English 1301 ONL / Skrabanek


As you recall, the writing purpose reveals the writer's motive or goal--the reason for writing. The rhetorical patterns (or modes) are ways to organize the information used to achieve the purpose. A piece of writing may display all four patterns of writing.

Usually, one pattern is more important than the others, and it should be discussed as the primary pattern. Some patterns work naturally with other patterns, such as narration and description. Classification, especially comparison-contrast, and evaluation are often found together, too.


Narration Pattern

Description Pattern

Classification Pattern

Evaluation Pattern



The narration pattern focuses on events in time. If you read a novel, narration carries you through the story. If a buddy tells you what he or she did last night, narration is being used. If you tell somebody how to do something, you are using narration. And if you try to figure what caused your low grade on a test, you are using narration.

The narration pattern has several forms. It is used to

In all its forms, the function of narration is to demonstrate a relationship between a sequence of events in time.

Narration usually has a point of view (a narrator or narrative voice). The sequence is being related by someone, and that person telling the story can alter the mood of the readers or listeners. The reader will be sad or happy, amused or disgusted or baffled. Good writing is manipulative, and narration can be manipulative, too. The reader can be moved to extremes. Consider the tear-jerker, after all, or the Dirty Harry movies.

Features and Characteristics

When You Use the Narration Pattern to Write

Example of narration of event:

        One afternoon in late August, as the summer's sun streamed into the car and made little jumping shadows on the windows, I sat gazing out at the tenement-dwellers, who were themselves looking out of their windows from the gray crumbling buildings along the tracks of upper Manhattan. As we crossed into the Bronx, the train unexpectedly slowed down for a few miles. Suddenly from out of my window I saw a large crowd near the tracks, held back by two policemen. Then, on the other side from my window, I saw a sight I would never be able to forget: a little boy almost severed in halves, lying at an incredible angle near the track. The ground was covered with blood, and the boy's eyes were opened wide, strained and disbelieving in his sudden oblivion. A policeman stood next to him, his arms folded, staring straight ahead at the windows of our train. In the orange glow of late afternoon the policemen, the crowd, the corpse of the boy were for a brief moment immobile, motionless, a small tableau to violence and death in the city. Behind me, in the next row of seats, there was a game of bridge. I heard one of the four men say as he looked out at the sight, "God, that's horrible." Another said, in a whisper, "Terrible, terrible." There was a momentary silence, punctuated only by the clicking of wheels on the track. Then, after the pause, I heard the first man say: "Two hearts."

        (© Willie Morris, "On a Commuter Train")

When You Analyze the Narration Pattern in Another's Writing

Example of analysis of the paragraph above:

        One of the main patterns Morris uses in his story is narration. The function of this pattern is to present a sequence of events in time. In this example, Morris makes use of narration of an event. He begins by telling that he is riding on a commuter train one afternoon late in summer. In the middle of his narration, as the train enters the Bronx in New York, he witnesses an unsettling sight. A young boy has been cut in half, apparently by a train, and his body lies by the tracks. People stand around, gawking at the dead boy and the blood-stained ground. Other people on the train have seen the sight, too, and two of them remark on how awful the scene is. In the end of his narration, Morris seems to comment on how callous and desensitized people have become. The two men who remark on the awful scene nonchalantly continue their game of bridge. Morris's use of a beginning, a middle, and an end in his presentation of this troubling episode demonstrates his narration pattern.

Notes on this analysis:
  • First sentence: identifies the pattern.
  • Second sentence: identifies the function of the pattern.
  • Third sentence: identifies the specific form of the pattern used by the author.
  • Fourth - tenth sentences: present a summary of the author's narrative, breaking it into beginning, middle, and end.
  • Eleventh sentence: gives a summative conclusion.

    More Examples of the Narration Pattern

    Narration of event is a form of the narration pattern. A narration of event usually tells some sort of story. The story can be fictional or nonfictional. A narration of event should have some sense of beginning, middle, and end. It should also include dates or narrative time words such as first, next, and then. Notice how Cole Younger uses date to guide the reader through his narrative about the notorious Belle Starr.

    The example below is Chapter 23 in The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself, first published in Chicago in 1903 by the Henneberry Company.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Narration: Narration of Event

    Chapter 23: Belle Starr

            One of the richest mines for the romancers who have pretended to write the story of my life was the fertile imagination of Belle Starr, who is now dead, peace to her ashes.

            These fairy tales have told how the "Cherokee maiden fell in love with the dashing captain." As a matter of fact, Belle Starr was not a Cherokee. Her father was John Shirley, who during the war had a hotel at Carthage, Mo. In the spring of 1864, while I was in Texas, I visited her father, who had a farm near Syene, in Dallas county. Belle Shirley was then 14, and there were two or three brothers smaller.

            The next time I saw Belle Shirley was in 1868, in Bates county, Mo. She was then the wife of Jim Reed, who had been in my company during the war, and she was at the home of his mother. This was about three months before the birth of her eldest child, Pearl Reed, afterward known as Pearl Starr, after Belle's second husband.

