Presentation on theme: "Elements of a Paragraph: The Basic Unit of Composition"— Presentation transcript:
1 Elements of a Paragraph: The Basic Unit of Composition May 2, 2012Sources for this lecture:Humphrey and Holmes, Style and Ethics of Communication in Science and Engineering, 2009.Purdue website:Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, pp , 1979.University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,
2 Two Definitions of a Paragraph “A paragraph is a grammatical unit typically consisting of multiple sentences that together express a complete thought. Many suggest that the lead sentence of each paragraph should introduce the main idea of that paragraph and the final sentence of each paragraph should summarize the main thought.”(Style and Ethics of Communication in Science and Engineering, p. 8)“A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic.” (Purdue website)
3 Writing Good Paragraphs… Helps you stay on track in drafting and revision.It helps you focus on the points you want to make.It helps you eliminate unnecessary or wayward points.Helps your readers follow your logic.Beginning of each paragraph is a signal to the reader that something new is coming.
4 Basic Rule: One Idea to a Paragraph One idea with several pieces of supporting evidence, detail.Several points if they all relate to the overall topic of the paragraph.If sentence becomes too long, it probably contains multiple thoughts.Break tangle of thoughts one thought per sentence.Organize the sentences into separate paragraphs, then develop the detail for each one.
5 A Paragraph Should Contain… UnityShould have single focus or major point of discussion.Be careful of extraneous or “wandering” ideas.CoherenceLogical bridgesSame idea of a topic is carried from sentence to sentence.Successive sentences can be constructed in parallel form.For example, sentences that begin with “first,” “second,” “third” to make parallel points.Verbal bridgesRepeat key words from one sentence to the next (noun/subject).Use pronouns (it, they) to refer to nouns in previous sentences.Use transitional words to link ideas from different sentences (but, thus, moreover, etc.).
6 A Paragraph Should Also Contain… A topic sentence.General statement about the idea or thesis of the paragraph.And most general sentence in the paragraph.Generally first sentence.Exception: The first sentence instead can be a transitional idea leading to the topic in the second sentence.Adequate development.Discussion of the topic sentence.Increasing detail, various points of view, etc.“Supporting sentences.”Nothing extraneous!Concluding sentence: a summary of the information you’ve presented (or topic sentence in reverse).The “hamburger” analogy5-7 sentences recommended.I think this can be too long: 3-4 sentences can work well.Breaking a long paragraph in two, even if not necessary for sense, meaning, or logical development, can be a visual aid to the reader.
7 Example of Unnecessary/Irrelevant Detail More recently, under Section 101 of the Medicare & Medicaid Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008, Congress authorized the Secretary to add additional preventive services benefits. Medicare beneficiaries no longer need to wait years for Congress to pass legislation authorizing additional prevention benefits to the Medicare program. Under Section 101 the Secretary can add such benefits through the Medicare NCD process.
8 Inappropriate Topic Sentences: Why? My hometown is famous because it is located by Wheaton River, which is very wide, and because it is built near an unusually steep hill called Wheaton Hill. There are two reasons why some people like to buy cars with automatic transmission and two reasons why others like cars with manual transmission. Clouds are white.
9 Inappropriate Topic Sentences: Discussion My hometown is famous because it is located by Wheaton River, which is very wide, and because it is built near an unusually steep hill called Wheaton Hill.Contains too many details; topic sentences are general.A better topic sentence: My hometown is famous for several amazing geographical features. There are two reasons why some people like to buy cars with automatic transmission and two reasons why others like cars with manual transmission.Mentions two topics, not just one.A better topic sentence: There are two reasons why some people like to buy cars with automatic transmissions. [followed by the two reasons]The following paragraph could start: There are two reasons why other people like cars with manual transmissions. [followed by the two reasons]Clouds are white.Too general -- and boring!A better topic sentence: The shapes of clouds are determined by various factors.
10 Ways You Can Develop Your Paragraph Use examples and illustrationsCite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details)Examine testimony (what other people say, such as quotes and paraphrases)Use an anecdote or storyDefine terms in the paragraph! And how they relate to each other.Does one term represent a part of a larger term?Compare and contrastEvaluate causes and reasonsExamine effects and consequencesAnalyze the topicDescribe the topicOffer a chronology of an event (time sequence)Note parallel structure of these bullets: Each begins with the command form of the verb.
11 When to Start a New Paragraph When you begin a new idea or pointIf an idea spans multiple paragraphs, each new point should have its own paragraph.To contrast information or ideasTo give your reader a pauseWhen paragraphs are too long – very hard to read.When material is too complex.When you are ending your introduction or starting your conclusionFor example: In conclusion, [then summarize what you’ve written]
12 Example: Where to Place Paragraph Breaks, and Why The importance of stress analysis recently has come more to my attention. Everything from molecules to space shuttles is analyzed for stress. What I find particularly interesting how stress affects all industries. In the past, aerospace, structural, and mechanical engineers calculated stress in systems to ensure safety. [I’d put a paragraph break here as you’re going on to discuss a different industry next.] Another instance of stress affecting different industries is in the medical industry. …[You’re switching gears here to discuss another, unusual industry.] Nowadays, however, even lawyers look at stress. For example, in the case of Boeing Company’s 787 Dreamliner, law attorneys are getting involved in stress issues because they suspect that these new aircraft could cause an accident. They are concerned about the potential delamination of the carbon-plastic in the rear fuselage caused by continuous stress on the system.This last paragraph is a good example of general to increasing detail.
13 Transitions and Signposts Transitions: One or several sentences that transition from one idea to the next.Typically found at the end of a paragraph to transition to the next.Example: But that is not the entire story.Signposts: Several sentences outlining what the article has covered and where the article will be going.
14 Sample Well Constructed Paragraph My hometown is famous for several amazing natural features. First, it is noted for the Wheaton River, which is very wide and beautiful. Second, on the other side of the town is Wheaton Hill, which is unusual because it is very steep. The third amazing feature is the Big Old Tree. This tree stands two hundred feet tall and is probably about six hundred years old. These three landmarks are truly amazing and make my hometown a famous place.Note how the first sentence is inverted in the concluding sentence. But this is very literal.