Author Topic: Constructing paragraphs  (Read 9561 times)

Miss Mae

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Constructing paragraphs
« on: October 05, 2010, 06:22:27 PM »
I learned sometime ago that lead sentences of succeeding paragraphs must vary. That is, if Paragraph 1 started straightforwardly, the lead sentence of Paragraph 2 must begin or end with a modifier. Should that be followed strictly?

Thank you.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Constructing paragraphs
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2010, 12:44:46 AM »
I have a feeling that you didn’t learn it right about how to do the lead sentences of successive paragraphs. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no rule that requires lead sentences of successive paragraphs to vary in certain ways, much less a rule that specifically states that “if Paragraph 1 started straightforwardly, the lead sentence of Paragraph 2 must begin or end with a modifier.” I feel pretty sure that whoever taught you these nonsensical rules didn’t really know what paragraphs and their lead sentences are supposed to do and, I might as well say it, wasn’t knowledgeable either about the basics of composition.

I think a more sensible approach to doing lead sentences of paragraphs is to think of them as logical bridges or transitional devices between a succeeding paragraph and the one preceding it. As such, the form, structure, and content of a lead sentence will largely depend on what the paragraph’s development task for the composition will be. In expository writing like the essay, there’s generally a choice of seven such tasks, as follows:

(1) To amplify a point or add to it,
(2) To establish a causal relationship,
(3) To establish a temporal relationship,
(4) To present an example,
(5) To make an analogy,
(6) To provide an alternative, or
(7) To concede a point.

Once the writer decides on any of these tasks, it will become clear what kind of lead sentence the paragraph needs. Generally, there are two categories of lead sentences that serve as transitional bridges for paragraphs:

(1) Extrinsic or explicit transitions. Lead sentences of this type primarily rely on such familiar introductory words as “however,” “therefore” and “moreover” to show how an idea that will follow is related to the one preceding it. The various conjunctive adverbs (“anyway,” “in contrast,” “in fact”) and transitional words and phrases (“before,” “after,” during,” “long after,” “in the aftermath of the incident”) are frequently used in this category of transitional sentences.

(2) Intrinsic or implicit transitions. Lead sentences of this type make use of the natural progression or “flow” of the ideas themselves to link paragraphs logically. Instead of using the usual conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases, they effect paragraph transitions through a semantic play on key words or ideas in the body of the exposition itself. A sentence that performs an intrinsic paragraph transition usually (a) repeats a key word or phrase used in the preceding paragraph and makes it the takeoff point for the succeeding paragraph, or else (b) uses a synonym or words similar to that key word or phrase to do the transitional job.

Because extrinsic or explicit transitions are simple and easy to do, beginning writers normally make very frequent use of them in developing paragraphs. As they gain greater mastery of the writing craft, however, they depend more on intrinsic or implicit transitions to do the job because they provide less obtrusive and more elegant ways of bridging paragraphs.

My book Give Your English the Winning Edge devotes four chapters to the making of effective paragraph transitions. I suggest you get a copy of the book to thoroughly learn the various strategies, techniques, and applications for doing them.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2010, 07:16:19 AM by Joe Carillo »

Miss Mae

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Re: Constructing paragraphs
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2010, 03:05:46 PM »
I swear, I really came across a 'rule' such as that. But I do believe you, of course.