            In 1871, while I was herding cattle in Texas, Jim Reed and his wife, with their two children, came back to her people. Reed had run afoul of the Federal authorities for passing counterfeit money at Los Angeles and had skipped between two days. Belle told her people she was tired roaming the country over and wanted to settle down at Syene. Mrs. Shirley wanted to give them part of the farm, and knowing my influence with the father, asked me to intercede in behalf of the young folks. I did, and he set them up on the farm, and I cut out a lot of the calves from one of my two herds and left with them.

            That day Belle Reed told me her troubles, and that night "Aunt Suse," our family servant, warned me.

            "Belle's sure in love with you, Cap'n Cole," she explained. "You better be careful." With that hint I thereafter evaded the wife of my former comrade in arms.

            Reed was killed a few years later after the robbery of the stage near San Antonio, and Belle married again, this time Tom Starr or Sam Starr.

            Later she came to Missouri and traveled under the name of Younger, boasted of an intimate acquaintance with me, served time in state prison, and at this time declared that she was my wife, and that the girl Pearl was our child.

            At this time I had no knowledge of any one named Belle Starr, and I was at a loss as to her identity until the late Lillian Lewis, the actress, who was related to some very good friends of our family, inquired about her on one of her tours through the southwest. Visiting me in prison, she told me that Belle Starr was the daughter of John Shirley, and then for the first time had I any clue as to her identity.

            Her story was a fabrication, inspired undoubtedly by the notoriety it would give her through the Cherokee nation, where the name of Younger was widely known, whether fortunately or unfortunately.

    Narration of process is another form of the narration pattern. The most popular kind of narration of process is the how-to. The narration of process can be instructional or informational. It can tell how to make something or how something is made. A key feature of narration of process is the same predictable end result. Notice how P.T. Barnum, the famous circus impresario and huckster, tells how to economize.

    The excerpt below is from The Art of Money Getting, or Golden Rules for Making Money by P.T. Barnum (1810-1891), first published in 1880.

    Purposes: Expressive/Referential-Informative
    Patterns: Narration: Narration of Process              Classification/Evaluation

            True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go. Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new pair of gloves; mend the old dress: live on plainer food if need be; so that, under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs, there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here, and a dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending.

            Here is a recipe which I recommend: I have found it to work an excellent cure for extravagance, and especially for mistaken economy: When you find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day or week in two columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts," and the other headed "luxuries," and you will find that the latter column will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most of us can earn.

            Dr. Franklin says "it is the eyes of others and not our own eyes which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I should not care for fine clothes or furniture." It is the fear of what Mrs. Grundy may say that keeps the noses of many worthy families to the grindstone. In America many persons like to repeat "we are all free and equal," but it is a great mistake in more senses than one.

    Cause-effect is another form of the narration pattern. Cause-effect shows the causal relationship between the events in a sequence. A writer may give the causes first and then tell the effects. A writer may also give the effect first and then tell the causes. Sometimes the effect is only implied. In the example below, the author gives the effect in the first paragraph: the rise in shoplifting by higher-class women. Then he gives the suspected cause of ostentation.

    The excerpt below is from Chapter 4--"The Outer and the Inner Woman"--in Worldly Ways and Byways, written by Eliot Gregory. The book was first published in New York in 1898 by Charles Scribner's Sons.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Patterns: Narration: Cause-Effect

            It is a sad commentary on our boasted civilization that cases of shoplifting occur more and more frequently each year, in which the delinquents are women of education and refinement, or at least belong to families and occupy positions in which one would expect to find those qualities! The reason, however, is not difficult to discover.

            In the wake of our hasty and immature prosperity has come (as it does to all suddenly enriched societies) a love of ostentation, a desire to dazzle the crowd by displays of luxury and rich trappings indicative of crude and vulgar standards. The newly acquired money, instead of being expended for solid comforts or articles which would afford lasting satisfaction, is lavished on what can be worn in public, or the outer shell of display, while the home table and fireside belongings are neglected. A glance around our theatres, or at the men and women in our crowded thoroughfares, is sufficient to reveal to even a casual observer that the mania for fine clothes and what is costly, per se, has become the besetting sin of our day and our land.

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    The description pattern focuses on the details as part of the whole. If you give details about an object's appearance, you are describing. If you divide a big problem into its many small causes, you are describing. If you analyze how a purpose is used, you are describing.

    But avoid using the word describe or its forms to mean "writes about." In this course, you should use the word describe and its forms only in reference to the description pattern. For example, avoid such statements as "The author describes a series of events" or "The writer describes how laws are made."

    The description pattern has several forms. It can be used

    In all its forms, the function of description is to demonstrate the relationship between the whole and its parts.

    Features and Characteristics

    When You Use the Description Pattern to Write

    Example of physical description:

            Between the darkness of earth and heaven she was burning fiercely upon a disc of purple sea shot by the blood-red play of gleams; upon a disc of water glittering and sinister. A high, clear flame, an immense and lonely flame, ascended from the ocean, and from its summit the black smoke poured continuously at the sky. She burned furiously, mournful and imposing like a funeral pile kindled in the night, surrounded by the sea, watched over by the stars. A magnificent death had come like a grace, like a gift, like a reward to that old ship at the end of her laborious days. The surrender of her weary ghost to the keeping of stars and sea was stirring like the sight of a glorious triumph. The masts fell just before daybreak, and for a moment there was a burst and turmoil of sparks that seemed to fill with flying fire the night patient and watchful, the vast night lying silent upon the sea. At daylight she was only a charred shell, floating still under a cloud of smoke and bearing a glowing mass of coal within.

