Author : Ursula Huber.
Published : Mon, Mar 25 2019 :3 AM.
Format : jpg/jpeg.
Essays are literally at your fingertips: consider a piece on how fingerprint technology evolved. Or at your nosetip: my most recently published essay was about a lurking smell in my house that led to a mad encounter with attic rats. Humble topics can spur sage tales: Annie Dillard`s recounting of seeing a moth consumed in a candle flame morphs into a elegy on an individual`s decision to live a passionate life. You don`t need glasses to find your topics, just a willingness to see them. Which way should your essay tilt? Some essays wrap blunt opinions in layered language, ensnaring a reader with charm, not coercion. Louis Lapham`s essays often take a political angle, but any advocacy is cloaked in beguiling prose. A how-to essay might explain a process, but its steps wouldn`t be the mechanistic ones of a manual, but more the methods of throwing procedural doors open, lighting from within. Personal-experience or confessional essays done well deftly get away with impressionistic strokes: words evoking sensations, scents, and subtleties. Consistency in tone is compelling: leading your reader through your essay with sweet conceptual biscuits only to have them fall hip-deep in a polemical cesspool at essay`s end is counter-productive. Essays need elasticity-they can feint and jab at ideas, but shouldn`t sucker-punch.
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.
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.
Most essays aren`t built on journalism`s inverted pyramid, stacking essential information up front and moving to leaner layers as factual momentum fades. Instead, essays often take elliptical paths that meander around in a subject`s fields, picking its flowers, discarding them, looking to metaphoric hills beyond, then up-close at the ground below. An accomplished essayist like Edward Hoagland wends his way through paragraphs, often taking a quick conceptual turn that might seem a misstep or a dead end, but he always re-establishes his rhythm, much like a jazzman vamping and then returning to the deeper theme. Hoagland is a good study on the magic of cadence and the musicality of words; he makes the difficult art of weaving layered points of view with bright language seem easy. That`s not to say that a more straightforward path through your essay isn`t the best course. Mark Twain`s The Private History of a Campaign That Failed essentially plots a chronological rendering of the hapless-and hilarious-exploits of a band of Civil War bumblers, Twain prominent among them. Determine if your material is the sort that should sneak up on readers to win their confidences or overwhelm them with the sustained march of topic vigor.
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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.
Essays are personal--the best of them can seem like conversation with an intelligent, provocative friend, but one with remarkable discretion in editing out the extraneous. Whether the word I appears at all, you must be in your essay, and pungently. It can`t be simply How I Spent My Summer Vacation; it must be How I Spent My Summer Vacation Tearfully Mourning My Dead Ferret. Never hide in an essay. Essays aren`t formless dough, they are the baked bread, hot and crusty. Cranky, apprehensive or playful, your candid voice should be a constant: you don`t want your essays to roar like a lion in one paragraph and bleat like a mewling lamb in another (unless it`s done for effect).