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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tips for effective paragraph division

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.
All of us are well aware that any coherent writing piece consists of an introduction, body and conclusion. Despite this clarity, sometimes our writing pieces aren’t easy to understand as the paragraphs either don’t present a clear, well connected thought or the paragraphs are not connected properly with each other.
For effective paragraphing, there are basically three things to be kept in mind:
  1. TOPIC SENTENCE- this is written in the beginning of a paragraph and communicates the basic idea of the paragraph. Because of the topic sentence, even without reading the entire paragraph, the reader gets an idea of what is going to follow.
Look at the example given below. The first and last sentences (in bold) introduce and summarize the content.
SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put, on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or, if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY.

George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”
In a coherent paragraph,
·         Each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or the controlling idea
·         Each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps
·         The arguments or counter arguments are also clearly presented to the reader
·         It also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure clear
To make it coherent:
·         Mention key words or phrases
·         Be consistent in the point of view, verb, tense, number
·         Use transition phrases/ discourse markers
  1. Discourse Markers/ Transitional Phrases
In Practical English Usage, a 'discourse marker' is defined as 'a word or expression which shows the connection between what is being said and the wider context'.It is something that
a) connects a sentence to what comes before or after, or
b) indicates a speaker's attitude to what he is saying.
 The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.
I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular.
Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”
To show addition:
again, and, also, besides, equally important, first (second, etc.), further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, moreover, next, too
To give examples:
for example, for instance, in fact, specifically, that is, to illustrate
To compare:
also, in the same manner, likewise, similarly
To contrast:
although, and yet, at the same time, but, despite, even though, however, in contrast, in spite of, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, though, yet
To summarize or conclude:
all in all, in conclusion, in other words, in short, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to sum up
To show time:
after, afterward, as, as long as, as soon as, at last, before, during, earlier, finally, formerly, immediately, later, meanwhile, next, since, shortly, subsequently, then, thereafter, until, when, while
To show place or direction:
above, below, beyond, close, elsewhere, farther on, here, nearby, opposite, to the left (north, etc.)
To indicate logical relationship:
accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for this reason, hence, if, otherwise, since, so, then, therefore, thus

Nevertheless, a text which is poorly organized is not going to be made more coherent
simply by ‘peppering it’ with discourse markers. The following text is an example of a text that
is overloaded with discourse markers.

Louie rushed and got ready for work, but, when he went out the door, he saw the
snowstorm was very heavy. Therefore, he decided not to go to work. Then, he sat down to
enjoy his newspaper. However, he realized his boss might get angry because he did not go
to the office. Finally, he made another decision, that he must go to work. So, he went out
the door and walked to the bus stop.

Hence, make sure to choose the words judiciously to produce a well balanced text.

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