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英语修辞与写作·19.2 写好段落的三个环节





19.2 写好段落的三个环节

19.2A 明确中心

1) 一篇文章必须具有明确的主题 (Topic),而作为文章的一个段落,则必须是该主题的某个要点或侧面(Focal point or aspect),即有明确的段落中心,试看下面一段文章:

The salesmen are all professionals who follow the country-fair circuit. The pen vendor, aged forty-three, has been a drummer ever since he was eighteen years old. His sales pitch, repeated verbatim every hour or so, seems to have a will of its own which has little or nothing to do with the stone-faced man who delivers it. It's just a job like any other job, although it demands that he have no home other than the camper in which he travels. Like the barkers and peddlers of years past, the people of the fair are creatures of the road who remain forever on the outskirts of the communities they serve. But the salesmen are not alone. The “carnies,” as the amusement-park folks call themselves, have transformed the country-fair circuit into a way of life. Traveling together in one continuous party, they wear “carny power” insignia on the back of their Levi's jackets and like to hang together when the local toughs start hankering for a fight. They are proud to belong to a select group of “gypsies, tramps, and thieves,” self-appointed outcasts from the small-town societies in which they set up shop. Like the salesmen who travel beside them, they live off the suckers ... who come to the fair to blow a few bucks and catch a passing glimpse of bright lights and fancy things.

读后你会发现,这段文章可以分成两个段落,即从第六句“But the salesmen are not alone”另起一段,实际情况正是如此。这个例子选自Ralph Raphael的Edges一书,原为两个段落。第一段主要讲salesmen at country fairs,举例说明。然后,转到“carnies”,从另一个角度谈country fairs,并形成另一个自然段。

2) 主题句(Topic sentence)是段落要点的标志,使用主题句是保持段落一致的有效手段。例如:

I enjoy listening to music no matter what I am doing. Music always makes me feel relaxed and brightens my mood. For example, ...



19.2B 合理的组织

1) 合理组织指段落中句子的安排要符合逻辑次序(Logical order),做到句间上下衔接,意思前后连贯,以利于中心思想的明确表达。为此,在写一个段落时,就要考虑到这个段落里要写什么,如讲一个故事或继续讲前面已开始讲到的故事,描写一个人、物或地方,叙述一件事,都要注意到怎样较为符合逻辑,便于读者接受。对一个段落进行修改时,要进一步从这个角度加以检查,并作出必要的调整。

2) 对一个讲故事的段落来说,很可能遵循时间或年代次序 (Temporal or Chronological order),即从最早发生的事开始讲到最后的事件。例如:Army Tan的小说 The Kitchen God's Wife 的故事梗概里就有这样一个段落:

Thus begins an unfolding of secrets that takes mother and daughter back to a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s and throughout China during World War Two, and traces the happy and desperate events that led to Winnie's coming to America in 1949.

3) 在描写段落中主要根据空间次序(Spatial Order) 给读者以立体的概念。如要描写一个校园,你就首先把读者带到大门口,介绍进门后的第一座建筑物,花坛、喷水池、行政楼,然后依次参观教学区、图书馆、生活区,等等。当然次序可以不同,如先看教学楼,生活设施,最后再到行政楼,但不应一会儿介绍教室,一会儿又跳到办公室,因为那样就会给人以凌乱和支离破碎的印象。下面是Alfred Carl Hottes的Book of Trees中的一个段落:

The leaves are usually one-to three-lobed and turn orange-scarlet in the Autumn. The bark is a cinnamon-gray, and is deeply furrowed. The twigs are hairy when young, and yellowish-green, aromatic, and with very unequal internodes. The scanty fruits are bluish-black, with red stems, and surrounded at the base by thick, scarlet calyx.


