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LinguaPhile, October 2002

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.


Meet the Authors! October 5

Fran -- and a number of other authors from the St. Louis Writers Guild -- will participate in a Meet the Authors! event at Barnes & Noble, 9618 Watson Road, Crestwood, Missouri, this Saturday, October 5, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. This is an excellent chance for you to buy autographed books for holiday gift-giving.

If distance from St. Louis prohibits your attendance, you can order Hands-On English online:
Hands-On English would make a wonderful gift for students, teachers, families, anyone wanting to improve basic English skills. Think of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, employees, baby-sitters, dog walkers -- the list is endless.

Did you know that you can order books from through the GrammarAndMore Web site? See Fran's recommendations, read her reviews, and order directly from

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Quote of the Month: Expressing Ideas

An orator or author is never successful until he has learned to make his words smaller than his ideas.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, U.S. writer, 1803-1882

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Sharpen Your Vocabulary: rhetoric

The word rhetoric is likely to be somewhat familiar to you. Since it is not used as much as it once was, however, and since it has several related meanings, it warrants examination. Generally, rhetoric relates to the effective use of language. It might have to do with either study or ability in that area:
Courses that used to be called "rhetoric" might now be called "composition."
The audience was unconsciously swayed by the speaker's rhetoric.

Sometimes rhetoric includes both prose and verse, including figures of speech; sometimes it includes prose only. Rhetoric used to refer to the art of oratory, including both composition and delivery.

Today we are most likely to encounter "rhetoric" in the phrase "rhetorical question." While rhetorical can simply be the adjective form of the noun we have been discussing, rhetorical question usually refers to a question that is asked only for style or effect, a question to which one does not expect an answer. Many speeches begin with a rhetorical question. If someone in the throes of an argument shouts, "Well, what do you think?" it is probably a rhetorical question.

Reviewers of Hands-On English have said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

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Q and A: Second Person Plural

Question: When referring to a group, should you say you all? Is this correct?

Answer: While English distinguishes singular from plural in first person and third person, it does not distinguish between singular and plural in second person. In most cases you is used whether the speaker is addressing one person or thousands.

Language evolves, however, to fulfill needs. To distinguish between second person singular and plural, Southerners in the United States coined you-all (often hyphenated), sometimes contracted to y'all.

While it is not necessary to use you-all to refer to a group, neither is it wrong to do so. In some cases it helps to clarify meaning.

You-all should be reserved for second person plural, however -- not used for the singular, which can then lead to the redundant all y'all. And, of course, it is fine to use the phrase all of you to denote second person plural.

Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at

We invite your questions for this feature:

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Words Commonly Mispronounced

With attention this month on public speaking, let's check the preferred pronunciation of some words that are frequently mispronounced. (Correct pronunciation is often the first step toward correct spelling.)

Arctic: /ARK tik/ preferred to /AR tik/

Antarctica: /ant ARK tik uh/ preferred to /ant AR tik uh/ (Also be sure to pronounce the first "t.")

comfortable: /KUM fer tuh bul/ or /KUMF tuh bul/, not /KUMF ter bul/

comparable: /KOM per uh bul/, not /kum PAIR uh bul/

environment: /en VI run munt/ preferred to /en VI ern munt/ (Also be sure to pronounce the second "n.")

espresso: /es PRES oh/, not /ek SPRES oh/

etc. (abbreviation for Latin phrase "et cetera," meaning "and others; and so on"): /et SET er uh/, not /ek SET er uh/

February: /FEB roo air ee/, not /FEB yoo air ee/

formidable: /FOR mid uh bul/, not /for MID uh bul/

library: /LI brair ee/, not /LI bair ee/

nuclear: /NOO klee er/, not /NOO kyuh ler/

preferable: /PREF er uh bul/ or /PREF ruh bul/, not /pree FER uh bul/

probably: /PRAH bub lee/, not /PRAH blee/

pronunciation: /pruh NUN see a shun/, not /pruh NOUN see a shun/

realtor: /REE ul ter/, not /REE luh ter/

specific: /spuh SIF ik/, not /puh SIF ik/

supposedly: /suh POH zud lee/, not /suh POH zuh blee/

the: /thuh/ before a consonant sound; /thee/ before a vowel sound

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Upcoming Conferences

Conferences are a great place to
• get a firsthand look at Hands-On English products
• introduce your colleagues to Hands-On English products
• give feedback on products you're using (including suggestions!)
• get your questions answered
• avoid shipping costs on Hands-On English purchases

If you will be attending one of these conferences, be sure to stop by the Portico Books booth to say hello to Fran. Take your friends along!

• October 10-11: IRA (International Reading Association) Regional Conference, Topeka, KS (Booth 415)

• November 1-2: LDA (Learning Disabilities Association) of Missouri State Conference, St. Louis, MO. Fran will present two workshops at this conference on Friday:
    • Giving Your Children a Solid Foundation in English (10:15-11:15)
    • Making Grammar Visual (3:45-5:15)

Becoming familiar with Hands-On English products on the Web site can give you a good background for seeing the products in person:

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The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One; How to Deliver It by Richard Dowis

In his book The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One; How to Deliver It Richard Dowis spends no time lamenting this lost art. Instead he focuses his energy on its resurrection.

