Identifying the topic/ ideas, coherence&unity in paragraph
Forming coherent paragraphsIdentifying major and minor ideasAchieving unity & coherence
Understanding the topic, the gist, or the larger conceptual framework of a textbook chapter, an article, a paragraph, a sentence or a passage is a sophisticated reading task. Being able to draw conclusions, evaluate, and critically interpret articles or chapters is important for overall comprehension in college reading. Textbook chapters, articles, paragraphs, sentences, or passages all have topics and main ideas. The topic is the broad, general theme or message. It is what some call the subject. The main idea is the "key concept" being expressed. Details, major and minor, support the main idea by telling how, what, when, where, why, how much, or how many. Locating the topic, main idea, and supporting details helps you understand the point(s) the writer is attempting to express. Identifying the relationship between these will increase your comprehension
The successful communication of any authors topic is only as good as the organization the author uses to build and define his/her subject matter.
A paragraph is a group of sentences related to a particular topic, or central theme. Every paragraph has a key concept or main idea. The main idea is the most important piece of information the author wants you to know about the concept of that paragraph.When authors write they have an idea in mind that they are trying to get across. This is especially true as authors compose paragraphs. An author organizes each paragraphs main idea and supporting details in support of the topic or central theme, and each paragraph supports the paragraph preceding it.A writer will state his/her main idea explicitly somewhere in the paragraph. That main idea may be stated at the beginning of the paragraph, in the middle, or at the end. The sentence in which the main idea is stated is the topic sentence of that paragraph.The topic sentence announces the general theme ( or portion of the theme) to be dealt with in the paragraph. Although the topic sentence may appear anywhere in the paragraph, it is usually first - and for a very good reason. This sentence provides the focus for the writer while writing and for the reader while reading. When you find the topic sentence, be sure to underline it so that it will stand out not only now, but also later when you review.
The first thing you must be able to do to get at the main idea of a paragraph is to identify the topic - the subject of the paragraph. Think of the paragraph as a wheel with the topic being the hub - the central core around which the whole wheel (or paragraph) spins. Your strategy for topic identification is simply to ask yourself the question, "What is this about?" Keep asking yourself that question as you read a paragraph, until the answer to your question becomes clear. Sometimes you can spot the topic by looking for a word or two that repeat. Usually you can state the topic in a few words.
Let us try this topic-finding strategy. Reread the first paragraph on this page - the next slide after the Applying strategy, Grasping the Main Idea. Ask yourself the question, "What is this paragraph about?" To answer, say to yourself in your mind, "The author keeps talking about paragraphs and the way they are designed. This must be the topic - paragraph organization." Reread the second paragraph of the same section. Ask yourself "What is this paragraph about?" Did you say to yourself, "This paragraph is about different ways to organize a paragraph"? That is the topic. Next, reread the third paragraph and see if you can find the topic of the paragraph. How? Write the topic in the margin next to this paragraph. Remember, getting the main idea of a paragraph is crucial to reading.
Exercise: Read the following paragraph and underline the stated main idea. Write down in your own words what you are able to conclude from the information.The rules of conduct during an examination are clear. No books, calculators or papers are allowed in the test room. Proctors will not allow anyone with such items to take the test. Anyone caught cheating will be asked to leave the room. His or her test sheet will be taken. The incident will be reported to the proper authority. At the end of the test period, all materials will be returned to the proctor. Failure to abide by these rules will result in a failing grade for this test.
Answer: You should have underlined the first sentence in the paragraph - this is the stated main idea. What can be concluded from the information is: If you do not follow the rules, you will automatically fail the test. This concluding information is found in the last sentence.
The topic sentence is a primarily prescriptive grammatical term to describe the sentence in an expository paragraph which summarizes the main idea of that paragraph. It is usually, but not always, the first sentence in a paragraph. The topic sentence acts as a kind of summary, and offers the reader an insightful view of the writer‘s main ideas for the following paragraph. More than just being a mere summary, however, a topic sentence often provides a claim or an insight directly or indirectly related to the thesis. It adds cohesion to a paper and helps organize ideas both within the paragraph and the whole body of work at large. Its use is considered standard in the American educational system and most venues of writing mainly because it increases reading accessibility.
