Writing is much more than producing correct sentences. How you structure and organize the sentences to express your thoughts is what writing is all about.
The sentence is the basic unit of grammar;
the paragraph is the basic unit of writing.
Good paragraphs also have an underlying structure. I also like to say that the paragraph is the basic unit of thinking. This unit should have a structure like the skeleton gives shape to the body. The ideas in your paragraph need to be organized around a structure. There are many possible types of paragraphs that you may use in your writing.
TASK: Browse this site: http://www.mhhe.com/mayfieldpub/tsw/para-dev.htm
You should think of a paragraph as
a single unit. If it is a unit, it should hold together. In writing
books, we call this coherence.
There are many structures we can use to write paragraphs. http://www.io.com/~hcexres/tcm1603/acchtml/structov.html
Once we have a clear structure, there are many ways we can improve our paragraphs.
HAVE ONE MAIN IDEA PER PARAGRAPH
The first strategy is called the TOPIC SENTENCE
"Topic sentences appear most frequently as the first sentence in a paragraph. This position helps readers become oriented immediately to the paragraph's topic and facilitates communication (e.g., an estimated 95% of paragraphs in professional/technical writing begin with their topic sentences)” source: http://web.mit.edu/writing/Writing_Process/topicsentence.html
SURE EVERYTHING IN THE PARAGRAPH SUPPORTS YOUR ONE MAIN POINT
One way to check your paragraphs is to look at the level of generality.
By analyzing this, you can see if they are well supported or not. If you have two sentences in your paragraph that are the most general statements, you should probably split it into two paragraphs and provide more support for each part. http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/paragraphs.htm
If the first sentence is the topic sentence, then it should be labeled as a level "1," because in a sense, it is the most "general" statement in the paragraph. Sentences labeled as level "2" support or continue to explain the idea in the topic sentence; they are less general than the topic sentence because they focus on something specific that is related to the topic sentence. Sentences labeled as level "3" support or continue to explain level "2" sentences. Sentences labeled as level "4" support or continue to explain level "3" sentences, and so on.
TASK: Read this explanation. http://www.english.upenn.edu/Grad/Teachweb/jdparag.html
If you change a level of analysis, you should often include a transition signal.
TASK: Choose a paragraph from your own paper and analyze it using this method. Number the sentences from 1 to 4. What does it tell you about your paragraph?
TASK: analyze a
paragraph from your writing. Is there one main point for each paragraph?
In order to write clearly, you should help the reader to identify the subject of your sentence. Most dangerous are unclear references. This happens most often with pronouns like it these, that and they.
Read but do not scroll down. http://www.io.com/~hcexres/tcm1603/acchtml/gram2.html#proref
On way to solve this problem is to
use "This" + a term or Noun Phrase summarizing the previous sentence.
This links one sentence to the next one.
TASK: Read the introduction of
your model paper. Scan for any summary nouns and underline them. Then
delete or cross out the noun and see how much more difficult it is to
Another way is to repeat the key nouns in the paragraph.
repeat key nouns.
Source: Automated high-level movie segmentation for advanced video-retrieval systems - Hanjalic et al. http://citeseer.nj.nec.com/hanjalic99automated.html
If the author had used “They” instead of repeating “logical story unit”, it could be unclear whether we were talking about “strategy” or logical story unit.
Not only do you have to make it clear what you are talking about, but also you have to make it clear when you have changed the subject. Transition signals give clues to the relationship between sentences or paragraphs.
HOW YOUR IDEAS ARE RELATED TO OTHER IDEAS, SENTENCES, OR SECTIONS of
One of the most important ways to write more effectively is to have clear transition signals. Transition signals give your reader a kind of roadmap to where you are going with your writing.
TASK: Skim briefly to get the idea of what is a transition signal.http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/style/transitioncues.html
TASK: Using your pen, underline any transition signals in the discussion or conclusion section of your Model Paper. Also, mark any repeated key words the author uses to make their writing clearer.
TASK: Look at a paragraph of your model paper and find the transition signals. Copy and paste the text onto a new page if possible. Remove the transition signals from the paragraph. Do not even leave blank spaces. Then, read the paragraph and see if you can identify where and what kind of transition phrases should be in the paragraph.
This is a word that simply means telling the reader what you are going to talk about or reminding them of what you have already said. You can think of these phrases as commenting on the writing itself. Examples include: In section 4 we will discuss the importance of…, will be examined in chapter five…, as previously stated, as mentioned in the preceding section etc.
These types of comments are especially important in long pieces of writing such as a thesis, dissertation or textbook. http://www.mhhe.com/mayfieldpub/tsw/forecast.htm
HAVE VARIETY IN YOUR WRITING
Sentences should vary in type and length.
TASK: Copy and
paste some text from your writing. Highlight each sentence from a
paragraph. Use the word count tool to count the number of words in each
sentence. Take a color pencil and analyze the type of sentences and
length of your writing: short, medium or long (22+ words). Write down
the number. Is there variety? What is the average length?
TASK: Do the same exercise on a paragraph from your model paper that seems to read very well. See what the pattern is.
TASK: Analyze a
long paragraph of your writing. Color each different type of sentence
in your paragraph.
compare it with a well-written paragraph from your field from your
model paper. A well-written paragraph should be a colorful mix but not
too much blue!
Use a variety of ways to introduce quotations. This is most important for social science and humanities papers but it is a good general principle to follow. Remember that each field has its own style of citation so the following link may not be in the correct format for your field.
TASK: Refer to this page when needed for APA style: http://www.dianahacker.com/resdoc/social_sciences/intext.html
TASK: Look at the Literature review of your model paper introduction. Circle the names of the authors that have been quoted or referred to. Are they in the text of the sentence or at the end of the sentence? The subject of the sentence? Passive or active verb?
TASK: Analyze a page of your own writing to see if there are many differences in style.
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