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Erasmus' Style Exercise

The late medieval/early Renaissance writer Erasmus in his widely-used rhetorical guide, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum, showed the student 150 different styles one might use when phrasing the Latin sentence, "Your letter has delighted me very much" (Tuae literae me magnopere delectarunt). Edward Corbett shows some examples translated into English:

Your epistle has cheered me greatly.

Your note has been the occasion of unusual pleasure for me.

When your letter came, I was seized with an extraordinary pleasure.

What you wrote to me was most delightful.

On reading your letter, I was filled with joy.

Your letter provided me with no little pleasure. (1)

We could add many other examples to these:

I liked your letter.

My heart was all a-throbbing after finishing your note.

Your words brought a smile to my face.

I had to grin as I read your letter.

Your letter was a refreshing spot of color in my otherwise black-and-white existence.

The perusal of your epistle uplifted me from spiritual ennui.

Your letter pleased me.

What a joy it was to read your letter!

Of course, some of the resulting sentences will be monstrous and unusable. For instance, "The perusal of your epistle uplifted me from spiritual ennui" is downright supercilious. Yet this sort of artificial experimentation will help students become aware of the flexibility of language--thus they learn to extend their own range as writers.

Back to style page.


(1) Corbett, Edward P. J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. 461-62.



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