Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – CONSISTENT GRAMMATICAL SUBJECTS

by Grace

The importance of keeping consistent grammatical subjects is covered next as part of reviewing and revising the first draft of an essay.  It is one of the topics addressed before moving on from Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point. (This is my 12th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  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)


CONSISTENT GRAMMATICAL SUBJECTS

The rule:  As far as possible, keep the same grammatical subject throughout your theme.

First, what is the grammatical subject?

The grammatical subject is the person or thing that does something in a sentence – does something or is something, did something, or was something.

Kerrigan explains further, using an example of an essay about students.

Keep the same grammatical subject.  That means start out talking either about a student or about students — or about you, we, I, or anybody or anything else.   But then in every sentence you can, keep talking about either a student or students, or you — in other words, don’t jump back and forth from one to another.  Of course, you can and should often call a student he, she, he or she, (to avoid sex bias), or students they….


Here are before and after examples of correcting for consistent grammatical subject.

Before revision, without a consistent grammatical subject:

A student who is not wealthy out to find a college with low costs.  In fact, if students sat down and figured all the expenses before they enrolled in college, he or she might avoid serious trouble.  An expensive school is not necessarily a good school.  Actually, what college gives you depends mostly on how seriously you do your work there, whether attending it is expensive or not.  If we loaf through school, no amount of money paid is going to make much out of us.

After revision, with a consistent grammatical subject:

Students who are not wealthy out to find a college with low costs.  In fact, if they sat down and figured all the expenses before enrolling in college, they might avoid serious trouble.  An expensive school is not necessarily a good school.  Actually, what college gives students depends mostly on how they do their work there, whether attending it is expensive or not.  If they loaf through school, no amount of money paid is going to make much out of them.

Keeping the same grammatical subject improves clarity.

Now the reason behind keeping the same grammatical subject is this:  it gives readers one target to keep their sights on and thus makes their job of reading simpler and less likely to be distracting or confusing.

Improves cohesion

“But by far the strongest cohesive force in the paragraph is the recurrence of the same grammatical subject, or its equivalent, from sentence to sentence.”
(Wilma Ebbitt, et al., Writer’s Guide and Index to English, 1978)

WHAT I LEARNED

Developing writers should check for a consistent grammatical subject as part of their first draft revision.

I often find myself making grammatical subject mistakes in my blog, which I only catch sometimes.  However, sometimes I intentionally change the subject, as I’ve done in the last part of this post.

UPDATE:

An assignment is not included for this section, but one could easily be created by using the “before” example above, with the student then asked to make corrections.  Or, a paragraph from an article or book could be selected, then changed so that the grammatical subject is made inconsistent.  The student could then be assigned to make corrections to this paragraph.

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

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