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Informal Oral Composition
1. What is Oral Composition?-You no doubt have heard and used the term "oral composition." Perhaps you have given oral compositions in school or college. Then you may be led to think that you know well enough the meaning of the subject with which this book deals. But the matter is treated here, both in theory and practice, quite differently from the way you have been accustomed to think of it.
It naturally has some kinship with written composition. Many of the rules and suggestions that you have learned about writing will help you in talking; especially is this true in reference to those parts of your composition and rhetoric texts treating of unity, emphasis, coherence, clearness, and arrangement of content. A written theme is thought expressed in written words; an oral theme is thought expressed in spoken words. Now since the means of expressing thought, in the two cases, differs, at least some of the principles governing the means must also differ.
Oral composition is perhaps most often confused with public speaking. Although it is true that the two do possess many qualities in common, they are markedly at variance in certain other respects. Public speaking is formal. The speaker stands before his
audience, and speaks above his natural tone and in a rather formal manner. He may use an outline or notes, or even write out and memorize his talk. None of these things is done in oral composition. Here, if the talker wishes, he may stand, but it is better to remain seated, as he thus tends to be less formal,and one of the things aimed at is informality.
Without question, conversation bears a close resemblance to the informal consecutive talk under discussion here. However, they are not one and the same. In conversation the person speaking may be interrupted by others present, or he may stop to listen to what some one else is saying. The conversational talk is not unified; it is varied by what others may think and say. The oral composition is uninterrupted, unified. In other words, a listener gains from it an impression of a complete treatment of one topic by one person. It is more distinct as to its beginning, its development, and its conclusion than is the conversation. Yet it is a perfectly easy and natural mode of oral expression, lying between formal public speaking on the one hand and casual conversation on the other.
Its aim is to be practical, to be interesting. The average person after leaving school or college writes but few compositions, such as he was required to write when a student. But he does compose orally—and every day of his life. The salesman who sells cloth- . ing; the teacher who explains a problem in algebra; the housewife who tells a neighbor how to use a new