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Thinking in Paragraphs (Part 2) (第8回)

#8.  Thinking in Paragraphs (Part 2)

by Jayna Tokie Tanaka

     The importance of writing in paragraphs cannot be overemphasized. All the important writing we do, including business letters, resumes, letters to the editor, and business reports, must be written in clear paragraphs. Without this structure, the readers of these documents will not be able to know how to react to what is written. What does the writer want to say? Is the person serious about what he/she is writing? Can the person think logically? When something is written in paragraphs, the reader can at least make a judgment about the worth of the writing.

     In the last column, the writer decided to compose a paragraph about growing vegetables. The topic sentence includes the topic “growing vegetables” and the controlling idea “a good idea to grow some by yourself.” I always ask my students to make an outline before writing a paragraph so that they can see if the paragraph is structured logically and whether it is balanced. The outline should look like this:
          Growing some of your own vegetables is a good idea for several important reasons.
                A. The vegetables will be free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
                     1. Chemical fertilizers and unhealthy soil
                     2. Unknown dangers of pesticides
                B. They will taste better because they can be eaten as soon as they are harvested.
                     1. Corn, snow peas, asparagus lose sweetness immediately
                     2. Enjoying strawberries straight from the bush
               C. Everyone in the family, including the grower, will feel closer to the natural rhythms of life.
                     1.Potatoes harvested in June
                     2. Rain and sunshine necessary
         These are the reasons growing vegetables is important for everyone.
When writing a one-paragraph composition, a concluding sentence is usually added at the end, but most writing contains more than one paragraph, so a concluding sentence is not always necessary.

      After the outline is completed, the next job is to write the first draft. The outline does not contain all the information the writer wants to include, so the next thing to do is “fill in” the missing ideas. The draft will look like this:
               Growing some of your own vegetables is a good idea for several important reasons. The most important
          reason is that the vegetables you grow will be free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Everyone should
          know that using chemical fertilizers means using only certain chemicals and that these chemicals do not
          provide all the nutrients plants need when compared to organic fertilizers derived from plants, manure,
          and bones. Chemical pesticides are easier to understand because they are poisons used to kill unwanted
          insects. Using them on food plants means eating the poison with the plants. The second reason is why
          most gardeners like to grow plant food; most vegetables taste much better when they are eaten
          immediately after they are harvested. In fact, many vegetables like corn, peas, and asparagus lose their
          sweetness as soon as they are picked. In addition, everyone loves eating strawberries straight from the
          bush. Finally, the gardener and everyone close to him/her will be more aware of the natural rhythms of
          life. It is easy to forget that potatoes are harvested in June and October when we can eat them all year
          around. It is also easy to forget that most vegetable farming in Japan is done without irrigation, so the
          reason the prices of vegetables are so volatile is that vegetables depend on rain and suitable amounts of
          sunshine. When nature does not cooperate, vegetables will not grow up healthy. All these reasons make
          growing at least a few of your own vegetables―a veranda is fine―something everyone should consider
As is apparent, the draft may look a bit different from the outline. We are constantly thinking of new expressions and revising our thoughts. What is important is that the writer is satisfied with the final product.

      A draft should be revised, preferably several hours or a day later. This time is necessary to give the writer a more objective point of view. It is then possible to check for awkward grammar, spelling errors, and coherence. The next column will be devoted to writing an academic essay.


Jayna Tokie Tanaka(ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ)

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