A topic sentence is often, but not always, the first sentence in a paragraph. It tells the MAIN IDEA of the paragraph. It also tells what the author wants to SAY ABOUT the topic.
A topic sentence tells the main idea of the paragraph as well as what the author wants to say about the topic.
A topic sentence is not a simple fact. ◦ Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. This is a detail. This could be used in the body of the paragraph. A topic sentence is not a question. ◦ Who invented the light bulb we use today? This could be used as an ―attention grabber.‖
A topic sentence tells what the main idea of the paragraph will be. ◦ We will call this the ―subject‖ of the paragraph. A topic sentence tells what the author is going to say about the subject. ◦ We will call this the ―controlling idea‖ of the paragraph.
SUBJECT + CONTROLLING IDEA The invention of the light bulb ◦ (subject) changed the world in many ways ◦ (controlling idea) The invention of the light bulb changed the world in many ways. - or, you can reverse the two - The world was changed in many ways by the invention of the light bulb.
Subjects can be fairly broad. The controlling idea will limit the subject. Examples of subject could be: ◦ Daisies ◦ Space Travel ◦ Easter ◦ Tooth Decay ◦ Pride
The subject of a paragraph could be almost anything. mummies wealth chores
It is better to narrow your subject. Ancient Egyptian the quest for gold washing dishes by hand death rituals
A controlling idea limits the subject It can express an opinion It can provide focus by answering a question It may suggest a list.
―A beagle is different from other hounds because of three unique characteristics.‖ The subject is ―beagles.‖ The controlling idea is ―characteristics‖ The paragraph will talk about beagles, and it will list its three unique characteristics. The subject is controlled by its characteristics.
―Beagles make good pets for several reasons.‖ The subject is ―beagles make good pets.‖ The controlling idea is ―reasons‖ The paragraph will talk about beagles making good pets, and it will list several reasons. The subject is controlled by the reasons.
―Ancient Egyptians followed seven steps to mummify their kings.‖ The subject is ―Ancient Egyptians mummified their kings.‖ The controlling idea is ―seven steps.‖ The paragraph will talk about Egyptian mummies, and will list seven steps to creating one. The subject is being controlled by the steps.
―If you want to create high quality ice cream, you must be aware of several precautions.‖ The subject is ―making ice cream.‖ The controlling idea is ―precautions.‖ The paragraph will talk about taking precautions when making ice cream. The subject is controlled by precautions.
―There are benefits to making your own ice cream.‖ The subject is ―making ice cream.‖ The controlling idea is ―benefits.‖ This time, the paragraph will talk about the benefits of making your own ice cream. The subject is controlled by benefits.
―There are two ways to make ice cream at home.‖ The subject is ―making ice cream.‖ The controlling idea is ―ways to do it.‖ This time, the paragraph will talk about the ways of making your own ice cream. The subject is controlled by ways (methods, etc.).
A topic sentence will tell the SUBJECT of the paragraph and may answer one of these questions: ◦ Why? Why is Bermuda a popular vacation spot? ◦ Which? Which weapons were harmful to our own soldiers? ◦ Where? Where are the best locations for hunting moose? ◦ What? What precautions should be taken to avoid injury? ◦ How? How did Ancient Egyptians mummify their kings?
A topic sentence of a paragraph introduces the SUBJECT of the paragraph and limits what the author will say about the subject by adding a CONTROLLING IDEA. The controlling idea may answer a question, suggest a list, or express an opinion. SUBJECT + CONTROLLING IDEA = Topic Sentence
states the topic of the paragraphA good topic sentence identifies the focus
Look at the topic sentence above.1. What do you think is the topic of this sentence?2. What is the focus?
1. What is the topic of this sentence?2. What is the focus? Notice that both sentences have the same topic, but the focus is different.
A topic sentence must be a complete sentence to perform all the necessary functions A topic sentence cannot be a question. Phrases such as ―I think‖ or ―in my opinion‖ may muddle or weaken topic sentences.
The topic sentence should provide clear relationships among all of its elements so that it can provide a framework for understanding the rest of the paragraph. A topic sentence needs to be clear and specific, so that it can predict and summarize the rest of the paragraph for the reader.
