Successful Writing : Crafting Paragraphs

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Create paragraphs that will make life easier for your readers.

Crafting Paragraphs is an art that you should master. Most of us seem to think naturally in sentences. We don’t however think in paragraphs. They are artificial divisions created by writers – or sometimes editors – because readers need them. They break writing into chunks so that readers can process and absorb what they’re reading without bogging down and having to reread. And since most of us don’t have editors to help us, we have to learn paragraphing on out own. How does one do that? Partly through practice and partly through developing a keep sense of audience. The more conscious you are of your audience, the better you will become at crafting paragraphs.

You can look at paragraphing from two points of view : external and internal. When you create paragraphs from an external point of view, you’re paragraphing for appearance. When you create paragraphs from an internal point of view, you’re paragraphing for unity and coherence.

Let’s consider both the external and internal views.

  • The External View of Paragraphing

  • The Internal View of Paragraphing

  • Crafting Opening Paragraphs

  • Wrestling With Closing Paragraphs

  • For Practice :

    1. Read over the following paragraph to see where you think it could be broken into shorter paragraphs.

    In outline it was a good plan, but it quite failed to take into account the mentality of buzzards. As soon as they were wired to the tree, they all began to try and fly away. The wires prevented that, of course, but did not prevent them from falling off the limbs where they dangled upside down, wings flapping nether parts exposed. It is hard to imagine anything less likely to beguile a movie going audience than a tree full of dangling buzzards. Everyone agreed it was unaesthetic. The buzzards were righted but they tried again and with each try their humiliation deepened. Finally they abandoned their effort to fly away and resigned themselves to life on the tree. Their resignation was so complete that when the scene was readied and the time came for them to fly they refused. They had had enough of ignominy better to wait on the limb indefinitely. Buzzards are not without patience. Profanity, firecrackers and even a shotgun full of rock salt failed to move them. I am told that in desperation a bid man was flown in from L.A. to teach the sulky bastards how to fly. The whole experience left everyone touchy. A day or so later, looking at the pictures again, I hated a further provocative detail. The dead heifer that figured so prominently in the scene was quite clearly a steer. When I pointed this out to the still photographers, they just shrugged. A steer was close enough, after all they were both essentially cows. “In essence, it’s a cow,’ one said moodily. No one wanted those buzzards back again.

    2. What kind of follow - through in the rest of the paragraph would reader expect after reading the following opening sentences?

    • It is hard to see why anyone would think that religion is a cure for the world’s problems. (Steven Weinberg)

    • In twentieth – century America we place so much emphasis on romance that we barely notice the other essentials of marriage that include economics and child rearing. (Anne Roiphe)

    • There are fair–weather friends and foul–weather friends and we need both kinds in our lives, especially so because each is likely to absent himself rather abruptly when the wind shifts. (Edward Hoagland)

    3. Working with two or three other students, discuss what kind of paragraph you could write to follow through on each of these opening sentences. Then choose the one you find most interesting and draft a paragraph together to be shared with the rest of the class.

    When enrolling in a college or university, students are often unaware how much student fees will add to the cost of their education.

    The average American squanders water in ways that would be unthinkable in arid countries like Israel or Morocco.

    While boys are usually less fashion – conscious than girls, many of them are certainly swayed by current trends in Hairstyles and body ornament.

    For Writing :

    1. As a volunteer at a city clinic, you have been asked to write the copy for a brochure that will be available to patients who come to the clinic. Your supervisor wants the brochure to explain to young women who come in with problem pregnancies what options are open to them through the clinic and other organization. She emphasizes that the brochure should use simple but neutral language and should keep a positive tone. It should not exceed 600 words. Remember that brochure text is often set in narrow columns, so keep your paragraphs short.

    2. Create a web site for an animal rescue organization for which you want to recruit new members. It could be something like a group that finds homes with private owners for retired K–9 police dogs, an association that arranges adoptions for abandoned or abused weimaraners or an organization that finds homes in the country for saddle horses that have been retired from riding stables. Explain your organization’s goals, how it operates, what success it has had and what kinds of volunteers it needs. If you can, include a picture to enhance the appeal of your announcement.

    3. Write an article for a weekly newspaper for retried citizens in your community .Your goal is to convince your readers that they would enjoy and benefit from buying a computer and connecting to the Internet. Work at crafting an opening paragraph that will catch your reader’ interest but is not patronizing. In subsequent paragraphs, explain some advantages of email, what kinds of services the world wide web offers – travel discounts and bookstores, for example – and mention some of the kinds of chat groups or special interest sites they might enjoy.

    This article will require some research, but don’t overwhelm your reader with paragraphs that include too much information. Give some specific example to illustrate your points. Estimate costs including those of a monitor and printer and perhaps and additional phone line and describe two or three servers they might sign up with and at what cost. Your article should not exceed 1,000 words.

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