下面选自Robert Penn Warren在Wilderness 中的一段人物描写:

Adam turned to look at him. It was, in a way, as though this were the first time he had laid eyes on him. He saw the strong, black shoulders under the red-check calico, the long arms lying loose, forward over the knees, the strong hands, seamed and calloused, holding the reins. He looked at the face. The thrust of the jawbone was strong, but the lips were heavy and low, with a piece of chewed straw hanging out one side of the mouth. The eyelids were pendulous, slightly swollen-looking, and the eyes bloodshot. Those eyes, Adam knew, could sharpen to a quick, penetrating, assessing glance. But now, looking at that slack, somnolent face, he could scarcely believe that.

上面这段描写塑造了一个人物半身像,丰满而又结实。读者首先看到的是那双强壮的黝黑的肩膀,又随着下垂的胳臂看到膝上的那双粗大的手。寥寥数笔,一个粗线条的人体已出现在读者面前。然后从“He looked at the face”开始,人体面部的各个部位和眼神得到了工笔画式的描绘,给读者以栩栩如生的印象。整个段落分两个层次,首先是一个总体框架,然后是重点素描,并着重表现了眼神。有两句俗语:一是“画人难画手,画兽难画走”,二是“画龙点睛”,上面这段人物描写能根据重点运用笔墨,层次分明,线条清晰,因而显得格外成功。

4) 在说明或议论段落中要重视逻辑次序,做到既不片面,又有重点。试比较两段分析因果关系的文章:

An unusual cluster of bad luck lost the game. Many blamed Fraser's failure to block the tackler who caused the fumble that produced the winning touchdown. But even here, bad weather and bad luck shared the blame. Both teams faced a slippery field, of course. But Fraser was standing in a virtual bog when he lunged for the block and slipped. Moreover, the storm had delayed the bus for hours, tiring and frustrating the team, leaving them short of sleep and with no chance to practice. Furthermore, Hunter's throwing arm was still not back in shape from his early injury. Finally, one must admit, the Acorns were simply heavier and stronger, which is the real luck of the game.

(Harold W. Stoke)

The masses, and therefore the gravity, of the sun and the earth are partly due to each other, partly to more distant objects such as the stars and galaxies. According to Hoyle, if the universe were to be cut in half, local solar-system gravitation would double, drawing the earth closer to the sun. The pressure in the sun's center would increase, thus raising its temperature, its generation of energy, and its brightness. Before being seared into a lump of charcoal, a man on earth would find his weight increasing from 150 to 300 1bs.

(Time's Report on Fred Hoyle)

在第一段中,已知结果(指球赛失利),然后分析原因。有的原因是公认的,或者是直接的原因(Fraser's failure),但却不是唯一的原因。作者虽然承认双方面临的同样困难(a slippery field),同时又强调Fraser更为不利的处境(But Fraser was standing ...),接着进一步从3个方面(Moreover, ... Furthermore, ... Finally, ...)分析了Fraser队的败因,层层紧扣,尤其最后一点指出了该队失败的必然因素。


19.2C 恰当的过渡

1) 过渡词语可大体分为以下数类:

表示对照(Contrast) 的有but, however, nevertheless, by contrast, in spite of this, on the other hand,等;

表示类似 (Similarity)的有and, also, another, besides, furthermore, in addition, in the same way, likewise, next, moreover, second, (or secondly, third, thirdly, etc.), similarly,等;

表示时间或地点联系(Time or Place Relationship)的有earlier, later, at the same time, meanwhile; soon, here, there, farther on, nearby,等;

表示因果关系(Cause and Consequence)的有as a result, consequently, therefore, thus, 等;

表示举例的有as an illustration, for example, for instance, another example,等;

表示重复或总结的有as I have said, in other words, to repeat, in brief, in short, in summary, to sum up, 等;

表示先后次序的有first of all, first (or firstly, second, secondly, etc.), then, at last, finally, 等;

有时还可用整个句子作为过渡,如:“How should we proceed?”“The (next — and also the) third case is curiously unlike the first two.” “Let us move on to the next issue.” 等。

2) 段落之间的过渡词语既可表示要点或侧重点的转移、变化,同时又表示它们之间的联系。例如:

So far I have been dealing with the vocabulary of sociologists, but their private language has a grammar too, and one that should be the subject of intensive research by the staff of a very well-endowed foundation. I have space to mention only a few of its more striking features.

