Special Paragraphs

    The body paragraphs of essays are called topical paragraphs because they deal with one specific idea or topic.  Two other types of paragraphs are essential to the effectiveness of essays: introductions and conclusions.
    Introductions or introductory paragraphs perform very important functions.  First, they must attract the reader, influencing him/her to read the remainder of the essay.  Second, they must not only introduce readers to the essay topic but they must also limit that topic and identify the writer's attitude toward the topic.  Finally, they must provide readers with information regarding what is to be expected within the remainder of the essay.
    Several options exist for the creation of effective introductions:

Unfortunately, many student writers choose the last approach which, although it provides the path of least resistance, is not always the most effective and certainly not often the most interesting.  Remember, one of the goals in writing is to discover the writer in everyone.  Below are some sample introductions using various methods:

A famous and fitting quotation

    "A penny saved is a penny earned," said Benjamin Franklin. Just look at this example of Franklin's famous words: If you invest $1,000 today at 10% for 10 years compounded annually, the future value of this amount is $2707.04. Imagine how much more you would have if you contributed monthly, if you found a plan with a higher interest rate, or if the money were compounded more often than once a year.  There's no valid argument against saving money unless it is earning less than current inflation rates, meaning the money will have less buying power in the future.  The biggest problem for most people is learning how to do without a little now in order to have more in the future.  Some of the best options are investments in mutual funds, Roth IRAs, and real estate.

A surprising statistic

    "Pick four random female friends," suggests Andy Dehnart. "Know that, according to national statistics, one of them suffers from an eating disorder." This alarming statistic includes sufferers of starvation, binging, and purging disorders. Other sources vary from Dehnart's with far greater--1 of every three--and far lesser--1 out of every 100--percentages.  What matters, however, is not precisely how many but, rather, that eating conditions are widespread.  They have been diagnosed in young girls of elementary school ages and older women in their fifties.  Males even figure into the count as well.  Why so many?  If only the solution were so easy:  The focus on image is paramount among most Western cultures.  The average American woman, who is 5'4" tall, weighs 145 pounds and wears a size 11/12 dress, is not in style.  She is the norm, but she is not en vogue. And she knows it based on her magazines, her television, and the clothing available where she shops.

An inarguable fact

    In the United States, men still have greater earning power than women. In response to a national trend among colleges and universities, Minnesota's St. Cloud University hired a consulting firm to analyze salary equity.  Their findings revealed that male faculty earned anywhere from $1,500-5,000 more per year than females of corresponding rank (McMullen et al 2). A report on gender-based salary disparity at Rutgers' Camden Law School assembled by Jo Anne Durako reveals that male directors in some instances out earn their female counterparts by as much as $13,000 annually.  Salary inequity does not seem to be slowing down in spite of the number of women who now make up the American workforce. So how do women who have jumped through the same academic hoops gain equality?  For starters, they must recognize their worth and demand it....in dollars.

An appropriate anecdote

   
World War II ended in August, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly thereafter, United States President Harry Truman sanctioned a project requiring U.S. forces to infiltrate Germany and gain access to information regarding German technology, including but not limited to the technology that allowed Germany such incredible success with its Blitzkrieg (or lightning war).  Numerous German physicians during the war had participated in in-depth human experimentation.  In addition, Germans had made use of viral warfare. America wanted these scientific advancements.  As a result, by 1955, over 700 German scientists, many of them still confirmed Nazis, were granted American citizenship.  In addition, their previous dangerous war criminal status had been reduced significantly.  These scientists were assimilated into the U.S. scientific community and their descendants live among unknowing Americans.  The operation is known as Project Paperclip, and even though the American space program is a direct result of German technology imported via Project Paperclip, most Americans are unaware that it even took place.  Much of Project Paperclip is still classified information. Nevertheless, even general information regarding the project is scant. Why is this significant piece of history omitted from our history texts?  Do Americans not have a right to know if their neighbors were former Nazis? 

A general treatment that moves toward specific information

    The annual Mule Day Parade in Columbia, TN is a tradition since 1840.  At that time, Mule Day (then Breeders Day) was more about buying and selling livestock than it was about celebrating the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a mare.  For a number of years, the annual tradition was not observed due to wars and global depression.  The tradition was revived in the 1970s, when Maury County visionaries became keenly interested in drawing revenue into Columbia.  What began as a grand-scale livestock sale, now, over 150 years later, has evolved into a four-day celebration, attracting thousands from all over the U.S. to witness a festival of food, crafts, fun, and most of all the star attraction...the mule.

A question

    Is owning one's home wiser than paying rent?  Although some financial planners argue that paying rent is generally cheaper than paying a monthly mortgage and that renting does not involve costs for repairs, property taxes, and insurance, most brokers will vote in favor of owning a home...and for many reasons besides financial ones.  The facts are: Owning a home offers a freedom that will not be experienced with a rented domicile; owning a home lends a stability that renting cannot claim, and owning a home provides a sense of pride not to be found in renting.