            (Joseph Conrad, from "Youth")

    When You Analyze the Description Pattern in Another's Writing

    Example of analysis of the paragraph above:

            One of the main patterns Conrad uses in "Youth" is description. The function of this pattern is to show the relationship between the whole and its parts. In this example, Conrad makes use of the form of physical description. The whole he seeks to present is the image of a ship burning at sea on a dark night, and he appeals mostly to the sense of sight to achieve that image. He makes excellent use of color to construct his image. For example, he notes that the ship "was burning fiercely upon a disc of purple sea shot by the blood-red play of gleams." Conrad moves to figurative imagery to present his description, suggesting that the ship is burning "like a funeral pile kindled in the night" and that it is a "'weary ghost.'" By the next morning, the ship has mostly burned, and Conrad describes the remain as "a charred shell, floating still under a cloud of smoke." Through a series of poignant descriptions, Conrad is able to achieve his overall image of a ship dying by flames on the wide sea beneath the dark of night.

    Notes on this analysis:

    First sentence: identifies the pattern.
    Second sentence: identifies the function of the pattern.
    Third sentence: identifies the specific form of the pattern used by the author.
    Fourth sentence: notes the whole presented by the writer and the dominant sensory appeal.
    Fifth - eighth sentences: present examples of descriptive imagery and also note author's use of figurative imagery.
    Ninth sentence: gives a summative conclusion.

    More Examples of the Description Pattern

    A physical description appeals to the reader's senses through the use of sensory details: sights, sounds, smells, for example. A physical description of a place should not only give details about the place but also try to create mood. The example by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) below establishes the mood in the first sentence and then provides details to reinforce that mood.

    The excerpt below is from Chapter 5 of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, the famous British writer.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Description: Physical Description

            I gazed upon the schoolroom into which he took me, as the most forlorn and desolate place I had ever seen. I see it now. A long room with three long rows of desks, and six of forms, and bristling all round with pegs for hats and slates. Scraps of old copy-books and exercises litter the dirty floor. Some silkworms' houses, made of the same materials, are scattered over the desks. Two miserable little white mice, left behind by their owner, are running up and down in a fusty castle made of pasteboard and wire, looking in all the corners with their red eyes for anything to eat. A bird, in a cage very little bigger than himself, makes a mournful rattle now and then in hopping on his perch, two inches high, or dropping from it; but neither sings nor chirps. There is a strange unwholesome smell upon the room, like mildewed corduroys, sweet apples wanting air, and rotten books. There could not well be more ink splashed about it, if it had been roofless from its first construction, and the skies had rained, snowed, hailed, and blown ink through the varying seasons of the year.

    In the following excerpt, D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) describes objects, people, and places, both literally and figuratively. Notice how he uses the analogy of the farm family carrying in the hay to compare to the everyday burdens of life. The excerpt is from Chapter 1--"The Crucifix Across the Mountains"--from Twilight in Italy, by D.H. Lawrence, first published by H.W. Huebsch in New York in 1916.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Description: Physical Description
                  Narration of Event/Narration of Process/

            I was startled into consciousness one evening, going alone over a marshy place at the foot of the mountains, when the sky was pale and unearthly, invisible, and the hills were nearly black. At a meeting of the tracks was a crucifix, and between the feet of the Christ a handful of withered poppies. It was the poppies I saw, then the Christ.

            It was an old shrine, the wood-sculpture of a Bavarian peasant. The Christ was a peasant of the foot of the Alps. He had broad cheekbones and sturdy limbs. His plain, rudimentary face stared fixedly at the hills, his neck was stiffened, as if in resistance to the fact of the nails and the cross, which he could not escape. It was a man nailed down in spirit, but set stubbornly against the bondage and the disgrace. He was a man of middle age, plain, crude, with some of the meanness of the peasant, but also with a kind of dogged nobility that does not yield its soul to the circumstance. Plain, almost blank in his soul, the middle-aged peasant of the crucifix resisted unmoving the misery of his position. He did not yield. His soul was set, his will was fixed. He was himself, let his circumstances be what they would, his life fixed down.

            Across the marsh was a tiny square of orange-coloured light, from the farm-house with the low, spreading roof. I remembered how the man and his wife and the children worked on till dark, silent and intent, carrying the hay in their arms out of the streaming thunder-rain into the shed, working silent in the soaking rain.

            The body bent forward towards the earth, closing round on itself; the arms clasped full of hay, clasped round the hay that presses soft and close to the breast and the body, that pricks heat into the arms and the skin of the breast, and fills the lungs with the sleepy scent of dried herbs: the rain that falls heavily and wets the shoulders, so that the shirt clings to the hot, firm skin and the rain comes with heavy, pleasant coldness on the active flesh, running in a trickle down towards the loins, secretly; this is the peasant, this hot welter of physical sensation. And it is all intoxicating. It is intoxicating almost like a soporific, like a sensuous drug, to gather the burden to one's body in the rain, to stumble across the living grass to the shed, to relieve one's arms of the weight, to throw down the hay on to the heap, to feel light and free in the dry shed, then to return again into the chill, hard rain, to stoop again under the rain, and rise to return again with the burden.

