Sentence and Paragraph Flow
Simple to Complex
Tangible to Intangible
Old to New
Which is better?

The claim that the Civil War was God’s
punishment for both North and South for
Slavery appears in the last part of the
Lincoln speech.

In his speech, Lincoln claims that God gave
the Civil War to both North and South as a
punishment for slavery.
Okay, why?
Problem Warning #1

The claim that the Civil War was God’s
punishment for both North and South for
Slavery appears in the last part of the
Lincoln speech.
Long, unwieldy, abstract subject … you
can’t see/touch/feel/smell a “claim that the
Civil War was God’s punishment”
Problem Warning #2

The claim that the Civil War was God’s
punishment for both North and South
for Slavery appears in the last part of
the Lincoln speech.
Lots of prepositional phrases
Why is this one better?

In his speech, Lincoln claims that God
gave the Civil War to both North and
South as a punishment for slavery.
Reason #1

In his speech, Lincoln claims that God
gave the Civil War to both North and
South as a punishment for slavery.
Concrete subject; real verb
Reason #2

In his speech, Lincoln claims that God
gave the Civil War to both North and
South as a punishment for slavery.
Abstraction (new concept) appears at
end of sentence.
General Guidelines:



Start with simple, concrete subjects
Start with things your audience already
understands
Move from tangible to intangible
An example:
The role of calcium blocker drugs in
the control of cardiac irregularity can
be seen through an understanding of
the role of calcium in the activation of
muscle cells.
Warning signs?
The role of calcium blocker drugs in
the control of cardiac irregularity can
be seen through an understanding of
the role of calcium in the activation of
muscle cells.
Again, a long, unwieldy, abstract subject
Warning signs?
The role of calcium blocker drugs in
the control of cardiac irregularity can
be seen through an understanding of
the role of calcium in the activation of
muscle cells.
Lots of prepositions …
Better?
When a muscle contracts, it uses
calcium. We must therefore
understand how calcium affects
muscle cells to understand how
cardiac irregularity is controlled by
drugs called “calcium blockers.”
Revise:
There are limited opportunities for
faculty to work with individual students
at the University of Virginia.
One Answer:
U.Va. faculty members rarely get to
work with students one-on-one.
Revise:
The teacher who makes an
assignment of a long final term paper
at the end of the semester and who
then gives only a grade and nothing
else such as a critical comment is a
common object of complaint among
students at the college level.
One Answer:
College students often complain about
teachers who assign a long final paper
but provide no real feedback or
comments on it, just a grade.
Revise:
Renting textbooks rather than buying
them for basic required courses such
as mathematics, foreign languages,
and English, whose textbooks do not
go through yearly changes, is feasible,
however, economically speaking.
One Answer:
Because textbooks in mathematics,
foreign languages, and English do not
change much each year, students
could save money by renting their
books instead of buying them.
What about a paragraph?
Same basic ideas apply:



Start with simple, concrete subjects
Start with things that will be familiar to
your audience
Move from tangible to intangible
Two story openings:
Which is a better opening? Why?
#1
When this boy is a grandfather himself, for
reasons he won’t understand then any more
than he does now, he will tell his
grandchildren, and anyone else who will
bother to listen to him, all about his Uncle
Jack who was, briefly—but is not all beauty
and great achievement as brief as the flare
of struck match—a wonderful athlete, a
baseball player much admired by his peers.
#2
A boy and a man in the park. Between them
and old wooden bat, a battered and dirty
baseball and one leather glove, well tended
and cared for, oiled and supple, but old, too,
its pocket as thin as paper.
The boy and the man are sweating in the
late afternoon light. Lazy end of a long
summer day.
Huh?
The role of calcium blocker drugs in the control of
cardiac irregularity can be seen through an
understanding of the role of calcium in the
activation of muscle cells. The regulatory proteins
actin, myosin, tropomyosin, and troponin make up
the sarcomere, the basic unit of muscle contraction.
ATPase, the energy-producing protein myosin,
makes up its thick filament, while actin,
tropomyosin, and troponin make up its thin filament.
Interaction of myosin and actin triggers muscle
contraction.
Oh …
When a muscle contracts, it uses calcium. We must
therefore understand how calcium affects muscle
cells to understand how cardiac irregularity is
controlled by drugs called “calcium blockers.” The
basic unit of muscle contraction is the sarcomere. It
has two filaments, one thin and one thick. Those
filaments consist of four proteins that regulate
contraction: actin, myosin, tropomyosin, and
troponin. Muscles contract when the protein in the
thin filament, actin, interacts with the protein myosin
in the thick filament, an energy-producing, or ATPase protein.
Old to New Flow


When a muscle contracts, it uses calcium.
We must therefore understand how calcium
affects muscle cells…
[F]our proteins [regulate] contraction: actin,
myosin, tropomyosin, and troponin. Muscles
contract when the protein in the thin
filament, actin, interacts
“D%$@ it, Livingood, start at ‘A’!
You’re starting at ‘C.’ Go ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’!”
Why you start at the beginning
The wife enters at “C”
Reword:
The story of King Lear and his daughters was a
popular one during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. At
least a dozen available books offered the story to
anyone wishing to read it, by the time Elizabeth
died. The characters were undeveloped in most of
these stories, however, making the story a simple
narrative that stated an obvious moral. When he
began work on Lear, perhaps his greatest tragedy,
Shakespeare must have had several versions of
this story available to him. He turned the characters
into credible human beings with complex motives,
however, even through they were based on stock
figures of legend.
Okay, but what’s your topic sentence
for that paragraph?
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Sentence and Paragraph Flow