Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – being SPECIFIC

by Grace

I am working my way through Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point.  As I wrote in previous posts, I have undertaken a project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method.  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement. (Chapter 1, page 6)

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 2, page 18.)

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 3, page 31.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.

The first part of  Step 4 focuses on being “specific”

A.  BEING SPECIFIC:
Briefly, the specific is a particular kind of the general.
Examples of moving from general to specific are:
 •  drink / tea / green tea
 •  flower / rose / moss rose
 •  car / Cadillac / 1976 pink Cadillac

THE ASSIGNMENT
For this assignment, a group of words was given with instructions to take each word and write two words more specific and two more general.  Here are a few examples, with the original word highlighted.

    • food / produce / vegetable / carrot / baby carrot
    • clothing / top / sweater / cardigan / wool cardigan
    • activity / paid activity / employment / accounting / tax accounting

“Vegetable” and “sweater” were easy, but “employment” was a bit more challenging.  It made me think for a few minutes to come up with appropriate responses for the more general words.

THE BENEFITS OF DETAILS
You can see how this exercise helps the writer think about including specific details that add clarity and interest to the finished product.  As an example, the second sentence would usually be the preferred choice in an essay.

He was eating food.
or
Sam was munching on a baby carrot.

HOW KERRIGAN IS DIFFERENT
There’s nothing groundbreaking about teaching the benefits of adding details to your writing.  But the Kerrigan method does something that’s different from other instructional methods I’ve seen.

  1. It offers the student direct and precise guidance on how to do it.
  2. It is incorporated into a systemic process.

Next up is the section on using concrete words.

Previous posts in this series:
The Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’
Step 3 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’

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