Building an essay is like building with Legos. Different parts have different functions for different designs. Definition is one of those parts that adds substance through support to a writing project.
A good definition shows insight, thoughtfulness, and individuality. It also shows the ability to look beneath the surface of a shallow thought. However, an individual who can define for themselves takes away someone else defining what they think or believe for them.
The paragraph formation that follows is the foundation for all writing, like the base is for a Lego Structure.
Paragraph Topic Statement: (What is the purpose of your definition?)
A. Use a dictionary definition. Pick a good one. One of my favorite dictionaries is Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. This is a dictionary that avoids clichéd, surface definitions.
B. Pick a couple of synonyms. Don’t pick the first 3 in the list. That shows a lack of effort. Pick 3 that are your favorites. Use www.dictionary.com and click thesaurus. A lot of words you know are stored in your brain. Sometimes it is hard to pick them out of thin air. This helps. Of course, it also helps you develop your vocabulary, too.
C. This is the meat of the paragraph. Remember, this is one BIG paragraph (point statement + A + B+ C + Conclusion). That is okay. Paragraphs come in all sizes. You are going to make a big paragraph, probably about a page to a page and ½ long (typed, double-spaced with Times New Roman 12 font). This is where you personalize the definition.
For example, if I were to define poverty, I would create a topic statement:
Paragraph Topic Statement: My definition of poverty is different from others.
A. The 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary defines poverty as “Destitution of property; indigence; want of convenient means of subsistence.” Our government defines poverty as someone who makes under $30,000 a year but still has indoor plumbing, cell phones, a television, heat, and food.
B. When you think of poverty you might think of hardship, bankruptcy, and insufficiency.
C. Poverty might be about want but poverty can include family-value rich, tradition-rich, and hope-rich.
- a. Just because I might be labeled “poverty” doesn’t mean I am totally depleted in value.
- b. Story that shows the truth in this point—a “my” story.
- c. Analysis of story (where you explain how the story supports the point you are trying to make
Conclusion to paragraph—reminds the reader about the point you started with.
Students can define their culture (their culture is not MTV’s culture—don’t let MTV define who you are), a character trait (see Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues: http://www.sfheart.com/FranklinsVirtues.html), education, alcohol abuse, friendship, mom, dad, funny, socialism, capitalism, democrat, republican—I could go on forever.
Blue Cotton Memory : I am a former college composition instructor with 24 years of cumulative experience teaching both at the college level and tutoring for home school co-ops and individuals, writing and editing for individuals, groups, and e-businesses. You can find out more about me about my blog, www.bluecottonmemory.wordpress.com where I write about my experience as a mother of 5 sons.