Paragraph Development Milly Grillone fao international Consultant paragraph development: Plan before writing!



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Paragraph Development

  • Milly Grillone
  • FAO International Consultant

PARAGRAPH DEVELOPMENT: Plan before writing!

  • TOPIC
  • SENTENCE
  • BODY
  • TRANSITIONAL
  • EXPRESSIONS
  • CONCLUDING
  • SENTENCE
  • SUPPORT
  • MAIN IDEAS

Developing a paragraph

  • Unity: The Topic Sentence
  • A paragraph deals with one main idea (topic sentence). If you are moving away from that idea, conclude the paragraph and start a new one.
  • The first thing you must determine about each paragraph is its focus. Once you have done so, you should never allow yourself to veer away from that governing idea.

Developing a paragraph Unity: The Topic Sentence

  • Most often the topic sentence comes first, and the point made in the topic sentence is developed and supported by the rest of the paragraph. Without some kind of topic sentence, the paragraph is rudderless and the reader is lost
  • Undeveloped essays may contain entire paragraphs of topic sentences, combining several expandable ideas into one block of unsupported assertions. If an idea is important enough to mention it is important enough to develop; if a general statement is worth making, it is worth supporting in detail.

Developing your Topic Sentence

  • After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph supports the point you wish to make. Inexperienced writers often fail to construct effective paragraphs because they make an assertion without backing it up.
  • If you are writing a paper about agricultural trade, you might find it useful to include statistical information to strengthen your argument. Never state without supporting evidence.

The Functions of Paragraphs: Analyzing

  • This paragraph subdivides the subject and analyzes each sub-topic.
  • Every student who attends university needs three types of education: general education, liberal education, and specialized education. By general education I mean that education which is required to become an effective member of the human race; it provides us with the means of communication with one another, with an understanding of the relationships between human beings and the institutions which they establish, with an analytical approach toward the physical universe of which we are all a part, and with a concept of the position which we hold in the stream of time and history. By liberal education I mean the education that frees us from the confines of the group, the patterns, the conventions, and enables us to become truly an individual; it is therefore the education which discovers our greatest abilities and interests and then develops them to the highest capacities which we can achieve. By specialized education I mean the education which will enable us to make a living in a competitive economic world; especially in America there is very little leisure class, and every educated person is expected to have some place in which to render a valuable service .

The Functions of Paragraphs: Contrasting and Comparing

  • The construction of the Cheops and the Grand Coulee dam is compared and contrasted, aspect by aspect.
  • The use of a transitional device ("On the other hand") is very important to signal the shift in this pattern of comparison
  • One of the masses is built of cut stone, the other of poured concrete. One took 50,000 men twenty years to build, the other will take 5,000 men six years, in a task not only three times greater but vastly more complex and dangerous. Both structures relied on the labor of those who would otherwise have been unemployed. Egyptian peasants in the off season built Cheops; American workingmen and engineers shelved by a great depression are building Grand Coulee. Pyramids were houses for the dead. Dams are centers of energy for the living. It is better, I think, to live in the age of the Great Dams than in the age of the Great Pyramids.

The Functions of Paragraphs: Defining

  • In most essays there are terms to be defined. An expository paragraph may be the beginning of a more complex argument, like this:
  • Sukiyaki (pronounced by the Japanese in three syllables with no accent--shee-yah-kee) is the dish that has proved most popular among American visitors to Japan. It is not, as it is sometimes described, a Japanese imitation of chop suey, but is a native concoction with a long and honorable history. Its ingredients may vary, but they consist usually of raw beef sliced paper-thin, onions, spinach, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean curd, and a kind of gelatinous noodle, with sugar and rice wine and soy sauce as seasonings. It is the cooking and eating of sukiyaki, however, rather than the food itself, that makes it an experience to remember. The guests gather round a thick skillet set on a charcoal burner, and the raw ingredients (brought in beautifully arranged on a huge plate, for the Japanese believe in eating first with their eyes) are cooked in their presence. After part of the food has been allowed to simmer with its seasonings for a tantalizing while, the guests reach into the common skillet with their chopsticks, taking out whatever pieces please them and dipping them into a beaten raw egg. Sukiyaki is not just a food, it is a social experience; for all evening long the guests sit around the pan "cooking and eating," as the Japanese say, "and eating and cooking."

