Week 37 Write in Sentences, but Think in Paragraphs
by Peggy Urry
Benjamin Franklin had a great sense of curiosity (and I would say, a great amount of luck on his side: think lightning rod).
As a lad, there was a peer with whom he would debate. He "usually found himself on the losing side of these 'disputations'". Franklin, in his autobiography says the "lad" was "naturally more eloquent, had a ready plenty of words; and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more by his fluency than by the strength of his reasons."1
To hone his skills, he took an old volume of The Spectator (Joseph Addison and Richard Steele) and studied the essays. He took notes, he wrote them in verse, then after a few days would try to put them back into essay form. And made more notes on how he could improve the next time. Sometimes, apparently needing a bigger challenge, he would jumble his collection of hints and weeks later attempt to put them back into order.
Sounds grand, doesn't it? Let's give it a try using a paragraph from an essay in The Spectator by Joe Floren, "Writing in the Age of Data Drench". Put the following sentences in order:2
___ How often would we make careless spelling errors if correcting them meant starting over with a new rock?
___ It's no coincidence that the typewriter is wordier than longhand, the word processor wordier than the typewriter, and dictation wordiest of all.
___ Despite its many benefits, the computer gets the blame for increasing reader overload.
___ Imagine how concise we'd be if we had to chisel our messages into rock.
___ Its ease of use encourages writers to be wordier and less organized.
___ Easy writing quickly becomes lazy writing.
Need a few hints? Remember Week 36's paragraph instruction: topic, development, resolution. A topic sentence may look back before going forward--a transitional topic sentence. The one above includes a comma. The sentence that clarifies/amplifies meaning comes next. Guessing on the fourth sentence might be careless and lazy isn't always last. Good luck. Check out Stephen Wilbers's book Mastering the Craft for more hints.
1 Mastering the Craft, Wilbers, Stephen, pg 206.
2 Mastering the Craft, Wilbers, Stephen, pg 207.