Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES

by Grace

IT IS IMPORTANT TO STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES.  This is another topic that is discussed before moving past Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of Writing to the Point(This is my 14th 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)


Purpose can also be called “meaning” or the “point”, as in Kerrigan’s book title, Writing to the Point.

For the type of expository writing addressed by Kerrigan’s method, “the entirety of the essay should be devoted to making the writer’s point”.  But before he can write the essay, the writer must know what his point is.  The X-1-2-3 format helps the writer focus on formulating and expanding upon his point, as well as helping the reader comprehend the essay’s meaning.

Why should the writer stick to the Kerrigan rules?

Why can’t the writer be “creative”? For example, why does he have to put Sentence X at the beginning?

In fact, a writer can be creative and put Sentence X, which is the thesis sentence, in a different location within the essay.  It’s done frequently, with successful results.  However, the writer must think of the purpose. and consider three things.

First, your purpose cannot be just to be different  which is simply eccentricity, or sometimes a mask for laziness.  Second, your need to have Sentence X somewhere else must be very great indeed if it makes you sacrifice the marvelous advantage of letting your readers know at once what your point is.

Third, if you don’t state your point at once, you must still guide your readers toward that point through a mass of material in such a way as to convince them they are moving clearly toward a point, without their ever being wholly puzzled and without their getting the idea along the way that they see your point when actually they are mistaken.  To do that takes great skill.  Do you have that skill? . . . You may develop it; but if you are going to develop it, certainly the beginning of the development will be getting the idea of point deeply and clearly fixed in your mind.  And the best way I know to do that is to get lots of practice in writing essays based on the method in this book.

The Kerrigan method is an instructional approach for developing writers.  I think it’s particularly useful for struggling writers.  If I were a teacher with a few highly skilled writers in my class, it’s unlikely I would have them strictly follow the Kerrigan method.  They are ready to move beyond the strict format of the Kerrigan method.

Breaking the rules is fine, but it takes advanced skill. Usually, that skill is only developed after much practice writing following the rules.

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

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