The first of these is the preponderance of nouns over all the other parts of speech. Nouns are used in hyphenated pairs of dyads, and sometimes in triads, tetrads, and pentads. Nouns are used as adjectives without change of form, and they are often used as verbs, with or without the suffix “-ize”. The sociological language is gritty with nouns, like sanded sugar.

On the other hand, it is poor in pronouns. The singular pronoun of the first person has entirely disappeared, except in case histories, for the sociologists never comes forward as “I”. Sometimes he refers to himself as “the author” or “the investigator”,or as “many sociologists”, or even as “the best sociologists”, when he is advancing a debatable opinion. On are occasions he calls himself “we”,like Queen Elizabeth speaking from the throne, but he usually avoids any personal form and writes as if he were a force of nature.

The second-personal pronoun has also disappeared, ...

这是美国评论家和诗人Malcolm Cowley (1898年生)题为Sociological Habit Patterns in Linguistic Transmogrification的一篇评论中的几个段落。他在该文中批评一些社会学家写文章时满纸行话而不善于使用简明的词语。从“So far”引出的这个段落承上启下,后面的3个段落也都是由过渡语引导出来:“The first ...”,“On the other hand”,“... also ...”,等。我们读到表示对照的过渡词语时,马上意识到新段落里的话题会有变化,而读到表示类似的过渡词语时,知道新段落是从另一个角度继续前段的话题。有人把段落之间的过渡词语比作桥梁(bridges)和路标(signposts),是相当确切的。

3) 在段落内部的过渡词语,有人比作铆钉(rivets)和铁轨(rails),使段落构成一个完整的有机体,并引导读者了解作者所要表达的内容。下面是F. L. Lucas所写What Is Style?中的一个段落:

Why and how did I become interested in style? The main answer, I suppose, is that I was born that way. Then I was, till ten, and only child running loose in a house packed with books, and in a world (thank goodness) still undistracted by radio and television. So at three I groaned to my mother, “Oh, I wish I could read,” and at four I read. Now travel among books is the best travel of all, and the easiest, and the cheapest. (Not that I belittle ordinary travel — which I regard as one of the three main pleasures in life.) One learns to write by reading good books, as one learns to talk by hearing good talkers. And if I have learned anything of writing, it is largely from writers like Montaigne, Dorothy Osborne, Horace Walpole, Johnson, Goldsmith, Montesquieu, Volaire, Flaubert and Anatole France. Again, I was reared on Greek and Latin, and one can learn much from translating Homer or the Greek Anthology, Horace or Tacitus, if one is thrilled by the original, and tries, however vainly, to recapture some of that thrill in English.

作者首先修辞设问点出段落主题(Why and how ...?),然后利用过渡语一步步引导读者去了解答案(The main answer ... Then ... So ...)起承转合,逐步展开,既不平铺直叙,又始终紧扣主题,一气呵成,构成一个完整的紧凑段落。

练习十九 (Exercise Nineteen)

I. Preview Questions:

1. Do you think it necessary that all the points in a paragraph stick to a central idea?

2. Can you tell the difference between Temporal Order and Spatial Order?

3. How many types of transitional words and phrases have you learned?

4. Can you tell what functions can transitional words and phrases perform within a paragraph?

5. What functions can transitional words and phrases perform between paragraphs?

6. Have you learned any other transitional devices?

II. Reconstruct the paragraph by placing the following scrambled sentences in proper order.

Notes for reference: Both contextual meaning and levels of generality in establishing paragraph unity — the sense of cohesiveness are necessary to identify a unit of discourse as a paragraph. They center more on the meaning of the content than on the structure (although it is sometimes very difficult to separate the two). However, there are other structural, or formal, devices of paragraph unity that readers respond to, sometimes without consciously realizing it; for instance, parallel structure is certainly one clue to paragraph unity.

