Tag Archives: paragraphing

Well Constructed Paragraphs Are The Foundation For Clear Writing – Continued

The benefits of strong paragraphing have been previously pointed out in this blog. But the subject is important and deserves repeating.

Paragraphs allow the reader to take a breath while continuing to read. Without them, a reader would face the daunting task of having to read and decide simultaneously when there is a change of thought or subject.

Clear writing flows directly from well composed paragraphing. The effectiveness of any writing will depend directly on how well you have constructed the paragraphs. As further explained below, all paragraphs should be unified in thought, well organized, and coherent.

Paragraphs may be long or short. Moderation and common sense are keys to good paragraphing. If a paragraph is too short, the reader may conclude the writer has given little thought to the writing. If it’s too long, the reader may simply get discouraged.

There are distinct types of writing available for specific purposes, including persuasive, expository, narrative, creative, descriptive, research, and (book) reporting. Paragraphing does not of necessity completely follow the type of writing you are using, but may vary within the main body of the document being written, depending on the context.

Two main groups of paragraphs exist, narrative and descriptive. Other forms of paragraphing may have different identifying labels placed on them, such as chronological, compare and contrast, definition, and others, but it is simpler to place them in one of the two main categories.

For example, a chronological or progressive paragraph is so-called because of its orderly progression from one point to another, often following a time sequence. But it’s still descriptive or narrative in nature. Describing a fishing technique or a golf swing are good examples of the use of such a paragraph. A recipe, which is by nature descriptive, is another example.

As another example, persuasive paragraphing should be used to advocate a position, as follows:

One new law I would like to see enacted this year is one granting equal time for “celebrity puffing,” i.e., an anti- puffing law.

What is “puffing?” It’s a lot of hot air. Like when movie actors such as Robert Redford or Matt Damon try to take advantage of their celebrity status to present their liberal views to the public. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that Damon and another actor, Ben Affleck, as well as other notables, including Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson, have in effect endorsed the philosophy of Howard Zinn, a pro-Leninist historian and one time member of the Communist Party, who died in 2010, by publicly praising him. By law, the public should be allowed to reply to any such public pronouncements by any celebrity. For example, I would say to any celebrity who engages in puffing, “It’s hypocritical of you to use American capitalism to make all your money and acquire celebrity status and then take advantage of that status to foist your liberal (or more radical) views on the public.” An opportunity to speak out in reply should be provided by law. It’s only fair. I for one am not interested in hearing the political views of any celebrity unless there is an opportunity for rebuttal where appropriate. Many media outlets that invite such puffing as news are liberal in their political views and are not interested in allowing any reply. So a one-sided view is presented to the public and it’s often a distortion of the facts.

The foregoing paragraphing guidelines, and more, (with a different example of paragraph advocacy) are contained in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/kindle books and in print. My book, by the way, contains an excellent recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini from the classic Mary and Vincent Price cookbook, “A Treasury of Great Recipes,” now believed to be out of print.

To all of my readers and followers, let me say best wishes for a happy and successful new year!

Copyright 2014. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Echoes From The Past Revisited, The Panic of 1857 and the Continuing Saga of The Discovery of Gold In California

An interesting sidelight to gold’s saga revolves around the tragic loss in September, 1857, of the SS Central America, a sailing vessel bound for New York carrying passengers and three tons of gold ingots and newly minted gold coins from California. Lashed by a massive hurricane, the ship went down in 7,200 feet of water about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C, at a time when U.S. bankers desperately needed the ship to reach its destination safely. The story was front-page news across the country and was accentuated by the Panic of 1857, which lasted for three years. Many people lost their jobs.

The sinking of the Central America was one of the worst at sea disasters in American history, claiming over 400
lives, and was front-page news all over the country. The loss of the approximately $1.5 million in gold the ship had carried, valued at roughly $18 per ounce, stunned the financial community and compounded the woes of the New York bankers, adding to the Panic.

The Panic was marked by a decline in wheat prices when the Crimean War ended in February, 1856. This drop was keenly felt by American farmers who had profited from the war. On a wider scale however, there had been a decade of land speculation and investment in railroad securities, aided by heavy borrowing. Banks had invested in businesses that were failing, causing people to panic. Investors were losing heavily in the stock market, railroads were unable to pay their debts, and businesses and factories failed idling hundreds of thousands of workers. People feared financial ruin and ran to the banks to withdraw their money. But the banks did not deal in paper money; they used gold and silver. But because of their failed invedstments, the banks could not gather all the gold their customers demanded. From August to September, 1857, a run on New York banks had required them to pay out more than twenty percent of their gold reserves and many banks failed.

However, the tragic loss of the Central America had a remarkable ending so far as the gold is concerned. In 1988, the ship and its treasure were located on the ocean floor by Tommy Thompson, an oceanographer from landlocked Ohio. Images aboard his vessel revealed a veritable king’s ransom in gold ingots and coins on the sea bottom where they had lain for over a century. Boosted by modern technological advances, the gold was recovered in 1989. The salvaged gold was estimated to be worth in the neighborhood of $1 billion, a record gold treasure haul.

The largest ingot recovered was an astonishing 933.94 ounces, nearly 80 pounds, with an 1857 value of $17,433.57. Nearly 7,500 coins were also recovered, many of them 1857-S Coronet double eagles. After being subject to a special conservation process, many coins were found to exhibit the brilliant proof like luster imparted to them the day they were struck at the San Francisco mint. The brilliance of the coins and gold bars was made possible by the oceanic conditions in which they were discovered, submerged under thousands of feet of ocean water at a temperature of 34 degrees Farenheit.

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on amazon.com through Kindle Books and in print), to demonstrate the use of parenthesis and brackets, I point out that coin collecting can be interesting as well as a good investment. Here is what I wrote:
Coin collecting can be very interesting, historically speaking,
as well as a good investment. Coin grading is subjective (a matter of
opinion, which can change over time), so never buy any coin without
first inspecting it.

Carson City silver dollars, aka Morgan silver dollars [named for the designer, George T. Morgan], minted in Carson City, Nevada between 1878 and 1893, are still popular today because of their attractive design and because they are a throwback
to the days of the Old West.

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

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Echoes From The Past – Repercussions From California’s Gold Rush Are Still Felt Today

With the island of Cyprus and the European Union being very much in the news these days, I am reminded of a few lines I wrote in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” dealing with the lingering echoes of California’s Gold Rush which can still be heard today.  Some analysts are talking about a return to the gold standard. They believe this approach may settle the monetary uncertainty which continues to plague the EU.   The concept behind the gold standard is simple enough: a pledge by the government to redeem dollars for gold, thus insuring the value of the currency.  However, experiments with the gold standard seem not to have worked out for whatever country has tried it.

 In the light of these events, the lines I wrote to illustrate narrative paragraphing continue to be relevant:

 “The lingering echoes of California’s 1849 gold rush can still be heard today.

It was a watershed event in America’s economic history, starting innocuously enough with the discovery of gold at John Sutter’s sawmill near Sacramento, California.  Pandemonium reigned with the spread of news as the influx of gold seekers into California swelled to a crescendo.  Outsiders from all over the world poured into California; they sailed around South America, crossed Panama, and swarmed in from other parts of the world as well. San Francisco mushroomed from a sleepy little village to a boom town virtually overnight.

The huge supply of gold that was ultimately generated provided riches for the United States.  The enormous amount of gold now available enabled the U.S. Mint to add two new gold coins, the gold $1 coin and a large, heavy $20 coin (Double Eagle).  California became the “golden” state.

So began a new worship of money.  The discovery of gold paved the way for the transition of pastoral America to manufacturing America and the institution of the gold standard – paper money backed by gold and free convertibility of currency into gold.  The price of gold was pegged at $20 per ounce.

But the gold standard worked to the disadvantage of indebted farmers, who favored bimetallism (as did Alexander Hamilton), and the minting of silver coins to create cheap money.  Their struggle with depressed crop prices in the late nineteenth century was aggravated by a shortage of money and an escalation of the farmer-banker conflict.

Banker J. Pierpont Morgan was a strong advocate for the gold standard.  But to William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee for president in 1896, Morgan was a Pontius Pilate who nailed starving farmers to a cross of gold.  The agrarian fanatical hatred for the gold standard was reflected in Bryan’s famous speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention, when he concluded that “mankind shall not be crucified on a cross of gold.”

America eventually departed from the gold standard in 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, responding to the depression, impounded all the country’s gold.  In 1971, because of a serious cash flow crisis, President Richard Nixon permanently closed the gold window by decreeing that the U.S. would not exchange gold for dollars for anyone.

With the departure of the gold standard came the untrammeled printing of money by the U.S. and other nations.  This creation of easy money (fiat money, i.e., money created by government decree) leading to excessive spending and the resulting budget deficits arguably have directly contributed to the sovereign debt crisis plaguing Europe today.  Some analysts are now calling for a hardening of currencies and a return to the gold standard.”

Thus, the landscape of today’s financial world can truly be said to be a reflection of its rocky beginning.

The foregoing quote and other clear writing guidelines and techniques may be found in my book, which is available on amazon.com in print and on Kindle Books.  The book and my two Civil War articles are featured on my website located at agregardie.com.

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

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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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