Dowis's background in journalism and public relations provided the foundation for his writing a remarkably readable book. His conversational style serves as a model for the language you would want to hear -- and use -- in a speech. Frequent headings and an especially legible font also contribute to the book's readability.

In The Lost Art of the Great Speech, Dowis addresses every conceivable aspect of this topic -- from deciding whether to accept a speaking engagement to "leveraging" a speech by converting it to one or more publishable articles. The book takes a holistic approach to speech writing. Chapters follow the process of speech preparation, including delivery as well as crafting. In addition, Dowis discusses topics such as how to write a speech to be delivered by someone else and how to introduce a speaker.

Each chapter includes pertinent excerpts from actual speeches, many taken from the business world, and also includes a full speech or a substantial excerpt of a speech by a well-known person. Many of these speeches have historical significance. Having asserted that "reading and listening to speeches is one of the keys to learning how to write and deliver them," Dowis supplies us with many examples to study.

Dowis devotes several chapters to rhetorical devices that can lift a speech from the respectable to the eloquent. To illustrate how rhetoric can immortalize ideas, he uses the following quotations from speeches by famous Americans:

We pause to ask what our country has done for each of us and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return.
--Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, May 30, 1884

In the great fulfillment, we must have a citizenship less concerned with what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.
--Warren G. Harding, Republican national convention, June 7, 1916

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
--John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

In addition to a detailed index, The Lost Art of the Great Speech includes two helpful appendices: An Editing Checklist for Speech Writers and Resources for Speakers and Speech Writers.

The Lost Art of the Great Speech is a valuable resource for anyone who might have the opportunity to address a group of people. Although it does not include study questions or practice exercises, it would be an excellent book for a class of high school or college students as well as for adults who are studying independently.

Published by AMACOM, 2000. 288 pages.
Available from The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One--How to Deliver It

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Excellent Information on Persuasion

Only a Matter of Opinion? comprises many excellent Web pages about persuasive writing. It includes specific guidelines for structuring editorials, commentary, and columns -- and even includes information on editorial cartoons. The site is appropriate for adults as well as for middle and high school students. It includes a reference center and information about logic and the art of writing. Suggestions for lesson ideas and assessment are included as well.

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Tips for a Successful Speech

Here are some suggestions from The Lost Art of the Great Speech. These are just a few of Dowis's tips for making your speech successful.

1. Recognize the advantages of using a written speech: It helps to ensure that you will not ramble, that you will meet your time constraints, and that you will include important points with smooth transitions between them.

2. Limit your speech to a few main points. "The more ideas you pack into your speech, the less attention any single idea will get."

3. To achieve a sense of balance that is pleasing to the ear -- and often memorable -- express related thoughts in a group of three with each element of the triad having the same grammatical form and perhaps having repeated sounds.

4. Use simple, concrete, direct language: vivid nouns and strong verbs.

5. Keep your tone conversational with personal references, when they are appropriate, and contractions.

6. If you use humor, use it sparingly, and be sure that it relates to the point you are making. Do not use humor that could possibly offend anyone in your audience.

7. Mark the final copy of your speech for delivery, not for publication. Double space it with large type, short lines, and unbroken phrases. Use only the upper half of an 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheet so that it will be easier for you to look from your script to your audience.

8. Use pauses for dramatic effect, for emphasis, and as a transition. Think of pauses as the oral equivalent of punctuation marks and typographical devices. If a comma represents a short pause, a new heading warrants a long one. If your pauses seem too long, they are probably about right.

9. After you have practiced delivering your speech, record it -- on videotape if possible. Examine all aspects of your speech, including body language, for ways to improve your delivery.

10. Prepare an audio tape of your speech after you have practiced your delivery. Listen to it at least once a day to become more familiar with your speech.

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Puzzler: Misquotations

Although each of these quotations may sound familiar to you, each has an inaccuracy -- the wording, the attribution, or both. Can you identify the error in each? (Hint: Don't rely on quotation books to check these out; we tend to adapt quotations to make them as we want them -- and we tend to attribute them to the people we wish had said them. Then errors get perpetuated.)

1. Money is the root of all evil. -- The Bible
2. Cleanliness is next to godliness. -- The Bible
3. Go West, young man, go West. -- Horace Greeley
4. Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Edison
5. We're not in Kansas anymore. -- Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
6. I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, and tears. -- Winston Churchill
7. Nice guys finish last. -- Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher

Many of the preceding quotations were taken from Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations by Ralph Keyes. This fascinating reference book not only corrects misinformation but supplies the stories behind the quotations as well as the misquotations. Not satisfied with information given in secondary sources, Keyes tracks quotations to their origin. Although Nice Guys Finish Seventh is out of print, it is likely to be available at your local library.

Answers next month.

Answers to September Puzzler

1. fast (rapidly from place to place; firmly in one place)
2. trip (to stumble; to move gracefully)
3. with -- You fight "with" your ally and with your opponent. (alongside; against)
4. bolt (to fasten securely; to spring away suddenly)
5. wear (to endure; to decay)
6. temper (to soften; to strengthen)
7. oversight (close supervision; neglect)
8. continue (to proceed; to postpone)

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2002 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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