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Advanced Composition 

Revising for Conciseness: Group Workshop

February 11 and 12, 2004

Today, we will revise the teacher paragraph, “Writing a Good Paragraph,” to make it more concise. Its present length is 295 words. Our goal is to reduce it by 50% or more. 


Work in pairs to identify three places where sentences can be reduced and made more concise.

Be prepared to share your ideas with the class.


Write your own, 125-word paragraph on two things you have learned about writing this term (or at any time if you are a new student).

Identify one thing you would still like to learn.

Bring your paragraph to class next week.

See the revised paragraph. (now 99 words!)

Writing A Good Paragraph

     Since the paragraph is the second most important part of writing structure (after the sentence), writing a good paragraph is an important skill to master. Always, in the beginning, we have a blank page and a pen, or a blank screen and a keyboard. Before we fill in that page or screen, however, what happens? For me, I need first to have an intention, a need to write, a reason to communicate. Without these, the writing will not come easily. Right now, to communicate with you is my reason, and I have the intention of sharing some of my knowledge of writing with you. To be effective once started, our sentences need to be thought of carefully, not as separate pieces, but as parts of a whole. A sentence speaks. Short sentences, like the one just before this one, speak emphatically. Long ones, like this sentence, have the luxury of time, the ability to be complex, and are best saved for important thoughts requiring such complexity. Thus, effective sentences happen in groups, not in isolation. The effect you produce can therefore be altered by carefully looking at the kinds of and lengths of sentences you use, and for what purposes you have used them. Now, after all this hard work, one might imagine that the writing is done. This couldn’t be further from the truth: in reality, writing is a slow process where small changes are made, or large ones as the case may be. Always, however, the intention is the same. We rewrite (or revise) in order to communicate better our meanings and understanding to other human beings: the readers. Ultimately, writing is about communication. The paragraph is a convenient package for our thoughts and so is an important tool to use and master. (295 words; FIRST DRAFT)

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