Archive for category Body Paragraphs
In the last post, we looked at how to improve an essay’s body paragraphs by using the SEX acronym. The best way to explain SEX though, is to give a demonstration. Here’s an example body paragraph from an essay on the poem “Rising Five” by Norman Nicholson. I wrote this in Year 12 (for Cambridge AS English). It’s not perfect, but it’s a verbatim example which will be relevant to many of our followers. I’m open to your comments and suggestions. Take a look and see what you think…
Although the form of the poem is comparatively erratic in the previous stanza, the next is more traditional in layout – it is here that a subtle shift in the mood of the piece can first be detected. The opening line is a startling image of how, over time, changes occur and perfectly suitable opportunities are lost as we grow up; we push them into the past just as “new buds push the old leaves from the bough”. The simile in the next line coincides with this image: “we drop our youth behind us like a boy throwing away his toffee-wrappers.” Verbs like “push” and “drop” have negative connotations, while even the nouns “youth” and “boy” may show the naivety of ignoring the present. After “toffee-wrappers”, caesura is used to show that the past and all its choices are cut off from and inaccessible to us humans who inhabit the present. It is ironic that people often desire to be younger again when they are adults – this backs up the poet’s argument that we need to make prudent decisions about what we do with each day; once we have decided, we can never get that day back again.
SEX in practice:
See how the evidence to support the statement comes in “couples”? Examples are paired with supporting explanations. These pairs of Evidence back up the Statement made in the first sentence (red text). Broadly categorising the parts of the paragraph, there are three Examples (orange text) and three eXplanations (green text). The more SEX in a paragraph, the better! However, don’t overwhelm the reader with a mammoth paragraph – break it up into digestible chunks. Be nice to your reader!
So there’s an overview of how to use the SEX acronym in essays. Can you see how this will enable you to write more compelling paragraphs, and therefore stronger essays?
SEX spices up your essays. Once you’ve stated what an essay paragraph is about in an attractive way (using an opening topic sentence as mentioned in a previous post), you have to do something with the rest of the paragraph! Your mission is to expand on the topic sentence and develop the point of the paragraph. This point should answer the essay question and convince your marker to give you marks. To craft a convincing essay, you will need strong evidence. Evidence is made up of two components: Examples and Explanations of those examples. How can you remember to include all the elements that make up an effective paragraph? Think of SEX:
SEX gives you the framework to begin piecing together the evidence you need to develop your points. Examples show your content knowledge; they prove that you’ve done the research or read the text. They also show that you’re answering the question in some cases. For example, an essay question may ask you to specifically discuss imagery or sound devices. Each example is linked to an explanatory phrase which guides the reader to the essayist’s interpretation. This is where you show that you’re smart and that your analysis deserves marks. If you skip this important step, the marker is more likely to reach a different interpretation than yours and you will not score as highly.
So there’s an introduction to the art of developing your point. More on SEX is something to save for another time…
Want higher marks for your essays, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a trick that I learned that makes your essays clear, coherent, and compelling: use “Topic Sentences”.
Topic sentences are one of the most important and powerful components of a functional essay. They are the first and last sentence of each body paragraph. Simply put, their role is to introduce the main argument of the paragraph, then, at its end, summarise the point of the paragraph and show how the point relates to your essay’s overall answer. Which would you prefer to read: a well-planned paragraph that is structured with the main idea stated in the first sentence, further developed, then re-iterated at the end of the paragraph; or a random assemblage of thoughts that were just dumped on a page in clusters? The planned one of course – because the topic sentences make it easier to read.
Topic sentences are like the buns of a burger – they hold the rest of the paragraph’s information together and make it easier to ‘pick up’ for the reader. Topic sentences make your essay’s points clear. If markers can understand your argument, they’ll give you more marks. Unfortunately, some students write ‘paragraphs’ which suggest they erratically threw some ingredients around, rather than methodically making a burger (which isn’t that hard – just ask any McDonald’s worker). Messy paragraphs earn fewer marks. So don’t make a literary dog’s breakfast that looks like it was kicked around the floor then put on a plate. Give your paragraphs some structure! Use topic sentences. Make your essay clear and easier to follow – make it easier for the marker to give you marks.