery is often the aftermath of war.


A word is not yours unless you can use it in a meaningful sentence or recall it when you need it. (recognition, pronunciation, spelling, usage)

b. phrases

(1)   idiomatic expressions (pp.4-5)
once in a while, from time to time, to put all one's eggs in one basket
to teach one's grandmother to suck eggs.

(2) two-word nouns (pp.8-18)
internal reality, external appearance / physical beauty, inner grace /
scholarly ancestry / material comfort / social death / social phrase /
youth problem, problem youth / sugar cane, cane sugar /
picture word, word picture / student teacher, teacher student /
group study, study group / meter taxi, taxi meter

(3) collocations (pp.195-206)
an arrangement of words which sounds natural strong coffee, not powerful coffee

芳草地,夏綠荷池,秋黃花酒,冬白雪詩。

___ ___  ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ 

to break deadlock, to decline an invitation, to direct traffic

to boost production, to remove obstacles, to stage a demonstration

(4) figures of speech (Use figures of speech to add force, color and
originality to your writing.)
simile--as crafty as a fox, as stubborn as a mule, as poor as a church mouse, as busy as a bee (bees)

李後主:無言獨上西樓,月鉤。(烏夜啼)

問君能有幾多愁,恰一江春水向東流。(虞美人)

白髮三千丈,離愁個長。

metaphor--between the devil and the deep sea, paddle one's own canoe, at sea

李清照:斜托香腮春筍嫩,為誰和淚倚欄杆。

史記:「狡兔死,走狗烹;飛鳥盡,良弓藏;敵國破,謀臣亡。」

(5)Unit of Measurement (度量詞)
a bar of soap ,a bunch of flowers, a bunch of keys, a clump of earth
a bucket of water, a fleet of ships, a flock of birds, a heap of sand,
a heap of stones ,a heap of snow, a herd of cows, a herd of elephants
a herd of deer, a litter of puppies, a pack of thieves, a pack of lies
a piece of land, a piece of cloth, a piece of cake, a piece of string
a piece of news ,a piece of information, a piece of paper,
a piece of furniture, a piece of advice, a piece of painting,
a piece of music, a piece of poetry, a piece of prose, a piece of chalk,
a pot of oil, a stream of customers, a troop of actors

c. sentences

(1) ordinary sentences:
Art is long; life is short.
Every human life is insignificant unless you make it great.
It's difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of
yesterday is the hope of today and reality of tomorrow.
 

(2) well-known sayings: (pp.166-168)
For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
                                            --Ralph Waldon Emerson (1803 - 1882)
To err is human, to forgive divine. --Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)
Good, better, best; never let it rest until good is better and better best.

易漲易退山溪水,________________。善惡到頭終有報,______________

畫虎畫皮難畫骨,________________。路遙知馬力,__________________

近水樓台先得月,________________。近水知魚性,_________________

有意栽花花不發,________________。貧窮自在,___________________

---增廣昔時賢文

(3) proverbs: (pp.168-171)
The onlooker sees most of the game.
Love me, love my dog.
You lose on the swings what you make on the roundabouts.
What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.

d. mechanics

(1) manuscript

(2) capitalization (pp.67-69) 

(3) writing numbers (Don't begin a sentence with a numeral.)

(4) abbreviations--I went to see a Dr. yesterday.

(5) syllabication--university/u-ni-ver-si-ty; impossible/im-possible;
predictable / predict-able; grammar / gram-mar;
adverb / adver-b(wrong); practically/practical-ly (better not)

e. punctuation (pp.69-81)
民可使由之,不可使知之。民可,使由之;不可,使知之。
再見!翻版書。再見翻版書。老師有問題。老師,有問題。
下雨天留客,天留我不留。下雨天,留客天,留我不留?
下雨天留客,天留我不?留。

(1) What do you think I mend for nothing and give you two dollars
What! Do you think I mend for nothing and give you two dollars?

(2) Mr. Carter, our family doctor , has been hurt.
Mr. Carter, our family doctor has been hurt.

(3) Happily he died.  Happily, he died.

(4) once-in-a-life-time chance, touch-me-not, forget-me-not,
morning-glory, how-are-you

f. grammar-- (pp.85-211)
Grammar is a study of how to put words together in sentences to express thoughts and feelings.
 

(1)The birds in the trees are singing. The birds are singing in the trees.

(2)To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness on earth.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

(3)A page (which is) digested is better than a volume (which is)
hurriedly read.--Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859)

(4)If I had seen her yesterday, I would have told her.
If I see her tomorrow, I'll tell her.

(5)Last week was the last week of school.

(6)He was born in Taipei. Taipei is a large city.(baby sentences)
He was born is Taipei, which is a large city.(mature sentence)
Taipei, where he was born, is a large city.(mature sentence)

(7)Her grandmother died. She heard the news. She fainted.
Upon hearing the news of the death of her grandmother, she fainted.

(8)Tense forms (pp.207-211)

(9)Specific Usages

(a)It is no good + gerund (p.170)

(b)(b) It is no use + gerund (p.170)

(c)infinitives without "to" (p.163) 

(d)verbs & phrases followed by gerunds (pp.170-173)


 

rhetoric--(pp.212-259) 

Rhetoric is a study of how to use the right word at the right time in the right place. 

屢戰屢敗。屢敗屢戰。

少年叛國。叛國少年。

重做新人。重新做人。

明天x次長來班上課,請同學服裝整齊,不要遲到。

請同學服裝整齊,不要遲到。明天x次長來班上課。

(1)As soon as Robert and Henry brought the eggs, Mary boiled them.

