AP Language & Composition

AP Prose Style Chapter Outlines 1-6

Hawthorne Biography
Scarlet Letter Criticism
In Depth...Machiavelli Biography
Ripped from Your Papers #1
Ripped from Your Papers #2
Ripped From Your Papers #3
Ripped From Your Papers #4
Vocabulary Lesson 1
Vocabulary Lesson 2
Vocabulary Lesson 3
Research Sources
AP Practice Test Calendar
Multi Choice Tips and Hints
Ethos, Pathos, Logos - The Foundation of Argument
AP Language & Composition
Your Study Habits
Tone and Attitudes
Active Reading and Annotation
AP Prose Style Calendar
AP Prose Style Chapter Outlines 1-6
AP Prose Style Chapters 7-12
AP Prose Style Ch. 13-16
AP Glossary & Schedules
Glossary Presentations How To
Glossary Tests Study Tips
Passage Analysis Quick Guide
Patterns of Development Schedule, Term 2
Patterns: Description Notes
Narration Mode Notes
Example Mode
Process Analysis
Comparison Contrast Notes
Classification and Division
Cause and Effect
Outside Reading Schedules/Booklists (scroll all the way down)
Persuasive Speech/Researched Argument
They Say/I Say
They Say I Say Slides Introduction
Cornell Notes How To
Creative Writing

Powerpoint Notes
Chapter 1: Levels of Style

Prose Style Chapter 1

Levels of Style

High Style

    Aims at loftiness and grandeur

    Too ornate and ceremonious for all but a few occasions

    Differs sharply from everyday conversations

    Sophisticated diction

Middle Style

       Clarity and simplicity

       Sounds more like conversation

       Not limited simply to familiar words

       Also uses synonyms, i.e. reflect, speculate, contemplate



Middle Style: Traps

    Vogue words

    So popular the word has lost meaning

    Meant to be pretentious

    Ex: existentialist, chauvinism, impacted, input

More Traps

    Foreign expressions

    Ex: laissez faire, bona fide, angst

    Often heard in academic circles – meant to impress

More Pitfalls

    Jargon: collection of technical terms

    Specialist to specialist

    Be aware of audience

    If used, define the term clearly



    Sounds scientific

    Meant to impress

    Sometimes encouraged within a field of study at the University level

Low Style and Colloquial

    Plain and ordinary

    Casual conversation – way too casual!

    Appropriate at bull session or beer party

    Not academic



Hallmark of Low Style

    Colloquial diction

    “I’m fed up”


    “Chill out”

    Use of “I” and “You”

    Contractions, i.e. “can’t”


Example of Low Style

    “Man, I was grossed out last night when I saw Black Dahlia.  You should have seen how they snuffed the chick trying out for the movies.  Man, the murderer cut her in two…just like a piece of meat, man.  Gross.  Really gross.”

More About Low Style

    Slang, i.e. “Whassup?”


    Lack of clarity

    Sounds good but doesn’t say anything

   Ex: “…the way men and women get treated in the latest movies…”

Low Style and More…

    Cliches – old sayings that have lost meaning

    Also called hackneyed expressions

    Ex: busy as a bee; hard as a rock; hook, line and sinker

    More subtle but still overused

    Ex: “with a vengeance,” “a crushing blow”

Back to Middle Style

    Occasionally borrows from High and Low

    Writer uses metacognitive techniques to judge appropriate use

    Higher style – reflects serious message

    …an educated and sophisticated audience of scholars



Considerations of Style Using SOAPSTONE





    Stance (Your position on the subject)

    Tone (Your attitude toward the subject)

Chapter 2: Connotations


Chapter 2

Prose Style

Subtle Shades of Meaning

n    Difference between one synonym and another

n    Ex:  dense vegetation and jungle

n    Dense vegetation – lack of emotion

n    Jungle – evokes images of leopards, etc.

