Basic Paragraphing Techniques Are Needed For Clear Writing; They Even Fit Well In A Brownie Recipe

Some writers predict that there will be a resurgence in the economy.  If so, will you be ready?   You must be able to write clearly to take full advantage of any job opportunity that comes your way because of a resurgence, or otherwise.  Clear writing cannot be achieved without the ability to write effective paragraphs.

The development of an effective paragraph entails four basic rules.

First, unify the paragraph by developing a topic sentence which encompasses its central thought and introduces the paragraph.  A good topic sentence goes hand-in-glove with a descriptive paragraph heading.  Together, they are the key to locking the reader into your writing.  A descriptive topic sentence establishes a basic context for the reader before the details are provided and gives the reader the incentive to read on.

A topic sentence should include only one principal subject and express but one thought.  It should summarize the paragraph for the reader.  The topic sentence should embrace the controlling thought and let the rest of the paragraph expand this thought.  Work on tightening a rambling paragraph by developing a good topic sentence and then building the paragraph around it.

A busy reader will often skim your topic sentences to get an overall understanding of you writing.  Well written topic sentences will make the reader’s task that much easier.

For example, if you were writing about a tip that might help other golfers groove their golf swing, a good topic sentence (or, as here, sentences) might read as follows:

The sweetest swing you ever saw once belonged to Slammin’ Sammy Snead.      Today, many say it belongs to Freddie Couples.  Now, it can belong to you.   Here’s why.  [Next, describe your tip].

Second, arrange sentences to provide coherence in the paragraph.  The sequence of expression should be orderly and arranged by time or importance to make the progress of the thought easy to follow.  Strive for connection between sentences using repetition of key words, reference words, and parallel structure.

Third, use words of transition.  These words are usually found at the beginning of the succeeding paragraph to help introduce a new thought.  They serve to provide a stepping stone to ease the progression from one paragraph to another.  Words such as also, further, and in addition, are typically used for this purpose.  In this fashion, paragraphs may be linked together into the entire writing.

Fourth, keep paragraph length relatively short to reduce dense text.  Short paragraphs create more white space, are more inviting, and are thus easier to read and understand.  Paragraphs may vary in length from fifty to three hundred words, depending on content, but the shorter the better.  If necessary, break up a long paragraph into two shorter ones.

Even though content determines paragraph length, take steps to highlight paragraph content when necessary.  These include use of bullet points and dashes to make it easier to scan listed information.  Here’s an example:

Before:  Our company sells only naturally developed products.  They contain no preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind.  Use of them will increase mental alertness, stabilize metabolism, reduce fatigue, and enhance your body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.

After:  The following benefits are provided by our company’s products:

                                      –  No preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind;

                                      –  Increased mental alertness;

                                      –  Stabilized metabolism

                                        -Reduced fatigue; and

                                       – Enhances the body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.

Finally, to add a final thought to this blog, and to illustrate the flexibility of one form of paragraphing, i.e., descriptive paragraphing, here is a recipe for California “Gold Rush” brownies.

This recipe is a piece of cake (no pun intended) and makes great brownies.

Only four ingredients are required, as follows:   30 whole Honey Maid graham crackers, 2 – 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon of milk, and 12 ounces of chocolate chips.

Break up the graham crackers and add them, a few at a time, to a food processor, grinding them until very fine.  Place the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon of regular milk.  Mix well and blend in the chocolate chips.  Add chopped nuts, if desired.

Place the mixture into a well buttered 9 by 12 inch baking pan, pressing down evenly.  Bake in a 350 degree oven about 25 to 30 minutes until the sides start to separate from the pan.  These brownies are best when soft, so don’t overcook them as they will become too dry.

Let the brownies cool before cutting them into squares.  This recipe makes 24 to 30 squares, depending on how big they are cut and what pan size is used.  WARNING:  These brownies are habit forming and disappear fast.  You’ll have to taste them to believe it!

Copyright©2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

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