Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – FUNCTION OF A PARAGRAPH

by Grace

Although I’ve lost some momentum in getting through my writing project, today I’m going back on track to write about the next segment.  The topic is the all-important “function of the paragraph” as explained in Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point (For new readers, this is 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)


F. THE FUNCTION OF A PARAGRAPH:
First, let’s look at the Kerrigan X-1-2-3 sentence structure, and relate it to the more traditional names used by instructors.

Traditional names for X-1-2-3:
–  X is commonly called a thesis sentence, thesis, thesis statement, main idea, or theme sentence
–  1-2-3 are topic sentences

Function of a paragraph:

… a paragraph is a group of sentences whose only function is to provide specific, concrete details for the thought expressed in its topic sentence.

This is very important!  Don’t include extra stuff in your paragraph, even if it sounds good!  I suspect many developing writers break this rule often, resulting in less coherent, wordy, rambling essays that distract and tire the reader while failing to clearly make their point.  [This blogger is guilty as charged!]

I like this passage, having seen young writers struggle this way.

If writing seemed to you, before you began to study this book, a process of putting down one thought, then thinking of another thought and putting it down, then racking your brains to think of still another; then a paragraph, for you, meant an indentation marking some greater break in thought than occurs between sentences. *

By the way, the punctuation (especially the semicolon) in the sentence quoted above intrigues me, but I’ll not explore further for now and just assume it is correct.  This is Kerrigan writing, after all.

Editing is vital
If the paragraph’s function is solely to elaborate and explain more about the topic sentence, than  it is almost inevitable that some editing must occur.  Here’s Kerrigan on the pain of deleting material.

If you plant a vegetable garden, you may have to pull out a flower simply because it does not belong.

Even if it’s a gorgeous bloom that has touched your heart, yank it out if it doesn’t belong.


WHAT I LEARNED
Stick to the topic in your first sentence!

* CORRECTIONS IN RED


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4 Responses to “Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – FUNCTION OF A PARAGRAPH”

  1. The punctuation in

    If writing seemed to you, before you began to study this book a process of putting down one thought, then thinking of another thought and putting it down, then racking your brains to think of still another; then a paragraph, for you, meant an indentation marking some greater break in though than occurs between sentences.

    is not quite right. There is another comma needed after “book”. (I assume that “though” was “thought” in the original.

    In any case, the sentence is rather awkward, with the two different meanings of “then”. If this is typical of Kerrigan’s writing, then I don’t want my son studying this book, after all.

  2. The missing comma after book is my mistake in transcribing. I’ve corrected it now.

    Yeah, I agree it’s awkward, with an extra comma IMO. I did look up semicolon uses, and realized he used the semicolon “to separate a series of phrases or clauses that are long or have punctuation, like commas, within them”. This sentence is not typical of the book, and I’d say it’s probably the result of poor editing.

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