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6.1: How Do You Resolve Paragraph-Level Problems?

  • Page ID
    47386
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    UNITY, TRANSITION, AND DEVELOPMENT - MAKING THE STRUCTURE AND LOGIC ACCESSIBLE TO THE READER

    A paragraph must exhibit unity, transition, and development. It must contain only one idea, every sentence must focus on that idea, each sentence must connect to the previous and next sentence, these sentences have to lead to some conclusion. To see the trouble caused by the omission of these elements, compare the following original pair of paragraphs with a rewrite:

    ORIGINAL

    The field of chemical process design has long been divided into two areas: process simulation and chemical information. Recently, with the help of advanced computer technology, process simulation achieved significant commercial success. Several simulation software packages, such as ASPEN, SPEEDUP, and ABACUS, have been widely employed in the chemical industry, from unit operation to plant design. On the other hand, the last fifteen years have witnessed major breakthroughs in the acquisition of chemical information. Ab initio type quantum chemical calculations, armed with ever more powerful computing facility, have been proven to generate reliable physical and kinetic information for a wide range of chemicals. At the same time, chemical databases, such as Chemical Abstract, was able to provide rapid access to variety of chemical information. However, there exists a big gap between the two areas mentions above, and a link needs to be built to enhance the cooperation between chemical information and process simulation.

    The success of process simulation depends largely on the accessibility and accuracy of physical and kinetic information for the chemicals involved. Currently, there are two major ways to obtain chemical information: ab initio calculation and chemical databases.

    REWRITE

    The success of process simulation depends largely on the accessibility and accuracy of physical and kinetic information for the chemicals involved. Recently, process simulation has achieved significant commercial success with the help of advanced computer technology. Several simulation software packages, such as ASPEN, SPEEDUP, and ABACUS, are widely employed in tasks from unit operation to plant design. Simulation improvements have been paralleled by major breakthroughs in the acquisition of chemical information. Currently, there are two major ways to obtain chemical information, ab initio calculation and chemical databases. Quantum, ab initio chemical calculations now produce reliable physical and kinetic information for a wide range of chemicals, and chemical databases, such as Chemical Abstract, provide rapid access to variety of chemical information. While both process simulation and its information basis have advanced, the linkage between them has not.

    The original contains all of the information, but the relationship and connections between the ideas are implicit rather than explicit. The author knows the connections and the savvy reader can piece the information together. The following "improvements" can be made to allow the casual reader to understand the paragraph with minimal effort. In order of occurrence, the changes and motivations to make such changes are the following:

    • You can reorder and the first sentence of the paragraph. The first sentence of the original categorizes the two relevant issues simulation and information, but it does not indicate the relationship between these issues. Because the paragraph is about this relationship, it can be the topic of the topic sentence. The first sentence of the second paragraph is the perfect definition of the relationship.
    • You can invert the second sentence so the old information comes first, and the new information comes at the end.
    • You can replace "on the other hand" with "Simulation improvements have been paralleled" to clarify the two "hands."
    • The second sentence of the second paragraph fits in nicely because it categorizes the next two items. You can exchange the connection "at the same time" for an "and;" the issue of time isn't important.
    • You can make the "however" transition more explicit with the phrase "While both process simulation and its information basis have advanced."

    These explicit transitions improve the ease with which the information can be absorbed. As a bonus, the rewrite is a bit shorter. The rewrite did not change the intended purpose or eliminate important information.

    The following is another example of a paragraph rewrite:

    ORIGINAL

    The SuperSolder process is a printed circuit board solder application process. It is an alternative to Selective Solder Strip application that should provide thicker solder on land pads and has shown better solder joint reliability. Many assembly houses have already implemented SuperSolder into their processes. The industry is tending toward SuperSolder because it offers many benefits over Selective Solder Strip. Intel, however, must test SuperSolder's reliability and manufacturability in its assembly
    line before beginning production scale use of this potentially beneficial process.

    REWRITE

    The SuperSolder printed circuit board solder application process is an alternative to Selective Solder Strip. SuperSolder's advantages include: thicker solder on land pads, the elimination of expensive photolithography steps, and better solder joint reliability. Because the SuperSolder offers many benefits over Selective Solder Strip, the industry is tending toward SuperSolder; many assembly houses have already implemented SuperSolder into their processes. However, before Intel can incorporate SuperSolder into its own production scale assembly line, the reliability and manufacturability of the new process must be demonstrated inhouse.

    In order of occurrence, the changes and motivations to make such changes are the following:

    • You can combine the first sentence with part of the second. The clues were the verb "is" and the noun "process," both used twice. The one idea being conveyed is that of a new alternative process.
    • You can section off the second half of the second sentence and made it an idea of its own: benefits of the new process.
    • You can add a “because” to the beginning of this sentence to show cause/effect linkage. Putting the "because" at the beginning of the sentence sets the reader up for the sentence's structure.
    • You can mess with new and old information order in the last sentence, leading from benefits (at Intel) to the testing that must be done.