Consider impact of various synonyms

n    Frighten

n    Intimidates

n    Terrorize

n    Bully

Weighing Connotations

n    Matter of personal taste

n    Development of personal style

n    Questioning:

n    How will this word affect my readers?

n    Will it convey precisely the meaning I wish to get across?

Open Thesaurus

n    Look for synonyms

n    No dictionary is large enough to accommodate every connotation

Rely on Your Own Discernment

n    Develop sensitivity to the way words are used

n    Stay constantly alert

n    Continue to consider purpose and audience when analyzing and producing text

Chapter 3: Clarity


Prose Style, Chapter3

Clarity not always important

    Poetry: values come first


    Forcefulness of rhythm


    Slow contemplation


Purpose of expository and argumentative prose

    Convey ideas and information

    Meaning crystal clear for the reader

    Exposition tries to explain

    Argumentation tries to persuade

Clarity is anything but easy

    To achieve clarity you may have to

  Wrestle at length

  Confront problems with wording and arrangement

  Do much revision


Simple, straightforward is best approach

    Remember high, middle, low style

    Muddled prose equals muddled thinking

    Job of a newscaster

  Convey ideas and information

  Not complexities of your particular personality

Various kinds of obscurity

    “He enables the observable reality to rage against history, particle by particle. And the dreamy stagnation implies our collective destiny.”

Better…but still missing vital information

    Most women are relegated to work that is not really prestigious, and they do not make as much money as men. Only 38 percent of working women have risen above low-status jobs, and they earn $9,500 less per year than men do.

The Power of Revision


    “Qualities which in the American educational system do not have much attention given to them, such as compassion, sensitivity…are not by any means treated that way in the Peace Corps, but rather the opposite.”

After Revision

    The Peace Corps emphasizes the very qualities that American education ignorescooperativeness and compassion.


     One of the things satisfied by earlier America was a liking for fleeing away from things, an attitude that some people think ought to be called something different, like the frontier spirit. Up to our time, there was still exploring. And this was happening in many places, in the Midwest, in the West, and in the Northwest Territory. Instead of being restricted to a few, great challenges were open to just about everyone to leave.


    Earlier America could satisfy the normal human desire to escape from the past, a desire some people like to call “the frontier spirit.” With open land in the Midwest, the West, and then the Northwest Territory, almost any man who felt confined frustrated, or troubled could escape from his old life by setting out for the wilderness.


    Label for any word, phrase, or sentence that carries more than one possible meaning.

    Deadly for readers – no way to decide which of the available meanings was intended

    Shows lack of writer’s control

Watch for fuzzy pronoun usage

    James hated his father; he was neurotically shy and insecure.

    James? Father?

Obscure reference

    The youngster watched his grandparents arguing with anger and indignation.

    Youngster? Grandparents?

Another one…

    Janice did not drop the chemistry course because the lab work was so challenging.

    Did Janice drop the chemistry course because the challenge was too much?

    Did Janice drop the course but not because the challenge was too much?

Three Recommendations


  Think out your ideas

  If they’re not entirely clear in your own mind, they will be clear to no one else.


Advice #2

    Do not try to sound impressive


    Use wording that sounds easy and natural

    Avoid high style

    Sounds pompous, not clear

Advice #3

    Be considerate toward your readers.

    Keep them in mind at EVERY stage of your drafting – how are clear are my ideas, sentences, wording?

    Inexperienced writers assume if prose is clear to them it will be clear to readers – NOT!!!

Remember your audience when drafting…

    Talk over your ideas with friends

    Outline ideas in advance, explain them orally to someone

    Go back and write, keeping friends and effective wording in mind

Remember your audience when revising

    Read your prose aloud to friends

    Ask them to listen for and be brutally honest about–

  Phrases that are opaque

  Sentences that are hard to follow

  Paragraphs that wander off the point

The End…

    “…the very first step in power is a flight, is an ascending movement into another element where earth is forgotten.”

