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Sample Multiple-Choice Question #1

Read the following passage carefully before you choose your answers. After you have answered the question there will be a link to another page that lists the correct responses and the rationales.

        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,  
(5)   purity of expression, than the style I am speaking of. It utterly 
      rejects not 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 
(10)  to follow and avail ourselves of the true idiom of the language. 
      To write a 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  
(15)  flourishes.  Or to give another illustration, to write naturally 
      is the 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  
(20)  the level of ordinary life and colloquial speaking. You do not  
      assume indeed the solemnity of the pulpit, or the tone of  
      stage-declamation: neither are you at liberty to gabble on at a  
      a venture, without emphasis or discretion, or to resort to vulgar  
      dialect or clownish pronunciation. You must steer a middle course.  
(25)  You are tied down to a given and appropriate articulation, which  
      is determined by 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.  
(30)  Any one may mouth out a passage with a theatrical cadence, or  
      get upon 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  
(35)  that exactly fits it. Out of eight or ten words equally common,
      equally 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  
(40)  discrimination, no selection, no variety in it. He uses none but  
      tall, 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 
(45)  elegance by the measurement of his words, and the substitution 
      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 
(50)  clear you cannot use a vulgar English word, if you never use a 
      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 
(55)  allusions. A truly natural or familiar style can never be 
      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?
    1. It makes an appeal to authority.
    2. It restates the thesis of the passage.
    3. It expresses the causal relationship between morality and writing style.
    4. It provides a specific example for the preceding generalization.
    5. 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?
    1. "unconnected, slipshod allusions" (line 7)
    2. "throw words together" (lines 8-9)
    3. "gabble on at a venture" (line 22)
    4. "get upon stilts" (lines 30-31)
    5. "pitch upon the very word" (line 34)

  3. In lines 10-32 of the passage, the author uses an extended analogy between
    1. language and morality
    2. preaching and acting
    3. writing and speaking
    4. vulgar English and incorrect pronunciation
    5. ordinary life and the theater

  4. In context, the expression "to pitch upon" (line 34) is best interpreted as having which of the following meanings?
    1. To suggest in a casual way
    2. To set a value on
    3. To put aside as if by throwing
    4. To utter glibly and insincerely
    5. To succeed in finding

  5. The author's tone in the passage as a whole is best described as
    1. harsh and strident
    2. informal and analytical
    3. contemplative and conciliatory
    4. superficial and capricious
    5. enthusiastic and optimistic



See this question with the correct answers and rationales


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