Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Standard Middle Paragraph

Great Soccer
En-Uk Sequoya Hwang

Here's a good middle paragraph offered by Sheridan Baker in The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), the sort of paragraph that belongs in the body of an essay:
Sports demand an effort of will and muscle that is healthful for the soul as well as the body. Swimming is physically healthful, of course, although it may seem undemanding and highly conducive to lying for hours inert on a deck chair in the sun. But the first dive into the pool is always cold: taking the plunge always requires some effort of will. And the swimmer soon summons his will to compete, against himself or others, for greater distances and greater speed, doing twenty laps where he used to do one. Similarly, tennis takes quantities of energy, physical and moral, especially when the competition stiffens under a hot sun. Team sports, like basketball, baseball, and volleyball, perhaps demand even more of the amateur. The awkward player is miserable when he strikes out, or misses an easy fly, or an easy basket, no matter how patient his teammates are. He must drive himself to keep on trying, no matter how heavy his heart. Whatever the sport, a little determination can eventually conquer one's awkwardness and timidity, and the reward will be more than physical. Character and health frequently go hand in hand. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 59)

Baker doesn't mention soccer, but it also belongs among the team sports that "demand even more of the amateur," so I used one of my son's artworks depicting soccer, his belov├ęd sport.

Anyway, this paragraph is useful for its initial, topic sentence (introducing the paragraph's main point), its illustrative supporting sentences (providing evidence and reasons to support the main point), and its ultimate, concluding sentence (summarizing the main point).

Note the use of concrete, specific details in the supporting sentences.

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

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At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno Jeff. I think I'd be tempted to change that "Sports" to 'Sport' and make it 'demands' - reason being... "Sports" makes me think the writer is referring to people.

Reads too sporty as it is.


At 9:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think English usage has shifted since Baker's time. The man served in WWII, and his paragraph uses "he" and its other case forms as the universal pronoun. I might need to update the passage. Unlike you, however, I'd retain "Sports" but like you also use "demands."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:16 PM, Blogger dhr said...

very well drawn, En-Uk!

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll let him know.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:34 PM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

I would leave it the way it is as he is referring to the plural of sport (sports--swimming, tennis, basketball, baseball, volleyball) as "they" all demand an effort.

When I see "sport," it makes me think the writer is referring to a person (as in being a good sport) until I read a bit farther and come to understand just what the writer is writing about. As people must do when they read read (present tense) and read (past tense). They place the word in its proper context and its understaning becomes clear which I believe Baker did quite well in his paragraph.

By the way, it seems that soccer is coming under fire for severe concussions. Even the protective headgear is suspect and will blow you away when you see just how the story ends for one young player who can now no longer even read because of the head injuries she suffered while playing soccer.

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

John, you're right about "Sports." It can be plural. It doesn't parallel such things as "economics" or "mathematics," which are singular (I think).

The news about soccer sounds worse than I'd heard before.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, you're right about "Sports." It can be plural. It doesn't parallel such things as "economics" or "mathematics," which are singular (I think)."

Not quibbling. And of course I'd never imagine doing so with some guy holding a PhD who held the distinction of growing up in the proximity of me - my point is this:

Hillbillys demand [horseshoes or somesuch including mumbly-peg, jumping off cliff-faces into shallow water and the like... anyway, such an opening invites an opening misinterpretation. Just my opinion but using a plural "Sports" does the same where an opening incites a Reader to jump to an unintended direction.

Of course I recognize how a (mostly) single language Reader might be more prone than a multi-language Writer could be more influenced. But then, that's the problem, to my way of thinking.

Unless one performs a 'sport' as a "job" or somesuch the plural "Sports" can get confused as an address. Kinda like 'Mssrs' or somesuch - just my opinion, but not a good two word lead - "Sports demand..."

Of course not every country has a culture where there's an NBA, MLB, NCAA, PSHSAT and T-Ball... oops NFL... but then I dunno whether there's a 'Professional Class' either - then again Professor Jeff, that's what you're doing, correct?