          - Unknown, 1848

Prose Style Ch. 4-6
Chapter 4: Specificity

Prose Style Chapter 4


Abstract and General

      Abstract language – intangibles

      Examples: freedom, fulfillment, love, intelligence, hypocrisy

      General language – things that can be seen and touched – in groups

General Language Examples


      From General to specific:


    Moving thing


    Four-wheeled vehicle



Both general and specific are key

      Specific allows us to say:

    When the Joneses added up the cost of insurance, depreciation and upkeep, they realized that they laid out $15,000 a year on that yacht of theirs, a gas-guzzling supreme Bayliner that did nothing but sit at the dock all summer at Lake Tahoe, or ornament the drydock lifts at Sunnyside during winter.


Abstract and general are mixed

      Italians do not ask themselves if the trivial conveniences offered by the three hour afternoon siesta could really offset the tranquil opportunity for enriched family life and social interaction that it brings about every day.

Too much abstract and general language is dissatisfying

      A coffee machine in every classroom would cost a large sum, but we can afford to buy one if everyone on campus sets aside a small part of his or her paycheck from time to time. If you’d like to support the project, please sign below.

Classic Example from WWII

      Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal Buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal Government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination. Such obscuration may be obtained either by blackout construction or by termination of the illumination.

President Roosevelt’s Editing

      Tell them in buildings where they have to keep the work going, to put something across the window; and in buildings where they can afford to let the work stop for a while, to turn out the lights.

Abstract to Specific

      When the customs and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, its penal code will be severe. (Abstract/general)

      When men delight in battles, bullfights, and the combats of gladiators, they will punish by hanging, burning and the rack.

      Clarifying specifics




      Vague, imprecise language meant to mislead or deliberately confuse

      Often found in political speeches, governmental policy statements, political documents, and political argument



      Weapons of mass destruction

      Transfer of populations

      Rectification of frontiers

      Elimination of undesirables

      Axis of evil

      Escalation of violence

      Terrorist activity

Abstract , general language is unconvincing

      Young people of today are more unhealthy than in years past.

      Members of our performing group learned the value of teamwork.

      Students today are smarter than they were in past generations.

      More students today score higher than ten years ago.

Specific IS Terrific!

      And…concise is nice!

The end


Chapter 5: Subjects and Verbs

Prose Style, Ch. 5

Subjects & Verbs


n    Usually a prominent word

n    The teacher was forced to resign.

n    A sudden torrential rainstorm pelted the region.

n    The suddenness of the girl’s movements scared the cat.


n    Avoid using an unimportant word as the subject!

n    Never, ever use THING!!!

Questions to ask yourself…

n    Is this word important enough to be a subject?

n    Try recasting the sentence with some other word as subject, a word that seems to merit special emphasis.


n    Choose with loving care

n    Can enliven or deaden your style

n    Ill-chosen verbs can weaken prose


n    Think: Concise is nice

n    Don’t “lard” a straightforward piece with wordy, roundabout, and ineffectual expressions

n    Revision is 30 words longer than original?

n    Acute verbosity - logorrhea

Logorrhea in depth

n    Colorless verbs

n    Verb to be: is, are, was, were, be, etc.

n    Make, come, have, give, take


When Revising

n    Count the number of be verbs – then change them!

Wanted: Dead or Alive?

n    Dead

n    He is in conflict with

n    The news has made our students angry

n    Alive

n    He opposes

n    The news infuriated our students

IS is very dangerous

n    Expletive:

n    Some variety of it is or there is


n    Passive

n    Is + past participle

Repairing the Expletive

n    Before         

n    There is no question that the school day at Sheldon High is far too long for the students who need to begin at a later time and end earlier.

n    After

n    The school board should adjust the school day at Sheldon High to accommodate adolescents’ needs for a more efficient schedule.

Passive Voice Horrors

n    The ball is hit by Jack.

n    The soup was prepared by Emeril on the Food Channel.

n    Jack hit the ball.

n    Emeril prepared the soup on the Food Channel.

