Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sheridan Baker's "Keyhole" Structure for the Entire Essay, Plus Innovations

On page 70 of Sheridan Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), appears a diagram representing the structure of a standard essay. Baker called this diagam "The Keyhole" and offered it as a checklist for ensuring that beginning students didn't forget what their essays needed to include. I failed to find a copy of the handbook's original diagram, so I can only describe it as follows:

"The Keyhole"

Title of Essay

Introductory Paragraph's
Opening Invitation

Narrowing´╗┐
Down
to
Last Sentence
(=Thesis)



Standard Body Paragraphs, Each With Topic Sentence

Present Weakest Argument First

Lead Up to Strongest Argument, the Last in the Body of the Essay

Illustrate Each Topic Sentence
With Facts and Examples,
Explained with Reasons,
In Vivid and Lively Language



Concluding Paragraph's
Beginning Sentence (=Reworded Thesis)

Broadening Out to
The Final Sentence and Last Word (=Clincher)

That's supposed to look somewhat like an old-fashioned keyhole, though I doubt that students today have ever seen the sort of keyhole depicted in Baker's text, especially since many 'keyholes' these days lack even a hole for a key, the key being magnetically coded for its particular door.

I couldn't draw one of my own, not being expert in that part of the Blogger Tech, but I found three online exemplars, the first by Glen Dawursk, Jr. Let's call it Keyhole 1:


This Keyhole 1 is very similar to what I've described above, albeit simpler, and it is explained in more detail at Dawursk's site.

Next up is Keyhole 2, by Janice Campbell:


More detailed, but its details are not so precisely placed, e.g., the words "Supporting Paragraphs" have displaced the position of "Thesis"! An oversight, no doubt. More information is available at Campbell's site.

Finally comes Keyhole 3, by Bill Drew, whom I'm quoting here on my personal blog and to whom all copyright credit is due:


Even more elaborate, this advanced keyhole requires a visit to Drew's site for explanation, and one might wish to investigate his site further, for he appears to have put a great deal of thought into essay writing, enough to have made a business of it.

Anyway, I've gone to the trouble of finding these exemplars because I'll need to show my students what I mean by "The Keyhole" as depicted by Sheridan Baker.

Perhaps they're also of interest to some of my readers . . .

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