Why paragraphs?

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Why paragraphing?
to coherently organize a group of sentences
around a topic
What a Paragraph Does in an Argument
–
presents a supporting point
–
connects the new point with the essay’s main argument
–
elaborates the point consistently
–
prepares the reader to move on to the next point
PRESENT A POINT
CONNECT
ELABORATE
MOVE ON
Make a point using a topic sentence
A topic sentence
• acts like a thesis statement
• speaks back to (and constitutes) a new main point of the
argument
• unifies the paragraph
• substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement
In some cases, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic
sentence; for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the
previous one, or one providing background information. In other cases, the
introductory sentence and transition are not necessary because the topics of
the previous and current paragraphs flow logically into one another.
Connect to main argument with a transition
A transition
• emphasizes the relationships between ideas
• helps the reader follow your train of thought
• helps the reader see your connections that they might
otherwise miss or misunderstand
Readers generally try to understand your new direction (or if you are still
elaborating a previous point) in the first few sentences in a paragraph.
You may also want to signal towards the next point before you leave off the paragraph.
Elaborate the point by using details
Supporting details
–
–
–
–
provide examples to explain the new point
give evidence to persuade the reader
draw on external sources to support your claim
may include illustration, data, experience…
Consider what kinds of materials are appropriate to and effective for the
paragraph in light of the nature and purpose of the essay.
What could be a good topic sentence of the following paragraph?
. . . The advertisement appeals to women who do not necessarily feel as
strongly that they should be less feminine to be equal to men. This is seen in the
advertisement in the subtle use of earrings in the costuming of the woman and the pink
lettering of certain words in the text. The earrings show that a woman can be as fit, as
opinionated, as strong and as equal to any man as the woman in the ad is. Yet this woman
can still have a feminine side and wear earrings which are somewhat symbolic of
femininity. This idea is also seen through the use of the pink lettering for only some of
the words, the most important words of the text. The central message of the woman’s
body not being “dainty”, as well as the Nike slogan, is in pink text. This is also a great
marketing technique because the audience sees that only these two phrases are in pink
which triggers a connection between them. This therefore establishes a relationship
between the woman’s thoughts as well as her physical appearance to the Nike Woman
Company. Nike could have made an improvement to the ad by incorporating more of
these subtle connections in order to appeal to a larger audience and larger base of
consumers.
What supporting details does this writer use?
Coherence is essential in your elaboration
• In a coherent paragraph, sentences relate more or less
explicitly to the topic sentence/main idea
• Words or phrases help reader connect new information with
old information
• There are no abrupt shifts or jumps
Prepare to move on to your next point
Leave a paragraph by helping the reader
• understand the new point
• make sense of the details
• get ready or expect the next point
You can wrap up a paragraph without explicitly repeating the topic sentence
or its idea; use a key word or phrase from the topic sentence or state
your new point if you haven’t.
Other Tips and Tricks
•
•
•
•
Focus on a single point
Use parallel structures
Be consistent in your point of view
Use internal transitions and connections
Focus
Particularly useful to writers who have difficulty
developing focused, unified paragraphs is the practice
with topic sentences.
Examine how focused the writer of the following paragraph is
1It
is a fact that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. 2Statistics show
that in states with capital punishment, murder rates are the same or almost
the same as in states without capital punishment. 3It is also true that it is more
expensive to put a person on death row than in life imprisonment because of
the costs of maximum security.4Unfortunately, capital punishment has been
used unjustly. 5Statistics show that every execution is of a man and that nine
out of ten are black.6So prejudice shows right through.
Stay focused
1It
is a fact that capital
punishment is not a deterrent
to crime. 2Statistics show that in
states with capital punishment,
murder rates are the same or
almost the same as in states
without capital punishment. 3It
is also true that it is more
expensive to put a person on
death row than in life
imprisonment because of the
costs of maximum
security.4Unfortunately, capital
punishment has been used
unjustly. 5Statistics show that
every execution is of a man and
that nine out of ten are
black.6So prejudice shows right
through.
Source
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
paragraphs.htm
No sentence in this paragraph (to the left) is completely irrelevant
to the general topic (capital punishment), but the specific focus of
this paragraph shifts abruptly twice. The paragraph starts out with
a clear claim in sentence 1: It is a fact that capital punishment is
not a deterrent to crime. Sentence 2 provides evidence in support
of the initial claim: Statistics show that in states with capital
punishment, murder rates are the same or almost the same as in
states without capital punishment. Sentence 3, however, shifts the
focus from capital punishment as a deterrent to crime to the cost
of incarceration: It is also true that it is more expensive to put a
person on death row than in life imprisonment because of the
costs of maximum security. Sentence 4 once again shifts the focus,
this time to issues of justice: Unfortunately, capital punishment
has been used unjustly. Sentences 5 and 6, Statistics show that
every execution is of a man and that nine out of ten are
black and So prejudice shows right through, follow from 4 if one
believes that executing men and blacks is in fact evidence of
injustice and prejudice. More importantly, however, we are now a
long way off from the original claim, that capital punishment does
not deter crime. The focus has shifted from deterrence to expense
to fairness.
Parallel structures
• Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more
phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure
and use the same parts of speech.
• Parallel structures lend sentences clarity and readability. In
addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive
sentences helps your reader see the connections between
ideas.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic
shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This
momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of
Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One
hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the
manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One
hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the
midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later,
the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and
finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to
dramatize a shameful condition.
- Martin Luther King (“I Have a Dream”)
Consistency
Consistency in point of view, (verb tense, and number) is a subtle
but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more
personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense,
or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph
less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader
and make your argument more difficult to follow.
Internal transitions
Transitional expressions (e.g. for instance, in addition, in
the first place, moreover, similarly, although, however,
in contrast, next) emphasize the relationships between
ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought
or see connections that they might otherwise miss or
misunderstand.
Especially useful are these words/phrases (e.g. accordingly,
as a result, because, consequently, for this reason,
hence, if, otherwise, since, so, then, therefore, thus)
because they indicate logical transitions.
Avoid weak transitions
Empty phrases, such as Also, In addition, We should also note that, fail to
explain the relationship between successive paragraphs
 weak transition: Another way to relate to X’s experience is . . .
TRY
 strong transition: The literal life inside X symbolizes the spiritual and
emotional rigor of the other Xes as well.
– This transition indicates that the idea to follow (how X maintains
spiritual and emotional vigor) will build on what came before it).
What’s your plan for writing good paragraphs?
Make a checklist
1. Have you
– identified the main point and purpose of individual paragraphs you plan to
write
in your paper?
– a list the relevant evidence, explanations, or details to support your
point and assign these to appropriate paragraphs?
2. Compare the material for one paragraph with the material for another to make
sure each is unique.
3. Write the sentences of each paragraph until you have a rough approximation of
your vision for the whole paper.
4. Ask yourself:
Does each paragraph make sense on its own?
Does each paragraph support my effort to convince ?
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