PORTFOLIO #6 : Well written paragraph (Part 2)

2- TOPIC SENTENCES:

1. Topic sentence: There are two broad theories concerning what triggers a human's inevitable decline to death.

The first is the wear-and-tear hypothesis that suggests the body eventually succumbs to the environmental insults of life. The second is the notion that we have an internal clock which is genetically programmed to run down. Supporters of the wear-and-tear theory maintain that the very practice of breathing causes us to age because inhaled oxygen produces toxic by-products. Advocates of the internal clock theory believe that individual cells are told to stop dividing and thus eventually to die by, for example, hormones produced by the brain or by their own genes. (from Debra Blank, "The Eternal Quest" [edited]).

Explanation:

This paragraph is a straightforward description of two possibilities, neither of which is preferred over the other. In this case, it would be wrong to mention only one of the possibilities (the "internal time clock") in the topic sentence, or to treat it as a philosophical discussion of death itself ("we all must die..."). As for the biology professor, He or she might very well have given an interesting lecture, but that has nothing to do with the content of the paragraph.

2. Topic sentence: We commonly look on the discipline of war as vastly more rigid than any discipline necessary in time of peace, but this is an error.

The strictest military discipline imaginable is still looser than that prevailing in the average assembly-line. The soldier, at worst, is still able to exercise the highest conceivable functions of freedom -- that is, he or she is permitted to steal and to kill. No discipline prevailing in peace gives him or her anything remotely resembling this. The soldier is, in war, in the position of a free adult; in peace he or she is almost always in the position of a child. In war all things are excused by success, even violations of discipline. In peace, speaking generally, success is inconceivable except as a function of discipline. (from H.L. Mencken, "Reflections on War" [edited]).

Explanation:

The topic sentence must emphasise the comparative nature of the paragraph. Mencken does argue that soldiers need discipline, but this is not all he argues in this paragraph. Likewise, while soldiers may well serve an important function in wartime, and while they may well be able to compete well in peacetime, neither of these points is discussed in the paragraph.

3. Topic sentence:Although the interpretation of traffic signals may seem highly standardized, close observation reveals regional variations across this country, distinguishing the East Coast from Central Canada and the West as surely as dominant dialects or political inclinations.

In Montreal, a flashing red traffic light instructs drivers to careen even more wildly through intersections heavily populated with pedestrians and oncoming vehicles. In startling contrast, an amber light in Calgary warns drivers to scream to a halt on the off chance that there might be a pedestrian within 500 meters who might consider crossing at some unspecified time within the current day. In my home town in New Brunswick, finally, traffic lights (along with painted lines and posted speed limits) do not apply to tractors, all terrain vehicles, or pickup trucks, which together account for most vehicles on the road. In fact, were any observant Canadian dropped from an alien space vessel at an unspecified intersection anywhere in this vast land, he or she could almost certainly orient him-or-herself according to the surrounding traffic patterns.

Explanation:

It is not enough simply to list all of the arguments in the paragraph ("People in Montreal drive faster..."), or to pick only one point to hilight ("People in Calgary are careful of pedestrians"). Instead, the topic sentence should highlight the interpretative nature of driving habits and their regional variations. Since the paragraph stresses the differences among drivers in different parts of the country, it would be entirely wrong simply to state in the topic sentence that "Canadians do not follow traffic signals properly."

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