Read the following paragraphs. In groups, decide what is good, bad, or interesting about each. Summarize your group’s findings under each paragraph.
- My sister’s friend has a 500-gallon aquarium. What do you think of the Green Bay Packers? I’ve been riding a bicycle for over thirty years. There was a huge fire on our block yesterday. I really enjoy salmon and broccoli.
- Skateboarding. I have been skateboarding since I was twelve years old. The technology that goes into today’s boards is amazing. Over $15,000,000 in prize money was awarded to professional skateboarders last year. People may have a negative image of people who skateboard. Kids probably shouldn’t start to skateboard until they’re about eight years old for safety reasons.
- We should prohibit skateboarding in the square of our town. Last night I was walking through the square, and a young man knocked me over because he was out of control on his skateboard. My aunt who is an emergency room nurse at the local hospital says that her emergency room treated 42 serious injuries that occurred in our town square involving skateboards. She also said that ten years ago there were no reported injuries in our town square.
Notice that the first paragraph is all over the place. There’s no theme, topic, or central idea. Most people, most of the time, understand that paragraph one above is not an effective way to communicate.
The second paragraph starts with a category or topic–skateboarding. The problem with it is that it doesn’t make a point. It wanders around the topic without any direction. This is a great way to communicate when one is in fourth grade, but it is not an effective strategy much beyond that.
The third paragraph has a point, which is the first sentence. Everything within the paragraph helps explain the point or helps convince the audience that the point is true. One of the most important things about communicating effectively is to learn to think in terms of points rather than in terms of topics.
I’ve created a trick for you to check to make sure you have a point rather than a topic. Place your point into the following blank, “I will show that ________.” (Make sure you do not remove the word “that.” All four words are vital to this little trick working.) If your point makes sense after the words, “I will show that,” you have a point.
In addition to fitting into the blank above, points need to be singular. In other words, “Tim is tall and fast,” is not a single point. Your points should have no “and,” “as well as,” or “in addition to” in them; and they should be simply worded. A good point is very short.