The Functions of Paragraphs: Showing Results

  • The topic sentence of this paragraph will provide a starting point for a series of results which comprise the rest of the paragraph.
  • The cold, the dark, and the intense radioactivity, together lasting for months, represent a severe assault on our civilization and our species. Civil and sanitary services would be wiped out. Medical facilities, drugs, the most rudimentary means for relieving the vast human suffering, would be unavailable. Any but the most elaborate shelters would be useless, quite apart from the question of what good it would be to emerge a few months later. Synthetics burned in the destruction of the cities would produce a wide variety of toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, cyanides, dioxins and furans. After the dust and soot settled out, the solar ultraviolet flux would be much larger than its present value. Immunity to disease would decline. Epidemics and pandemics would be rampant, especially after the billion or so unburied bodies began to thaw. Moreover, the combined influence of these severe and simultaneous stresses on life are likely to produce even more adverse consequences--biologists call them synergisms that we are not yet wise enough to foresee.

The Functions of Paragraphs: Describing Analogies

  • This paragraph develops an idea by means of a comparison with a similar idea.
  • Light and all other forms of radiation are analogous to water-ripples or waves, in that they distribute energy from a central source. The solar radiation distributes through space the vast amount of energy which is generated inside the sun. We hardly know whether there is any actual wave-motion in light or not, but we know that both light and all other types of radiation are propagated in such a form that they have some of the properties of a succession of waves.

Paragraph Order

  • As you develop paragraphs, you are collecting sentences that build upon your initial statement. The arrangement of these sentences is as important as the sentences themselves. A paragraph requires a certain level of drama. Use structure to your advantage; a paragraph which moves in a specific direction is more powerful than one which wanders about aimlessly. Here are some examples of strategies that can give your paragraphs greater coherence and greater effect:
          • Climax
          • Familiar-To-Unfamiliar
          • General-To-Particular
          • Particular-To-General
          • Chronology

1. Paragraphs That Build A Climax

  • Build from matter-of-fact observation to a grand statement. The effect is a dramatic build toward a climactic moment.
  • The cultural laggards are noisy; but tangible events since the impasse was reached show net gains for dynamo behavior and losses for stagecoach behavior; not only in the United States, but all over the world. Vendibility is definitely in retreat. Nation after nation has left the gold standard, to embark on managed currency policies in which the bankers correctly find no hope for maintaining a private monopoly of credit. The state has been forced to support millions of citizens without requiring the traditional quid pro quo of work, because there was no work for them to do. Autarchy has all but destroyed the world free market. Dictatorships, one after another, supersede voting, parliaments, checks, and balances. Centralization and government control of industry proceed at a violent pace. The end no man can foresee, but the general direction is clear enough. All industrial nations are in the turmoil of a transition period, seeking more or less blindly for stabilities which accord with technological imperatives. History is at one of its most momentous passages.

2. Familiar To Unfamiliar

  • Begin with an example of personal experience with which the reader can identify, and move from that example into a more technical discussion:
  • Certain moments of the mind have a special quality of well-being. A mathematician friend of mine remarked that his daughter, aged eight, had just stumbled without his teaching onto the fact that some numbers are prime numbers--those, like 11 or 19 or 83 or 1,023, that cannot be divided by any other integer (except, trivially, by 1). "She called them 'unfair numbers'," he said. "And when I asked her why they were unfair, she told me, "Because there's no way to share them out evenly."" What delighted him most was not her charming turn of phrase nor her equitable turn of mind (17 peppermints to give to her friends?) but--as a mathematician--the knowledge that the child had experienced a moment of pure scientific perception. She had discovered for herself something of the way things are. The satisfaction of such a moment at its most intense--and this is what ought to be meant, after all, by the tarnished phrase "the moment of truth"--is not easy to describe. It partakes at once of exhilaration and tranquility. It is luminously clear. It is beautiful. The clarity of the moment of discovery, the beauty of what in that moment is seen to be true about the world, is the most fundamental attraction that draws scientists on.

3. General To Particular

  • This pattern is particularly effective in an introduction, but is applicable elsewhere.
  • In Shakespeare's England a standing army was unknown. There was no general military organization. The military defence of the realm rested upon two Statues passed in 1557, the one for Arms and Armour, the other for Taking of Musters. The first required "every nobleman, gentleman, or other temporal person" to keep, according to his means, a fixed number of weapons, horses, and suits or articles of defensive armour. The most interesting point in this Act is the fact that. though the existence of fire-arms is recognized by the obligation of the wealthiest classes to furnish "haquebuts," the longbow is none the less exalted as the first of missile weapons, and practice at the archery-butts is still strictly enjoined upon the people at large. This was an absurdity, for fire-arms in the hands of skillful Spaniards and Italians had already been brought to considerable perfection, and the famous longbow was practically obsolete.

