Everything you need to know about writing better paragraphs

ADVERTISEMENTS:

There are certain things that our age needs, and certain things that it should avoid. It needs compassion and a wish that mankind should be happy ; it needs the desire for knowledge and the determination to eschew pleasant myths ; it needs, above all, courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness. The things that it must avoid, and that have brought it to the brink of catastrophe, are cruelty, envy, greed, competitiveness, search for irrational subjective certainty, and what Freudians call the death wish.

The root of the matter is a very simple and old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it, for fear of the derisive smile with which wise cynics will greet my words. The thing I mean—please forgive me for mentioning it—is love or com­passion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual

honesty. If you feel this, you have all that anybody should need in the way of religion. Although you may not find happiness, you will never know the deep despair of those whose life is aimless and void of purpose ; for there is always something that you can do to dimi­nish the awful sum of human misery.

ADVERTISEMENTS:

When I do want to stress is that the kind of lethargic despair which is now not uncommon is irrational. Mankind is in the posi­tion of a man climbing a difficult and dangerous precipice, at the summit of which there is a plateau of delicious mountain meadows. With every step that he climbs, his fall, becomes more terrible ; with every step his weariness increases and the ascent grows more difficult. At last there is only one more step to be taken, but the climber does not know this because he cannot see beyond the jutting rocks at his head. His exhaustion is so complete that he wants nothing but rest. If he lets go he will find rest in death. Does the exhausted climber make one more effort, or does he let himself sink into the abyss. In a few years those of us who are still alive will know the answer.

ANALYSIS

First Paragraph

Topic point: Our age needs certain things and should avoid certain other things.

ADVERTISEMENTS:

Supporting arguments : (i) It needs things that make life happy and purposive.

(ii) It should avoid what Freud called death-wish.

Second Paragraph

Topic point: Compassion has a great importance in life.

ADVERTISEMENTS:

Supporting arguments : (i) It is the motive for existence ; guide in action ; reason for courage ; necessity for intellectual honesty.

(ii) It is the spirit of religions.

(iii) It saves from the deep despair.

Third Paragraph

ADVERTISEMENTS:

Toping point : Man should make an effort and his laziness is irrational.

Supporting arguments : (i) There are dangers and difficulties on the way.

(ii) Man may feel tired and desire rest.

(iii) Only future will tell whether man succeeds or fails.

ADVERTISEMENTS:

Topic point of the passage : Needs of the age like com­passion should be satisfied though it is uncertain because of man’s laziness.

Note : —In picking up the topic point and supporting argu­ments we have retained the language of the passage so that the students may understand the analysis.

Comments on Analysis

In the first paragraph the writer adopts inductive method, not for reasoning, but for elaboration. A generalized statement is made in the opening sentence and then explanation is given. Clearly the first sentence takes up two points : (i) needs of the age (ii) things to be avoided. The rest of the paragraph gives the details of the ‘needs’ and the ‘things to be avoided.’ The needs are (a) compassion (b) a wish for the happiness of mankind (c) desire for knowledge (d) eschewing pleasant myths (e) courageous hope (iv) impulse to create. We are to generalize the points. First two can be covered by the phrase social virtues : third and fourth by “cultivation of intellect” and the last two by ‘constructive outlook”. All of them can be generalized thus: “Things that make life happy and purposive.” The things to be avoided have been generalized by the writ himself in two phrases (a) human weaknesses that bring the world to the brink of catastrophe (b) death-wish. So we will use the phrase ‘antisocial human weaknesses.”

The second paragraph introduces the arguments in a round­about manner. Up to “the thing I mean ” it is just introductory.

After that he gives the advantages of compassion (/’) motive for existence (ii) guide to action (iii) reason for courage (iv) necessity for intellectual honesty (v) basis of religion (vi) removes deep despair.

Technically speaking third paragraph is a difficult one. The arguments are clothed in metaphorical language. For an ordinary student it may be difficult to generalize the illustrations. “Dangerous and difficult precipice” stands for ‘dangers and difficulties which a man may encounter in realizing happy world”. From “with every step” up to….. “grows more difficult” he is explaining difficulties. “At last there is…… at his head” means “man’s goal is at hand though invisible.” The rest of the sentences mean : “man is tired and only future can tell whether he can achieve his goal or not.”

