N.V.’s perfect paragraph

When the Grimms revised their tales, they made the stories less controversial but more violent. To achieve this goal, they took out realistic violence and left in the violence that parents thought was acceptable. For example, they removed “The Starving Children,” a story in which a mother is willing to eat her own child due to hunger. Also, in “Cinderella,” the birds poke out her stepsisters’ eyes.

This is a wonderful paragraph – wonderful and also pretty rare in the work of novice writers, I think. A paragraph to aspire to!

Here’s a break-down:

  1. TOPIC SENTENCEWhen the Grimms revised their tales, they made the stories less controversial but more violent.
  2. ELABORATION and/or EXPLANATION of the topicTo achieve this goal, they took out realistic violence and left in the violence that parents thought was acceptable.
  3. EXAMPLES that illustrate and provide evidence NV’s claim is true: For example, they removed “The Starving Children,” a story in which a mother is willing to eat her own child due to hunger. Also, in “Cinderella,” the birds poke out her stepsisters’ eyes.

Number #2 – ELABORATION &/or EXPLANATION – makes this paragraph a stand-out. Most students open with a topic sentence and then proceed directly to their examples. That is a perfectly fine way to write a paragraph, and you’ll see many such paragraphs in newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as on websites.

However, in analytical writing, which is what most college writing entails, we often want something “more,” and that something more goes by various names, including “elaboration,”development,” or “analysis,” among others.

Analysis is what NV has done here: she has analyzed what kind of violence the Grimm brothers included in the 2nd edition, and what kind they cut. Wonderful!

postscriptWilliam J. Kerrigan always told his students to “say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.”

He was talking about paragraph development.

update 4/26/2012: I’ve posted a question for you to answer in the Comment.

2 thoughts on “N.V.’s perfect paragraph

  1. My husband read NV’s paragraph this morning & thought it was terrific. He ‘tripped over’ ONE sentence — can you tell which one & why?

    When I say ‘tripped over,’ I mean that he found the sentence momentarily confusing.

    (cijohn = your instructor)

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