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Unit III. Paragraph Writing
With this Unit you start off in learning the basic techniques of writing and editing in English, which might be useful in your specialisation. The Unit provides some theoretical issues and practical drill on paragraph writing. You start with paragraph structure, next you find out about types of paragraphs, and then you consider the order and try your hand in various methods of paragraph development.
Sentence Level. Topic and Controlling Idea
3.1. Read the following text and write out the definitions of key terms:
A group of sentences that develops one main idea can be viewed as a paragraphdeveloping own topic. Then a topicis the subject of the paragraph; it is what the paragraph is about. The topic of a paragraph is usually introduced in a sentence; this sentence is called the topic sentence. A good topic sentence also states an idea or an attitude about the topic. This idea or attitude is the controlling idea; it controls what the sentences in this paragraph will discuss. All sentences in the paragraph should relate to and develop the controlling idea. For example:
Watching television can become a bad habit.
In this sentence, the topic watching television is controlled by the idea that it can become a bad habit.
The controlling idea should be clear and focused on a particular aspect. Consider the following topic sentence:
Watching television is bad.
Here the topic – television – and the controlling idea – bad – are vague because it is not clear why television is bad. Is watching television bad in general or some programs are meant? For whom or what is it bad? As you see, this topic sentence opens a lot of questions that may require more than one paragraph to answer. This sentence needs more focus, and that focus should come from the controlling idea:
Watching television for long hours is bad for children’s health.
3.2. Underline the topics and circle the controlling ideas in these sentences:
1. Buying works of art can be a good way to invest money.
2. Appearances are deceptive.
3. This course is available to undergraduates.
4. Science and technology are often indispensable for solving environmental problems.
5. Human development should not threaten the integrity of nature.
6. Traditional environmental politics have focused on regulating the output side of the economy.
7. A woman’s handbag is no place for a man to be looking inside.
8. Neither news nor language is transparent window on the world.
3.3. Decide upon the better topic sentence in each pair:
a) There are many things that make living in big cities unpleasant.
b) What makes living in big cities particularly unpleasant are traffic jams and air pollution.
a) Applying for a job is a complicated process.
b) When applying for a job you have to go through many stages and fill in a lot of forms.
a) The old quarters of Minsk attract visitors by the unique architecture.
b) The old quarters of Minsk are very attractive.
a) New computer technologies open wide possibilities for improving health services.
b) Computers are useful.
3.4. Rewrite the following topic sentences to make them more specific:
1. Vitamins are vital for our life.
2. There are many interesting sights in this city.
3. The Mercedes is an excellent automobile.
4. Swimming can be dangerous.
5. The home-repair department in Sears is convenient.
6. Kirish World is a wonderful Turkish resort.
7. The Amazon Basin is not a good place for Europeans to live.
8. Journalism is a hard job.
9. Spring is an inspiring season.
3.5. Read the following paragraphs and write out the topic sentences for them:
1. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been told that its famous symbol, painted on field hospitals and ambulances since the Austro-Prussian war in 1866, is in need of urgent updating.
2. A good place to start in exploring a context is to ask yourself what you don’t understand about a text you are reading, and then set yourself the task of investigating different contexts to see if they explain what has been puzzling you. You won’t necessarily find a straightforward explanation, but you might start to see why a text has been written in a certain way.
3. It was to his shop I went one Friday afternoon to have my hair cut. My Dad had been nagging me that much about it, until he got fed up and said he wouldn’t give me my Friday’s sixpence until it had been cut. I hated the idea of having a haircut because, apart from the ordeal of plucking and itching and keeping still, there was always something warm about having long thick hair covering your neck and hanging like a fringe over your jersey collar.
4. Everyone knows that taxation is necessary in a modern state: without it, it would not be possible to pay the soldiers and policeman who protect us: nor the workers in government offices who look after our health, our food, our water, and all the other things that we cannot do for ourselves, nor also the ministers and members of parliament who govern the country for us. By means of taxation we pay for things that we need as much as we need somewhere to live and something to eat.
5. In the Russian language the word ‘woman writer’ has a female gender, and using this word is problematical for many because men begin to smile and speak about ‘some stupid woman things’. As a result, most serious poets and prose writers prefer to use the word for ‘man writer’ to defend the quality of their creative activity. Women’s creative activity is regarded by men as something inherently non-serious, non-talented, and second-rate… Most important literary critics…speak about very strong, popular books written by contemporary women as exceptions to the rule.