The UVic Writer's Guide


An abstraction is a word which stands for a quality found in a number of different contexts from which it has been taken away or abstracted. In conversations on "ethics" or "morality," the process of abstraction is often carried so far that we make the fundamental error of assuming these abstractions are tangible, definable objects.

Such concepts as "nature," "beauty," or "truth" are not so much indefinable as receptive to an infinite number of definitions. Never assume that the reader's notions are the same as yours. A discussion of abstract ideals must maintain its connection to the topic at hand, and you must be especially careful to define the abstract terms you use.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 24, 1995