Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – using EXAMPLES

by Grace

The use of examples is covered in the next assignment in Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point.  (This is part of my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, explained in my initial post in this series.)  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.  (Chapter 4, page 43)

Another definition of detail is “short example”.  An example is something taken from among a number of things like it, and used to stand for them.

  • Examples tend to be concrete and specific.
  • Examples are not analogies, which are fine but get us away from facts.
  • Use these kind of words:  “like, such as, for example, for instance”
  • Use lots of examples to bring a matter vividly before the mind’s eye of a reader.

Write a theme in which you use examples liberally.  Mare sure each paragraph has at least one sentence that beings with “For example” and then is followed by a sentence that is a long example.

For this assignment I re-used my “Autumn” essay, but added “for example”  in several places according to assignment instructions.

Here is my essay, using the Kerrigan format of starting with the X-1-2-3 sentences.

X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.
1. It is a time of colorful foliage.
2. It is a time of crisp weather.
3. It is a time of fun-filled activities.


X  Autumn is an exhilarating time of year.

1.  It is a time of colorful foliage. For example, during this time of year maple trees turn bright red and oak trees become golden. Ferns become a rusty copper color. As they fall to the ground, beautifully colored leaves cover paths and roads like a rainbow. Mountainsides and roadways become brilliant works of art.

2.  It is a time of crisp weather. It usually starts in late September when people will comment that there’s a touch of fall in the air. They bring out their sweaters to protect against the slight chill of early fall. As the season moves on, the first hints of frost appear on some early mornings. Even on days with full sun, the atmosphere feels different from typical summer days. For example, going to the beach on a sunny fall day is a sharp contrast to spending a long July day there when the sun is high in the sky.

3.  It is a time of fun-filled activities. Many families spend weekends picking apples and pumpkins. The next few days may find them baking pies and carving jack-o-lanterns. Preparations for Halloween are as much fun as the actual trick-or-treating. For example, people enjoy designing and creating costumes while anticipation builds for the big Halloween night when children roam the neighborhoods trying to fill their bags with candy.


Besides the basic lesson on the importance of examples, this assignment also reminded me that the Kerrigan method teaches writing by systematically moving through a hierarchy of skills.  In this case, instructions to use specific words (“like, such as, for example, for instance”) serve to nudge the developing writer into adding examples.  Later on, as the student’s writing becomes more sophisticated, it becomes unnecessary to use these specific words every time.

Since my original essay already included many examples, following instructions and adding at least one “for example” phrase to each paragraph did not appreciably enhance the final product.  In fact, I think this step made the essay a little clunky.   But it was a valuable exercise to show a technique for explicitly teaching a developing writer to use examples.  (In hindsight, I realized I should have started from scratch and not re-used my old essay, but I was trying to save myself a little time.)

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