Conceding a point

The first 2 paragraphs of Why Trial Lawyers Say It Better by Adam Freedman:

“Does it sing?”

At my old law firm, that was code for “Is your brief finished?” Admittedly, if you’re not a lawyer, the prospect of a singing legal brief will probably leave you cold. But there’s truth to the musical metaphor. An elegant legal brief (a written argument submitted to a court) has all the harmony of great prose.

Here, Adam Freedman is conceding a point — or, more accurately, acknowledging an objection.

He is saying that he knows full well many of his readers are not going to think legal writing ever “sings” – he “admits” it!

Then he goes on to assert that in fact elegant legal writing does sing: elegant legal writing has the “harmony of great prose.”

Summing up:
Writer’s argument: Elegantly written legal briefs have the harmony of great prose.
Point conceded: A lot of people would disagree.

AND SEE:
The reader over your shoulder
Concession words

Concession words

Words we use to concede a point while making our case (I’ll link to examples as I come across them – complete list of concession-word posts here):

after all
although
although it is true that
at the same time
admittedly
alternatively
at any rate
besides
but still
conversely
granted
however
I concede that
in any case
in any event
in contrast
in spite of
instead
it is true, but
meanwhile
nevertheless
nonetheless
naturally
no doubt
notwithstanding
obviously
of course [it is true that]
on the one hand…on the other hand
otherwise
still
that said
to be sure
true, … but
yet

AND SEE:
“The reader over your shoulder” | 4/29/212
Conceding a point | 4/29/2012
Conceding a point using notwithstanding | 5/1/2012
Conceding a point using on the other hand | 8/25/2012
MO’s paragraph expressing concession | 4/29/2012
Concession words in Ben Bernanke’s speech | 8/31/2012
Roddy Doyle uses “admittedly” to un-concede a point | 9/8/2012
Helen Keller uses “although” to concede a point | 9/8/2012
SI uses nevertheless to concede a point | 10/1/2012

M.O.’s paragraph using a transition that expressions ‘concession’

The Grimms made their tales more violent in the second edition. For example, they increased the punishing of evildoers: the step-sisters have to cut off their heels or toes to make the shoe fit. They also increased cartoon violence, with the step-sisters having their eyes taken out by birds. Although they increased cartoon violence and unrealistic violence, they reduced realistic violence, taking out the story of the starving children whose mother wants to eat them to survive.

AND SEE:
The reader over your shoulder
Concession words

“The reader over your shoulder”

On making concessions, a skill novice writers typically have yet to develop:

Although as writers it is important to construct a strong argumentative thesis and develop it over the course of an essay, it is equally important to avoid tunnel vision and to take into account positions on the issue in question that do not necessarily agree with our own. In a book called The Reader over Your Shoulder (1943) by Robert Graves and Alan Hodges, the authors urge that writers should always compose their argument as if they had a crowd of people reading over their shoulders and asking questions. In other words, writers should try to be cognizant of possible weaknesses or omissions in their logic and should anticipate what a “devil’s advocate” might point out about their argument. This approach to writing will encourage you to shore up your weaknesses and foresee any possible objections to your line of thinking.

Opposing Opinions and Making Concessions (password protected)

AND SEE:
Concession words & examples

Martha Kolln explains cohesion in writing

Martha Kolln‘s  three methods of achieving paragraph cohesion:

  1. The subject of all or most sentences in the paragraph is the same.
  2. In each two-sentence pair, information included in the predicate of the 1st sentence becomes the subject of the 2nd sentence. In other words, something in the end of Sentence 1 becomes the beginning of Sentence 2.
  3. In paragraphs of description, a list of details follows the topic sentence. In such paragraphs, you don’t need to use explicit transitions, although you certainly may if you wish. SEE: SM’s cohesive paragraph.