1. This erosion removes precious topsoil, making the ground unfit for anything to grow — not rabbit's tobacco, not sassafras, not corn, not beans.

2. But now the pasture is filled with boulders from the strip mine up the hill, and never again will cattle graze nor meadow birds nest there.

3. I have seen creeping soil banks topple towering oak trees and cover the lush shrubs and vines carpeting the ground.

4. The land dies.

5. Finally, I know of a pasture where partridges once nested after the cattle were removed.

6. Not only the waterways but the land itself has been a victim of strip mining.

7. And because there is no ground cover, erosion occurs.

8. Rabbits also lived there as did many other ground creatures.

9. Erosion, in the form of monstrous landslides, resulting from locating strip mines close to highways, blocks the roads and makes it impossible for school children and workers to reach their destinations.

10. Because the trees are toppled, squirrels, birds, and possums can't nest there and the habitats of the wildlife are crowded; more squirrels must nest in fewer trees.

III. Go over the following and provide similar examples from your reading or writing:

Transitions link a paragraph to what has immediately preceded it. They occur at or near the beginning of a paragraph because the new paragraph represents a turn of thought, a minor new beginning which has to be linked to what has gone before. When readers have to change tracks, the transition acts like a switch, smoothing and easing the turn. Without a transition readers may be able to make the switch, but they have to bump along for themselves.

The simplest transition uses the repeated word — repetition of or reference to a key term or phrase occurring at the end of the preceding paragraph:

Despite my distrust of officers, I find myself sympathizing with Gen. Michael Dugan, who has just been fired as Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Dugan got in trouble with the White House because he told reporters that if fighting broke out, we planned to run Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait by having the Air Force blow the hell out of Iraq.

He said we'd blast Baghdad and various military targets and maybe drop a bomb on Hussein himself. ...

A second method of linking paragraphs is to ask and answer a rhetorical question. Usually the question occurs at the end of the preceding paragraph and the answer at the beginning of the following one:

Some teachers of composition may assume that students are naturally eager to learn how to write. We don't. We are aware that writing can be one of the most upsetting, frustrating, and exasperating of all human activities. Seldom do the words pour out; seldom do they sound or look the way we want them to. And seldom do we or our students — or most people, for that matter — want to write. Then why learn to do so?

True, some people do find writing a release, an act of creation, ... If so, what's the point of learning to write?

The honest answer is that ...

The question-answer transition makes a very strong tie, but, as with the rhetorical question generally, it is too obvious a strategy to be called upon very often. In a short paper, one use is enough.

In the next type of transition you begin with a phrase or clause that sums up the point of the preceding paragraph and then move to the main clause, which introduces the main topic. If- and while- clauses frequently carry such transitions:

If I went through anguish in botany and economics — for different reasons gymnasium was even worse.

(James Thurber)

But while Bernard Shaw pleasantly surprised numerable cranks and revolutionists by finding quite rational arguments for them, he surprised them unpleasantly also by discovering something else.

(G. K. Chesterton)

In each case the opening clause refers back to the discussion in the paragraph before, while the main clause points forward to the new topic. On informal occasions, variations are possible as a prepositional phrase in this example:

Because of these differences in teaching methods, college throws more responsibility upon the student.

The summarizing transitions may take even briefer forms, using this, that, these, those, or such to sum up the preceding topic. These demonstratives as well as synonyms and pronouns are sometimes called Meaning Links.

Finally, you may link paragraphs by terms showing logical relationship, e. g. therefore, however, but, consequently, thus, and so, even so, on the other hand, for instance, etc.

Logical connectives seldom, if ever, provide the only link between paragraphs. Rather, they work in conjunction with word repetitions, summaries, pronouns, etc. In fact, all the various transitional strategies commonly occur in some combination. But whatever its form, an inter-paragraph transition should be clear and unobtrusive, shifting readers easily from one topic to the next without jolting them.




Ⅱ. The sentences can be arranged in the following order: 6-3-10-7-1-4-9-5-8-2


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