Finished Précis

Title : Needs of the age and man

The needs of the age must be met though man’s laziness makes the realization impossible. The age needs things that make life happy and purposive. It implies the avoidance of the anti-social human weaknesses. The paramount need of the time is the cultiva­tion of compassion. It supplies an aim in life and serves as a guide to action. Basis of courage and intellectual truthfulness, compassion saves human being from despair. For achieving this purpose man should make an effort ; his laziness is unreasonable. There are dangers and difficulties on the way. Man may even feel exhausted but the goal is not far off though it is invisible. But only future will unfold whether he is to succeed or fail. (Words 119)

Comments on the Finished Precis

The first sentence of the precis is the analysis of the passage, second sentence is the main topic point of the passage. The difficulty was to establish connection between the third and the second sentence. The words “it implies” connects the two sentence with­out the use of conjunctions. Similarly the fourth sentence is organically connected with the previous one with the addition of the words ‘the paramount need’. The rest of the precis does not preset any technical difficulty.

The title was to cover the two topic points (i) of the first para­graph (ii) of the third paragraph because second paragraph is just an explanation of the first one. The first paragraph tells about the needs of the age and the third deals with man’s efforts and his laziness. The title ‘needs of the age and man’ gives the relation between man and the needs. Secondly it implies the various needs because the heading implies it.

Passage 2.

The production and distribution of the the modern popular newspaper, which reckons its readers by the million, entails a vast expenditure of money and an elaborate business organization such as only highly capitalized firms can afford. The intense competition for the pennies of the vast reading public and for the patronage of advertisers has caused newspapers with insufficient financial backing to be eliminated or absorbed by their stronger rivals. The result is that most of the popular press is in the hands of one or other of the great newspaper combines.

In judging the value of the news provided and the opinions expressed in the average popular newspapers, there are the first facts to be taken into consideration ; the running of a newspaper is a business in the hands of private enterprise ; being a business it must be made to pay its way ; and its policy must be to maintain and, if possible, to expand its circle of readers, for only in this way can it continue to attract advertisements, without the revenue from which wide distribution would not be possible at a cost that the humblest pocket could afford. These economic and other circumstances that govern the publication of a newspaper with a wide appeal, therefore, greatly affect the methods of presenting news and comment.

People are naturally suggestible to constant reiteration of the same statement. The use of this device to advocate a particular policy in one daily newspaper may or may not be successful. But a reader may see the same statement repeated, not perhaps in so many words, in an evening paper also and in several provincial papers ; and if he is not aware that all these papers may be controlled by the same syndicate, he may be tempted to conclude that he has seen separate and independent testimonies to the truth of the statement.

One common journalistic device in the popular press is the short, pithy and arresting headline. This in itself may have a suggestive influence. The fact that it is printed in bold type gives an impression of weighty importance. The reader is meant to assume that it gives a reliable clue to the core of the news printed below it. The busy or lazy reader often goes no further, or carries away with him nothing more than this ready made summary. Even the more careful reader is sometimes tempted to do little more than read the headlines, tor frequently after he has read a couple of short para­graphs of the news text, his attention is distracted to something else. The headline, the short paragraph and the splitting up of items on different pages, all tend to discourage concentrated reading or sustained thought.

The introduction of one emotionally colored word into a headline may beg the whole question ; and the reader may at once come away with a biased view of whatever is reported ; he is presented, in fact, with a ready-made opinion which saves him the trouble of thinking for himself. The headline may be deliberately misleading ; it may effectually disguise comment as news ; and it may have the same suggestive effect as the confident, dogmatic assertion. News and comment may also be subtly mingled by the insertion of paragraph headings in the news column, so that the uncritical reader may fail to distinguish between them.

The ostensible object of a newspaper is to provide its readers with news. Exactly what constitutes news is a matter to be decided by the editor, who, in making his decision, has to take into account the general policy of his paper approved by his employers. But he also has to study the tastes of its readers, who have come to expect not only news, but also light reading and entertainment, besides the inevitable advertisements. The result is that news of serious matters of political, economic and social importance at home and abroad is apt to be crowded out to make room for more frivolous and perhaps more sensational material. Even when newsprint was cheap and plentiful, the amount of space devoted to serious news was not much; and nowadays, when newsprint is dear and scarce, the restriction on the publication of such news is almost equivalent to the imposition of an unofficial censorship.