Sometimes passive is useful

n    Use when the doer of an action is unknown.

n    Use when the doer is not important enough to appear as the subject

n    Use when active voice would be awkward.

Illegitimate Uses of Passive

n    Bureaucrats:

n    “Your letter has been received.”

n    It has been decided that your resume has been deemed unqualified…instead of

n    You’ve been rejected

Overuse of Passive

n    --in the attempt to sound worldly or to use high style to impress

n    Sociologists: The data could be qualified in a number of ways.

n    Journalist: The convict’s last meal was spent in his jail cell at San Quentin.

Always question passive voice

n    Consider whether active voice would be preferable

n    Make your sentences clearer, concise, more vigorous

Here’s a test: Fill in the blanks…

n    Concise is ___________

n    _________ is terrific.

Curtains, please…

n    Autographs behind stage after the performance

n    Flowers accepted…especially roses!

Chapter 6: Conciseness

Prose Style 6

Conciseness: The Halloween Story


      Promotes clarity

      And forcefulness

When you omit useless words

      Essential words stand out more sharply


      Not only looks ugly

      Weakens the life of the writing



More about deadwood

      Words that can be deleted without loss of meaning

      Words that serve no function whatsoever

      Repetitious words


      Prune with a sharp eye

      A dull pencil

      Lots of great erasers

      Or…the delete button!



      He took the course, not because he wanted to learn about chemistry, but because he wanted to be near the woman who was the instructor.


      He took the course, not to learn chemistry, but to be near the woman instructor.



      As a young man, Walt Whitman was intelligent, perceptive, energetic, and hard-working.


      As a young man, Walt Whitman was intelligent and hard-working.



      His contemptuous sneer obviously contradicted his extravagant but insincere compliments.


      His sneer contradicted his compliments.


      Needless adjectives are the enemy of clarity and forcefulness

      Example: The essay winning the contest was forceful, strong, persuasive, and argumentative.

Beware of Adverbs









      And don’t forget



Repairing Adverb Virus


      It is actually quite true that people in the very early stages of therapy will definitely tend to become rather egocentric.


      People in the first stages of therapy become egocentric.

Only use an adverb or adjective if
it adds…






      Hack it out!



Modifiers are like medicine

      Too much of a good medicine can kill you!

Other kinds of wordiness
need active revision…

      Failure to choose the right subject

      Failure to choose the right verb

More Illustrations

      The thing that prevented the plane from landing was the thick fog.               

      The thick fog prevented the plane from landing.

Illustrations 2


      It is unfortunate that there are many teachers who use their old lecture notes until both teachers and notes have faded with age.


      Unfortunately, many teachers use their old lecture notes until both teachers and notes have faded with age.

It is, there is & relatives…ugh!


      It is obvious that…

      There is no doubt that…

      It is possible that…




      Possibly or perhaps

Inadequate subordination

      Using a clause where a phrase would do

      Or a phrase where a single word would do

Inadequate subordination 2


      He decided that each week he would eliminate one of his habits which he considered objectionable.


      He decided each week he would eliminate one of his objectionable habits.

Inadequate subordination 3


      After she had renovated the old house that was in the country, she asked all the people who were her friends at the time to come to a party which would be sumptuous.


      After renovating the old country house, she invited all her friends to a sumptuous party.

Inadequate subordination 4


      I admire several of his virtues. The ones I admire are his modesty, his good judgment, and his readiness to lend me money.


      I admire several of his virtues: his modesty, his good judgment, and his readiness to lend me money.


      Get rid of wordy connectives


     In order to  

     With regard to

     In the event that

     During the time that

     Because of the fact that

      Change to:









      Three things you considered during this slide show…

Write down

      Three current goals for your writing and the date by which you will have achieved them.

Quotes about Writing

      A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

      Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.  ~Mark Twain

      The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer


      Or Treat!

M-W 11:30

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