Document 2 - Wagner College

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Document 2 - Wagner College
Paragraphs
Though most people view the thesis-statement as the heart of the college-level essay, it is the supporting paragraphs that
will make or break your argument. A good thesis is important if you want the paper to have a strong focal point, but the
thesis occupies a small portion of the text. Conversely, a paragraph is comprised of several sentences that work together to
convey a supporting idea (an idea that will reinforce or help prove your thesis). Producing good paragraphs can be
challenging; like a thesis, a paragraph needs to revolve around a clear, specific idea. It must provide details and evidence
to corroborate your points.
A paragraph can be defined as a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. Sometimes, students
mistakenly incorporate too many ideas into a paragraph. In addition to limiting the scope of a paragraph, it is important to
make sure that the paragraph reads smoothly; writers must consider the sequence and flow of their sentences, and they
must use strategies to create continuity between these sentences.
Here are two paragraphs with the same topic sentence. Both paragraphs have good details, but the order of ideas/sentences
in the first paragraph is confusing and illogical. Conversely, the second paragraph is structured much more effectively. It
also uses strategies such as parallelism, transitions, repetition, etc. to achieve coherence.
Fowler, H. Ramsay and Jane E. Aaron. The Little, Brown Handbook, 12th ed. New York: Pearson, 2012: 87-88. Print.
The Basic Characteristics of a Supporting Paragraph
A paragraph should contain all of the following:
Topic Sentence - a sentence that indicates what idea the paragraph is going to convey. Like a thesis statement, the topic
sentence should have a strong sense of purpose, but it need not be as specific (remember, the thesis is usually just one or
two sentences, while a paragraph gives you four to eight sentences to work with in articulating, defining, and conveying
your ideas.) A paragraph’s topic sentence should connect back to the thesis in a clear way.
Paragraph Unity - the entire paragraph should revolve around a single idea or focal point. If it begins with one idea, it
should not end with another. This is why a strong topic sentence is useful: it will keep you on track when writing the
paragraph, and allow you to achieve unity. Try to keep the paragraph unified as you are writing. When revising, be willing
to cut sentences that detract from the main idea of the paragraph.
Paragraph Coherence - the order and flow of sentences in the paragraph should make good, logical sense. Coherence
can be more difficult to achieve than unity, but there should be as much continuity as possible between sentences; this can
be attained through transitions, parallelism, repetition, etc. See the separate slideshow on the subject of paragraph
coherence.
Development/Detail - The topic of the paragraph should be discussed fully and adequately; you should support your
analysis of that topic with textual evidence and specific details. Pick specific examples, find useful quotations, and try to
paraphrase or summarize useful bits of information and then integrate them into your analysis.
Ways to Structure a Supporting Paragraph
The purpose of a supporting paragraph is to advance an idea in support of the thesis, but there are many different ways by
which a paragraph can achieve this goal. Consider the following strong verbs that are typically associated with
paragraphs: Narrate, Explain, Describe, Compare and Contrast, Define.

Narrate: recount a series of events.

Explain: clarify an idea by presenting relevant facts and details.

Describe: detail the traits or characteristics of someone or something.

Compare and Contrast: present the similarities and differences between two or more things.

Define: establishes what something is (or is not).
Each of these verbs lends itself to a specific pattern or sequence of sentences/ideas.

Narrate: when you narrate, it is usually helpful to present events in the order in which they occurred.

Explain: when explaining a process (or an idea), it is helpful to think in “steps” and to preserve linearity.

Describe: when describing something (especially visually), it is useful to move in a specific way (top to
bottom, right to left, etc.)

Compare and Contrast: when comparing and contrasting subjects, you can discuss the subjects
separately (giving them each a small section of the paragraph) or you can discuss them “simultaneously”
by doing a point-by-point analysis.

