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Break it up, Break it Down: Paragraphing Strategies for College Essays

Break it up, Break it Down: Paragraphing Strategies for College Essays

Some of us fill a page with a wall of words, with no paragraph indentations, no transitions, and no clearly defined topic sentences. Some of us have the appropriate indentations, but within each paragraph our sentences are out of order. Francis Christensen [1] devised a brilliant trick for paragraphing, one you can use at (and not before) the revising stage:

First, let’s imagine we are creating a couple of "outlines" for paragraphs about places in the world. [2] Fill in the blanks for the two paragraphs below, by pretending each word or phrase is a sentence, with the first word (1) the topic sentence:


…..(2) COUNTRY___USA______(2) COUNTRY____________

……..(3) CITY___San Francisco__ (3) CITY_____________

……….(4) STREET__Haight______ (4) STREET___________

………….(5) BUSINESS_Amoeba Music_ (5) BUSINESS______

For this paragraph, we can see how each entry (sentence) refers back to (1), but is also a more specific reference to the place directly before it. So the sequence is tight/orderly.

But what if we tried to put another (2) next in this sequence, after the (5)? Would bringing in another country in the city, on the street, and at the business there work logically for our reader? Or would it throw our reader?

It would throw our reader.

So we need to start a new paragraph, a new (1), an ALSO/BESIDES/IN ADDITION…. For, this paragraph is of the kind Christensen calls the SUBORDINATE PARAGRAPH, and it must have an order and sub order of 1, 2, 3, 4, …. It cannot have 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, and it cannot have a 1, 5, 2, 3, 4 order.

*****SUBORDINATE paragraphs are good for telling stories, showing a process (or how-to) order, or moving from general to specific descriptions. They are one of three types of paragraphs in the writing world.*****

The above is a sample of a _____________________paragraph.


___Describing Tupac…. ___Shit, he was real. ___I’ma be real for a minute, because I can’t describe someone so real without being real myself: [Tupac] was everything and nothing. ___He was dreamful, hopeful, a leader, a rebel, a thug, a friend, a role model. ___Just everything he did was, as Tupac once said, "a calculated step to bring me closer to my death." ___He was the hip hop Jesus.

–from Luis Camacho’s journal entry, June 16, 2004

The above is a sample of a _____________________paragraph.

What kind of paragraph do you find A is? If you see it as a COORDINATE, you are absolutely right!

How about B? Yep, a (well-written) SUBORDINATE.

My students are divided on C, with general consensus seeing it as either a COORDINATE, with each sentence after the first reinforcing the writer’s topic sentence or as a MIXED, with the final sentence (a 3)—or…possible a new 1?

And paragraph D? Looks like a rich MIX of details, doesn’t it? And the writer of D hadn’t yet done this paragraphing experiment!

End Notes

[1] Christensen, Francis. A Generative Rhetoric of the Paragraph. CCC 16 (October 1965).

[2] This part of the experiment is a modified version of that used in Graduate Composition Teaching courses taught by Deborah Swanson at SFSU.

[3] All paragraph samples taken from and/or modified for English 880, Skyline College, San Bruno, CA. Passage D is a selected piece written by a student who has granted his permission for my use of it here and elsewhere. RM.

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The Business of Sports and the Case Study of Michael Vick

The Business of Sports and the Case Study of Michael Vick

Many people separate business and sports and if you will note they are on separate sections of our newspapers. But the reality is that "sports is very much a business" in America. In the major leagues like the NBA, NFL, and to the Baseball Association, those are all very large franchises. So is NASCAR for that matter. And for these businesses it is all about branding, image, and marketing. If they don’t market themselves well to sports fans, those fans will not be interested and they will stop paying the fees to watch these events or buy logoed products.

Now let’s take the case study of Michael Vick, who was convicted of sponsoring dog fights, which obviously is unfortunate considering Americans love their dogs, and the reality of nonprofit groups like PETA, who love animals and don’t want any harm to come to them. PETA is a group that gets a lot of press and they often have riots and protests that make the headlines of the major media. Now that Michael Vick has been reinstated into the league, a team might pick him up to play for them.