A topic sentence must be coherent so that the reader can use it as a key to the rest of the paragraph. Because the topic sentence is a reference for the rest of the paragraph, it needs to be exceptionally clear.
#1 Power (NumberStatements) A Power (Number) statement is a sentence that contains a number word. The number word is the focus of the sentence. It tells your reader that a list of information will follow.
Helpful number words:A couple of a number ofNumerous someVarious a myriadMany fourSeveral two
Examples Three cities have serious pollution problems. In winter I enjoy watching several high school sports. I enjoy four kinds of music. The parade was wonderful; two exciting things happened.
Avoiding ―There are‖ When writing power statements, there are, these are or here are can become a trap. Instead try starting with a who, what, where, or when.
Topic = FriendsWho: Tamara and Eva are my two best friends.What: The word friendship means two things.Where: At school I have several good friends.When: Last summer my best friend Samtraveled to three unusual places. Topic = School LunchesWhat: Pizza is the most popular item at lunchfor two reasons.Where: At Woodland Elementary, studentshave many choices at lunchtime.
Paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. Coherent, logically or aesthetically ordered or integrated
A coherent paragraph does more than simply lay down the facts--it organizes them, creating a logical argument that makes sense from idea to idea. Coherent paragraphs have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Elements that contribute to coherence, such as transitional devices, linking pronouns, and repetition of key words, are discussed in the following sections.
"Coherence" refers to the logical flow of ideas in a paragraph. A paragraph is coherent when each sentence leads smoothly into the next one through the use of transitional expressions, logical relation of ideas, repetition of key words, and/or the use of pronouns to refer to a previous subject. A paragraph is not coherent if there are inadequate connections between ideas causing the reader to get lost or to struggle to figure out the authors intentions.
Topic sentence Supporting sentences Support your paragraph Movement of supporting sentences Digressions and deviations Paragraph length Transitional paragraphs Closing sentence Keep to one idea Coherent paragraph
- Topic sentence The first sentence of a paragraph should be a topic sentence, introducing the main idea of the paragraph.- Supporting sentences The supporting sentences of a paragraph (the second sentence onwards) should explain or ―support‖ the idea expressed in the topic sentence (first sentence).
- Support your paragraph Add details and explanations of supporting ideas in your paragraph. With no support or examples, your ideas have no strength. To help you remember to add details, remember ‗RENNS‘ – which stands for Reasons, Examples, Names, Numbers, Senses … all types of support: Reason: Say why your idea is good or bad Examples: Give proof of your ideas Names: Use specific names, titles, etc. Numbers: Give provable numbers Senses: Give details that refer to our senses (sight, touch, smell, sound, taste)
- Movement of supporting sentences The supporting sentences of a paragraph should gradually move from the general to specific qualification of the idea.- Digressions and deviations Keep the sentences of a paragraph focused and unified in the discussion of the topic. Avoid digressions (irrelevant details) and deviations (shifts in focus).- Paragraph length Try to keep your paragraphs about no more than 10 sentences, or 14 lines. Long paragraphs tend to decrease comprehension
- Transitional paragraphs Write transitional paragraphs when switching between two closely related topics, beginning with the old topic and ending with the new.
One way to improve paragraph coherence is through the use of transitional expressions between sentences. Transitional expressions are words used to signify the type of connection between sentences; they indicate that the next sentence will be an example, or the effect of a cause just stated, an explanation, or an expansion of thought on the previous idea, etc.
The most common are: for example - (prepositional phrase) for instance - (prepositional phrase) although - (subordinating conjunction) however - (sentence adverb) but - (coordinating conjunction) because - (subordinating conjunction) moreover - (sentence adverb) therefore - (sentence adverb) furthermore - (sentence adverb) for this reason - (prepositional phrase)
- Closing sentence The closing sentence is the last sentence in a paragraph. It should restate the main idea of the paragraph. But remember – do not repeat the topic sentence; if the idea is the same, then rephrase it. Try and make your closing sentence a ‗clincher‘, leaving your reader thinking about it.- Keep to one idea A good paragraph is one that keeps to one idea. Discuss only one idea or topic of the subject in a paragraph. When moving on to a new idea, start a new paragraph.
