C&C Evangelist

Gerry Scott-Moore

Copy and Compose (1969) by Weathers and Winchester was written by two English teachers from the University of Tulsa. I bought it idly in a used bookstore near the University of Oklahoma in 1976. I remember it hadn't yet been shuffled to a shelf and was in a box with another 30 or 40 copies of the same volume. It was a slim volume for only a buck so I bought it. Over the next few months I became entranced with it.

The book's format for learning sentence structures provides significant examples of each (loose, periodic, inverted, compound, etc.), and then instructs the student to copy it exactly, followed by producing multiple examples of the same structure now filled with the student's variations in content.

This I did many times. I made significant notes, and reduced the definition for each sentence type and put them on index cards. In the mid-80s these migrated to the computer. Then a database which I've maintained through many operating systems over 40 years. I've given files of these away many times. I'm delighted to find that if you google "copy and compose", you'll quickly find someone's copy of my handiwork, now cleaned and buffed, but essentially the same thing I produced in 1976.

Over the many years since then, I have repeatedly come back to this thing and produced another packet of pages emulating the structures. I led a group of writing hobbyists that leveraged this approach as well. I still periodically get my writing moving forward by selecting 2 or 3 structures at random and seeing where it leads me. I will be continuing this all the days of my life.

I have proselytized endlessly for this approach because, as a musician, I am a great believer in knowing your scales and arpeggios so well that you construct music without directly perceiving your expressions as a reassembly of modular constructs. My endless recitation of the Pablo Casals's quote, then in his 90’s, "Scales and arpeggios--every day!" applies here too.

Sadly, Copy and Compose is long out of print and even my old copy is now 30 years gone. Weathers and Winchester wrote Strategy of Style in 1967, which covered this material and much more. In 1969 they published the subset I knew as Copy and Compose; I believe it was for a freshman English class. Finally, in 1978, they produced an expanded and revised volume called New Strategy of Style. This too included all the Copy and Compose material. There are still copies of this final volume floating around out there. I have three.

In 2022 I found a scanned copy of the book, OCR'd its text into a pdf for ease of reading and made the full book available to anyone interested: Download Copy and Compose. It's particularly good for the paragraph section, which isn't easily summarized and placed in a spread sheet. I still consult my spread sheet of the sentences regularly.