By Yvonne Hertz on March 12 2019 21:43:28
Leads are big. If your first bite of a meal is bitter, you`re likely to put the fork down and call for take-out. You`ve got to grab readers from the get-go. One method is direct address. Here`s the lead from an article of mine about dictionaries: Think of your favorite book. No, better yet, go and get your favorite book, feel its heft in your hand, flip through its pages, smell its bookness. Read a passage or two to send that stream of sparks through your head, the alchemy that occurs when the written word collides with the chemicals of your consciousness. Delight is the fruit of that collision. It tells the reader to do something, with a visual and sensual context. It`s hard for a reader not to read that lead and avoid doing what it requests, at least in the reader`s imagination. Here`s another lead of mine that takes a different tack, one of identification or empathy: Scuttlebutt had it that Barbara Cartland, the doyenne of romance writers, did much of her early writing at the piano, stark naked. However that strains credibility, everyone`s heard of writers who insist they can`t write without their ancient manual typewriters with the missing keys, or their favorite fountain pens (or maybe even a stylus and hot wax). Writers can be a peculiar lot, and it`s not surprising that their composing methods can be all over the map.
Although there are many resources available via the Internet describing how to build paragraphs, this author uses a simple four-sentence method for constructing a basic paragraph. In a basic paragraph, first sentence, often labeled the topic sentence, states what is the main point of the paragraph. Second sentence provides some evidence that demonstrates or supports the main point. Third sentence describes for the reader how the writer understands the information provided in the second sentence DOES demonstrate or support the main point stated in the first sentence. Since the first three sentences DO communicate the main point of the paragraph, provide evidence to support or make that point, and explain how the evidence provided DOES support the main point according to the writer`s understanding, then by the end of the third sentence, the point of the paragraph HAS BEEN MADE. Therefore, sentence four is designed to communicate to the reader that the point of the paragraph has now been made AND introduce the reader to the main point of the next paragraph. This four-sentence structure may be used to develop the three main paragraphs in an essay (and any subparagraphs for the main paragraphs) as well as developing the introductory paragraph.
Because one of the great appeals of the personal essay is the conversational tone essayists take, it seems a given that it`s best to be conversant with your subject. But write what you know can also be an inkless cage; some of the best essays are a voyage of discovery for both writer and reader. You might accidentally flip some breakfast cereal with your spoon and have an epiphany about the origins of catapults. That little leap might take you seven leagues into the history of siege engines and voila!--a piece for a history journal comparing ancient weapons to new. Subjects sit, stand and float all around you: should you write about baseball, bacteria or bougainvilleas? The key is engagement with your topic so that the angle your writing takes is pointed and penetrating. You don`t write about cars, you write about the fearful symmetry of a 1961 T-Bird. The essayist should be, to paraphrase Henry James, one of the people on whom nothing is lost. Idly looking over at a fellow driver stopped at a traffic signal might be a moment to yawn, but it might also be a moment to consider how people amuse themselves in their vehicles. An essay here about new car technology, an essay there about boredom and its antidotes.
Following the four-sentence process for paragraph development, the second sentence is expected to provide some information that illustrates or supports the point stated in the first sentence. For this example essay assignment, the located newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military IS the support or evidence to present in the second sentence -- and the article located, via some online research is titled After 60 years, black officers rare by L.C. Baldor, published in The Times Herald, 7/28/08. So the second sentence of the example introductory paragraph might be something like In the newspaper article `After 60 years, black officers rare,` the author of the article indicates that although `Blacks have made great strides in the military since it was integrated 60 years ago, but they still struggle to gain a foothold in the higher ranks [in the military]`. Of course, at the end of this sentence is expected a citation to show the source of the information presented in the second sentence -- like (Baldor, 2008, ¶ 1). Please note the role of a citation is to point the reader to the related reference that is expected on the References page at the end of the essay -- and note the citation consists of last name of the author, year of publication of the article, and, in this case, a number indicating the specific paragraph in the article where the cited information may be located (because this online article did not provide page numbers). What to notice in this second sentence is how the information presented in the sentence directly supports or MAKES the point stated in the first sentence, BUT, don`t leave it up to the reader to make that connection on his or her own -- in the third sentence, communicate explicitly to the reader how YOU, the writer, understands the information in the second sentence demonstrates the point stated in the first sentence.