Good signposting in essays

Instead of the integration and shared common values illustrated by, among others, the fact that Wren designed both a public place of worship and a private home, the post-war period leaves them with fragmentation and mutual distrust: the gang are aware of rival gangs, there is distrust between the generations - shown by the gang's suspicion of Old Misery's gift of sweets - and T.

For him 'All this hate and love [is]soft, it's hooey.

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There's only things. Furthermore, the passage describing the destruction of the house is an ironic parody of the opening chapter of Genesis. The vocabulary is similar: Blackie notices that 'chaos had advanced', an ironic reversal of God's imposing of form on a void. Furthermore, the phrase 'streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators', used in the context of destruction, also parodies the creation of light and darkness in the early passages of the Biblical book.

There might be another paragraph, or two, on religious metaphors, or the next paragraph might begin:. Images and metaphors concerning the individual and community are centred on Trevor, and are also linked to the theme of leadership. What are the advantages of such a sequence of paragraphs? Notice that the opening sentence in each paragraph is a strong one. There are several strong points about the first paragraph:. The main extended images are mentioned in the first sentence, which is preferable to 'I am now going to discuss the imagery of Graham Greene's story.

Importantly, whilst it is obvious that there is to be some reference to ideas already mentioned, it is also clear that there is to be no repetition. Instead, the analysis is to be deepened and extended. The anxious reader, who might be wondering why the important theme of the individual and the community has not been mentioned, can relax and enjoy the analysis of the religious symbolism in the full knowledge that the former theme has not been neglected. In other words the writer is actively engaging with Greene's story. What of the second paragraph? Firstly one might ask why a second paragraph is needed, given that the theme is still that of religion.

True, but the first paragraph is becoming quite long, it is reaching the 'natural' length of a paragraph. There are no hard or fast rules and regulations here - no writing committee has decreed that a paragraph should contain an ideal number of words or sentences or run a certain length over a page. Extended writing practice will give you a 'feel' and an instinct for realising that a paragraph is complete and it is time to start a new one.

More importantly here there is a very strong sense that the first paragraph in the model is 'full'. The writer has identified a link between the house and the ideological vacuum in which the gang exist and has tried to interpret and explain it. The theme is still religion, but the writer is now going to approach a different aspect of it.

The third paragraph begins to produce what has been promised: an analysis of the theme of the individual and the community.


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Note how this is done. There is no need to state mechanically that this is the theme that is now to be discussed. It has already been anticipated and the 'full' nature of the first sentence makes clear what is being discussed. Again, the reader is being clearly led through the arguments in a well structured and thought out manner.

Topic Sentences and Signposting in Essay Writing

One further point, by way of providing another model. The analysis in the second paragraph could lead in the following direction. Greene's ironic use of the vocabulary of the Bible might be making the point that, for him, the Second World War signalled the end of a particular Christian era.


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Now, it is perfectly arguable that the rise of fascism is linked to this, or that it is the cause. The cult of personality and secular leadership has, for Greene, taken over from the key role of the church in Western societies. In this way the two main themes identified above - the tension between individual and community, and religion - are linked.

In terms of essay writing this link could well be made after the discussion of the theme of the individual and the community, and its links with the theme of leadership. This might be the general conclusion to the essay. After thoughtful consideration and interpretation a student may well decide that this is what ' The Destructors ' boils down to: Greene is making a clear link between the rise of fascism and the decline of the Church's influence. Despite the fact that fascism has been recently defeated, Greene sees the lack of any contemporary values which could provide social cohesion as providing the potential for its reappearance.

Writing Your Essay

This is the climax to the essay, but the concluding paragraph should generally be a brief paraphrase or synthesis of the essay. This also adheres to the generally held view that the conclusion should not introduce new ideas.


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  • Paragraphs need to be coherent, which will be only achieved through the careful arrangement of the sentences within them. Staying with an analysis of Graham Greene's ' The Destructors ', let us see how this can be achieved. This is by no means a terrible paragraph, but there are weaknesses within it, the chief of them being that whilst it demonstrates that the student is going beyond superficial summarising and interpreting the story, the ideas are struggling to make themselves heard.

    Some of the sentences lack detail or are a little ambiguous, and at times there is a lack of tight connection between several of the sentences. Various ideas are referred to and introduced without ever being fully explained or analysed.

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    For example there is no explanation for the introduction of the notions of happiness and temptation. To some extent the reader has to guess what the writer is really trying to express. This is a crucial point: you must present your arguments clearly and unambiguously, and grades will we lost if the marker has to try to guess what is being said.

    First of all, no apple has been mentioned before in the essay and its introduction here is a little confusing. This is because in the story the apple is not compared to a house, but it is the house which is compared to an apple. Furthermore there is no evidence provided for the assertion that the house can be linked to a church.

    In addition, the 'perhaps' does not inspire confidence that the student is fully on top of the idea. Most importantly there is no clear connection with the preceding and succeeding sentence.

    Also, the 'actually' is too informal and, equally importantly, it suggests that the idea to come has just popped into the student's mind. The first 'it' is ambiguous, and it is not exactly clear what it refers to. Finally, the overall idea - that weaknesses within the church make it vulnerable to attacks from the outside - is not very clearly expressed. The problem with this paragraph lies in the other sentences. The phrase 'it refers to Adam and the temptation' is a poor one - it should be 'it refers to the tempting of Adam'. The main problem with this sentence is that it has become detached from the first sentence of the paragraph, and one of the problems of the paragraph is that the theme of temptation is referred to and hinted at without ever being fully interpreted and analysed.

    Where in the story could the religious references suggest that this is a significant point? Why happiness? The writer shifts the emphasis from Adams's temptation - which has not been analysed - to Trevor's temptation, without explanation. There is some dislocation in that whilst there was an earlier suggestion or hint again unclearly expressed that the church was destroying itself, now there is a suggestion that Trevor is solely responsible for the destruction of the church, in the symbolic form of the house.

    Furthermore, there is a weakness in the comparison in that Trevor's destruction of the house is in no way punished. The comparison of Old Misery's house to an apple may recall the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Adam, given the many religious images in the text and the fact that T. Perhaps not the house in itself but the prospect of completely destroying its beauty certainly represents a strong temptation for the new leader.

    Transitions - The Writing Center

    An important difference is obviously the fact that whilst Adam fell from a state of grace following his transgression, T. This suggests that without a coherent and integrated system of values contemporary society has no way of deciding what is right and wrong. Please note that there is a very large sense in which the student example cannot really be redeemed, given its contradictory arguments and lack of clarity.