It will of course, be interesting because he has a very good player, but whatever team picks him up, well they will have do a little damage control in the media and they might take a few fans and pet lovers refuse to watch their games. This is a serious issue, and one that will be very interesting to watch. You must remember that sports is a business, and Michael Vick is an awesome player, but he has also been convicted of cruelty to animals. Please consider all this.

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Citing References in the Body of a Research Paper

Citing References in the Body of a Research Paper

MLA in-text citation pertains to the crediting of the references you have used for your research paper in the main body. The elements for creating a citation in the text are the author’s last name and the page number of the summarized or paraphrased idea, or the directly quoted passage. They are enclosed in parentheses and are not separated by any kind of punctuation mark.

Needless to say, an in-text citation should have a corresponding MLA citation in the works cited page. For instance, when you paraphrase a passage from the The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English, you need to get the names of the authors of the book and the page number of the idea you’ve referred to. As such, the sentence will look like this (minus the quotation marks): "To better comprehend English written material in Southeast Asia, it is best to take a look at its culture first (Patke and Holden 10)." In the works cited page, this MLA in-text citation will be translated into the following: Patke, Rajeev S., and Philip Holden. The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print. This citation consists of several elements, namely, the authors’ names, the book title, the location and name of publisher, and the year and medium of publication.

The corresponding MLA citation for this in-text citation is as such: Henderson, Harold G. Handbook of Japanese Grammar. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print. For this particular format, since volume 3 of the multivolume work has its own title, it can be considered an independent publication, that is, the title of the whole series need not be mentioned anymore.

The MLA in-text citation format is fairly easy to master than the MLA format used in the works cited section of the research paper. However, they come hand-in-hand, so whatever goes into the body of the paper should be included in the references page as well.

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The Best Time to Write

The Best Time to Write

Choosing a perfect time to write is not only professional but also helpful in so many ways. At least it helps a writer not only to maintain focus but also makes a writer very much productive in his work. By choosing an appropriate time that suits you or which gives you a chance to contemplate well on your ideas, you will be able to easily escape the writer’s block and develop more ideas.

*Personally the best time is at dawn. Normally, I seem to write more and bring out more ideas from within myself most specifically during that period of time. I have experimented with this for quiet a long time now and in this article I am going to share some few ideas on how this method or time of writing works for me a lot.

I do understand that individually every writer has his or her own time of writing. A chosen time that he or she is able to connect to his or her true-self and bring out most of his ideas. Writer’s who might prefer a different time of writing as opposed to dawn writing could still read on and pick some few ideas to help them create or simulate a very much conducive atmosphere no matter their chosen time of writing . Being able to recreate the dawn experience in their own ways or a perfect atmosphere for writing by drawing some few ideas from here will help them to become much more productive in their writing as well.

First of all, we need to understand that human beings are social animals. That is we are very much connected to people around us and our surroundings both physically and psychologically. The sort of connections that we have with the people around us and our surrounding all comes into play or influences your thought pattern as you write. This could either be an advantage or disadvantage to some level. Of course you will need to draw or absorb ideas from the people and your surrounding to help you to write. But many times a writer would also encounter difficulties in coming up with straight forward ideas due to this same mind connection advantage which in this case rather becomes a disadvantage. You are unable to end your article or find a proper arrangement for your ideas because you do not know which voice you should allow to speak through you. We are usually made up several selves competing within us and this could reflect in your thought pattern and get you so much confused in arriving at a specific unique straight forward idea to write. As you experience an unstable thought pattern you tend to have so many conflicting ideas in your writing. This makes it difficult to arrive at a straight forward idea for your content or even to conclude your article for publishing. You become so frustrated and stressed –unsure which is the perfect voice or tone to describe your ideas to your target audience.

This phenomenon is much more understandable because the same thing that makes us strong sometimes makes you weak. The same thing that gives us inspiration to write and even influences our way of writing could make a writer lose his total bearings and often experience a writer’s block.

