Writing Competency is the third part of mastering a foreign language besides speaking and reading. Someone who can speak fluently does not mean that he can write well and vise versa. What important things in writings are vocabulary and sentence pattern.
A paragraph is a group of sentences, that has one main idea with several supporting sentences. Most writers put the main idea in the beginning of every paragraph, some prefer placing it in the middle and a few write it in the last sentence. Supporting sentences functions to give complete information about the topic sentences.
Writing a paragraph is not an easy task for many people especially for a beginner. It needs some steps as described in the following paragraphs.
Focus makes a clear point. It says something that the writer believes is important. Paragraph without a clearly focused topic sentence will be confusing. Look at the example.
My attic (Draft)
My attic is at the very top of the house, high above my bedroom. The door to attic is in my closet. I climb through this door at least once a week. It is incredibly quite in th attic. The thick white pads of insulation prevent voices or sounds from coming in. It is also quite dark. There is only one light bulb in the wooden rafters and it sends down a thin beam of yellow light. However, this is enough light for me to read my sports books or write in my journal. Often I just sit back and inhale the musty smell of the dust and mold on the walls and floors. The dust is so thick that I can almost taste it. There is one window in the attic, but it is so covered with grime and thick dust that hardly any light seeps in from outside. Even though I am at the highest point in the house, my attic feels like a cave. Like a bear, I’m glad I have my own cave.
Note: The writer did not accomplish his purpose: he didn’t communicate his main impression of his room.
The writer mentioned three potential focuses: The attic is “quite”, it is :dusty”, “cavelike.”
However, his details didn’t support any of these focuses.
My attic (Revision)
My attic is my hideaway cave. At least once a week, I climb up into this quite private space at the top of the house. Like a cave, the attic is silent and dark. The thick white pads of insulation prevent voices or sounds from coming in. they also keep out the light. Sitting in my attic, I feel like a bear that is hibernating. Nobody and nothing can bother me up there. If I want to do something, I can switch on the single light bulb up in the wooden rafters and it sends down a thin beam of yellow light. Usually, however, I just sit back and inhale the musty smell of the dust and mold on the walls and floors. The dust is so thick that I can almost taste it. I feel warm, peaceful, and safe. Like a bear, I’m glad I have my own private cave.
- this room is very feminine. It remains me of when I used to dress up like my mom and other pretty women.
- this room is light and bright and makes me feel happy.
- the room is like a little girl’s room. It reminds me of when I was an innocent child.
When I have children and home of my own, I hope to have a powder room just like my mother’s. If I don’t, I will keep returning to my mother’s because it remains me of my childhood happiness and innocent. When I close the door inside this white and pink world, I feel like a young girl again. The walls still tower over me, making me feel little. The puffs of pink in the snow-white wallpapers still seem like cotton candy and I remember when I tried to lick one because it looked so sugary sweet. The floor is covered in soft rose carpeting that feels as comforting as a baby’s quilt. Above this plush floor stands the long, straight mirror. Dozens of tiny lights dance brightly around the mirror like circus strobes and they radiate a glowing warmth. Soft music flows from the white Mickey Mouse radio on sink. I curl up on the fat pad of the chair and play with the sinny white jars of makeup. These pressures from school and job melt away and I am safe and secure once again.
Effective development consists of details that “tells”, and “show.” When you “tell” about a topic, you are summarizing what you know and what you feel about it. When you “show” a topic, you are describing exactly what the object or person looks like, sounds like, feels like, and so forth.
DR DOS (Digital Research’s Disk Operating System) is going to revolutionize IMB computers and their clones. It is installed differently than other systems. Also, it has many features that make it easier to use and superior to the current standard, Microsoft’s MS-DOS.
The writer’s purpose was to convince readers of the benefits of this new computers operating system. Did her draft convince you? Why or why not?
Here is the writer’s revision
DR DOS (Digital Research’s Disk Operating System) is going to revolutionize IBM computers and their clones. Unlike all other operating systems, DR DOS is installed on a ROM card or chip, so it takes up less memory and it boots up instantaneously. No longer do users have to grind their teeth waiting for the disk to grind up the DOS; now it appears in the blink of an eye. DR DOS also has many superior features, including a full-screen editor for users to write commands directly into text, built-in directories, and password protection. These features make it easier to use and superior to the current standard, Microsoft’s MS-DOS. DR DOS is the fastest, most powerful operating system there is.
How did the writer’s revisions help her accomplish her purpose?
The revision is effective because it gives many examples of the benefits of the new system. By spelling out the specific “ superior features” of DR DOS.
