Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sheridan Baker: Standard Concluding Paragraph

Landing of the Pilgrims (circa 1805)
Michele Felice Cornè

I've recently posted a sample of an introductory paragraph and a body paragraph, both from Sheridan Baker, and I'm now offering a concluding paragraph, but an introductory paragraph is first necessary for the concluding paragraph to make sense, and this one is also from Baker, The Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), borrowed from a student of his:
Americans are materialistic. Newspapers and magazines are full of articles about the way greedy American materialism is burning up the world's supply of fuel, eating great quantities of food while others starve, and polluting the rivers and the atmosphere. The "Protestant Work Ethic," inherited from our Pilgrim forefathers, is supposed to be driving us to materialistic ruin. Nevertheless, the Pilgrims had a point. Work is not only essential to modern society but beneficial to the individual in nonmaterialistic ways. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 71)

That was the introductory paragraph, and here's the concluding paragraph from the same essay:
The wish to work, and the satisfaction, are actually psychological, not material. I once said to my dad, when he congratulated me on my paycheck, "But I'm really not doing this for the money -- I really don't know why I'm doing it." He said, "You're doing it to prove to yourself that you can do a job in the world, and do it well, that you can make it on your own if you have to." That really is the psychological satisfaction in work. You demonstrate to yourself that you are useful and able in the adult world. The paychecks and raises, although they are materialistic in themselves, are symbols of your ability to please others in a useful way, to be respected for your ability, and to stand on your own feet. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 75)

This concluding paragraph -- in a sense -- is the introductory paragraph turned upside down. The thesis from that paragraph's final sentence is restated in this paragraph's first sentence, after which the paragraph broadens out to finish in a clincher, a final statement that offers a broader point based on the essay but going beyond it, often offering ideas worthy of further investigation.

I'll provide this concluding paragraph to my students this summer -- both paragraphs, in fact, so that the concluding paragraph will make sense, as I said above, but I'll present them unlabeled and in reverse order, for the students to figure out which is which.

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