- Coherent paragraph Bring coherence to your paragraph in order to make it easily understandable to the reader. Do this by:1. Arranging sentences in a logical order.2. Relating all sentences to each other.3. Forming parallel grammatical structure
- Parallel structure Use the same pattern of words (parallel structure) to show two or more ideas in a sentence.For example: I like reading, writing, and to paint. (Incorrect). I like reading, writing, and painting. (Correct)
Coherence is product of many different factors, which combine to make every paragraph, every sentence, and every phrase contribute to the meaning of the whole piece. Coherence in writing is much more difficult to sustain than coherent speech simply because writers have no nonverbal clues to inform them if their message is clear or not. Therefore, writers must make their patterns of coherence much more explicit and much more carefully planned. Coherence itself is the product of two factors — paragraph unity and sentence cohesion.
Key Words: Key words are the words carrying most significance in a paragraph— the key words are those words a writer wants the reader to focus on as the paragraph progresses. In the following excerpt from a paragraph on sports tourism, note the key words used by the author:
Consistent with the results of other studies, most sport tourists tend to be between the ages of 18 and 44, male, and relatively affluent. Again, as with the first sample (Gibson & Yiannakis, 1992), a notable group of men and women in late adulthood chose to be active sport tourists. This information can be readily demonstrated by the winter-month use of golf courses in the southeastern United States by "snowbirds." For recreation agencies in these areas, winter-month use by retirees is of prime importance. For leisure education practitioners, such activity patterns not only dispel stereotypes attributed to older adults but also support the idea of teaching sport skills that can be practiced throughout a persons life. The majority of active sport tourist research has focused on people who participate in one specific sport. . . (Gibson)
sport tourists These key wordssport tourists remind the readersport that the detailssport discussed all elaborate on thesport tourists subject of sports tourism.
Echo words and phrases allow writers to remind the reader of the topic being discussed without becoming repetitive, as too much repetition of the same words can be distracting and even irritating to a reader. Echo words are actually synonyms for the key word, but they can also be phrases. Consider the echo words in the following paragraph about tourists and souvenirs:The steady production of souvenirs throughout the mid-20th century has created a well that collectors can tap. The objects that have proved the most desirable in recent years are ones dating from the 1920s through the 1960s. For collectors, the good news is that the tablecloths, tumblers, snow globes, ashtrays, charm bracelets, and other objects from this period were produced in such large quantities that surviving examples are still easy to find and affordable. Prices range from a few dollars to a few hundred, with many falling between $20 and $40. (Proeller)The key word in this paragraph is "souvenirs." To avoid repetition of this word, however, the author uses substitutes: "objects" and "examples." Note, too, that the author adds adjectives and modifying phrases to the echo words to further clarify her meaning, as in "other objects from this period," and "surviving examples." Echo words and phrases are far more desirable than general pronouns like "this" and "it" because they do add so much clarity to the sentence. In fact, using these general pronouns can often get developing writers into trouble with pronoun reference problems, so an echo word or phrase is a far better choice for a subject.
Pronouns: Pronouns have a place in creating coherence, however. Pronouns can help a writer avoid repetition of a subject when there is no confusion about who or what that subject is. And then there are those collectors who find the whole vintage-souvenir genre irresistible, and they collect with wild abandon. (Proeller) If there is potential confusion about the word the pronoun refers to, the using an echo word or phrase is probably preferable.
Limited investment in the housing sector makes it practically impossible to allocate sufficient resources for urban dwellers housing needs. A high rate of urban population growth has increased the countrys needs for housing. A small group of city officials has laid out a new plan to combat the crisis. A solution to the housing-shortage problem is a vital policy issue here. The housing problem has grown in the last twenty years.[Although related by topic (housing shortage), each sentence makes its own separate point with no link to the sentences before or after. The result is a group of related yet separate ideas instead of one coherent paragraph.]
Limited investment in the housing sector makes it practically impossible to allocate sufficient resources for urban dwellers housing needs. In fact, the problem has grown in the last twenty years. Because a high rate of urban population growth has increased the countrys needs for housing, a solution to the housing-shortage problem is a vital policy issue here. A small group of city officials has laid out a new plan to combat the crisis.[Each separate fact now flows into the next, creating a coherent whole.]
