SAT 2016







As you read the passage below, consider how Ellis Parker Butler uses

•  evidence, such as facts or examples, to support his claims

•  reasoning to develop ideas and connect claims and evidence

•  stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed

Adapted from Ellis Parker Butler, “On Spelling.” Originally published in 1906.

1   My own opinion of the spelling profession is that it has nothing to do with genius, except to kill it. I know that Shakespeare was a promiscuous sort of speller, even as to his own name, and no one can deny that he was a greater genius than Noah Webster. The reason America so long lagged behind Europe in the production of genius is that America, for many decades, was the slave of the spelling-book. No man who devotes the fiery days of his youth to learning to spell has time to be a genius.

2   My wife, Serena, says, and I agree with her, that it is the jealousy of a few college professors who are trying to undermine the younger writers. They know that it is excusable to spell incorrectly now, but they want this new phonetic spelling brought into use so that there shall be no excuse for bad spelling, and that then, Serena says, self-made authors like me, who never can spell but who simply blaze with genius, will be hooted out of the magazines to make room for a stupid sort of literature that is spelled correctly. Serena looks upon the whole thing as a direct, personal stab at me. I look at it more philosophically.

3   To me it seems that the spelling reformers are entirely on the wrong track. Their proposed changes are almost a revolution, and we Americans do not like sudden changes. We like our revolutions to come about gradually. Think how gradually automobiles have come to pass. If, in our horse age, the streets had suddenly been covered with sixty horsepower snorters going thirty miles an hour and smelling like an eighteenth-century literary debate, and killing people right and left, we Americans would have arisen and destroyed every vestige of the automobile. But the automobile came gradually—first the bicycle, then the motorcycle, and so, by stages, to the present monsters. So slowly and progressively did the automobile increase in size and number that it seemed a matter of course. We take to being killed by the automobile quite naturally now.

4   Of course, the silent letters in our words are objectionable. They are lazy letters. We want no idle class in America, whether tramp, aristocrat, or silent letter, but we do not kill the tramp and the aristocrat. We set them to work, or we would like to. My theory of spelling reform is to set the idle letters to work.

5   Take that prime offender, althoughAltho does all the work, and ugh sits on the fence and whittles. I would put ugh to work. Ugh is a syllable in itself. I would have the ugh follow the pronounced altho as a third syllable. Doubtless the asthmatic islanders who concocted our English language actually pronounced it so.

6   I propose to have some millionaire endow my plan, and Serena and I will then form a society for the reforming of English pronunciation. I will not punch out the i of any chief, nor shall any one drag me from any programme, however dull. I will pronounce programme as it should be pronounced—programmy—and, as for chief, he shall be pronounced chy-ef.

7   The advantage of this plan is manifest. It is so manifest that I am afraid it will never be adopted.

8   Serena’s plan is, perhaps, less intellectual, but more American. Serena’s plan is to ignore all words that contain superfluous letters. She would simply boycott them. Serena would have people get along with such words as are already phonetically spelled. Why should people writealthough, when they can write notwithstanding that, and not have a silent letter in it? I have myself often written a phrase twelve words long to stand instead of a single word I did not know how to spell. In fact, I abandoned my Platonic friendship for Serena, and replaced it with ardent love, because I did know how to spell sweetheart, but could not remember whether she was my friend or freind.

Write an essay in which you explain how Ellis Parker Butler builds an argument to persuade his audience that American English spelling conventions of 1906 need to be reformed. In your essay, analyze how Butler uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should NOT explain whether you agree with Butler’s claims, but rather explain how Butler builds an argument to persuade his audience.