Friday, June 08, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Sample Introductory Paragraph

From Sheridan Baker's Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), I borrow the following introductory paragraph:
Jefferson believed in democracy because he firmly believed in reason. He knew that reason was far from perfect, but he also knew that it was the best faculty we have. He knew that it was better than all the frightened and angry intolerances with which we fence off our own back yards at the cost of injustice. Thought must be free. Discussion must be free. Reason must be free to range among the widest possibilities. Even the opinion we hate, and have reasons for believing wrong, we must leave free so that reason can operate on it, so that we can advertise our belief in reason and demonstrate a faith unafraid of the consequences -- because we know that the consequences will be right. Freedom is really not the aim and end of Jeffersonian democracy: freedom is the means by which democracy can rationally choose justice for all. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 52)

This is a good introductory paragraph for 'introducing' the standard form of an essay's introductory paragraph. It offers something of a 'hook' to catch the reader's attention -- a pairing of "democracy" with "reason," which two things often seem wildly unconnected to one another.

From that broad opening, the paragraph narrows down to its point, the thesis statement linking "freedom," "democracy," "reason" (i.e., "rationally"), and "justice" in an argument ready to be defended in the body of the essay to follow.

I'll be using this paragraph as a model in my summer writing course.

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At 10:17 PM, Blogger Charles Montgomery said...

That's an interesting one... I might also re-write it using Korean examples... to demonstrate how you can use received cultural wisdom in a funnel introduction.

My other immediate reaction is that the topic sentence is probably a difficult one for second-language students to pull out. There's a lot of US deep-culture embedded in that, though if your students can figure that out they will likely turn into brilliant writers.^^

LOL.. had the last class in my Academic Writing course today.... still thinking about this kind of sh*t.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I was wondering about the confluence of concepts in that thesis statement, but I'll be dealing with graduate students, mostly in English literature, so they 'might' have a deeper understanding of American culture.

Jeffery Hodges

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