Writing Skills

Sadruddin Ahmed

Reading Passage
Gautama Buddha, whose original name was Prince Siddharto was the founder of Bddhism, one of the world’s great religions. Siddharto was the son of a king ruling in Kapilavastu, a city in northeast India, near the borders of Nepal. Siddharto himself was born in 563 in Lumbini within thepresent borders of Nepal. He was married at sixteen to a cousin of the same age. Brought up in the luxurious royal palace, Prince Siddharto did not want for material comforts. , Nevertheless, he was profoundly dissatisfied. He observed that most human beings were poor and continually suffered from want. Even those who were wealthy were frequently frustrated and unhappy, and all men were subject to disease and ultimately succumbed to death. Surely, Prince Siddharto thought, there must be more to life than transitory pleasure, which were all too soon obliterated by suffering and death. (142 words)
Polar questions (answerable by Yes or No)
Was Kapilavastu in Nepal?
Did Prince Siddharto marry young?
Was Prince Siddharto happy?
Multiple-choice questions: Choose the correct option.
Prince Siddharto was born in
I ) Kapilavastu
ii) Lumbini
iii) Katmandu
Prince Siddharto was married when he was
twenty
twenty-five
sixteen
Prince Siddharta was
happy
unhappy
neither happy nor unhappy
WH-questions
What?
a. What is Buddhism?
b. What was Prince Siddharto’s original name?
Where?
a. Where was Kapilvastu?
b. Where was Prince Sidharto born?
Why?
a.   Why was Prince Siddharto unhappy?
b. Why are material comforts not enough?
How?
a.   How was Prince Siddharto brought up?
b. How did he react to suffering and disease?
Inference questions
How was Prince Siddharto different from other young men?
How did Prince Siddharto look upon human life?
5. How to ask questions
Ask the questions to which the following are the answers:
a. Prince Siddharto was born in 563 B.C.
b. Kapilavasto was a city in northwest India.
c. Siddharto was the son of a king.
d.. Siddharto was married at sixteen.
6.. Grammar Review
a. Use of articles:
Indefinite articles:
a king    a city    a cousin
The nouns in the above examples are singular countable nouns and they are used for the first time. So they are preceded by indefinite articles.
The definite article:
the founder of Budhism
one of the world’s greatest religions
the borders of Nepal
the same age
the luxurious royal palace
The definite article is used to particularize a noun. The head words in the first three noun phrases are post-modified by of –phrases which particularise the head words and so they are preceded by the definite article. The adjective same used in the third noun phrase always takes the definite article. The definite article in the last noun phrase is justified by the fact that there was only one royal palace.
b. Prepositional phrases:
the founder of Buddhism
one of the world’s great religions
a king ruling in Kapilavastu
in Northern India
borders of Nepal
of the same age
in the luxurious royal palace
suffered from want
succumbed to death by suffering and death
The prepositional  phrases above take different prepositions. They include of, in, from, to, and by. It is important to know their semantic differences. Of in the examples above indicates possession or a notion closely associated with possession. The preposition In expresses position within an area: in Northern India, in the luxurious royal palace. The preposition from indicates the reason or cause for something: suffered from want. In the prepositional phrase ‘to death’ the to-adjunct is attached to the verb ‘succumbed’.
The Tenses: The passage is about Gautama Budha who was born in 563 BC, so the past indefinite tense has been used in describing his thoughts and activities. There are also quite a few passive constructions. The passive voice uses be+ past participle form of the verb. In this construction the focus is on what happens to the subject rather than the subject: He was born, he was married, he was dissatisfied, etc. Find out other passive constructions in the passage.
When a sentence contrasts sharply with what has already been stated, we can use the marker ‘nevertheless. Here is an example from the passage
…Prince Siddharto did not want for material comforts. Nevertheless he was profoundly dissatisfied.
The second sentence functions as a contrastive statement. The marker ‘nevertheless’ alerts us to the sentence’s function.
Direction: Now write sentences that would contrast with these ones:
(i) Mr Hakim is rich. Nevertheless…….
(ii)  Mr Kamal is chronically ill. Nevertheless….
(iii) Mina failed in her exam. Nevertheless…
e.Note the use of the relative pronoun ‘whose’ in the following sentence:
Gautama Buddha, whose original name was Prince Siddharto was the founder of Buddhism…
Now combine the following pairs of sentences using ‘whose’:
(i)The boy is sad. His father is out of work.
(ii)The poor man is homeless. His house has been washed away by the flood.
(iii)Kamal is unhappy. His mother is ill.
f.Note the front-shifted past participle phrase in the following sentence Brought up in the luxurious royal palace Prince Siddharto did not want for material comforts
Direction: Now rewrite the following pairs of sentences using one of them as a front-shifted past participle phrase:
(i) Hasan was educated at Rajshahi University. He joined the Bangladesh Civil Service.
(ii). The bridge was destroyed by the flood. It has been rebuilt.
