Keep Your Writing Tight And Unified

Previous Page

Keep your writing tight and unified. Whatever you’re writing, you want your readers to be able to move through it smoothly without getting lost or having to backtrack and reread. You can achieve that necessary unity by following one of the organizational patterns discussed in Chapter 5 on Drafting and by using strong transitions throughout.

Here are some key transitions devices.

• Directional terms – Links and Nudges

• Repeated Words

• Conjunctions at the beginning of sentences

Links and Nudges :

Links are words and phrases that hold writing together by signaling connections. Nudges are terms that give readers a little push from one point to the next and keep them moving in the right direction. All writers need to have a stock of such terms at their fingertips and to develop a sense of a when and where these terms are needed.

Here are some of the most common:

Links :

Also Although
For example
In addition
In spite of
Not only

Nudges :

This, that, these, those
as a result
for instance

Here’s paragraph from our model paper on Artemisia Gentileschi.

The talented Gentileschi […] was fortunate in being born into a painter a family in Rome in 1953. Her father, Orazio, was a friend of the painter Caravaggio and well established in the artistic community of Rome. The family lived in the artistic quarter of the city surrounded by other painters. Thus from childhood Artemisia breathed the ambience of the artist’s work shop and absorbed the traditions of the heroic school of painting of the day that emphasized myth and legends from the bible and the classical era. From her early teens she worked in her father’s studio which would have been considered the family business developing her expertise in mixing paints and preparing canvases and benefiting from the opportunity to draw from models that was essential for any serious painter of the day but almost impossible for women artists to attain unless they came from a painter’s family.

The links come from the repeated mention of
family, father and Artemisia’s age (childhood, teens). The nudging terms are thus and but.

Repeated Words :

Although you will often want to edit out repetitious language as you revise, occasionally you may choose to unify your writing by deliberately repeating a key word or phrase.

Here’s an example in which repetition works well:

For tens of thousands of years on the plains of North America, many forces of nature worked to sustain the grasslands. Of those forces, fire was perhaps the most important in the health of the prairie. Before the west was settled, grass fires were a natural part of the prairie ecosystem […] Fire helped burn back old – growth plants. On the plains, fire helps remove the dead grasses and allowed new plants to emerge from the charred soil. Often, if an area goes for an extended time without the benefit of fire or some other disturbance, it becomes a monoculture in which only one types of plant grows. (
Ressell Graves : The Prairie Dog)

Here’s another From the African American Poet Nikki Giovanni.

The fact of slavery is no more our fault than the fact of rape. People are raped. It is not their choice. How the victim becomes responsible for the behavior of the victimized is beyond my understanding. How the poor are responsible for their condition is equally baffling. No one chooses to live in the streets. No one chooses to go to sleep at night hungry. No one chooses to be cold to watch their children have unmet needs. No one chooses misery and our efforts to make this a choice will be the damnation of our souls. Yet such thinking is one of the several troubling legacies we have inherited from [W.E.B.] Du Bois. (
Nikki Giovanni : Campus Racism 101)

Using Conjunctions to Connect Sentences or Paragraphs :

You may remember some authority telling you that you shouldn’t start a sentence with and or but because they’re conjunctions whose purpose is to join parts of sentences. Well they are connections and they do join things, so you wouldn’t want to use either one as the very first word of a piece of writing. But they are also strong signal words that can work well for beginning a sentence or a new paragraph when you want to emphasize a connection or show a contrast. They also help hold the parts of your writing together.

The next examples taken from essays reprinted in the best America essays series show that you can begin sentences or paragraphs with
and or but without making a grammatical blunder. Both words can serve as important hooks to unify your writing;

[…] if we are using our land wrong, then something is wrong with our economy. This is difficult. It becomes more difficult when we recognize them in modern times. Every one of us is a member of the economy of every body else.

But if we are concerned about land abuse, we have begun a profound work of economic criticism. Study of the history of land use informs us that we have had for a long time an economy that thrives by undermining its own foundations. (
Wendell Berry : In Distrust of Movements)

[…] Corey knows how to work a crowd, sometimes too well. Last year in one of the season’s crucial games, Corey was all along under the basket tried a fancy lay – up and blew it. The coaches rose to their feet, howling in rage. Corey jogged down court shrugging palms turned toward the ceiling. “Relax, guys" he said, nonchalance itself, “It’s just basketball."

And then there is Stephan. He is making his debut as a high – school player today, but he takes the court as he always does – ever confident, leaning forward on to the balls of his feet in happy anticipation, arms jangling at his sides. “Mission day,"he announces with a clap. “Time to get busy." Within moments he is making quick work of his competition, stunning the crowded, noisy gym into reverential silence. (
Darcy Frey : The Last Shot)

Other Pages in This Section :

Choose A Good Title.

Write Strong Leads.

Keep Your Sentences and Paragraphs to a Reasonable Length.

Chunk Your Writing Into Manageable Units.

Avoid Antagonizing Your Readers.

Make Your Writing Look Good.

Use Figurative And Connotative Language Sparingly.

Avoid Stereotypes And Offensive Labeling.

Maintain A Civil Tone.

Successful Writing Index

From Keep Your Writing Tight And Unified to HOME PAGE