(2)At the age of nine, his grandmother died.

(3)She said on the next day she would invite me to tea.

(4)Diana found a heap of snow on her bed in the morning which had drifted in through the window.

(5)I read an article about table manners at the library in a magazine.

(6)she  said  that  she  loved  John.
(Only)(only)(only)(only)(only)(only)

(7)Be a good citizen,andyou should make your country proud of you.
(imperative mood)(indicative mood)

(8)After she arrived in the U.S., she got married. (emphatic)
She got married after she arrived in the U.S. (unemphatic)

(9)There was a mist that hung like a veil. It obscured the top of the hill. (16 words)
A mist hung like a veil and obscured the hilltop. (10 words)
A mist, hanging like a veil, obscured the hilltop. (9 words)
A mist, like a veil, obscured the hilltop. (8 words)
A mist veiled the hilltop. (5 words)

(10)She is not only courteous to rich customers but also to poor ones.
 
 

落花人獨立,微雨燕雙飛。破戶生蛛網,空樑落燕泥。

細雨魚兒出,微風燕子斜。人窮雙月少,衣破半風多。

孤燈瘦影兩行淚,駭浪驚風一葉舟。

手拂白雲出洞口,肩挑日月走天涯。

2.writing practice
The best way to learn to write, next to actually writing, is to read good writing.
Language is learned by imitation, and a good way of learning how to arrange words and sentences
is learning passages of good English by heart.
讀書破萬卷,下筆如有神。

a. paragraph writing
topic sentences: It is hard to keep a promise.
                          It is wrong to get angry.
        It was not entirely my fault that I was late for class this morning.

b. composition
beginning / middle / end (introduction/ discussion/ conclusion)
ABC=  accuracy / brevity / clarity

3. prewriting preparations

a. understanding the topic
type of writing                                                            primary purpose
(1) description                                                            describe or picture
(2) exposition                                                             to inform or explain
(3) argumentation                                                       to convince or persuade
(4) narration                                                                to entertain or interest

憶江南,風景舊曾諳,    .          憶江南,最憶識君時,

日出江花紅勝火,            .          潭水桃花紅萬點,

春來江水綠如藍,            .          蘇台楊柳綠千絲,

能不憶江南。                    .          相見尚嫌遲。

(description or narration?)

b. deciding the central idea
Focused
My father's face is rough. His complexion is leathery and wrinkled. There are
large pores in the skin that covers his nose and cheeks.  His nose, broken twice in his
life, makes him look like a boxer who has lost too many fights. His mouth, unless he
smiles, looks hard and threatening. His chin is massive and angular. Shaved or not,
my father's face is rugged.
Out of Focus
I want to talk about my father. He is strict with his children, especially me. He
won't let me out of the house unless I've done all my homework. He is a tall and
rather skinny man. Some people say he is good-looking. He has a nice streak
of gray in his hair. He laughs a lot and enjoys life. My father is interesting.
Lack of Unity
My father is very strict with his children, especially me. He won't let me out of
the house unless I've done all my homework. Frankly, I don't care whether I go to
school or not. School is such a waste of time. There aren't any good jobs, anyway.
My mother doesn't agree with my father. They quarrel a lot. Sometimes I wish
they would get a divorce, but then who would I live with?

c. Outlining
(1) structure  (2) selection  (3) proportion  (4) paragraphing

4. Post-writing proofreading
(Form the habit of proofreading whatever you write so as to remove the errors that you can find.)

a. Proofread your work carefully several times, looking for but one of
these things at a time.

(1) misspelled words (pp.61-62,Error Analysis 4th ed. 1989)

(2) incomplete sentences.

(3) sentences that might be better combined.

(4) lack of adequate punctuation.

(5) better words or phrases for the ones currently used.

(a) freshman year--My father is 51 years old now. He worked very hard when he was young.

(b) sophomore year--My father is 52 years old now. He worked very hard when he was young.
(in his distant youth)

(c) junior year--My father is 53 years old now. He worked very hard when he was young.
(in the prime of his youth)

(d) senior year--My father is 54 years old now. He worked very hard when he was young.
(in his strong and vigorous years)

b. Pay particular attention to errors which you make repeatedly.

c. Check with the ten commandments of composition (pp. 82-84) and the errors
committed by Chinese students (Error Analysis)

d. Write as neatly and carefully as possible.

e. Show self-respect by writing legibly and by spelling common words correctly.

5. Study of personal and common errors

a. Study carefully the corrections made by your teacher.

b. Arrange a conference with your teacher if you cannot find the reason(s) for you errors.

6. Reference Books

(1) Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English 東華

(2) Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 文鶴

(3) Crane Dictionary of English Usage for Chinese Learners 文鶴

(4) A New Dictionary of English Collocations 中央圖書出版社

(5) Longman Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs 文鶴 . 1996 年版

(6) Practical English Grammar and Rhetoric
(實用英文文法與修辭)
 文鶴.第九版笫四刷

(7) An Analytical Study of Common Errors in English Compositions
Written by Chinese College Students(英文作文正則)
 文鶴.第4

(8) Practical English Usage 敦煌.新版

(9) Longman Dictionary of Common Errors敦煌

 

註:以上為本人演講大網。近年來已在 政治大學外語學院,台北教師研習中心,台中中正文化中心,經濟部本部,新竹經濟部專業人員究研中心,台北商專,科見美語台北分校,科見美語台中分校,科見美語高雄分校,美加留學中心,學習出版社等地演講或上課五十餘場。

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