Todays tax accountants perform a variety of tasks for their firms or clients. They may prepare corporate tax returns, research reports, and correspondence that answers clients questions or document answers to questions clients ask by phone. In larger accounting firms, tax accountants often specialize in corporate or individual taxation. The tax accountant may also specialize in estate or gift taxation or perhaps oil and gas taxation, a growing field. The tax accountant will always try to minimize the individuals or the companys tax liability. But in preparing tax forms for clients, the tax specialist must be sure that the rules and regulations of the IRS are followed and that the client receives not only the best advice but legal advice. Thus, all tax documents must be clear and correct, whether they are short letters to clients or detailed research reports.
The effective tax accountant must be a good communicator. While the tax accountant may specialize in various fields-- corporate tax, individual tax, oil and gas tax, even estate and gift tax--work within any specialization requires communication between the accountant and the client. The tax accountant will have numerous conversations with clients by phone and will then document the answers to questions by letter. The tax accountant will also write letters that give instructions to clients. But within the firm, the accountant will document all research done to answer the clients question or to give the client instructions. Thus, in addition to letters, the accountant must write internal reports that may be later sent to the IRS if the client is audited.
Those internal reports also help any other tax accountant who may be assigned to a clients case. Other typical communications the tax accountant write are research reports for clients, protest letters to the IRS., and even articles for publication in tax journals. Tax accounting, is, then, communication. For that reason, large accounting firms tell young accountants that they may know tax accounting, but unless they can communicate what they know, they will face a dim future in this profession.
The main idea is the ―key concept‖ being expressed. Details, major and minor, support the main idea by telling how, what, when, where, why, how much, or how many . Locating the topic, main idea, and supporting details help you understand the point(s) the writer is attempting to express. Identifying relationship between these will increase your comprehension.
The bulk of an expository paragraph is made up of supporting sentences(major and minor details), which help to explainor prove the main idea. These sentences present facts, reasons, examples, definitions, compari son, contrast and other pertinent details. They are most important because they sell the main idea.
The last sentence of a paragraph is likely to be a concluding sentence. It is used to sum up a discussion, to emphasize a point, or to restate all or part of the topic sentence so as to bring the paragraph to a close. The last sentence may also be a transitional sentence leading to the next paragraph.
General ideas that stated the main idea of text ◦ Reasons ◦ Points in argument ◦ Points of a comparison ◦ Further elaboration of main idea
Specifics that illustrate or support the major details of a text. ◦ Examples ◦ Specific details ◦ Specific instances ◦ Statistics
Signal words o Minor details ◦ Major details • For example First, second, third, • An example is One • For instance Another • To be specific Furthermore • That is Moreover • This means Next • Case is point Also • To illustrate Finally Not all major & minor details have signal words
Stated main idea; Dogs benefit humans in many waysMajor Details ◦ First, Dogs often act as companions, giving their owners love and attention ◦ Next, thy protect their owner‘s property, ◦ They also work as seeing eye dogs assisting the blind ◦ Moreover, they assist paraplegics by fetching their owners needed items
Minor details• This is why they are called man‘s ―Best Friend‖• For example, they protect homes, work sites, and junk yards.• For instance, they can assist the blind person with crossing the street safely or maneuvering through a crowded store.
Every paragraph has a topic.Every paragraph has a main idea.When an author includes a sentence in a paragraph that tells his or her most important point about the topic, that sentence is called the stated main idea sentence.
The main idea answers the question, ―What is the author‘s one most importantpoint about the topic?‖
Must always contain the topic (the word, name, or phrase that tells who or what the paragraph is about) Must always make complete sense by itself (even if you couldn‘t read the rest of the paragraph) Must be a general sentence that sums up the details in the paragraph
Can appear anywhere in a paragraph: Most often it appears at the beginning. The next most likely location is at the end. The third possibility is somewhere else within the paragraph.Regardless of where it appears, it will have supporting details thatexplain more about it, give examples of it, or prove it.
When you think you have located a stated main idea sentence, see if it meets these criteria:1. The sentence contains the topic.2. The sentence tells the author‘s most important point about the topic.3. The sentence makes complete sense by itself.
