An Oldie but Goodie

In recognition of Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d share one of my favorite teacing resources:  The Lively Art of Writing by Lucile Vaughan Payne.


I was introduced to this book as a sophomore in Mrs. Martin’s writing class in 1984.  I learned how to write a five-paragraph essay following Payne’s geometric pattern and I still teach my students the same inverted triangle-rectangle-triangle pattern:

essay diagram

Yesterday, I was working on a concise writing lesson plan and went to my bookshelf in search of examples and tips.  The first books I grabbed?  These two little yellowed-paged treasures I rescued from a discard pile years ago.  Each time I open the books, I think how the ideas on the pages have helped me teach hundreds of students to avoid passive voice and to “show, don’t tell” with updated variations of the same exercises I completed thirty years ago.  Each time I instruct students to “specify, specify, specify,” I swear it’s Mrs. Martin’s voice and not my own.

I didn’t add anything to my handout from the books this time, but was comforted by the fact that I had already included “The Two Commandments” as outlined in Chapter 5:

1) Do not use first person.

2) Do not use the word there–ever.

I had already encouraged specificity and cautioned against the use of abstractions, or as Payne identifies them in Chapter 11, “The Solemn Vapors.”  My handout was complete, but until I had checked it against my old books, I didn’t know for sure.   Although I know this advice is not unique to these texts, I find reassurance in revisiting the formative texts of my youth.

What about you?  Do you have go-to resources from your own high school/college days that hold a prominent place on your bookshelf?

One thought on “An Oldie but Goodie

  1. Julie, your writing on Super Sentences last time helped me when I worked with my fourth grader during tutoring last week. Now I’m excited to read more on this subject today! Thank you!

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