Saturday, March 28, 2009

On to the Next Level

My toastmasters talk won the local competition. That means I get to present it again on April 18 for the next level.

Meanwhile, I want to talk about the 2nd place winner. (She was the only competitor in my category.) Her idea was good. Her points were important. She used the standard 5-paragraph structure, BUT she left off the first paragraph.

For those of you who haven't taken Freshman English lately, the 5-paragraph structure is as follows:

1st paragraph:  State your main point and 3 supporting themes.  For example: I like lemons because they are yellow, they are round, and they are sour.

2nd paragraph: Go into detail about the first theme. For example: Lemon yellow reminds me of summer and sunshine and happy vacations when I rode the waves on my yellow inflatable raft.

3rd paragraph: Go into detail about the second theme. For example: I like round things like lemons and baseballs and my dyna-flex exercise toy. Round things feel good in my hands.

4th paragraph: Go into detail about the third theme. For example: I like sour foods. Most foods are sweet or salty, but a splash of lemon juice or vinegar gets my saliva flowing and enhances the taste of almost any food.

5th paragraph: Paraphrase the main idea and add something extra. For example: Lemons are an important part of my diet. I always make sure to have some in my refrigerator to squeeze on a salad, or add to a curry. I like everything about lemons. I enjoy their happy yellow color. They feel solidly round when I squeeze them. And their tangy sour taste makes my meals more delicious.

But if you leave off the first paragraph, the essay feels disjointed. The topics jump from yellow to round to sour without any reason. Only at the last paragraph does the reader (or listener) find out why the three aspects of lemons were introduced.

I assure you that my worthy competitor did not talk about lemons. I don't want to steal her thunder just in case she reworks her speech and comes back in a future competiton as a winner.

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