It‘s important that you findThe point the author has in mind.The main idea is its name,But ―topic sentence‖ is the same.The main idea is top-shelf;It makes sense all by itself.And never once should you doubt it:Details all tell more about it.This sentence has the topic, too.It gives a summary or overview.Stated main ideas you can find,So highlight them or underline.
Details consists of specific information such as examples, explanations, descriptions, proof, and statistics. Who, what, when, where, why, how? The answers will be in the details.
Only ONE sentence can be the stated main idea in a paragraph. Avoid choosing a sentence just because it interests you or you think it sounds important. Be sure you understand the sentence. The main idea is NEVER a question. Examples are details that support the main idea, so examples cannot be the main idea. Watch for words or phrases authors use to signal their main idea: The point is, It is important, Thus, etc.
Read the entire paragraph before you decide if there is a stated main idea sentence. Longer selections (such as textbook sections, essays, articles, and editorials) can have overall stated main ideas. Locating the main idea is a skill that underlies several important study skills, such as marking a text, outlining, making concept maps, and writing summaries.
Main idea and details are not the same. The main idea is general. Details are specific. Examples are always details. Underline the main idea, but number the details in a paragraph. Details are often presented in a bulleted, numbered, or lettered list. Details are often introduced by In addition, also, moreover, another, next, then, last, finally, etc. The main idea may give a clue about the number of types of details: ―There are four categories of galaxies.‖
Not surprisingly, the crime victims are often called upon to identify the person who robbed or attacked them. For a jury, the victim‘s testimony is often proof positive that the accused is guilty. After all, who can better identify the wrongdoer than the person harmed. This is just common sense. Yet as is so often the case, common sense can be misleading. As it turns out, crime victims don‘t necessarily make reliable witnesses. Overcome with fear, they often close their eyes or focus fixedly on the weapon being used to threaten them. As a result, they don‘t get a good look at the thief or attacker. While it‘s not true that crime victim testimony is always inaccurate, it‘s also true that one can‘t assume a victim‘s identification is automatic proof of guilt.
a. Crime victims do not always correctlyidentify those who have harmed them.b. Crime victim testimony is almostalways inaccurate because during thecrime, the victim was overcome withterror.c. The testimony of crime victims hasput far too many people in jail
Correct. Although the passage begins by pointing out how thetestimony of the victim can decide the guilt of the accused, thisidea is reversed by sentence 5, a transitional sentence. Thetransitional sentence introduces the real main idea of theparagraph: Crime victims do not always correctly identify theirattackers. This is the main idea of the paragraph. That main ideais summed up in sentence 6, which also happens to be the topicsentence.Incorrect. While the author certainly says that crime victims canwrongly identify their attackers, at no point does she claim that thevictims are almost always wrong.Incorrect. Given that crime victims can make mistakes, thisstatement might be true. Still, it doesn’t sum up the main idea ofthe paragraph, which does not give any examples or offer anystatistics about people wrongly convicted due to the testimony ofa victim. This is the kind of support the author would need to offerto make answer c be the main idea of the paragraph.
Unity means that the paragraph should be united as one. The paragraph must not only be complete on its development rather it should also be unified with its structure. It means that the topic sentence in the paragraph should be supported by all of the other sentences. Coherence means that there is continuity or connection that is established either within the paragraph or between paragraphs. Coherence is evident when all of the sentences in the paragraph sticks and links together in a continues line and unites an idea
If one is looking for unity of paragraphs, it is important to find that common denominator between the paragraphs that will unite them. It is also good to have some sort of rallying cry or catchy slogan that will inspire unity amongst the paragraphs. All paragraphs are not united in the same goals and it is important to understand that if you are attempting to unite the paragraphs towards a common cause, you wont have much luck getting the capitalists paragraphs to join the communist party of paragraphs no matter how clever or catchy your slogan might be. If you want to achieve unity of paragraphs it is best to unite those paragraphs that can get along and work well with each other, as they will be stuck with each other for some time once written down for posterity.
Now, coherence is another matter and if one is attempting to achieve some sort of coherence in the paragraph writing, there is no need to worry about what is known or the knowledge necessary to make an argument in order to achieve coherence in your writing of paragraphs. You dont need to know what your writing about in order to achieve a coherence between paragraphs.
