The Structure of Nursery Rhymes In An Unfamiliar Guise

Here are some familiar nursery rhymes in an unfamiliar guise – as if composed by a poet who lacked the patience to structure his ideas properly before committing them to paper. Silly, of course. Yet so much everyday writing betrays a similar thoughtlessness.

For the original, well-structured versions of the nursery rhymes.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again,      following his fall. He had been sitting on a wall prior to falling.

There was a crooked man who found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. This was while he was walking a crooked mile. He lived together in a little crooked house with a crooked cat and a crooked mouse which the crooked cat had caught. The crooked man had bought the crooked cat with the sixpence, you see.

Hey diddle diddle!

The little dog laughed

To see the fun –

i.e.  the cow’s jumping over the Moon.

Another effect was that the dish ran away with the spoon.

Maybe the cat and the fiddle also had something to do with it all.

Some birds began to sing

When a pie was opened.

Wasn’t that a dainty dish

To set before the king?

There were four-and-twenty of them birds, I mean.

Blackbirds actually. Did I mention

They’d been baked in the pie?

No? Well you can’t be expected to remember everything

If all they pay you for your song is sixpence

And a pocketful of rye.

As a contrasting exercise – contrasting  in scale and skill – try to work out the structure of a long magazine article or broadcast. Take notes as you proceed, and then draw up a diagram or summary revealing the bones and ligaments of the structure.

Here, for instance, is a brief description of a typical edition of Newsdesk in mid-1990 – a half-hour news programme on the BBC World Service, beginning at midnight GMT.

Five main features go to make up the programme, though they are hardly evenly weighted. In reverse order: the last three – the Press Review, Financial News, and Sports News – take only about two minutes each. The feature before that – News about Britain – takes roughly six minutes. The opening feature – World News – dominates the programme, taking up 15 or 16 minutes.

The World News is itself divided into three sections, in a particularly helpful way:

First come four or five ‘news headlines’ covering the main stories (about 30 seconds).

Then more detailed versions of each of those stories, and a few others (totaling about five minutes).

Then ‘our correspondents’ reports’ – consisting of in-depth coverage of the main stories, and some other topical stories, in the form of recorded reports by the BBC journalists based in the various countries involved(totalling about 12 minutes).

Especially helpful to the listener is the constant ‘signposting’ by the presenters – repeatedly mentioning the programme, the station, the time, and so on. In the ‘correspondents’ reports’ phase, for instance, the co-presenter begins with an outline of the story each time, and identifies the journalist and the

city – typically repeating these markers at the end of each report.

For Scientific english editing and Medical Writing Services visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *