Sunday, December 29, 2013

Monday Dec 30: Preparing to write

So you need to write a paragraph (or more). What do you do?

First, understand the concept of what a paragraph should be. In different styles (or genres) of writing, a paragraph can be different things. Here we will describe two conceptualizations. In academic writing, a paragraph is generally 5~7 sentences, around 100~200 words, discussing a single, narow, idea. In business or journalism, there is much more flexibility about length, but still one idea. The difference is in how fully that idea should be developed.

We usually start from one of two directions. In a writing class, you might have been assigned a topic sentence. In other cases, you probably have more freedom.

The Topic Sentence
A topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph; that is, it is usually the first sentence in a formal academic paragraph. Not only is a topic sentence the first sentence of a paragraph, but, more importantly, it is the most general sentence in a paragraph. What does "most general" mean?  It means that there are not many details in the sentence, but that the sentence introduces an overall idea that you want to discuss later in the paragraph.

For example, suppose that you want to write a paragraph about the natural landmarks of your hometown. The first part of your paragraph might look like this:

        My hometown is famous for several amazing natural features.  First, it is noted for the Wheaton River, which is very wide and beautiful. Also, on the other side of the town is Wheaton Hill, which is unusual because it is very steep.

Getting started on your paragraph
Before you start writing a paragraph, you need to decide two things. What are you writing about? What do you want to say? The purpose of any paragraph is to express an idea. Most paragraphs consist of a few related sentences.

You can write a successful paragraph by starting off with a plan. The key to doing a successful paragraph is to break down the writing into short, simple steps.

Six Prewriting Steps
1. Think carefully about what you are going to write (the subject of your paragraph). One popular way to to create pre-writing ideas is to ask yourself questions about your subject. Ask yourself: What question am I going to answer in this paragraph? How can I best answer this question? What is the most important part of my answer? What do I know about this subject? How does this subject relate to me? What do I like or dislike about this subject? What words best describe it? How can I make an introductory sentence from the most important part of my answer? What facts or ideas can I use to support my introductory sentence? How can I make this paragraph interesting? Do I need more facts on this topic? Where can I find more facts on this topic?

Write only a word or phrase in response to each question

2. Pre-writing for your paragraph
Begin by brainstorming. Brainstorming doesn't involve writing complete sentences or paragraphs. Brainstorming involves coming up with ideas using words or short phrases.

3. Write down your own ideas
Ask yourself: What else do I want to say about this topic? Why should people be interested in this topic? Why is this topic important?

4. Collect facts related to your paragraph topic
Look for and write down facts that will help you to answer your question.

5. Find the main idea of your paragraph
Choose the most important point you are going to present. If you cannot decide which point is the most important, just choose one point and stick  to it throughout your paragraph.

6. Organize your facts and ideas in a way that develops your main idea
Once you have chosen the most important point of your paragraph, you must find the best way to tell your reader about it. Look at the facts you have  written. Look at your own ideas on the topic. Decide which facts and ideas will best support the main idea of your paragraph. Once you have chosen the facts and ideas you plan to use, ask yourself which order to put them in the paragraph. Write down your own note set that you can use to guide yourself as you write your paragraph.

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