I dunno Jeff. Can you see anyway taking sports out of your classroom - having LeRoy hit a hissing fastball outta Ash Flat's city limits kinda embarrasses me.

Or. Did he do that?

Which 'he' - that's kinda how I'm reading "Sports."?

But of course I've no nomenclature - whatever that means, had to ask a guy who could sell drugs legally - a "Sports Guy" anyway.

In My Life - well... OK, I'm a nut. Nope. JK is NOT a published author.

Apologies for disagreeing with you Jeff. Going night.


At 12:19 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I see your point this time, JK. I must've been tired before.

I'll simply have to rework the paragraph a bit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:38 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

Yeah, I had no clue just how dangerous soccer was until it hit home. After a couple of really bad scares, my brother pulled his kids out of soccer and football. However, he did let them into lacrosse. It seems that this Native American sport is all the rage in Texas these days. It also helps that helmets and padding are mandatory in the school district in which my brother lives.

Well, I have to get back to my very late-night guests right now. It's well after midnight, but I have several South Korean bass enthusiasts that can't get enough of my live feed of the final weigh-in of the Toledo Bend Tournament. We are helping a couple of them to get themselves psyched up for next weekend's 2012 International Bass Open Tournament at Andong. It blows them away that several so many fishermen in the sport of bass fishing are multimillionaires (including a couple Japanese ones fishing the U.S. series) while the winner at Andong next week will walk away with a whopping 2,000,000 won.

At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa Nellie! Been awhile (70s & 80s) since I was in the good ol' ROK but did I read that right, "several South Korean bass enthusiasts"?

See here Professor Hodges, if there are indeed bass enthusiasts from South Korea, then that opening surely indeed simply must be changed.


At 6:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

At first, I read "bass" as the musical instrument . . . but I'm now rectified.

That's for both of you'uns, John and JK.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:21 PM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

Thought you'd get a KicKer out of that.

It was a hell of an early morning, as the winning angler, Brent Chapman, just kept pulling out the heavy hawgs and adding more and more pounds to his lead. That's when things really got tough as I had to use my poor math skills to translate between Imperial and metric for my Korean friends. Well, at least they now know why all the the artificial lures made here in South Korea are printed with Imperial weights instead of metric as the U.S. is the largest market. However, it is ever-so-slowly changing. It seems that every year, a few more bass fishermen are actually catching and releasing instead of strictly catching and killing them here.

By the way, Jeffery, have you read any of the novels by Brad Thor? I find his take on Islam pretty refreshing in this era of political correctness. It looks like some of his books will be turned into films, so it ought to be interesting to see just what lengths Saudi Arabia will go to to keep them from playing in a cinema near you.

At 3:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've heard of Brad Thor, mainly due to his reputation as an 'Islamophobic', but I've never read him. One of the ironies of teaching writing is that it leaves little time for reading. But thanks for reminding me of the man. I ought to take a closer look.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:38 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

"Islamophobic," hardly. Realistic, most definitely.

Let's just say that King's novels don't scare me near as much as Thor's do, especially as I learn more and more about Wahhabism. If you get a chance, they are quick reads and entertaining to boot.

At 2:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

They sound educational. I'll try to take a look.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:17 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

I just recently discovered Thor's "Scot Harvath Series" (like just last month) via some of my favorite authors' blurbs of praise regarding the series.

If you don't have time to start at the beginning, I recommend "Foreign Influence" as a good one just to try out. It's a bit different as it is a spin-off from the Scot Harvarth series to Thor's new "Athena" group of operatives in which Scot shares a bit more of his usual one-man stage with this new high-octane group of American heroines dedicated to protecting the United States no matter the cost.

At 3:33 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Protection "no matter the cost" is a good theme for novels dealing with Islamism. It makes for some intriguing ironies to explore in the plot and characterization. How far does one go in fighting an enemy that would fly passenger planes into skyscrapers full of people?

Jeffery Hodges

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