To achieve paragraph unity, a writer must ensure two things only. First, the paragraph must have a single generalization that serves as the focus of attention, that is, a topic sentence. Secondly, a writer must control the content of every other sentence in the paragraphs body such that (a) it contains more specific information than the topic sentence and (b) it maintains the same focus of attention as the topic sentence.
This generalization about paragraph structure holds true for the essay in particular. The two major exceptions to this formula for paragraph unity are found in fiction (where paragraph boundaries serve other functions, such as indicating when a new speaker is talking in a story) and in journalism (where paragraphs are especially short to promote visual ease by creating white space).
To achieve cohesion, the link of one sentence to the next, consider the following techniques: Repetition. In sentence B (the second of any two sentences), repeat a word from sentence A. Synonymy. If direct repetition is too obvious, use a synonym of the word you wish to repeat. This strategy is call elegant variation.‗ Antonymy. Using the opposite word, an antonym, can also create sentence cohesion, since in language antonyms actually share more elements of meaning than you might imagine.
Pro-forms. Use a pronoun, pro-verb, or another pro- form to make explicit reference back to a form mentioned earlier. Collocation. Use a commonly paired or expected or highly probable word to connect one sentence to another. Enumeration. Use overt markers of sequence to highlight the connection between ideas. This system has many advantages: (a) it can link ideas that are otherwise completely unconnected, (b) it looks formal and distinctive, and (c) it promotes a second method of sentence cohesion, discussed in (7) below.
Parallelism. Repeat a sentence structure. This technique is the oldest, most overlooked, but probably the most elegant method of creating cohesion. Transitions. Use a conjunction or conjunctive adverb to link sentences with particular logical relationships. Identity. Indicates sameness. that is, that is to say, in other words, ...
Opposition. Indicates a contrast. but, yet, however, nevertheless, still, though, although, whereas, in contrast, rather, ... Addition. Indicates continuation. and, too, also, furthermore, moreover, in addition, besides, in the same way, again, another, similarly, a similar, the same, ...
Cause and effect. therefore, so, consequently, as a consequence, thus, as a result, hence, it follows that, because, since, for, ... Indefinites. Indicates a logical connection of an unspecified type. in fact, indeed, now, ...
Concession. Indicates a willingness to consider the other side. admittedly, I admit, true, I grant, of course, naturally, some believe, some people believe, it has been claimed that, once it was believed, there are those who would say, ... Exemplification. Indicates a shift from a more general or abstract idea to a more specific or concrete idea. for example, for instance, after all, an illustration of, even, indeed, in fact, it is true, of course, specifically, to be specific, that is, to illustrate, truly, ...
The same might be said about an effective paragraph. Unity is the quality of sticking to one idea from start to finish, with every sentence contributing to the central purpose and main idea of that paragraph.As weve seen, a topic sentence contains the main idea upon which a paragraph is developed. In a unified paragraph, all of the supporting sentences serve to illustrate, clarify, and/or explain the main idea set forth in the topic sentence.
The best way to demonstrate the importance of unity is to show how the intrusion of irrelevant information can disrupt our understanding of a paragraph. The original version of the following passage, taken from The Names: A Memoir, by N. Scott Momaday, vividly illustrates how people in the Pueblo of Jemez in New Mexico prepare for the Feast of San Diego. Weve upset the unity of Momadays paragraph by adding one sentence thats not directly connected to his main idea. See if you can spot that sentence.
The activity in the pueblo reached a peak on the day before the Feast of San Diego, November twelfth. It was on that day, an especially brilliant day in which the winter held off and the sun shone like a flare, that Jemez became one of the fabulous cities of the world. In the preceding days the women had plastered the houses, many of them, and they were clean and beautiful like bone in the high light; the strings of chilies at the vigas had darkened a little and taken on a deeper, softer sheen; ears of colored corn were strung at the doors, and fresh cedar boughs were laid about, setting a whole, wild fragrance on the air. The women were baking bread in the outdoor ovens. Here and there men and women were at the woodpiles, chopping, taking up loads of firewood for their kitchens, for the coming feast. Year round, the artisans of Jemez, known internationally for their crafts, would create beautiful basketry, embroidery, woven cloths, exquisite stone sculpture, moccasins, and jewelry. Even the children were at work: the little boys looked after the stock, and the little girls carried babies about. There were gleaming antlers on the rooftops, and smoke arose from all the chimneys.