4. Particular To General

  • Going from the particular to the general can be just as effective as its opposite; it is often used in the conclusion to an essay.
  • Nineteen forty-eight saw the beginning of the systematic suppression of the Greek guerillas--a rather baffling police operation executed by indigenous forces, with the United States supplying only material aid and technical advice. Nineteen forty-nine was the year that turned the tide in Berlin through a massive logistic effort carried out primarily by the Americans themselves. The current year has seen United Nations intervention in Korea, again an operation in which American forces have played the leading role. These examples suggest that the number of active danger spots at any one time is limited, and that it is possible to shift the emphasis and to divert resources from one place to another nearly as rapidly as the Soviet Union can itself shift its point of attack. The resources, the technique, perhaps some of the same planes that won the struggle from Berlin went into the air movements of troops and supplies that contributed so decisively to the American advance in Korea. In sum, the containment policy rests on the idea of a strategic reserve--a flexible concept as opposed to the static and impossible notion of simply manning a wall.

5. Chronology

  • A a chronology explains by listing events in order; it is a particular kind of narrative, where the sequence of events is important, and is carefully signaled.
  • The new earth, freshly torn from its parent sun, was a ball of whirling gases, intensely hot, rushing through the black spaces of the universe on a path at a speed controlled by immense forces. Gradually the ball of flaming gases cooled. The gases began to liquefy, and Earth became a molten mass. The materials of this mass eventually became sorted out in a definite pattern: the heaviest in the center, the less heavy surrounding them, and the least heavy forming the outer rim. This is the pattern which persists today a central sphere of molten iron, very nearly as hot as it was 2 billion years ago, an intermediate sphere of semi-plastic basalt, and a hard outer shell, relatively quite thin and composed of solid basalt and granite.

Paragraph Transitions

  • Although your paragraphs will be self-contained, they must interlock effectively to produce a strong overall argument. Transitions both between and within paragraphs are essential because they signal changes in direction and help the reader follow those changes. Simple words like however, in addition, for example, although, whereas and finally tie sentences together effectively.
  • The most important transitions come between paragraphs. Try to establish a connection between the first sentence of a new paragraph and the last sentence of the preceding one. Again a linking word may be the easiest way:
  • . . . Thus the pattern established by Dickens in the first chapter is consistent throughout the rest of the first volume.
  • However, Volume Two offers a new approach to the narrative. . .
  • The echo of a key phrase or word can also be effective:
  • . . . Whatever Lear's faults, it cannot be denied that he loves his daughters.
  • Unfortunately, love counts for little in the realm of Regan and Goneril. . . .

Paragraph Transitions

  • However, echoing the preceding sentence too closely will result in repetition rather than transition. This example was an attempt to link the introduction to the body of the essay:
  • . . . The other important function Bottom has is his major contribution to the humorous aspect of the play.
  • One of the major functions of Bottom is his contribution to the play's humor. . . .
  • The transition may require more than just a word; a transitional sentence may be called for:
  • The evidence thus suggests that there is no other option.
  • And yet there may still be a solution. If you disregard . . .
  • The transitional sentence does not indicate what will come next in the paragraph, but it establishes that this paragraph is a negation of the last. Note that this kind of sentence displaces the topic sentence you would expect to find at the beginning of the paragraph; the topic sentence should follow it.
  • Sentences must follow one another in a logical pattern. If thoughts follow one another without sufficient connection, the essay will make no sense. Within each paragraph you will be using transitions almost continuously.

TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSIONS Transitional words give unity and coherence to the paragraph by relating sentences to each other. Linking words and word groups are called transitional expressions.

  • TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSIONS Transitional words give unity and coherence to the paragraph by relating sentences to each other. Linking words and word groups are called transitional expressions.
  • Addition....also, in addition, too moreover, and, besides, further, furthermore, equally important, next, then finally. Example.....for example, for instance, thus, as an illustration, namely, specifically. Contrast....but, yet however, on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, conversely, in contrast, on the contrary, still, at the same time. Comparison....similarly, likewise, in like manner, in the same way, in comparison. Concession....of course, to be sure, certainly, naturally, granted. Result.... .therefore, thus, consequently, so, accordingly, due to this. Summary......as a result, hence, in short, in brief, in summary, in conclusion, finally, on the whole. Time...... first, second, third, fourth, next, then, finally, afterwards, before, soon, later, during, meanwhile, subsequently, immediately, at length, eventually, in the future, currently. Place..... in front, in the foreground, in the back, in the background, at the side, adjacent, nearby, in the distance, here, there.


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