Define: begin with a general definition, then get into more specific ideas and examples that further your
definition.
Revising Paragraphs
1- Original Paragraph: There is much to admire in this paragraph, though the author includes a few
unnecessary details/sentences. Furthermore, the order of the sentences and subjects could be
restructured for the purpose of clarity and coherence. Finally, the paragraph ends on a somewhat
ambiguous note, and the general purpose of the paragraph in relation to a larger argument is unclear.
In Hamlet, words are a powerful medium used metaphorically as poison, as they can be used to inflict
pain and anguish on some characters or even be the cause of their unfortunate death. The most literal
interpretation of poison entering someone’s ear is, of course, the murder of King Hamlet: Claudius poured a
leprous poison in his brother’s ear to kill him almost instantaneously. Hamlet also reproduces this in his set up
of a play, The Mousetrap, in which the Player Lucianus pours a poison in the Player King’s ear to kill him for
his estate. However, words can also enter the ears of characters – a metaphorical poison – and inflict substantial
emotional damage or be used to achieve sinful goals. At the beginning of the tragedy, King Claudius explains to
the Danish court why everyone should look past the grief of King Hamlet’s death and towards his happy
wedding to Queen Gertrude. Although the courtiers should have looked upon this affair as incestuous, they were
persuaded (in effect, “poisoned”) by Claudius’ emphatic and cunning words that the marriage was justified and
necessary for the kingdom’s prosperity. Only Hamlet seems to see the situation as it is; even Gertrude, who
marries within the month of her husband’s sudden death, seems unburdened by her sinful deed. The power of
persuasive speech is evident: words can be manipulated to easily deceive others. Hamlet later forces his mother
to look upon her own sin when they speak privately, and she exclaims, “O, speak to me no more!/These words
like daggers enter in mine ears” (III.iv.84-85). In this instance, Hamlet’s words are similar to a poison because
they are used to inflict pain on Gertrude, manipulated so that they depict the stark contrast between her former
and current husband. He even compares Claudius to “a mildewed ear” (III.iv.63), perhaps hinting at Claudius’
parasitic quality since he gained power and a wife by secretive plotting, foul murder, and cunning manipulation.
***
2- Revised Paragraph: This paragraph eliminates the unnecessary sentences; it also introduces the
subject of Hamlet’s use of poisonous words more effectively (note the highlighted sentence). More
importantly, it refocuses the Hamlet section on his manipulative/poisonous use of words, which creates
continuity with the early sentences on Claudius (again, see the highlighting). Finally, the paragraph ends
on a more emphatic and conclusive note (once more, see highlighting).
In Hamlet, the most literal interpretation of poison entering someone’s ear is, of course, the murder of
King Hamlet: Claudius poured a leprous poison in his brother’s ear. However, words can also enter the ears of
characters – a metaphorical poison – to achieve sinful goals or to inflict substantial emotional damage. At the
beginning of the tragedy, King Claudius explains to the Danish court why everyone should look past the grief of
King Hamlet’s death and towards his happy wedding to Queen Gertrude. Although the courtiers should have
looked upon this affair as incestuous, they were persuaded (in effect, “poisoned”) by Claudius’ emphatic and
cunning words that the marriage was justified and necessary for the kingdom’s prosperity. Only Hamlet seems
to see the situation as it is, though Hamlet is also capable of using words destructively. When he forces his
mother to look upon her own sin, she exclaims, “O, speak to me no more!/These words like daggers enter in
mine ears” (III.iv.84-85). In this instance, Hamlet’s words are similar to a poison because they are used to inflict
pain on Gertrude; however, his words are also meant to manipulate her so that she will see the stark contrast
between her former and current husband. During this conversation, Hamlet notably compares Claudius to “a
mildewed ear” (III.iv.63), hinting at Claudius’ parasitic quality and attempting to turn Gertrude against him by
alluding to his secretive plotting, foul murder, and cunning manipulation. As in the case of Claudius’s speech to
the courtiers, the power of persuasive speech is evident: words can be manipulated to “poison” others.
3- Revised Paragraphs: This paragraph provides another potential way of revising and improving the
original version. Here, we have split the paragraph into two shorter paragraphs. Note that each
paragraph has a slightly different focus: the Claudius paragraph focuses on words as “poison” in the
sense that they can deceive, but the Hamlet paragraph focuses on words as “poison” in the sense that they
can injure. Since the characters’ use of words as poison is fundamentally different in this version, it
makes sense to split the paragraph into two units as opposed to revising it. Also, note that each
paragraph comes to a strong conclusion, and that the first sentence of the second paragraph refers back
to its predecessor (see highlights).
In Hamlet, words are a powerful medium used metaphorically as poison, as they can be used to achieve
sinful goals. At the beginning of the tragedy, King Claudius explains to the Danish court why everyone should
look past the grief of King Hamlet’s death and towards his happy wedding to Queen Gertrude. Although the
courtiers should have looked upon this affair as incestuous, they were persuaded (in effect, “poisoned”) by
Claudius’ emphatic and cunning words that the marriage was justified and necessary for the kingdom’s
prosperity. The poisonous power of persuasive speech is evident: words can be manipulated to easily deceive
others.
Throughout the play, only Hamlet seems immune to Claudius’s poison, and he continues to see the
situation as it truly is. However, Hamlet discovers another “poisonous” use of words upon realizing that they
can be used to inflict pain, anguish, and substantial emotional damage on other characters. In the middle of the
play, Hamlet forces his mother to look upon her own sin, and she exclaims, “O, speak to me no more!/These
words like daggers enter in mine ears” (III.iv.84-85). In this instance, Hamlet’s words are similar to a poison
because they are used to inflict pain on Gertrude. He compares her beloved Claudius to “a mildewed ear”
(III.iv.63), hinting at Claudius’ parasitic quality and implying that he gained power and a wife by secretive
plotting, foul murder, and cunning manipulation. Whereas Claudius’s poisonous words are used to manipulate
his courtiers and cover up his crimes, Hamlet’s poisonous words are used to injure his mother and make public
her sins.
***

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