Considering the disadvantage associated with these psychological societal connections, In fact certain levels of thinking could only be achieved by disconnecting from these societal influences- most especially in the case of writing which involves one having to embrace solitudness or a sort of prolonged isolation to churn out words. This is when dawn writing offers an advantage to most writers like me.

The truth is as the world is perceived to be asleep; it makes the writer less connected to the major influences around him or in his environment which is more likely to influence his thought pattern or way of thinking. This includes people or the society as a whole. It gives you enough confidence and the chance to break away psychologically from your surrounding. Your natural thinking antennas intensifies and you are not only able to connect to deeper levels of your mind but also far fetch information which isn’t within your immediate environment.

It offers a great time for the mind to travel further in search of more ideas. And you can experience the appropriate privacy and silence that enables you to hear the inner voice much louder. With the very quiet atmosphere that dawn writing offers, you are able to focus and contemplate well on your work, it makes you feel alone in the universe and you can confidently allow your true personality to reveal itself. It sort of offers you a chance to come out of yourself and your head without much psychological restrictions or hindrances. You can really dig down or probe deeper into thinking levels to come face to face with yourself. When you write at dawn, you will be astonished by the tons of information you will be able to discover and even bring up from the past to support your ideas.

Please feel free to give your comment and suggestions below. You can also contact me if you want to write articles for your blogs, website or for any proof reading service. Contact me for also advice and tutorials on SEO or how you can upgrade your website in order to gain more traffic.

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Case Study for Email Newsletter Improvements – Council on Foreign Relations

Case Study for Email Newsletter Improvements – Council on Foreign Relations

Not long ago, I was asked to take a survey from an online newsletter, and I am sure you get these all the time – this one like most stated that it would only take a little bit of my time. Guess what, it actually took very little time, what a refreshing reality a survey which respects your time and really cares about customer service. Okay so, let’s talk about this, because 5-short questions probably aren’t enough to really get the proper feedback, but good for analytical assessment I suppose.

The newsletter is quite good and quite famous, it’s from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and it is meant to give information happening around the globe. So, in this case study, here are some changes I would make to upgrade it further. Read through these ideas, as perhaps they might serve in upgrading your organization newsletter as well.

I’d also recommend that CFR take its reports online, the comprehensive ones, where they are chronicle’zed and have the pages formatted into PDF to download for tablets so executives and others can read them while traveling, with nice bullet points. I’d also take the CFR YouTube videos, the transcripts, offering them for $.99 on Amazon with audio enabled for Kindle Fire and iPads, so also at the Apple Store, Android Store, and anywhere else CFR can get them. CFR might also follow some notes from RAND on their news alerts by category.

Indeed, I hope you’ve also gained from this assessment and these recommendations. An email newsletter is a terrible thing to waste, make everyone count. Please consider all this and think on it.

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College Essays – What to Avoid

College Essays – What to Avoid

Education is one of the very important processes of our life, where we learn many skills and information is absorbed by us, during the course of time. These days, education has become affordable and children are looking forward to grow academically by seeking admissions in various colleges around the world. Colleges around the world have their own simple methods of choosing the deserving candidate, such as essay, GMAT, TOEFL and personal interviews.

Of the many kinds of methods, writing an essay is preferred by the college since it gives a peek into the student’s writing skills and academic profile. Here are some commonly found mistakes, which can be avoided easily.

1. Do not repeat information about scores and academic performance – many students are unaware of what to put in their college admission essay and therefore make the mistake of reiterating their resume and scores in the essay. This is not necessary since the review team has your resume with them to look at. You will only make your essay disinteresting by mentioning the same twice.

6. How is the college/university going to benefit from you – every college/university is definitely beneficial for the student and that they know of. What is important is that students do not mention how they can benefit the college/university that they study in. including this part in the essay can create a very good impression, giving you a direct pass into their gates.

Most of the mistakes which a student commits while writing a college admission essay is a result of improper information. Research well to know how to write and what mistakes to avoid in a college admission essay to help you gain access to the college/university that you wish to study in. All the best.

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