M.T. Wroblewski reports:
"Supervisors are frequently called upon to prepare performance evaluations of their employees, and these evaluations often contain observations of an employee literally in action, carrying out some specific job task or function. Your job now is to write a dazzling paragraph based upon what you observed -- unleashing your powers of descriptive writing. Write a topic sentence – or the general topic that the paragraph will address – and a limiting idea or one that limits or narrows the topic. As adults, we’ve been told since fourth grade that a topic sentence is important because it sets the all-important tone of the paragraph. But remember that it’s the limiting idea that is the pulse of the paragraph. You will develop and expound upon that idea. Let’s assume that as a licensed day care provider, you’ve been asked to observe a student intern as she cares for a group of 2-year-olds. Your topic sentence might read: 'Nancy is a calm and focused day care practitioner who is attentive to children, responds directly and authoritatively and keeps her young charges on-task despite repeated distractions.' Review the limiting ideas for precision and clarity. Can you expound on the clause beginning with 'who is attentive to children'? If so, you probably have enough material to write a substantive observation paragraph, using Nancy’s 'calm and focused' demeanor as subtext to these bigger points. Evaluate the eight methods of developing a paragraph (still relevant from fourth grade on up): process, examples, comparison-contrast, classification, cause and effect, definition, description and narration. Any one of these methods should help you achieve your goal: to write a cohesive, unified paragraph that easily flows from one thought to the next. Select what you believe to be the best approach based upon what you observed, and start writing your paragraph. Keep in mind that you might wish to use a combination of these paragraph development techniques. Keep your audience top-of-mind. So while your paragraph should be concrete and factual, don’t be shy about infusing it with humor and personality, if apropos...Scrutinize the paragraph, and check every sentence (if not every word) for relevancy. Does every sentence amplify and advance the topic sentence? Polish and revise the paragraph until it fairly and accurately captures your observation experience...There [is] no 'right' or 'wrong' number of sentences to include in a paragraph – many journalists still favor one-sentence paragraphs – but four or five sentences is a good rule of thumb for a substantive paragraph. Use vivid language in your observation paragraph, but be careful not to make inferences or value judgments. Saying that someone is 'rushing' might be referring to their normal speed of motion. Likewise, saying that someone 'appears nervous' because she is 'sweating' might be an inaccurate conclusion; the person might in fact have high blood pressure or some other physical ailment that is causing her to sweat."
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