AP Language & Composition

Tone and Attitudes
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Scarlet Letter Criticism
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Vocabulary Lesson 1
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Ethos, Pathos, Logos - The Foundation of Argument
AP Language & Composition
Your Study Habits
Tone and Attitudes
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A Vocabulary of Attitudes


Students sometimes feel vaguely the correct attitude toward what they are reading, but are unable to clarify and intensify the mood because they lack a vocabulary adequate to describe it. To such students the following list if attitudes should prove helpful.



Hint for May11 Test: all AP writes benefit from a definition of tone. Needless to say, you provide evidence from the text to prove what you are saying about tone.



Attitudes chiefly rational: explanatory, instructive, didactic, admonitory, condemnatory, indignant, puzzled, curios, wistful, pensive, thoughtful, preoccupied, deliberate, studies, candid, guileless, thoughtless, innocent, frank, sincere, questioning, uncertain, doubting, incredulous, critical, cynical, insinuating, persuading, coaxing, pleading, persuasive, argumentative, oracular.



Attitudes of pleasure: peaceful, satisfied, contented, happy, cheerful, pleasant, bright, sprightly, joyful, playful, jubilant, elated, enraptured.


Attitudes of pain: worried, uneasy, troubled, disappointed, regretful, vexed, annoyed, bored, disgusted, miserable, cheerless, mournful,, sorrowful, sad, dismal, melancholy, plaintive, fretful, querulous, irritable, sore, sour, sulky, sullen, bitter, crushed, pathetic, tragical.


Attitudes of passion: nervous, hysterical, impulsive, impetuous, reckless, desperate, frantic, wild, fierce, furious, savage, enraged, angry, hungry, greedy, jealous, insane.


Attitudes of self-control: calm, quiet, solemn, serious, serene, simple, mild, gentle, temperate, imperturbable, nonchalant, cook, wary, cautious.


Attitudes of friendliness: cordial, sociable, gracious, kindly, sympathetic, compassionate, forgiving, pitying, indulgent, tolerant, comforting soothing, tender, loving, caressing, solicitous, accommodating, approving, helpful, obliging, courteous, polite, confiding, trusting.


Attitudes of unfriendliness: sharp, severe, cutting, hateful, unsocial, spiteful, harsh, boorish, pitiless, disparaging, derisive, scornful, satiric, insolent, insulting, impudent, belittling, contemptuous, accusing, reproving, scolding, suspicious.


Attitudes of comedy: facetious, comic, ironic, satiric, amused, mocking, playful, humorous, hilarious, uproarious.



Attitudes of animation: lively, eager, excited, earnest, energetic, vigorous, hearty, ardent, passionate, rapturous, ecstatic, feverish, inspired, exalted, breathless, hasty, brisk, crisp, hopeful.

Attitudes of apathy: inert, sluggish, languid, dispassionate, dull, colorless, indifferent, stoical, resigned, defeated, helpless, hopeless, dry, monotonous, vacant, feeble, dreaming, blasť, sophisticated.


Attitudes of self-importance: impressive, profound, proud, dignified, lofty, imperious, confident, egotistical, peremptory, bombastic, sententious, arrogant, pompous, stiff, boastful, exultant, insolent, domineering, flippant, saucy, positive, resolute, haughty, condescending, challenging, bold, defiant, contemptuous, assured, knowing, cocksure.


Attitudes of submission and timidity: meek, shy, humble, docile, ashamed, modest, timid, unpretentious, respectful, apologetic, devout, reverent, servile, obsequious, groveling, contrite, obedient, willing, sycophantic, fawning, ingratiating, deprecatory, submissive, frightened, surprised, horrified, aghast, astonished, alarmed, fearful, terrified, trembling, wondering, awed, astounded, shocked, uncomprehending.


            It is apparent that this list is not complete, and that it is not free from inconsistency. Though all these attitudes are stated by adjectives some express logical, and some emotional relations, some are attitudes toward what is said and some toward an opposing person or solution, some describe a state of mind and others a mood or emotion. But all are descriptions, of how one may speak.


            Of course one term alone is seldom and adequate to describe a mood or motive, and several of these terms may need to be combined to express the right shade of meaning. For instance, you may speak with scornful boldness or with cheerful boldness, with tender apology, or with ironic, apology, with mournful sympathy, or with inspiring sympathy. Make whatever combinations seem most accurate. The purpose of the list is merely to furnish a vocabulary of attitudes to which you may turn when the right words seem to elude you.


            Please note that you cannot adequately describe an attitude as “animated” “emotional” or “passionate” What we wish to know about a speakers utterance is the kind of animation or passion or emotion she feels. She may be animated either by courage or fear. She may speak in a passion of hate or of love.




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