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The act of composing, or forming a whole or integral, by placing together and uniting different things, parts, or ingredients. In specific use, the invention or combination of the parts of any literary work or discourse, or of a work of art, as, the composition of a poem or a piece of music. — Webster, 1882

The only thought in her head was that she was going to fail in a class that she had always led… But how did one write a composition? – These Happy Golden Years, Chapter 12, “East or West, Home is Best”

In These Happy Golden Years (Chapter 12, “East or West, Home is Best”), Laura Ingalls must write her first composition in only a few minutes, whereas the rest of her classmates have had several days in which to write theirs. The subject is ambition, and Laura turns to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary for inspiration.

What Laura wrote might more properly be called an essay – a short composition about a particular subject – and Laura was so proud of it, she kept it her whole life. Mr. Owen praised her effort and said that she should write more of them. As an adult, Laura wrote many compositions: her articles published in the Missouri Ruralist!


A Composition Written by Caroline Quiner.

The Ocean. What a world of beauty there is in the Ocean! Look upon it in a calm, and it fills us with awe and admiration. How it sparkles as the sun shines upon it in all its splendor, and how lovely and majestic the ships look sailing upon its smooth and placid surface. imagine a ship coming into port, on a calm and pleasant day. A great number of people have congregated to witness the scene, and welcome their friends, who have been spared to return in safety, to them after an absence of perhaps months. Then imagine a ship on the water in a storm. What a contrast! All is hurry and confusion on board, for every hand must be at work, to save the ship if possible. And how often the ship, and its whole crew, find a grave in the bed of the ocean and become the food of animals of the deep. Who can picture the sufferings of the survivors, on board a wreck? Perhaps no more than three or four remains f a crew of some hundred persons and they must be tossed about at the mercy of the winds and waves, for many days, with hardly food enough to sustain life. then some passing ship may pick them up when life is almost extinct; or perhaps after all their sufferings and endeavors to get ashore, or attract the attention of some passing ship, they perish. Then think of the homes made desolate by such events. – Caroline


Hints on English Composition. From the Darlington (Wisconsin) Republican, in 1881. These hints from the time of Little Town on the Prairie may help you when faced with writing a composition of your own:

The following are opinions. Opinions are not always facts.

The great aim in writing is to tell as much as possible in as few words as possible. The age is nearly past when through love of the sound of words people care nothing for the sense.

There is a tendency in words to creep in when they are not needed. Every rank of fifteen or twenty is apt to contain one unnecessary idler.

A good plan to find out how many unnecessary words can be kicked out of a sentence is to telegraph messages at 10 cents a word.

Some use quotations with an ease and confidence as if they had originated them. It is well to remember that quotations are not your property.

Omit the remark common at the commencement of many letters, “Thinking that some facts relative to the recent beer barrel explosion in Mashcille might interest your readers, I take the liberty of sending, etc.” All unnecessary, and a waste of time, labor, paper, pen, ink, type and space. If the matter you write is to interest anybody it will do so without your preface.

Avoid prefaces one-third or one-half as long as your article. Nobody builds a hallway half a mile long to get into a small house.

In long articles the same thing is generally said two or three times.

It is much more difficult to write a short article than a long one. An old editor speaks “not having time to write a short editorial.” It is harder to condense than to expand.

The words “but” or “yet” may in many cases be substituted for that lingual monstrosity “notwithstanding,” and the man who writes “nevertheless notwithstanding” is a word maniac.

A steady practice of writing immediately after eating will probably result in confirmed dyspepsia. The stomach must have its time to manufacture and store up brain force.

The best efforts in composition are generally realized when the body is in its best physical condition. You cannot write well when you are tired, and writing on stimulants involves a heavy discount on the morrow’s strength.

When you imagine that you have “just scribbled off somthing,” if that something is really clever, please remember how much of your past life, experience, study and observation it has taken to produce it. The ripe fruit which in autumn falls from the tree has taken many months to store up all its richness. Trees don’t just “scribble off” apples.

Don’t let your bravery in print go ahead of your bravery in a personal interview with the subject of your abuse.

When a man asks if you are still “grinding away or scribbling,” knock him down, pick him up, put him under a pump and explain to him that these are not terms consonant with the dignity of the editorial profession.

Honor the foreman and the proof reader. They can slaughter you, and hardly know how they do it themselves.


composition (THGY 12; PG), see also ambition