Terrific explanation of a stand-alone paragraph


WHITE LINE BREAK
THE PARAGRAPH:
Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two important characteristics. First of all, gold has a lustrous beauty that is resistant to corrosion. Therefore, it is suitable for jewelry, coins, and ornamental purposes. Gold never needs to be polished and will remain beautiful forever. For example, a Macedonian coin remains as untarnished today as the day it was minted twenty-three centuries ago. Another important characteristic of gold is its usefulness to industry and science. For many years, it has been used in hundreds of industrial applications. The most recent use of gold is in astronauts’ suits. Astronauts wear gold-plated heat shields for protection outside the spaceship. In conclusion, gold is treasured not only for its beauty but also its utility.

In the table below, I’ve analyzed this paragraph in terms of the “TEE” approach to writing paragraphs.

T = Topic (or Topic sentence)
E = Explanation or elaboration (or discussion)
E = Example or evidence

Don’t worry about the difference between example/evidence or explanation/elaboration. Inside a paragraph, evidence and examples serve roughly the same purpose, as do explanation and elaboration:

  • Explanation and elaboration tell your reader ‘more’ about the topic. (Say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.“)
  • Evidence and examples give the reader specific details that “support” your topic — that “prove” your claim about the topic is true.

Don’t think of “TEE” as a rule. “TEE” is a guide, not a rule.

the
TEE
paragraph
T = Topic
E = Examples or Evidence
E = Explanation or Elaboration
Topic
sentence
Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two important characteristics.
Elaboration First of all, gold has a lustrous beauty that is resistant to corrosion.
Elaboration Therefore, it is suitable for jewelry, coins, and ornamental purposes.
Evidence Gold never needs to be polished and will remain beautiful forever.
Example For example, a Macedonian coin remains as untarnished today as the day it was minted twenty-three centuries ago.
Elaboration Another important characteristic of gold is its usefulness to industry and science.
Evidence For many years, it has been used in hundreds of industrial applications.
Example The most recent use of gold is in astronauts’ suits.
Explanation Astronauts wear gold-plated heat shields for protection outside the spaceship.
  In conclusion, gold is treasured not only for its beauty but also its utility.

AND SEE:
The TEE formula for paragraphs & the exit exam
NV’s perfect paragraph

The ‘TEE’ formula for paragraphs & the Exit Exam

‘TEE’ paragraphs

 

Topic
Explanation/Elaboration (or “development”)
Examples
   A “TEE” PARAGRAPH:
Topic
sentence
The characters [in fables] are flat, with no inner life.
Explanation
(elaboration,
analysis, development)
They personify virtues and vices, such as courage and cowardice, honesty and dishonesty, patience and impatience, humility and boastfulness, kindness and cruelty, sincerity and flattery, cunning and artlessness, and the like.
Explanation The characters are generally types.
Examples They are meant to represent aspects of human nature: the proud peacock, the clever crow, the defiant donkey, the oracular owl, the plodding turtle, the cocky hare, the greedy pig.

Paragraph drawn from:
D’Angelo, Frank J. Composition in the Classical Tradition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print. (60).

My impression is that published paragraphs often have just a single ‘E’: some paragraphs offer examples while other paragraphs offer elaboration, analysis, and explanation. However, this is just an impression. I may be wrong.

I’ll come back to this post later when I have a better sense of how academic authors distribute elaboration and example throughout their work.

The graders for the Exit Examination will be looking for paragraphs that include a topic sentence, development (elaboration), and examples, which is as it should be. A 5-paragraph essay is a highly compressed form, so elaboration and examples must reside together within the same paragraph.

AND SEE:
The “T.E.E.” formula for paragraphs and the exit exam
An exemplary paragraph by Frank D’Angelo
Terrific explanation of a stand-alone paragraph
NV’s perfect paragraph

An exemplary paragraph by Frank D’Angelo

The characters [in fables] are flat, with no inner life. They personify virtues and vices, such as courage and cowardice, honesty and dishonesty, patience and impatience, humility and boastfulness, kindness and cruelty, sincerity and flattery, cunning and artlessness, and the like. The characters are generally types. They are meant to represent aspects of human nature: the proud peacock, the clever crow, the defiant donkey, the oracular owl, the plodding turtle, the cocky hare, the greedy pig.

D’Angelo, Frank J. Composition in the Classical Tradition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Print. (60).

D’Angelo’s paragraph is an excellent example of the “TEE” paragraph (see here).

You will need to write “TEE” paragraphs for the Exit Examination.

exemplary: worthy of imitation; commendable: exemplary conduct. (Dictionary.com)
Sentences using the word exemplary from YourDictionary.
Sentences using the word exemplar from YourDictionary

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.