    As with the previous example, all of the information was contained in the original. While the reader can figure out what the original paragraph means, the document is one of those murky technical documents that give people headaches. The structure, development, and transition can all be improved to create better prose.

    TOO MANY IDEAS IN ONE PARAGRAPH

    A paragraph ought to have but one idea. The following original has two ideas, one that defines the internet and a one that suggests that the technology and its popularity has led to problems. To reduce an overabundance of ideas in a paragraph, give each idea a paragraph of its own and be sure to connect the paragraphs. Such a fix enlarges the text to make it clearer.

    See the next page for an example of how to prevent too many ideas in one paragraph:

    ORIGINAL

    The internet is a computer network that connects users from all over the world. The internet is also the largest network in the world. There are currently over 20 million users on the internet according a recent survey by Nielson Research. The internet is sometimes called a "network of networks" because it a superset of smaller networks such as America Online or Usenet. It allows users to communicate via email, discussion groups or hypertext. Other services include file transfer, remote login and indexing programs. Originally, these computer utilities were used solely for scientific research. Now these utilities are being used to exchange pornography and hate literature. The inventors of the internet never expected the network to be a distribution channel for pornography.

    REWRITE

    With over 20 million users, the internet is the largest computer network in the world. The internet's vast size results from its status as a network of networks, connecting many smaller networks such as America Online and Usenet. As an umbrella network, the internet allows subnet users to communicate via email, discussion groups or hypertext. Other services include file transfer, remote login and indexing programs. The network's size and utility make it ever more attractive to more users.

    The popularity of the internet led to a new set of problems un-envisioned by its inventors. Originally, the internet was used solely for scientific research and defense projects. The architecture was designed to be open to promote collaboration, and the system was distributed so that it could withstand nuclear war. This open, decentralized system has promoted a new degree of free speech: any user can communicate anything to any other user at any time. The unprecedented levels of freedom have lead to unprecedented levels of the abuse of free speech, such as the exchange of pornography and hate literature.

    As a rough draft, the original is highly appropriate; nearly all the information is there and the connections are implicit. The rewrite separates the two principle ideas and connects them explicitly. The rewrite makes the topic sentences into contentions in contrast to the supportive nature of the original topic sentences. The rewrite also adds connecting information that is not available in the original.

    SURPRISE TRANSITION WORDS

    Transition words can sometimes be a surprise to the reader. The author understands the connection and indeed puts in a logically correct transition word. Unfortunately, the logic and connection may come too late for the reader who has either already constructed a possibly flawed logic or is lost. The most common surprise transition words are “thus,” ”therefore,” and “however.” Consider the following originals and rewrites:

    ORIGINAL

    Immunoprecipitation is a powerful technique because the specificity of the immunoglobulin for its ligand is high. Thus, it allows detection and possible quantification of a target antigen in a mixture of proteins.

    REWRITE

    Because the specificity of the immunoglobulin for its ligand is high, immunoprecipitation allows detection and possible quantification of a target antigen in a mixture of proteins.

    The original is difficult to understand because its structure is not clear from the start. The information about immunoprecipitation is true enough, but the reader doesn't know what to do with the information. The "thus" comes as a surprise. The reader needs to backtrack and remember the previous idea.

    In the rewrite, the "because" sets up the structure for the reader immediately: cause/effect. Two boxes are opened in the reader's mind, and the information can now be safely poured into the boxes. As an added bonus, word count is lowered. The meaning has not been changed at all.

    Please note that many people feel uneasy starting a sentence with the word “because” and many readers balk when finding such a word at the start of a sentence. The reason for such queasiness is that the “because” clause is subordinate to the main clause. All other things being equal, the main clause should come first; it is the most important. Such a rule may conflict with other information order guidelines. Use your own judgment.

    See below for another surprise transition word example:

    ORIGINAL

    There is much common sense, qualitative information available for climbers on how to place SLCDs. However, this information is based either on anecdotal evidence that lacks an experimental control or on static tests that do not take into account the dynamic nature of a falling climber

    REWRITE

    While qualitative, common sense information provides excellent guidelines for the usage of SLCDs, this information is based either on anecdotal evidence that lacks an experimental control or on static tests that do not take into account the dynamic nature of a falling climber.

    Once again, the first sentence is true enough, but the reader is unprepared for the opposition implied with “however.” In the rewrite, “while” alerts the reader to the juxtaposition of ideas that will follow.



    LICENSES AND ATTRIBUTIONS


    This page titled 6.1: How Do You Resolve Paragraph-Level Problems? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Chelsea Milbourne, Anne Regan, Morgan Livingston, & Sadie Johann.

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