            It is this, this endless heat and rousedness of physical sensation which keeps the body full and potent, and flushes the mind with a blood heat, a blood sleep. And this sleep, this heat of physical experience, becomes at length a bondage, at last a crucifixion. It is the life and the fulfilment of the peasant, this flow of sensuous experience. But at last it drives him almost mad, because he cannot escape.

            For overhead there is always the strange radiance of the mountains, there is the mystery of the icy river rushing through its pink shoals into the darkness of the pine-woods, there is always the faint tang of ice on the air, and the rush of hoarse-sounding water.

    In the following excerpt, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) provides a physical description of the Lousiana marshes. Notice how the author compares the motion of the waves to the living pulse of the world. The excerpt is from Part 1--"The Legend of L'Ile Derniere"--from Chita: A Memory of Last Island, by Lafcadio Hearn, first published in 1889 and republished by Harper and Brothers Publishers in New York in 1917.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Description: Physical Description
                  Narration of Event/Comparison-Contrast

            Panting, screaming, scraping her bottom over the sand-bars,--all day the little steamer strives to reach the grand blaze of blue open water below the marsh-lands; and perhaps she may be fortunate enough to enter the Gulf about the time of sunset. For the sake of passengers, she travels by day only; but there are other vessels which make the journey also by night--threading the bayou-labyrinths winter and summer: sometimes steering by the North Star,--sometimes feeling the way with poles in the white season of fogs,--sometimes, again, steering by that Star of Evening which in our sky glows like another moon, and drops over the silent lakes as she passes a quivering trail of silver fire.

            Shadows lengthen; and at last the woods dwindle away behind you into thin bluish lines;--land and water alike take more luminous color;--bayous open into broad passes;--lakes link themselves with sea-bays;--and the ocean-wind bursts upon you,--keen, cool, and full of light. For the first time the vessel begins to swing,--rocking to the great living pulse of the tides. And gazing from the deck around you, with no forest walls to break the view, it will seem to you that the low land must have once been rent asunder by the sea, and strewn about the Gulf in fantastic tatters....

            Sometimes above a waste of wind-blown prairie-cane you see an oasis emerging,--a ridge or hillock heavily umbraged with the rounded foliage of evergreen oaks:--a cheniere. And from the shining flood also kindred green knolls arise,--pretty islets, each with its beach-girdle of dazzling sand and shells, yellow-white,--and all radiant with semi-tropical foliage, myrtle and palmetto, orange and magnolia.

    Division is another form of the description pattern. Division breaks the whole into its component parts. Division differs from classification. Classification puts similar items into groups whereas division is concerned with the individual parts of the whole.

    In the following excerpt, Professor of Law Enrico Ferri (1856-1929) discusses one of the parts of the whole of criminal anthropology. The excerpt is from Criminal Sociology, by Enrico Ferri, first published in 1899 and republished by Little, Brown, and Company in New York in 1917.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Patterns: Description: Division

            The second division of criminal anthropology, which is by far the more important, with a more direct influence upon criminal sociology, is the psychological study of the criminal. This recognition of its greater importance does not prevent our critics from concentrating their attack upon the organic characterisation of criminals, in oblivion of the psychological characterisation, which even in Lombroso's book occupies the larger part of the text.

    Analysis is another form of the description pattern. Analysis shows how the parts work together to form the whole. In an analysis of fiction, for example, the writer would show how the various literary elements work together to produce the whole, or the meaning of the work. In an analysis as you will do in this course, the writer would show how certain characteristics, for example, demonstrate the use of a purpose in a piece of writing. Analysis usually draws a logical conclusion from the specific facts presented.

    In the example below, the author gives various specific examples to make the general conclusion the Mexicans and the Texians never really trusted each other. He further concludes that this basic mistrust was the root cause of the Texas Revolution. Analysis and cause-effect are common in writings about historical events.

    The excerpt below is from Chapter 6 in A School History of Texas, written by Eugene C. Barker along with Charles S. Potts and Charles W. Ramsdell. The book was first published in Chicago in 1912 by Row, Peterson & Company.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Patterns: Description: Analysis

            The causes of the revolution were spread through the whole ten years, between 1825 and 1835, but at the very bottom of them all was the fact that the Mexicans and the colonists never really got acquainted and learned to trust each other. The chief reason for this was that they always considered each other foreigners. They belonged to different races, and had different religions, different ways of living, and different ideas of government and education. The colonists felt a sort of contempt for the Mexicans. They formed very few connections with Mexico, while with the United States, where they had left friends and relatives, where they sold their crops and bought their goods, and where those who could afford it sent their children to school, their connection was very close.

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    The classification pattern focuses on putting similar items into groups. Have you ever categorized other drivers on the road as creeps or jerks (or worse)? Well, you were classifying. Have you ever thought about the advantages and disadvantages of two people you were considering dating? If so, you were using classification. Have you ever defined a word or an concept? Again, you were classifying.

    The classification pattern has several forms. It is used to

    In all its forms, the function of classification is to demonstrate the relationship between an item and others of its kind.

