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AP English Language and Composition
Multiple Choice -- January 16
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Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers.

This passage is taken from a nineteenth-century essay.

 

It is not easy to write a familiar style. Many people mistake a

familiar for a vulgar style, and suppose that to write without

affectation is to write at random. On the contrary, there is nothing

that requires more precision, and, if I may so say, purity of ex-

pression, than the style I am speaking of. It utterly rejects not   (5)                   

only all unmeaning pomp, but all low, cant phrases, and loose,

unconnected, slipshod allusions. It is not to take the first word

that offers, but the best word in common use; it is not to throw

words together in any combination we please, but to follow and

avail ourselves of the true idiom of the language. To write a       (10)

genuine familiar or truly English style, is to write as any one

would speak in common conversation, who had a thorough command

and choice of words, or who could discourse with ease, force,

and perspicuity, setting aside all pedantic and oratorical flourishes.

Or to give another illustration, to write naturally is the                  (15)

same thing in regard to common conversation, as to read naturally                     

is in regard to common speech. It does not follow that it is

an easy thing to give the true accent and inflection to the words

you utter, because you do not attempt to rise above the level of

ordinary life and colloquial speaking. You do not assume indeed  (20)

the solemnity of the pulpit, or the tone of stage-declamation:

neither are you at liberty to gabble on at a venture, without

emphasis or discretion, or to resort to vulgar dialect or clownish

pronunciation. You must steer a middle course. You are tied down

to a given and appropriate articulation, which is determined by      (25)

the habitual associations between sense and sound, and which

you can only hit by entering into the author’s meaning, as you

must find the proper words and style to express yourself by fixing

your thoughts on the subject you have to write about. Any one

may mouth out a passage with a theatrical cadence, or get upon     (30)

stilts to tell his thoughts: but to write or speak with propriety

and simplicity is a more difficult task. Thus it is easy to affect a

pompous style, to use a word twice as big as the thing you want

to express: it is not so easy to pitch upon the very word that

exactly fits it. Out of eight or ten words equally common, equally     (35)

intelligible, with nearly equal pretensions, it is a matter of some

nicety and discrimination to pick out the very one, the preferableness

of which is scarcely perceptible, but decisive. The reason

why I object to Dr. Johnson’s style is, that there is no discrimination,

no selection, no variety in it. He uses none but “tall,                          (40)

opaque words,’’ taken from the “first row of the rubric:’’—words

with the greatest number of syllables, or Latin phrases with

merely English terminations. If a fine style depended on this sort

of arbitrary pretension, it would be fair to judge of an author’s

elegance by the measurement of his words, and the substitution         (45)

of foreign circumlocutions (with no precise associations) for the

mother-tongue. How simple it is to be dignified without ease, to

be pompous without meaning! Surely, it is but a mechanical rule

for avoiding what is low to be always pedantic and affected. It is

clear you cannot use a vulgar English word, if you never use a            (50)

common English word at all. A fine tact is shown in adhering to

those which are perfectly common, and yet never falling into any

expressions which are debased by disgusting circumstances, or

which owe their signification and point to technical or professional

allusions. A truly natural or familiar style can never be                         (55)

quaint or vulgar, for this reason, that it is of universal force and

applicability, and that quaintness and vulgarity arise out of the

immediate connection of certain words with coarse and disagreeable,

or with confined ideas.

1. Which of the following best describes the rhetorical function of the second
sentence in the passage?
(A) It makes an appeal to authority.
(B) It restates the thesis of the passage.
(C) It expresses the causal relationship between morality and writing style.
(D) It provides a specific example for the preceding generalization.
(E) It presents a misconception that the author will correct.

2. Which of the following phrases does the author use to illustrate the notion of an
unnatural and pretentious writing style?
(A) “unconnected, slipshod allusions’’ (line 7)
(B) “throw words together’’ (lines 8-9)
(C) “gabble on at a venture’’ (line 22)
(D) “get upon stilts’’ (lines 30-31)
(E) “pitch upon the very word’’ (line 34)

3. In lines 10-32 of the passage, the author uses an extended analogy between
(A) language and morality
(B) preaching and acting
(C) writing and speaking
(D) vulgar English and incorrect pronunciation
(E) ordinary life and the theater

4. In line 17, “common speech’’ refers to
(A) metaphorical language
(B) current slang
(C) unaffected expression
(D) regional dialect
(E) impolite speech

AP English -- Taryn Barber -- Largo High School -- 2006/2007