Zen Master

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s retelling ofThe Lost Horsein Charlie Wilson’s War:

Dialogue from Charlie Wilson’s War – 2007

In this scene Gust Avrakotos, an American case officer and Afghan Task Force Chief for the CIA is talking to Charlie Wilson, a Texas Congressman, about the successful conclusion of the first Afghan War in 1989.

Gust Avrakotos: There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “how wonderful. The boy got a horse” And the Zen master says, “we’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his leg’s all messed up. And everybody in the village says, “How wonderful.”

Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

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

Simple, compound, complex sentences – short examples

I like this short, simple presentation, but it does leave out two examples:

1.
A simple sentence may have a compound subject AND a compound predicate:
Tom and Jerry jumped and ran.
Tom and Jerry [COMPOUND SUBJECT] jumped and ran [COMPOUND PREDICATE].

2.
Compound sentences may be joined by a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb, and a comma:
Tom and Jerry jumped and ran; thus, the chase was on.
Tom and Jerry jumped and ran; thus, [CONJUNCTIVE ADJECTIVE] the chase was on.

AND SEE:
HANDOUT – How to Join Compound & Complex Sentences – Sierra College
The 8 basic sentence punctuation patterns
5+2: the 7 sentence patterns of English
3 ways to combine the 7 sentence patterns

“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