Body Paragraphs: Writing the Unsung Heroes for Impact!

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Oh, this was going to be a great assignment for Zinnia McGillicuddy!  A Creative Writing major, she enjoyed using her creative mind and knowledge of creativity in making clothes, cooking, laying out her flower garden, and decorating her apartment. Now came her Media Report Writing instructor’s first essay of the course: to write a six-paragraph essay – and these were the words in the assignment directions that really made Zinnia smile – “with special attention to the Opening Paragraph and Closing Paragraph.” Although wanting to always be creative in every area of writing, she was often cautioned by previous writing instructors that the Opening Paragraph and Closing Paragraph were where most creativity should be channeled. Here it was: Zinnia’s chance to shine! As for the other paragraphs – the Body Paragraphs – she knew they held some facts, maybe a quote or paraphrase here and there, and some good vocabulary. That would be a breeze –but the real stars would be those two creative paragraphs; Zinnia could taste the A!  Sadly, her professor graded this essay C+, remarking, “Great Opening and Closing Paragraphs! But what happened to the Body Paragraphs?  They were limp and offered little substance. Please see me.”  What Zinnia forgot – and so many other writers forget – is that Body Paragraphs are crucial components for any writing; master them, and writing will be balanced, strong, and effective.

Writing – good, effective writing – takes time, and the extensive minutes and hours needed to produce this kind of writing are one of the two major reasons folks dislike writing. (The other reason is the large number of rules and exceptions to the rules!)  Added to this: much emphasis in writing courses is placed on nailing the Opening and Closing Paragraphs, with little more than a nod given to Body Paragraphs. This combo will often result in writing that is rushed (“Let me just get this over with!), and the lil’ ol’ Body Paragraphs often get the brunt of this haste: their content can be weak or scattered, they may be quite short, most proofreading errors occur here, and needed research and/or citations can be omitted. This type of writing in Body Paragraphs leaves any essay, report, analysis, recommendation, or other formal writing weak, unappetizing, and ho-hum.

In meeting with her Media Report Writing Professor, Zinnia was instructed on the basics of what the professor labeled  “Bodybuilding for the Body Paragraph.” Professor Delsym explained the importance of a Topic Sentence, the sentences that followed, when research was necessary, the how and what of quotes and paraphrases, correct placement and formatting of citations, and the transitional sentence. She also explained paragraph length and the importance of logical placement of paragraphs.  Lastly, Professor Delsym surprised Zinnia with an opportunity to redo her essay and suggested Zinnia put together a “Bodybuilding for the Body Paragraph Mini-Guide.” This, she assured, would result in nicely written Body Paragraphs each time.

Zinnia had a close friend from the school’s chess team, Rocky Pantinio, and she remembered he shared his “Mini-Guide to a Four Reads Approach to Better Writing.” She would use this as a template for her own mini-guide. Zinnia needed some guidance now and then from Professor Delsym, but she finally finished it:

  • Begin with an outline to determine the number of Body Paragraphs
  • Develop Topic Sentences for each Body Paragraph (relate to thesis)
  • Go back to outline – arrange paragraphs based in order of Topic Sentence importance
  • Create Body Paragraph sentences to follow and expand on Topic Sentences
  • Write transitional expressions/sentences to end each Body Paragraph and connect with the next paragraph
  • Determine if research is applicable; if yes, search for appropriate paraphrases and/or quotes
  • Correctly insert one quote or paraphrase to bolster Topic Sentence (supporting point)
  • Determine where in-text citations are placed; check on correct formatting
  • Check each Body Paragraph for vocabulary: At the reader’s level?  Is there any “fluff?”
  • Do a final read-over of the essay to be sure Body Paragraphs work well; do any needed Revise/Edit

Well, it was done, thought Zinnia: her “Bodybuilding for the Body Paragraph Mini-Guide.” She used this in reworking the essay Professor Delsym had allowed her to resubmit. Yes, her Opening Paragraph and Closing Paragraph remained the same, but Zinnia now had new respect for and a better understanding of the Body Paragraph. Each one now gave a strong effort in supporting her thesis statement, and from the standpoint of her being a Creative Writing major, Zinnia saw how the Body Paragraphs combined allowed the creativity in the Opening and Closing Paragraphs to not just be pretty cool but to also become nice bookends to an overall strong essay. Professor Delsym certainly agreed, not only with the A grade on Essay 2.0 but also in this comment:  “Zinnia, you have taken your initial weak Body Paragraphs and made each one exceptionally strong, to the point where they show as true workhorses supporting your thesis.  Not only be proud of this effort but also use it as a guide for future writings.” 

Zinnia shared her “Bodybuilding for the Body Paragraph Mini-Guide” with Rocky and then sent a copy to each of her classmates in the Media Report Writing course:she had ample proof through a grade and a comment that others would benefit as well. The Body Paragraph: who knew, mused Zinnia, that such an always-included part of any formal writing carried so much weight!

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