Posts tagged ‘consistent grammatical subjects’

August 8, 2013

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 GOVERNS EVERYTHING, AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO STICK TO THE KERRIGAN RULES

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.

July 25, 2013

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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