The third-to-last sentence ("Year round, the artisans of Jemez . . .") is our distracting addition to Momadays passage. The added sentence upsets the unity of the paragraph by offering information that is not directly relevant to the main idea (as stated in the first sentence) or to any of the other sentences in the paragraph. Whereas Momaday focuses specifically on activities taking place "the day before the Feast of San Diego," the intrusive sentence refers to work thats done "year round."
By moving irrelevant information to a new paragraph--or by omitting that information altogether--we can improve the unity of our paragraphs when we come to revise them.
The following paragraph, which has also been adapted from The Names: A Memoir, by N. Scott Momaday, describes the very end of the busy day before the Feast of San Diego. Again, we have added a sentence thats not directly connected to the authors main idea. See if you can identify this sentence, which upsets the unity of the paragraph, and then compare your response with the answer at the bottom of the page.
Later in the dusky streets I walked among the Navajo camps, past the doorways of the town, from which came the good smells of cooking, the festive sounds of music, laughter, and talk. The campfires rippled in the crisp wind that arose with evening and set a soft yellow glow on the ground, low on the adobe walls. A natural building material used for several thousand years, adobe is composed of sand and straw, which is shaped into bricks on wooden frames and dried in the sun. Mutton sizzled and smoked above the fires; fat dripped into the flames; there were great black pots of strong coffee and buckets full of fried bread; dogs crouched on the rim of the light, the many circles of light; and old men sat hunched in their blankets on the ground, in the cold shadows, smoking. . . . Long into the night the fires cast a glare over the town, and I could hear the singing, until it seemed that one by one the voices fell away, and one remained, and then there was none. On the very edge of sleep I heard coyotes in the hills.
The third sentence in the paragraph ("A natural building material used for several thousand years, adobe . . .) is the odd one out: the information about adobe bricks is not directly relevant to the night scene described in the rest of the passage. To restore the unity of Momadays paragraph, delete this sentence
Different people achieve paragraph unity in different ways. You asked me how I achieve it. Since I use a word processor in my writing, I will share my technique. Other people use their own technique. First: I write my conclusion. I write where I want the paragraph to end. I write my ultimate goal. Second: I write my introduction. This is my first sentence. This introduces the paragraph. Third: I write the body of the paragraph: This explains how I get from my first sentence to my last sentence. Fourth. I cut and paste my conclusion to the end of the paragraph. Fifth: I read what I have and see if it makes sense. Sixth: I revise it.
If you don‘t write good paragraphs, few people will want to read your work. You will be viewed or judged as a writer who doesn‘t know how to write well. To do this, the writer needs to know how to create a unified and coherent paragraph. The writer also needs to know how to develop a paragraph.
A unified paragraph has a topical sentence and a group of sentences that provide support to the topical sentence. For many paragraphs, especially if they are topical paragraphs, the topical sentence comes first. Sometimes, though, the topical sentence is the last sentence in the paragraph. Occasionally, the topical sentence is implied by the writer.
Before writing the content of your essay or article, create an outline of the main points that you intend to write about. For each main point, jot down a topical sentence. When you write the content or body of your work, you can expand each topical sentence into a paragraph.
For each topical sentence, determine its purpose. Do you want to explain? Describe? Persuade? Narrate a story? Based on your purpose, you can provide the following types of support/details to create a unified paragraph:• Facts or evidence• Statistics• Details• Examples• Anecdotes• Analogies• Quotations
The following example shows how to create a paragraph. The first sentence is the topical sentence, followed by sentences that provide supporting details.
You can increase your chances of living a long life by choosing a healthy lifestyle. There are a number of life choices you can make. You can start by engaging in cardio exercise each day for 30 minutes. You can also reduce your consumption of alcoholic beverages to no more than 2 drinks per day. You can quit smoking cigarettes. If you are overweight, you can stop eating junk food, reduce your calorie intake, and eat more fruit and vegetables. If you are stressed out, you can find more time to relax, rest, and engage in leisure pursuits that bring joy to your life.
The most important point to remember about writing a paragraph is to use a topical sentence and to include only details that support the topical sentence.
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