Thursday, January 2, 2014

Creating a Practically Perfect Paragraph -- Holiday Dinners

What if your prompt were:

Think about how one holiday differs from another holiday.Pick one aspect of holidays in general (food, decorations, activities, gifts, reason for the holiday, colors, etc.) and write one paragraph contrasting (showing the differences between) the two holidays. Remember to focus on just one aspect.

1. Do indent the beginning of a paragraph.

2. Write the paragraph as if the reader has never seen the prompt or title.
      Include necessary specific information in your central idea sentence.

      For instance, if your paragraph is comparing Christmas dinner at your home with Thanksgiving dinner at your home,

Don’t say
Do say something like
"Christmas dinner is always better."

 "Christmas dinner at my home is always better than our Thanksgiving dinner." 
Your reader needs to know whose Christmas dinner you are talking about and what you are comparing it to.   Your central idea needs to contain the subject/topic of your paragraph and a statement about it. 

3.  Do not start out telling your reader that you are going to tell them something.

Don’t say
Do say something like
I'm going to tell you why Christmas dinner at my house is better than our Thanksgiving dinner. (or) 
Today I'm going to write about the differences between Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.  (or) 
I think that Christmas dinner at my house is better than our Thanksgiving dinner.

 "Christmas dinner at my home is always better than our Thanksgiving dinner." 
You do not have to tell your reader that this is what you are writing about or that this is what you think.  They know that because you have written it. 

Let's switch to a new subject instead of holiday dinners, and continue giving more hints for a great paragraph!

4.  Present at least three pieces of evidence to support your central idea.

5.  Use transitions to guide your reader through your ideas.

6.  Do not wander from the topic of your central idea.  Keep all information focused on supporting that central idea.

7.  End with a concluding sentence that brings the paragraph to a smooth close.

8.  Edit carefully.
      a.  Is every sentence a complete sentence with a subject and predicate?  Is it capitalized at the beginning and does it end with appropriate punctuation?
      b.  Are other words capitalized that need to be such as proper nouns and titles?
           Have I avoided capitalizing words or letters that should not be capitalized?
      c.  Are all words spelled correctly?
      d.  Have I used commas correctly?

9. Make your style fit your audience and purpose.
      a.  Have I avoided any crude or slang words or phrases?
      b.  Have I avoided being overly conversational?
      c.  Have I avoided contractions and abbreviations?
      d.  Have I avoided cliche (overused) phrases and sentences?

Words that are Overly Used and Too Informal
tons  (as in "There were tons of people there.")
well (used as an interjection as in "Well, this is what I think.")
etc.  (Do you really need to say that there are more items you are not listing?  If you must use it, spell it out as "et cetera.")
way (as in "it was way different")
like  (I was like 'Wow, that was cool."

Also avoid
text talk: LOL and so on
the ampersand:  &  or however you write it when you are handwriting.  Do not use it. Write out "and." 

Sample paragraph 
While Christmas and Fourth of July have many differences, the most striking deal with the traditional meal. First, there is the manner in which food is cooked. For example, on the Fourth of July many families take advantage of the nice weather and have an outdoor barbeque. The food is cooked outdoors over hot coals or open flame. In contrast, Christmas dinners are prepared in a cozy kitchen using a multitude of pots, pans and hot ovens. The second major difference is the formality of the meal. For example, on the Fourth of July people are dressed casually and carry around their meal on paper plates. Christmas dinner on the other hand, is presented more formally in the family’s best dishes and in the family’s best dress.Finally, the major difference is the food itself that is served. On Independence Day, a rainbow of salads, coleslaw, and potato chips accompany a main course of hotdogs and hamburgers (or if you’re lucky, steak!). Christmas, however, is famous for slow roasted turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, and homemade rolls.  In conclusion, these significant differences between the two holidays are what makes each memorable.