The task therefore that faces an editorial staff of selecting and compressing items from the spate of information that is bound to pour in every day from every quarter of the globe must be truly formidable ; and to do it fairly, impartially objectively and with a high sense of responsibility must be well nigh impossible. The selection of one item in preference to another may give that item an altogether disproportionate emphasis and in the end result in giving a misleading or false impression. Suppression, the inevitable corol­lary of selection, may lead to serious distortion and misrepresenta­tion. And in compression, it is fatally easy not only to over-simplify, but also to give a summary a twist in some direction away from the objective truth. It is therefore clear that a careless and uncritical reading of a newspaper may lead us wholly astray. (850 words).

ANALYSIS

First Paragraph

Topic point : Press is in the hand of great newspaper combines.

Supporting arguments : The reasons are (/) production and distribution of newspaper entail vast expenditure (ii) needs elaborate organization (iii) intense competition for readership and advertise­ments.

Second Paragraph

Topic point :

Business motive affects the methods of presenting news and comment.

Supporting arguments :

The aims of the newspaper organizations are (/) to pay its ways, i.e., to become financially sound (ii) expand the circle of its readership (iii) attract advertisements.

Third Paragraph

Topic point :

Constant reiteration through many newspapers tempts the readers to take the statement true.

Supporting arguments ‘.

None. Fourth Paragraph

Topic point:

There are various devices to mislead the readers.

Supporting arguments : (/) Headline misleads by its (a) pithy nature (b) bold type (c) Lazy or careful readers do not go beyond headlines (ii) Short paragraph and splitting up of items on different pages discourage concentrated reading, (iii) Emotionally colored words in headlines create prejudiced mind, (iv) Headline may be a disguised comment, (v) Ready-made opinions are given.

Fifth Paragraph

Topic point: Selection of the news by the editor also makes the difference.

Supporting arguments :

(i) editor selects the news by keeping two things in mind {a) newspaper policy (b) tastes of the readers, who want light reading in addition to advertisements, (ii) As a result of it serious matters are crowded out in favor of sensational news.

Sixth Paragraph

Topic point: Selection of the news is calculated to give false impression.

Supporting arguments :

(i) Objective selection from the spate of information is almost impossible, (ii) Selection of one item in pre­ference to another gives disproportionate emphasis, (iii) Selection also leads to the suppression of the news, (/v) Compression gives a twist to the truth.

Topic point of the passage. Newspapers due to their nature of work and business motive mislead the public in various ways.

Comments on Analysis

The passage is technically speaking very simple. The passage is an independent whole ; it begins with an exposition and ends with a definite conclusion. In the first two paragraphs the writer tells about the business motive of the newspapers. The rest of the para­graphs tell about the effect of this motive upon presentation of news and so upon the readers.

Finished Precis

Title of the Precis : Negative role of the newspapers.

Newspapers due to their nature of work and business motive mislead the readers in different ways. Their working conditions demand newspaper combines. The production and distribution of the newspapers need heavy expenditure and huge organization. Similarly acute competition eliminates small newspapers. Thus it becomes a huge business organization with profit motive. Firstly, it tries to become financially sound by increasing relationship and attracting advertisements. As such they tempt the readers to believe the statements to be true. They repeat the news through the different papers and the readers, by reading in different papers, believe them. Another method to misguide the readers is through headlines. By their pithy nature and bold type headlines give undue importance to certain news. The reader’s opinions are prejudiced by giving emotionally colored words and disguised comments in the headlines.

The busy or lazy reader does not go beyond the head­lines, even the careful reader is satisfied with the first few paragraphs. The reader is not allowed to concentrate ; short paragraphs and splitting up the item on different pages discourage it. The selection of the news also lead to the misguidance of the readers. Editor must conform to the newspapers policy and the tastes of the readers in selecting news. Thus objective selection is not possible. Otherwise also the information is so huge that the editor cannot remain detached. Sometimes the tastes of the readers force him to present serious matters in a crowded form to find room for sensational material. Moreover selection involves preference, suppression and compression of the news. Preference, would mean undue importance whereas suppression and compression distort the truth. Thus truth is falsified.

Comments

The only difficulty with the passage is the presentation of the crowded information without using many conjunctions. Only a cursory glance at the precis would show that the ideas are not left out rather they are judiciously tagged.

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