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Connecting paragraphs

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  • 1. T o o abrupt { Effective { CONNECTING PARAGRAPHS STANDARD TRANSITION Although however and other transitional devices are indispensable to the writer, enabling him or her to make dozens of connections neatly and efficiently, they cannot handle the whole transitional load. Even if they could, no writer would depend upon them exclusively, for they can become painfully obvious when they are used over and over again. You want your reader to be pleasantly aware that your paragraphs are firmly linked, but you do not want him or her to see chains too clearly or hear them clank too audibly into place. For example, here the transition from one paragraph to the next is accomplished by a standard transition alone--the word however: Mark Twain is established in the minds of most Americans as a kindly humorist, a gentle and delightful "funny man." No doubt his photographs have helped promote this image. Everybody is familiar with the Twain face. He looks like every child's ideal grandfather, a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving- kindness. However, Twain wrote some of the most savage satire ever produced in America. . . . The standard transition indicates clearly enough that the writer is preparing to take off with a new idea in opposition to the one in the first paragraph, but the transition is far too abrupt. The leap from one idea (how Twain looked) to the next (how he wrote) is simply too great to be handled by a mechanical transition. Therefore, you need another kind of transition, something that is both stronger and subtler. You have it in the paragraph hook. PARAGRAPH HOOK - WORD OR PHRASE You probably use the paragraph hook often in your own writing without knowing it and see it constantly in your reading without realizing it (as in this sentence). However, to take full advantage of its possibilities, you should learn to use the paragraph hook consciously, to direct and control it for your own purposes. Control, remember, is the essence of style, and the handling of transitions is an important part of any writer's style. To see how the paragraph hook differs from the standard transitional device, observe how much more firmly the paragraphs hang together if the transition is made like this: . . . a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving-kindness. The loving-kindness begins to look a little doubtful in view of some of his writing, for Twain wrote some of the most savage satire. . . . Here you see demonstrated the simplest kind of paragraph hook – the word or phrase hook. The last word of the first paragraph is hooked into the first sentence of the second paragraph and used as a point of departure for introducing another idea. This repetition hooks the paragraphs together solidly. The hook need not be one word; it can be a phrase. It should not, however, exceed three or four words. Although the last word or phrase of a paragraph frequently serves as the simplest and strongest kind of hook, you can go back farther than this, sometimes to create an even better effect: . . . a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving- kindness. This dear old white-thatched gentleman happens to be the author of some of the most savage satire. . . Generally speaking, the last sentence of a paragraph is the best place to find the hook for your new paragraph, for this sentence is the one freshest in the reader's mind. If you go back much deeper than this, you will usually need a multiple hook, as in this example: . . .No doubt his photographs have helped promote this image. . .He looks like. . .the very spirit of loving kindness. To accept such an image is to betray greater familiarity with the photographs than with the writing, for Twain wrote some of the most savage satire. . . . Here both image and photographs are repeated, thus "double hooking" the paragraph to make up for the greater distance between their first and second appearance. The greater the distance, the more likely you are to need a multiple hook. However, no arbitrary rule in this matter is possible, so the important thing is to remember your readers. Make certain that the connection is clear to them, but do not Effective { Effective {
  • 2. Connecting Paragraphs 2 Effective } Effective } insult them by making the connection too clear-- that is, by repeating huge sections or whole sentences from the preceding paragraph. One or two key words will do the job. PARAGRAPH HOOK - IDEA HOOK All the examples so far have been simple word or phrase hooks. Another variation of the paragraph hook is the idea hook. The principle is the same; you hook into the preceding paragraph, but instead of repeating an exact word or phrase you refer to the idea just expressed, compressing it into a single phrase: Mark Twain is . . . the very spirit of loving kindness. Such a view of Twain would probably have been a source of amusement to the author himself, for Twain wrote some of the most savage satire. . . . Mark Twain is . . . the very spirit of loving kindness. Any resemblance between this popular portrait and the man who reveals himself in his writing is purely imaginary, for Twain wrote some of the most savage. . . In neither of the above examples is an exact word or phrase from the first paragraph repeated, but the hook is clearly there; the referential such a view and this popularportraitfastentheparagraphsfirmlytogether. The idea hook can be a great deal more subtle than this, of course. If you examine the work of any accomplished essayist, you will find many paragraphs that have no specific word or phrase serving as a link but that are nevertheless unmistakablytied together by meaning. Transitions of this kind require some of the subtlest skills of writing--the ordering of ideas, the use of inference and allusion, the creation of "echo effects," the unobtrusive handling of time and emphasis. That takes time. Meanwhile, the simplest idea hook illustrated above can serve you well. By using it, you can avoid the danger of overloading your work with either the word hooks or the purely mechanical transitions. Any transitional method, remember, can become annoyingly obvious to a reader if it is overused, so vary your practice, never permitting one method of handling transitions to take over the job exclusively. COMBINATIONS - Transitional Topic Sentence The combinationofstandardtransitionsandparagraph hooks is sonatural that you will probably find yourself using it as a matter of course. Any of the samples provided could be used to demonstrate combinations: . .a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving- kindness. Twain’s loving kindness begins to look a little doubtful, however, when one realizes he also wrote some of the most savage satire. . .a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving- kindness. Twain’s image of a dear old white- thatched gentleman begins to change after the reader discovers he also wrote some of the most savage satire. . .a dear old white-thatched gentleman who embodies the very spirit of loving- kindness. Although Twain may look like every child's ideal grandfather who embodies the very spirit of loving-kindness, his writing also reveals some of the most savage satire. Notice that a single transition AND a word or phrase hook is used, so understandingis enhanced depending on what the reader requires for clarity and your own view of the material and natural rhythm in writing. SUMMARY Remember, transitions help your reader follow your train of thought. They are the links that hold your ideas together and keep them moving toward a single goal. Therefore, always make certain that some kind of link exists not only in your own mind but also, clearly and unmistakably, in the words on your paper. One kind of link is not better than any other kind, but variety is better than sameness, so try for variety. Use the purely mechanical devices for quick and simple transitions in paragraphs. Use word hooks, phrase hooks, and transitional topic sentence combinations for stronger and clearer links between paragraphs and to improve emphasis and tone. Use them all, but, above all, USE THEM. Effective { Effective { Effective {