    Features and Characteristics

    When You Use the Classification Pattern to Write


            There are three major political forces that rule the early Star Trek universe. The first group, the Federation of Planets, is based on freedom and self-rule for all peoples, and its emissaries are essentially peaceful persons who try to assure a good life for all; Earthlings and Vulcans are examples of Federation members. The second group, the Klingon Empire, is based on oppression and control of all peoples within its boundaries, and its soldiers are vicious and warlike, as is the whole race, seeking only to make the subjects of the Empire fear and hate the Klingons. The third group, the Romullan Empire, is also warlike, but not so much as the Klingons; the Romullans, evolved from the same ancestry as the intellectual Vulcans, are more concerned with territorial acquisition and protection than with terrorizing its subjects, as the Klingons are.

    When You Analyze the Classification Pattern in Another's Writing

    Example of analysis of the paragraph above:

            One of the main patterns the writer uses in this article is classification. The function of this pattern is to show the relationship between an item and others of its kind. In this article, the writer makes use of formal classification. The writer's most general classification deals with the political divisions in the universe of the popular "Star Trek" TV series from the 1960s. The writer identifies three major parties, the Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire, and the Romullan Empire. General characteristics are then given about each item in the category. In an additional application of classification, the writer employs comparison-contrast to note similarities and differences among the three groups. For example, the writer notes that the Klingons are more vicious and warlike than are members of the Federation, and that the Vulcans and Romullans evolved from a similar ancestry. The clearcut categorization the writer utilitizes points to the presence of the classification pattern.

    Notes on this analysis:

  • First sentence: identifies the pattern.
  • Second sentence: identifies the function of the pattern.
  • Third sentence: identifies the specific form of the pattern used by the author.
  • Fourth - seventh sentences: present examples of the classification systems and give specific details about the items in the classification.
  • Eighth sentence: gives a summative conclusion.

    More Examples of the Classification Pattern

    Formal classification is a form of the classification pattern. Formal classification simply places similar items in classes or categories. For example, a writer might discuss kinds of stringed instruments or sports that use balls. In the example below, the writer groups things found in a soldier's knapsack.

    Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was a famous Austrian violinist in the early 20th century. When World War I broke out in 1914, he rejoined his former regiment and was sent to the front to fight the Russians. The excerpt is from Chapter 1 in Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist, by Fritz Kreisler. The book was first published in Boston in 1915 by the Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Classification: Formal Classification

            This first day's march constituted a very strong test of endurance in consequence of our comparative softness and lack of training, especially as, in addition to his heavy rifle, bayonet, ammunition, and spade, each soldier was burdened with a knapsack containing emergency provisions in the form of tinned meats, coffee extract, sugar, salt, rice, and biscuits, together with various tin cooking and eating utensils; furthermore a second pair of shoes, extra blouse, changes of underwear, etc. On top of this heavy pack a winter overcoat and part of a tent were strapped, the entire weight of the equipment being in the neighborhood of fifty pounds.

    Comparison-contrast is a form of the classification pattern. Strictly speaking, comparison is used to show the similarities between two items. Contrast is used to show the differences between two items. In the excerpt below, the writer contrasts French and British theater audiences.

    Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907) was a respected American poet and fiction writer in the late 19th century. The excerpt is from Chapter 1--"Leaves from a Note-Book"--in Ponkapog Papers, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich. The book was first published in Boston in 1903 by the Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Purpose: Expressive
    Pattern: Classification: Comparison-Contrast

            The difference between an English audience and a French audience at the theatre is marked. The Frenchman brings down a witticism on the wing. The Briton pauses for it to alight and give him reasonable time for deliberate aim. In English playhouses an appreciable number of seconds usually precede the smile or the ripple of laughter that follows a facetious turn of the least fineness. I disclaim all responsibility for this statement of my personal observation, since it has recently been indorsed by one of London's most eminent actors.

    Definition is a form of the classification pattern. A simple definition first puts the term in its class, gives a synonym for it, and then gives an example of it. An extended definition, as in the example below, includes an elaborate explanation of a concept, usually with much detail.

    John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was born in London and became a noted writer and scholar of the 19th century. He was made a cardinal of the Catholic Church in 1879. The excerpt is from Discourse VIII--"Knowledge and Religious Duty"--in The Idea of a University, by John Henry Newman. The book was first published in 1873 and republished in London in 1905 by Longmans, Green, and Co.

    Purpose: Literary
    Patterns: Classification: Definition

            It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy-chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them.

            The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;--all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender toward the bashful, gentle toward the distant, and merciful toward the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring.

            He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort; he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves toward our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults; he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain because it is inevitable, to bereavement because it is irreparable, and to death because it is his destiny.

            If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clear-headed to be unjust; he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive. Nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, indulgence: he throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province, and its limits.

    Analogy is a form of the classification pattern. An analogy can be an extended comparison between two somewhat similar items, such as apples and oranges, or between two dissimilar items, such as time and a river or a student and an oyster. The analogy in the excerpt below compares the twelve labors of Hercules to the everyday trials and tribulations of common people.

    Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was a noted American writer and member of the Transcendalist Movement along with his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1845, Thoreau built a cabin on land owned by Emerson and wrote his famous book Walden. The excerpt below is from Chapter 1 of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, first published in 1854.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Pattern: Classification: Analogy

            The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They have no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of the hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up.

