Analytical Writing for Science and Technology
Copyright © 1996 by T. M. Georges.

Lesson 15

Step 2 to More Informative Paragraphs -- Tie Your Ideas Together

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In this Lesson:

As you build paragraphs, you'll need some "glue" to bind your sentences together. Otherwise, your readers will have trouble making the logical jumps from one sentence to the next. Even though the connections between your sentences may be clear to you, you can't count on your readers to supply those links. Remember that a paragraph should form a single logical unit. If it doesn't create a single idea in your readers' minds, it's not doing its job.


CONNECTIVES

English supplies us with useful linking words called connectives, which form the logical bridges between ideas. If you keep these verbal guideposts in mind and use them as you write, you will almost automatically provide the interrelations among ideas that every reader looks for.

Here is a list of some connectives. Like the subordinating conjunctions, these are the good guys; use them liberally (but correctly and appropriately), and I guarantee that your writing will become more effective. They are hard to overuse.

Connective words that describe relationships:

ALSO HOWEVER ALTHOUGH
INCIDENTALLY THEREFORE BESIDES
LIKEWISE THUS MEANWHILE
MOREOVER USUALLY FURTHERMORE
NEXT WHATEVER GENERALLY
YET ACCORDINGLY NEVERTHELESS
INSTEADIN CONTRASTFOR EXAMPLE

Connectives that give a sense of time:

FIRST SECONDLY
FINALLY NOW
ONCE WHEN
ULTIMATELY EVENTUALLY
LASTLY LATER
MEANWHILE PREVIOUSLY
THEN SOON
FORMERLY SOMETIMES

Other Connective phrases:

TO BEGIN WITH ON THE OTHER HAND
IN BRIEF IN GENERAL
IN SUMMARY MORE SPECIFICALLY
INSTEAD OF IN ADDITION TO
IN OTHER WORDS ANOTHER WAY TO
FOR THE SAME REASON NO MATTER WHAT
SUCH A THAT'S WHAT (WHY)
IN FACT WHAT'S MORE
IN THE SAME WAY ON THE CONTRARY
CONVERSELY AS A RESULT
SUMMING UP IF SO / NOT

All of these words and phrases link ideas and assure continuity in your writing.

Another useful principle to assure continuity in your writing and tie your sentences together is:

TRY TO HAVE A WORD OR PHRASE SOMEWHERE IN EACH SENTENCE THAT REFERS TO SOMETHING IN A PREVIOUS SENTENCE.

One easy way to follow this principle is to use pronominal adjectives like these to refer to nouns in previous sentences:

THIS THAT
THESE WHICH
THEIR HIS
ITS HER

For example:

Dr. Quark testified that the only scientific value of creationism lies in its position among primitive superstitions and mythologies. His testimony helped strike down laws requiring its teachings to be included in biology textbooks.

Another way to assure continuity in your writing is simple repetition; that is, carry the same nouns from one sentence to the next. For example:

Scientists map the winds and precipitation inside hurricanes by flying specially instrumented aircraft through them. These aircraft must withstand stresses of up to six times the force of gravity.

If you try to use these connective devices in your own writing, but have difficulty, be suspicious that the ideas that you're trying to link together in a single paragraph are merely a sequence (that is, a catalog) of logically unrelated ideas. Rearrange or rewrite them until you can logically tie them together. Remember: All the sentences in a paragraph should be logically related.


INTENSIVES

Another way to tie ideas together is with intensives. Intensives help you emphasize what's important and to set the important apart from the incidental -- a major goal of all scientific and technical writing. Compare the following two sentences, the first without intensives and the second with intensives added:

The whale is the largest living mammal. The largest whales weigh over 150 tons, are 100 feet long, and consume 5 tons of food each day.

The whale is by far the largest living mammal. In fact, the largest whales weigh as much as 150 tons and grow as long as 100 feet. These enormous animals consume 5 tons of food each day.

Notice how the bold words that have been added emphasize certain points the author deemed important.

Here is a list of some useful intensives:

ESPECIALLY AS MUCH AS EVEN IF/THOUGH
INCREASINGLY BY FAR SO...THAT
MORE IMPORTANTLY HIGHLY ONLY
PARTICULARLY IN FACT VERY
SIGNIFICANTLY QUITE SUCH
MOST UNIQUE AT ALL
ABOVE ALL INDEED IN ANY CASE

CAUTION: Misusing or overusing intensives (most notoriously, the word very) can weaken your writing. Use them like garlic -- sparingly. Eliminate intensives that are thrown in gratuitously or that don't make a definite contribution by emphasizing an important fact or idea. Littering your writing with intensives where they are not needed makes your writing sound trite and strains your credibility.

Here is an exercise to give you practice linking your ideas together. Add connectives, intensives (from the lists above, or make up your own) and repeated words to the following sentences to make a coherent paragraph:

  • Global Airlines carried three-million passengers last year.
  • They expanded their routes into the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
  • The new DC-12 aircraft proved more fuel-efficient than the older 737's.
  • Older, unprofitable routes were dropped.
  • Passengers seem to like on-time flights and automatic ticketing.
  • Only one-million passengers flew Global two years ago.
  • Their record has been accident-free since 1950.
  • Global planes have averaged 80-percent full last year.
  • Profits were up 60 percent, in spite of increased fuel costs.

YOUR PARAGRAPH:


LESSON SUMMARY AND WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

For your paragraphs to appear as logical units, they have to hang together and convey a single idea. Use connectives and intensives to link ideas and to make the important ones stand out.

Next, we'll look at how to handle complex technical ideas in your writing. This is the easiest place of all to put your audience to sleep.


-- End of Lesson 15 --

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