(1) A college degree may not benefit women as much as it benefits men. (2) Recently, the U.S. Department of Education published a report about this. (3) It seems that employers are not rewarding female workers who have college degrees. (4) Male college graduates get better positions and earn more money than do better-qualified female graduates. (5) This report tells the findings of a recent study. (6) Male and female college graduates who took the same kinds of college courses and who worked in the same job for the same number of years make different salaries. (7) The researcher who did this report is a senior research associate in the Department’s Office of Research. (8) He has done many important studies. (9) This study showed that male graduates earn 15 percent to 60 percent more than female graduates for their effort and qualifications. (10) Many female graduates have changed their careers recently. (11) This report shows that women cannot assume that their college degrees will earn them good jobs and salaries.
Note: this paragraph is not unified . sentence 5, 7, 8, and 10 do not relate clearly to the main point stated in sentence 1.
A college degree may not benefit women as much as it benefits men. According to the U.S. Department of Education, male college graduates get better positions and earn more money than do better-qualified female graduates. Researchers found that male and female college graduates who took the same kinds of college courses and who worked in the same jobs for the same number of years make different salaries. Their study showed that male graduates earn 15 percent to 60 percent more than female graduates for their effort and qualifications. In addition, the women graduates had more unemployment than the men did. This report shows that women cannot assume that their college degrees will earn them good jobs and salaries.
This revision is more effective than the first draft because every sentence develops the paragraph’s main point. It has unity
(1) Although I look very different from my adoptive parents, I am incredibly similar to them in terms of temperament and values. (2) I am quiet and shy like my mother, and I share her love of learning and books. (3) My mom is a housewife, and she does volunteer work at the local hospital, reading to elderly patients. (4) My mom and I even share fictional tastes: We both like mysteries and spy novels. (5) I hope to become an English teacher one day. (6) I am Mexican and my parents are Anglos. (7) Although my personality is similar to my mother’s, I also share many of my father’s traits. (8) He and I believe that athletic competition helps people become stronger and feel better about themselves. (9) Like my dad, I excel in basketball, football, and tennis and I love watching sports on television. (10) My father was once a U.S. Tennis Association ranked player and he is still a great player. (11) Both of my parents have always shown me how important it is to respect and care for other people. (12) When I was a child, they took turns spending time with me and helping me understand the importance of fair play and of helping others. (13) Today, these values are still with me and I am active in many charitable organizations that assist the poor. (14) I am particularly concerned about homelessness. (15) In conclusion, although my genes and my looks differ from my parents’, I share their concerns, their favorite activities, and their values.
Well constructed paragraph and essay should have coherence. Coherence is different from unity. If a paragraph is a brick wall of a house all the bricks in the wall are similar in shape, size, color, and pattern. While the cement or mortar that connects the bricks to one another is what makes the wall coherent.
Coherence can be achieved with transitional words or phrases that signal the relation among your idea or details.
TRANSITIONAL WORDS AND PHRASES FOR ACHIEVING COHERENCE
- To signal the time relation of the next detail: first, second, third, next, then, after, before, during, at lst, immediately, finally.
- To signal that the next detail is similar or an additional example or reason: also, in addition, furthermore, moreover, similarly, first, next, last, finally.
- to signal that the next detail is an example: for example, for instance, thus, in other words, in particular.
- to signal that the next detail is different: on the other hand, however, nevertheless, still, but, although , even though,
- to signal that the next detail is a consequence: as a result, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus
1. to signal that the next detail is a conclusion: in conclusion, in summary, on the whole, therefore, thus.
I adore my five-year-old daughter, Serena. She drives me crazy. This morning she dumped her breakfast of hot oatmeal on the cat. She tried to wash it off him by pouring her glass of water on him. I started yelling at her. Serena didn’t stop making a mess. She stared defiantly at me and smashed a chocolate cookie all over the table. I spanked her. I told Serena to go get dressed. I cleaned the kitchen. I went to see how she was doing. I got angry all over again because Serena had tied her sneakers together and was hopping all around knocking things over. I j started to scream. She looked up at me and said, “Please don’t be mad Mommy. I’m only a little girl.” I melted. She is really a little devil, not a ] little girl. She’s my devil and I love her.
Although I adore my five-old daughter, Serena, she drives me crazy. For instance, this morning she dumped her breakfast of hot oatmeal on the cat. Then she tried to wash it off him by pouring her glassof water on him. Even though I started yelling at her, Serena didn’t stop making a mess. In fact, she stared defiantly at me and smashed a chocolate cookie all over the table, so I spanked her. After that, I told Serena to go get dressed while I cleaned the kitchen. When I went to see how she was doing, I got angry all over again because Serena had tied her sneakers together and was hopping all around knocking things over. I started to scream, but then she looked up at me and said, “Please don’t be mad Mommy. I’m only a little girl.” I melted. She is really a little devil, not a little girl. Nevertheless, she’s my devil and I love her.
The transitions make the relations between the sentences clear. The details in this revision are logically arranged and they stick together—they cohere.
Notice that you do not need to put a transition at the beginning of every sentence in order to make your paragraphs coherent. You will have to decide which sentences are clear and effective without transitions and which ones need transitions to signal their relations to other ideas in the paragraph.