    The following example by Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) uses formal classification and comparison-contrast to discuss conditions in the British mines in the 1840s. Engels later collaborated with Karl Marx on several writings. The excerpt is from The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, by Friedrich Engels, first published in 1845.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Pattern: Classification: Formal Classification/

            In the coal and iron mines which are worked in pretty much the same way, children of four, five, and seven years are employed. They are set to transporting the ore or coal loosened by the miner from its place to the horse-path or the main shaft, and to opening and shutting the doors (which separate the divisions of the mine and regulate its ventilation) for the passage of workers and material. For watching the doors the smallest children are usually employed, who thus pass twelve hours daily, in the dark, alone, sitting usually in damp passages without even having work enough to save them from the stupefying, brutalising tedium of doing nothing. The transport of coal and iron-stone, on the other hand, is very hard labour, the stuff being shoved in large tubs, without wheels, over the uneven floor of the mine; often over moist clay, or through water, and frequently up steep inclines and through paths so low-roofed that the workers are forced to creep on hands and knees. For this more wearing labour, therefore, older children and half-grown girls are employed. One man or two boys per tub are employed, according to circumstances; and, if two boys, one pushes and the other pulls.

    The following example by Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose (1858-1937) uses comparison-contrast to discuss similarities between living and nonliving things. Bose was a respected Indian scientist known for his pioneering work in wireless radio. Bose also explored the living and nonliving worlds and concluded that plants and metals were sentient, exhibiting many of the characteristics of humans and other animals. Bose devised the crescograph to measure the sentient response of plants.

    The excerpt below is from The Life and Work of Sir Jagadis C. Bose, by Patrick Geddes, published in New York in 1920 by Longmans, Green, and Co.

    Purposes: Expressive/Referential-Informative
    Patterns: Classification: Comparison-Contrast
                 Narration of Event/Evaluation

    Living and Non-living

            In the pursuit of my investigations I was unconsciously led into the border region of physics and physiology and was amazed to find boundary lines vanishing and points of contact emerge between the realms of the Living and Non-living. Inorganic matter was found anything but inert; it also was a thrill under the action of multitudinous forces that played on it. A universal reaction seemed to bring together metal, plant and animal under a common law. They all exhibited essentially the same phenomena of fatigue and depression, together with possibilities of recovery and of exaltation, yet also that of permanent irresponsiveness which is associated with death.

            I was filled with awe at this stupendous generalisation; and it was with great hope that I announced my results before the Royal Society,--results demonstrated by experiments. But the physiologists present advised me, after my address, to confine myself to physical investigations in which my success had been assured, rather than encroach on their preserve. I had thus unwittingly strayed into the domain of a new and unfamiliar caste system and so offended its etiquette.

            An unconscious theological bias was also present which confounds ignorance with faith. It is forgotten that He, who surrounded us with this ever-evolving mystery of creation, the ineffable wonder that lies hidden in the microcosm of the dust particle, enclosing within the intricacies of its atomic form all the mystery of the cosmos, has also implanted in us the desire to question and understand. To the theological bias was added the misgivings about the inherent bent of the Indian mind towards mysticism and unchecked imagination. But in India this burning imagination which can extort new order out of a mass of apparently contradictory facts, is also held in check by the habit of meditation. It is this restraint which confers the power to hold the mind in pursuit of truth, in infinite patience, to wait, and reconsider, to experimentally test and repeatedly verify.

    The following example by Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) uses formal classification and comparison-contrast to discuss two kinds of clocks. Jerome was a witty British writer and humorist of the late 19th century. His most famous work is a comic tale of a trip up the Thames, titled Three Men in a Boat, first published in 1889.

    The excerpt below is from the essay "Clocks," by Jerome K. Jerome, first published about 110 years ago.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Classification: Comparison-Contrast
                 Narration of Event/Evaluation

            There are two kinds of clocks. There is the clock that is always wrong, and that knows it is wrong, and glories in it; and there is the clock that is always right--except when you rely upon it, and then it is more wrong than you would think a clock could be in a civilized country.

            I remember a clock of this latter type, that we had in the house when I was a boy, routing us all up at three o'clock one winter's morning. We had finished breakfast at ten minutes to four, and I got to school a little after five, and sat down on the step outside and cried, because I thought the world had come to an end; everything was so death-like!

            The man who can live in the same house with one of these clocks, and not endanger his chance of heaven about once a month by standing up and telling it what he thinks of it, is either a dangerous rival to that old established firm, Job, or else he does not know enough bad language to make it worth his while to start saying anything at all.   . . .

            As for the other class of clocks--the common or always-wrong clocks--they are harmless enough. You wind them up at the proper intervals, and once or twice a week you put them right and "regulate" them, as you call it (and you might just as well try to "regulate" a London tom-cat). But you do all this, not from any selfish motives, but from a sense of duty to the clock itself. You want to feel that, whatever may happen, you have done the right thing by it, and that no blame can attach to you.

            So far as looking to it for any return is concerned, that you never dream of doing, and consequently you are not disappointed. You ask what the time is, and the girl replies:

            "Well, the clock in the dining-room says a quarter past two."