Note that in all three cases, “old” information comes before new information: sentences begin with something we ‘know’ (or have already read about, usually in the preceding sentence), then introduce something new in the predicate. This old-to-new principle is true with the paragraph of descriptive details because the reader knows the situation each detail refers to. The paragraph topic is old; each sentence in the list is new (see the example below).

EXAMPLES

1. Same subject – same subject

Despite the immense racial gulf separating them, Lincoln and Douglass had a lot in common. They were the two pre-eminent self-made men of their era. Lincoln was born dirt poor, had less than a year of formal schooling and became one of the nation’s greatest Presidents. Douglass spent the first 20 years of his life as a slave, had no formal schooling–in fact, his masters forbade him to read or write–and became one of the nation’s greatest writers and activists. Though nine years younger, Douglass overshadowed Lincoln as a public figure during the 15 years before the Civil War. He published two best-selling autobiographies before the age of 40, edited his own newspaper beginning in 1847 and was a brilliant orator–even better than Lincoln–at a time when public speaking was a major source of entertainment and power.

2. Predicate becomes Subject

Thunderstorms can be categorized as single cell or multicell.

Basically, a single-cell thunderstorm is the lone thunderstorm that forms on a hot humid day. The heat and humidity of the day is the only trigger for the storm. This type of storm forms in an environment with little difference in the wind speed and direction—or wind shear—between the surface and cloud level.
– Joe Murgo (Centre Daily Times)

3. List of details in paragraph of description

Our trip to Florida for spring break turned out to be a disaster. The hotel room we rented was miserable—shabby and stuffy and downright depressing. The food we could afford made our dining hall remembrances from campus seem positively gourmet. The daily transportation to the beach we had been promised showed up only once and even then was an hour late.

Source: Kolln, Martha J. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 5th ed.  New York: Longman 2006. 69. Print.

AND SEE:
Sentence Cohesion — excerpt from Rhetorical Grammar
Coherent paragraphs & the bride on her wedding day

“Cohesive connectors” at Chalk ‘n Talk – video

A terrific, short video on cohesion in paragraphs that we watched in class Wednesday.

Here are two versions of the same paragraph, one with explicit transitions and one with what the instructor calls “cohesive connectors”:

One reason that northern Canada is sparsely populated is because of its bitterly cold climate. For example, in the summer, northern parts of the country can receive snowfalls, and in the winter it can be as cold as -60C. Another reason for not living in the area is that the daylight hours in the winter are severely limited.

One reason that northern Canada is sparsely populated is because of its bitterly cold climate. Weather extremes range from the odd summer snowstorm to -60C temperatures during the long winter nights. Daylight, or the lack of it, is another reason people don’t live there.

Chalk ‘n Talk

Two comments. The Chalk ‘n Talk instructor seems to regard the first paragraph as an example of something not to do. I disagree. There is nothing wrong with the first paragraph; it is crystal clear, and it hangs together. It is cohesive.

Just about everyone in class seemed to like the second paragraph better, and I probably do, too. But you should never hesitate to use explicit transitions like “for example” and “another reason” in your writing. Such expressions are tremendously useful and not to be scorned. They keep your reader on track.

One more observation. Here, again, are Martha Kolln‘s  three methods of achieving paragraph cohesion:

  1. The subject of all or most sentences in the paragraph is the same.
  2. In each two-sentence pair, information included in the predicate of the 1st sentence becomes the subject of the 2nd sentence. Usually this means that something in the end of Sentence 1 becomes the beginning of Sentence 2.
  3. In paragraphs of description, a list of details follows the topic sentence.

The second paragraph above uses a variant of number 2.

The words “bitterly cold climate” at the end of Sentence 1 become the closely related concept “weather extremes” in the subject of Sentence 2.  Then “nights,” at the end of Sentence 2, becomes the closely related concept “daylight” in the subject of sentence 3. The links are logical and easy to follow.

AND SEE:
Sentence Cohesion  excerpt from Rhetorical Grammar
Kolln, Martha J. Rhetorical Grammar:
..Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects
.
Coherent paragraphs & the bride on her wedding day