(iii). Habib was bitten by a poisonous snake. He died a few hours later.
7. Analyse the structures of the following sentences:
(i) He was profoundly dissatisfied.
(ii) He observed that most human beings were poor and continually suffered from want
(iii) Even those who were wealthy were frequently frustrated and unhappy.
8.Vocabulary: The language of the passage is formal. It uses a large number of big words which might be difficult for the student. One way of getting familiar with words is to look them up in the dictionary. But this slows down the speed of reading and it might be demotivating.  Another way is to guess the meaning from the context. Let’s use this technique to find out the meanings of the following words:
profoundly,  dissatisfied, luxurious, frustrated, succumbed, transitory obliterated
luxurious: This is an adjective modifying ‘royal palace’ So we can logically guess that it means something rich, pleasant and beautiful.
dissatisfied: The prefix dis,which indicates negation is the opposite of satisfied.
The adverb profound intensifies the adjective. We can use very as a substitute unhappy which begins with a negative prefix –un–, collocates with frustrated, so it is likely to suggest a negative emotion.
transitory: Taken in conjunction with  pleasure it means temporary.
succumb:  Taken in conjunction with death, it means not being able to resist.
obliterated:  It means ‘removed all signs of something’ This meaning becomes clear by the juxtaposition of  ‘temporary pleasure’ and ‘suffering and death’’.
9.Change the following words as directed and make sentences with them:
a.   comfort (into an adjective) luxurious (into a noun), original (into an adverb), founder (into a verb), religion (into an adjective)
b. Make sentences with the following words as directed without changing the forms:
name (as verb), present (as verb), age (as verb), subject(as noun)
c. The following adverbs appear in the passage: profoundly, continually,
frequently, ultimately, surely.  Fill in the blanks with them.
He goes abroad——-
He neglects his studies. He will——fail.
I was ——shocked at the news of his father’s death.
We are faced with a lot of problems. But we will—-win through.
They are —– quarrelling.
8. Find antonyms of the following words used in the passage and make sentences with the antonyms.
Luxurious, comforts, want, unhappy, transitory, pleasure
8. Cohesion and Coherence: We recognize at once that the passage is not a collection of isolated sentences. There are relationships among them.
Syntactic relationship: Hyponyms and Superordinates: Normally hyponyms, the specific term is used first. In this passage ‘Buddhism is the hyponym and the word religion is the superordinate or the general term. Kapilavastu is the hyponym,the specific term, and the city is the general term. In a text it is often the hyponym which is used first; the superordinate is used to refer back to it. There is also repetition: Nepal has been repeated twice. There are collocations—-words which often go together: frustrated and unhappy, suffering and death.
Coherrence: The passage, which is about Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is informational. The information is organized in the grammatical pattern SVO (subject+ verb+ objects/complements) It gives us information concerning his birth, his early marriage and profound dissatisfaction with human existence. The structure of the passage follows the pattern—given- new. information. The given information is Gautam Buddha. The passage is about him. So the subject element is light either Buddha or he. Since the subject element Gautam Buddha, remains the same, the focus is on the (O)Object which is heavier than  the S (Subject) because it contains what is new about the theme.
Precis:  Précis is a good exercise. It helps the student to distinguish between essential points and inessential points. In writing a précis, the inessential points must be left out The choice between what is important and what is unimportant requires intellectual ability.  Precis also helps the student to cut out verbiage and to be precise in the use of language as the original passage should be reduced to about one- third of the total number of words.
Essential points: Siddharto, the son of a king in Kapilavastu, was born in 563 .
He was brought up in luxury.
He was married at sixteen.
He was very unhappy. because most people were poor ; even the wealthy  people’s happiness was temporary and ultimately they all are subject to death.
He thought there must be more to life than this.

Rough draft
Guatama Buddha originally named Siddhartha was the founder of Buddhism. The son of a king in Kapilavastu, a city in northeast India, he was born in 563 BC.  Although he was brought up in luxury and was married young, he was very dissatisfied because he observed that most people lived in poverty and even the wealthy were also unhappy .and all were subject to suffering and death. He thought that life must mean more than temporary pleasure. (77 words
Final draft
Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in 563 BC. The son of a king in Kapilavastu, a city near Nepal, he was brought up in luxury and married young. But he was deeply dissatisfied because he observed that suffering and death were inevitable to human life. (47 words)

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