            But you are not deceived by this. You know that, as a matter of fact, it must be somewhere between nine and ten in the evening; and, remembering that you noticed, as a curious circumstance, that the clock was only forty minutes past four, hours ago, you mildly admire its energies and resources, and wonder how it does it.

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    The evaluation pattern is used to convey a value judgment. The judgment rendered may be subjective or objective. Usually, subjective or personal evaluation (also known as taste) has no justifiable criteria. For example, the choice of a favorite color or food is a personal judgment, which is usually rendered as "I like something" or "I dislike something." You might like a movie because a certain actor is in it or because it deals with a subject you enjoy.

    On the other hand, objective evaluation deals with accomplishment of purpose and is based on an established set of criteria. Your favorite movie might in fact not be a very good movie. Your liking it does not make it good. To be good, it must exhibit qualities that can be identified and rated in comparison to others of its kind.

    An evaluation must show a value judgment. An evaluation is not the same as a logical conclusion. A logical conclusion is a characteristic of the referential-interpretive purpose; the logical conclusion is based on an interpretation of the facts presented, not values. So be sure you do not confuse a logical conclusion with an evaluation.

    Logical conclusion: Based on statistics, literary reading is in decline in the United States.

    Evaluation: The decline in literary reading is not good for the future of American society.

    Features and Characteristics

    When You Use the Evaluation Pattern to Write
    The example below evaluates engineering colleges, and the purpose could be regarded persuasive.


            The purpose of college is education, but few engineering colleges approach this goal. Education, by the definition which I consider most correct, is the development of the abilities of the mind to reason, the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge to be used as a base for further reasoning, and the preparation needed to perform a particular job after college.
            By this definition, if education is truly the purpose of college, the engineering colleges throughout the country . . . are not achieving their purpose or goal. The true engineer, according to the etymology of the term, is ingenious; the French spelling, ingenieur, still contains the i. The true engineer is a vital combination of knowledge, reasoning power, and ingenuity who is desperately needed in today's industry. But the "brand new engineers" being mass-produced by our large universities do not have these qualities and are therefore not in great demand by industry. At first their up-to-date knowledge of their specific field may suffice to get them a job, but after a few years their lack of original reasoning ability catches up with them.

            (© Roger McClung, from "Education and Engineering")

    When You Analyze the Evaluation Pattern in Another's Writing

    Example of analysis of the paragraph above:

            One of the main patterns McClung uses in this article is evaluation. The function of this pattern is to make a value judgment. In this article, the writer has chosen as his subject the quality of engineering education delivered in large universities. McClung establishes three criteria that characterize a good education: "the development of the abilities . . .to reason, the acquisition of a certain level of knowledge to be used as a base for further reasoning, and the preparation needed to perform a particular job after college." He says that new engineer graduates may have cutting-edge knowledge, but they often lack the reasoning ability that allows them to succeed as industry engineers. By declaring that engineering colleges "are not achieving their purpose or goal," the writer clearly demonstrates his use of the pattern of evaluation.

    Notes on this analysis:

  • First sentence: identifies the pattern.
  • Second sentence: identifies the function of the pattern.
  • Third sentence: identifies the subject of the evaluation.
  • Fourth - fifth sentences: present the criteria and judgment about engineering colleges
  • Sixth sentence: gives a summative conclusion.

    More Examples of the Evaluation Pattern

    Subjective evaluation typically contains the likes or dislikes of the writer. A subjective evaluation is not necessarily based on any clearly-defined criteria, and the judgment produced in a subjective evaluation is seldom logical or objective. The subjective evaluation could be regarded as opinion. In the example below, Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) uses subjective evaluation to rate four insects that bothered him on a camping trip. Though he rates the four insects, he has no really objective criteria on which to base his evaluation.

    Henry van Dyke was born in Pennsylvania. He became a noted Presbyterian minister and writer in the latter part of the 19th century. The excerpt is from Chapter 8--"Au Large"--in Little Rivers: A Book Of Essays In Profitable Idleness, by Henry van Dyke, first published in 1895 and republished in 1904 in New York by Charles Scribner's Sons.

    Purposes: Expressive/Literary
    Patterns: Evaluation: Subjective Evaluation
                 Narration of Event/Classification

            On our way back to the camp we found the portage beset by innumerable and bloodthirsty foes. There are four grades of insect malignity in the woods. The mildest is represented by the winged idiot that John Burroughs' little boy called a "blunderhead." He dances stupidly before your face, as if lost in admiration, and finishes his pointless tale by getting in your eye, or down your throat.

            The next grade is represented by the midges. "Bite 'em no see 'em," is the Indian name for these invisible atoms of animated pepper which settle upon you in the twilight and make your skin burn like fire. But their hour is brief, and when they depart they leave not a bump behind.

            One step lower in the scale we find the mosquito, or rather he finds us, and makes his poisoned mark upon our skin. But after all, he has his good qualities. The mosquito is a gentlemanly pirate. He carries his weapon openly, and gives notice of an attack. He respects the decencies of life, and does not strike below the belt, or creep down the back of your neck.

