As a student of English Literature I'd like to become more proficient in the English language. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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I want to be able to write a good paragraph
Of course, the structure of a good paragraph will vary depending on what sort of writing you are doing. A novel is far different from an essay, for example. The following is considered the essential structure for an essay paragraph, which is probably what you need.
First is the topic sentence. If you are trying to persuade, then the topic sentence will be asserting a position. If you are describing, then the topic sentence will state what is being described.
Next comes at least 3 points in support of your topic sentence. In a persuasive essay, these will be arguments that show the validity of your position. In a descriptive essay, these will be different descriptive details.
A really well developed paragraph will include further details supporting each of these points. For example, if one of the points was that the man looked old, you might refer to his grizzled beard, stooped posture and cane.
Finally, you need a concluding sentence which will hark back to the topic sentence. This will basically state that based on all the points and details in the middle, the topic sentence is true.
cburr is correct that the topic sentence is very important. It is the linchpin of your paragraph, around which all the details will gather. Once you have a topic for your paragraph, every single sentence that you write to go with that paragraph should specifically relate to and support the topic. At the end of the paragraph, you need to “wrap up” the thought and move on to the next paragraph smoothly. You can use the Essay groups on eNotes.com to get feedback on specifics. Good luck with your writing!
Good for you for wanting to improve your writing. Mastering paragraph writing is the best thing you can focus on because it is so basic in composition. cburr and mrsmonica have both given you good, solid information that covers all the main points. The only thing I can think to add to what they have already told you is this. As you write, use appropriate transition words and phrases so that you move smoothly from sentence to sentence. Some examples of transitions would be words and phrases like "also," "furthermore," "in addition," "moreover," "however," "in contrast," and "similarly." These are only a few transition devices. Your English text should have a complete list for you to use as you write. Also, I believe there are some documents posted on enotes that deal with using transitions in writing.
Go to a local college or community college and take some courses offered to ESL students, or you can purchase Rosetta Stone, which is supposed to be a great source for learning all sorts of languages.
You say that you are a student of English literature. Therefore, I am sure, you already have proficiency in reading and writing correct English. I believe, the area where you want to improve is in your writing style and presentation. In being able to write interestingly and convincingly. The skill involved in doing this go beyond the knowledge of language. This involves developing some creativity in expressing your thoughts. Frequently it also involves overcoming some inhibitions people have in expressing themselves. The best way to develop such skill is to practice writing. Best way to practice writing is to take up simple personal topics - things involving you personally. Also initially the length of writing should be kept short - say maximum of 300 words. This way you are forced to write precisely. Besides, this way you don't have to spend too much time,
- Freewriting-the nonstop writing of whatever thoughts come into your mind as you think of your topic for selected period of time is a good way to develop your writing ideas.
- Sentence style and fluency is another way to improve your ideas. I have my students make a two column chart with as many rows as they need. They then record the first three words of each sentence in the rows on the left hand side. One sentence for each row. On the right hand side they record the word count for each sentence. This helps them see an boring repetition of pattern in either sentence beginnings or length. (One thing that they usually find is that they use too many pronouns to start their sentences.)
Further to my suggestions in post #7 and taking cue form post #8 I am giving a fairly well established sequence of steps to help in good writing.
- Preparation: You decide what sort of thing to write about and collect information on the subject.
- Brain dump: This is similar to freewriting mentioned in post above. Here the most important to put down all your ideas as they occur to you. At this stage you do not bother about language too much. Also it is very important that you do not spend too much time on it. The best approach is to fix some time limit for this and the earlier step and stick to that time limit.
- Style and clarity of thought: This is the first revision of your writeup where you concentrate on the over all style of language and clarity of ideas. Do not bother about grammar, spelling and other similar details at this stage.
- Consistency of language: This is the second revision in which you ensure that there is consistency in your writing in terms of considerations like active versus passive voice, person and tense.
- Detailed grammar and spelling check.
- Final presentation: Here you try to improve the overall presentation of the writeup. This will involve issues like paper size, margins, font type and size, and use of highlighting technique such as capitalization, italics, bold face and underlining.
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