Concluding paragraphs or conclusions, like introductions, may be created through a variety of strategies. Some students have been erroneously taught that a conclusion should just repeat the ideas from the topic sentences or restate the thesis.  While this may be an acceptable practice for children, it is not suitable for formal writing among adults.  Below are some sample conclusions using various strategies:

A famous and fitting quotation

    "
When money talks, nobody notices what grammar it uses," said one unknown writer.  While this may not be entirely true, wealthy actress Elizabeth Taylor expressed a similar notion: "Success is the greatest deodorant in the world."  No one is suggesting that making money should be the heart of existence; but it is certainly wiser to live always as though there will be a tomorrow--a tomorrow that could be very comfortable with a bit of financial planning.

A surprising statistic

    According to the National Eating Disorders Association, "Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die." While other eating disorders are serious in the mental and physical health issues they are symptomatic of, such as depression, anxiety, and contribute to, such as heart disease and peptic ulcers, anorexia nervosa is the disorder considered to be most often directly fatal. In this age when the fast-food industry finds itself on trial for its contribution to adolescent obesity, could marketers possibly be held accountable for their role in the increase of eating disorders, particularly among teenagers and young women?  Perhaps it will take just such a drastic measure to convince western society that  Rueben's women were beautiful or that Marilyn Monroe was desirable in a size 13.  Now that we've witnessed the damage of a relatively new social attitude--under fifty years--could we perhaps go back to the images of yesterday and attempt to put a stop to the every-woman-can-look-like-a-supermodel craze?

An inarguable fact

    According to California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, "It takes three and one-half additional months for women to get paid the same amount men earned... for the same type of work."  Lieber's solution is for women to demand equal pay. The AFL-CIO is working on settling this disparity, but they cannot do it alone.  Women across the nation must become more educated on wage inequity.  (The AFL-CIO offers current gender earnings comparisons for every state in the nation). They must participate in surveys geared toward narrowing the wage gap.  And, finally, they must speak up and demand that their employers honor the Equal Pay Act, which passed in 1963.

An appropriate anecdote

    In December 1946, forty noted individuals including Charles S. Bolte, Evans Clark, Albert Einstein, Rev. John Haynes Holmes, Philip Murray, Richard Neuberger, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Rufus B. von Kleinsmid, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise alerted President  Truman of their concerns regarding the Project Paperclip:

We hold these individuals to be potentially dangerous carriers of racial and religious hatred. Their former eminence as Nazi Party members and supporters raises the issue of their fitness to become American citizens or hold key positions in American industrial, scientific, and educational institutions. If it is deemed imperative to utilize these individuals in this country we earnestly petition you to make sure that they will not be granted permanent residence or citizenship in the United States with the opportunity which that would afford of inculcating those anti-democratic doctrines which seek to undermine and destroy our national unity. (Lasby 191-204)

According to Clarence G. Lasby, these Nazi doctors and scientists along with their families, were given new identities. Harold A. Zahl, author of Electrons Away, writes, "In retrospect, throughout the country we see thousands of our best citizens, able engineers, scientists, and administrators, with a byproduct of tens of thousands of brilliant children in our schools...the results of 'Paperclip'" (107). There are those who lay the success of NASA, modern psychiatry, modern warfare at the feet of Project Paperclip.  At the end of the war, Truman was concerned that the Russians or others would snatch up German technology if we did not.  Because the CIA file is still sealed on the project and  few books have been published on the subject (Those that do disappear mysteriously from shelves).  perhaps Americans will never know the truth about the project.

A specific treatment that moves toward one that is more general

    Travelers entering Columbia, Tennessee for the first time read "Old South Charm, New South Progress" on the community welcome sign. Mule Day has an estimated $14 million impact on Maury County's economy, pumping up the revenue of hotels, RV camps, and restaurants.  If that's "new south progress,"  then this festival that resuscitates such old time favorites as mule pullings, square dances, and liars contests uses its "old south charm" as its means of progressing. For these reasons, Mule Day is a perfect choice for anyone planning a spring vacation reminiscent of the long-gone agrarian culture of the American South.

A question

    Once the buy or rent question has been answered, the next question is where to buy or rent?  Some realtors or developers will warn against purchasing the most expensive property in the neighborhood and, instead, encourage buyers to look at the lower-priced homes in upscale neighborhoods.  This advice is sound for a variety of reasons including larger gain in value once the neighborhood becomes a desirable locale.  In addition, buyers can always make improvements to boost property values.  For renters, the best advice is to seek out lowest rates and save the difference between the high and low rates monthly.  From that point, investment of savings is a wise alternative.  So why not invest that money in rental property, such as a duplex or small home, or take the plunge and purchase a home of one's own?

One useful strategy to apply with special paragraphs is to unify the essay by using the same type of special paragraph for both the introduction and conclusion.  These two paragraphs are often the most difficult for writers but can make a tremendous impact on the quality of writing.