            But the black fly is at the bottom of the moral scale. He is an unmitigated ruffian, the plug-ugly of the woods. He looks like a tiny, immature house-fly, with white legs as if he must be innocent. But, in fact, he crawls like a serpent and bites like a dog. No portion of the human frame is sacred from his greed. He takes his pound of flesh anywhere, and does not scruple to take the blood with it. As a rule you can defend yourself, to some degree, against him, by wearing a head-net, tying your sleeves around your wrists and your trousers around your ankles, and anointing yourself with grease, flavoured with pennyroyal, for which cleanly and honest scent he has a coarse aversion. But sometimes, especially on burned land, about the middle of a warm afternoon, when a rain is threatening, the horde of black flies descend in force and fury knowing that their time is short. Then there is no escape. Suits of chain armour, Nubian ointments of far-smelling potency, would not save you. You must do as our guides did on the portage, submit to fate and walk along in heroic silence, like Marco Bozzaris "bleeding at every pore,"--or do as Damon and I did, break into ejaculations and a run, until you reach a place where you can light a smudge and hold your head over it.

    Objective evaluation should contain a logical judgment reached by the writer. An objective evaluation usually judges the "accomplishment of purpose" of an item. In other words, does the item do what it is supposed to do, and if so, how well? When writing an objective evaluation, you should include adequate information on the subject, clearly-defined objective criteria, a clear judgment of the item's accomplishment of purpose, any necessary explanation or argument to support your judgment, and an impartial tone. The excerpt below makes the objective evaluation that cooking with electricity is superior to cooking with coal.

    Paul Severing was a popular science writer at the turn of the 20th century. The excerpt below is from Chapter 10--"Electricity in the Household"--in Marvels of Modern Science, by Paul Servering, first published in 1910 in New York by the Christian Herald Bible House.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Patterns: Evaluation: Objective Evaluation

            The advantages of cooking by electricity are apparent to all who have tested them. Food cooked in an electric baking oven is much superior than when cooked by any other method because of the better heat regulation and the utter cleanliness, there being absolutely no dust whatever as in the case when coal is used. The electric oven does not increase the temperature nor does it exhaust the pure air in the room by burning up the oxygen. The time required for cooking is about the same as with coal.

            The perfect cleanliness of an electric plate warmer is sufficient to warrant its use. It keeps dishes at a uniform temperature and the food does not get scorched and become tough.

            Steaks prepared on electric gridirons and broilers are really delicious as they are evenly done throughout and retain all the natural juices of the meat; there is no odor of gas or of the fire and portions done to a crisp while others are raw on the inside. In toasting there is no danger of the bread burning on one side more than on the other, or of its burning on either side and a couple of dozen slices can be done together on an ordinary instrument at the same time. The electric diskstove, flat on the top, like a ball cut in two, can be also utilized as a toaster or for heating any kettles or pots or vessels with flat bottoms.

    Book reviews are a popular kind of evaluation. Critics give their reasons why one should or should not read a particular book. Below are two reviews of Mark Twain's famous novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Though the novel is now regarded as an American classic, contemporary reviewers were mixed in their evaluations. The two contrasting reviews below show the differing evaluations.

    Purpose: Referential-Interpretive
    Pattern: Evaluation: Objective Evaluation

    from the Boston Evening Traveller (1885: March 5)

            It is little wonder that Mr. Samuel Clemens, otherwise Mark Twain, resorted to real or mock lawsuits, as may be, to restrain some real or imaginary selling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a means of advertising that extraordinarily senseless publication. Before the work is disposed of, Mr. Mark Twain will probably have to resort to law to compel some to sell it by any sort of bribery or corruption. It is doubtful if the edition could be disposed of to people of average intellect at anything short of the point of the bayonet. This publication rejoices in two frontispieces, of which the one is supposed to be a faithful portrait of Huckleberry Finn, and the other an engraving of the classic features of Mr. Mark Twain as seen in the bust made by Karl Gerhardt. The taste of this gratuitous presentation is as bad as is the book itself, which is an extreme statement. Mr. Clemens has contributed some humorous literature that is excellent and will hold its place, but his Huckleberry Finn appears to be singularly flat, stale and unprofitable. The book is sold by subscription.

    from "Mark Twain as Orator" by Charles Vale (Forum 44, July 1910)

            He has written many things of high value: Life on the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer, Pudd'nhead Wilson, "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg," and a score of other tales, sketches and satires, great and small. But Huckleberry Finn is his supreme and incontestable masterpiece. There are few books in any literature that so pulsate with vitality, few books of such fertile invention and varied charm. Quaint and very astonishing are the episodes of irresistible humor, such as the adventures of the King and the Duke, and the "funeral orgies" of Peter Wilkes: but even the broadest of the humor is founded always on just and searching observation and knowledge of human nature. Yet its true greatness lies, not merely, or even chiefly, in its humor, but in its masterly reproduction of the scenery and atmosphere of the great rivers, in its wonderfully skillful mingling of tragedy, comedy and farce, and above all, in the character of Huckleberry Finn himself, and his relations with the nigger Jim. A caricaturist represented Mark Twain's fellow-passengers on the Minneapolis as all engaged in studying his various works, and assigned Huckleberry Finn to a small boy. That was an egregious mistake. Boys love it, no doubt: but it needs ripe experience to appreciate its irony, its humanity, and the subtler phases of its humor.

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