ENG 162 Fall 2013

ENG 162 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor ME, taught by John A. (Don't ever, ever ask!) Goldfine johngoldfine@gmail.com

Monday, October 14, 2013

Paragraphing...

I don't usually spend time in 162 talking about the picky stuff, but I have to deal with paragraphing because a lot of you aren't paragraphing your material at all.

To offer the reader 500 words without paragraphing is like threatening to hit him over the head with a hammer.  He recoils; he whimpers and begs you not to whap him; but you pull out that fat mega-paragraph and whap him with it anyway!

A failure to paragraph sets up a huge psychological resistance to reading in your audience--pretty much the opposite of the reaction a writer would like to have.  It is a simple courtesy to the reader to carve the writing up and offer those bite-size pieces called paragraphs.

I don't know what other teachers did to so many of you to make you snakebit about paragraphing!  But it's not a science; it's an art.

The rules are simple.  If you move to a new topic, start a new graf.  If you shift focus within the same topic, start a new graf.  If a new piece of action begins, start a new graf.  If speakers change in dialogue, start a new graf.  If you feel like the damn paragraph has just gone on long enough, but none of the rules above seem to apply, go ahead  and treat yourself: start a new graf.

It's not just the reader who is helped.  The writer needs to be thinking not just of sentences but also of bigger chunks of writing--of paragraphs.  Paragraphing helps you, the writer, to know what you're thinking and to organize better.

This hasn't suddenly turned into a punctuation-and-grammar type English class. The writing is still the important thing.  But paragraphing is important to the writer--not as important as sentences, but in the same conceptual ballpark and not to be ignored completely.  Paragraphing is not optional, is not a frill, is not just another dumb piece of teacher b.s. It's civilized, it's real, it's important, and it's not going away!

So, from now on--

If you aren't paragraphing: before I comment and before you can get course credit for your work, I will tell you to rewrite by paragraphing the piece.


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