Need help with my Writing question – I’m studying for my class.


1. Start keeping a commonplace book, a regular practice among many writ- ers who have come to be known for their style. Henry Davidoreau, for example, kept one that grew to enormous proportions during his relatively short lifetime. A commonplace book is an informal record of your read- ing in which you copy out sentences and slightly longer passages that yound striking or well written, along with your own comments about the quotations. You can also practice your own prose performance by varying, parodying, or imitating the passages you copy.

To keep a commonplace book that focuses on style—one that records passages you like as much for the way they are written as for what they say—is a good way to advance your study of style, for at least two reasons. First, just the act of writing down the passage forces you to slow down and look at it more closely; the words and the patterns are more likely to impress themselves upon your mind. Second, as your commonplace book grows, you are building what the linguists call a corpus (literally a body) of samples you can use in stylistic study. You can begin your analysis by informally commenting on the passage.

You can keep your commonplace book in either a paper notebook or a special computerle. (We recommend the paper notebook because the physical act of copying a passage by hand o en reveals features of style missed when merely transcribing it into a computerle.) Select entries from any reading you do—from course textbooks or research projects, novels or magazine articles, blogs or emails from friends, even advertise- ments. Leave space to add comments and variations as you go.

Below are some sample entries from a commonplace book developed for a research project on the style of nature writing. All the quotes come from the anthology Nature Writing:e Tradition in English, edited by Robert Finch and John Elder, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 2002). To make your commonplace book useful as a corpus of study materials, by the way, you should always note down page numbers and bibliographical infor- mation, at least in short form, so that you cannd the information when you need it.