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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Monday, April 5 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Topic sentences

One of the favorite exercises that writing instructors like to use is the "topic sentence." In fact, writing classes of the type I taught in local community colleges for years use "topic sentences" in two senses. The first, which I just alluded to, is the assignment or suggestion of a sentence with the request that all the students write 300 words around it.

I remember John Crow, my favorite and the best writing teacher at Johnstown College in my first two years of college, assigning us the topic, from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite," (Prov. 23:1-2a). At least that's the way I remember him quoting it from the Authorized (aka "King James") version which was by far the most used translation of the Bible in the early 1960s.

The point of the assigment was to see how many interpretations and adaptations of the obscure quotation could be pulled out of a freshman writing class. Some used it as a launching pad for a topic totally unrelated to sitting to eat with a king, while others tried to make it into a sort of scene from a Shakespearean-type drama, like King Lear or Macbeth.

The other use of topic sentences is to use them as an outlining device for a wide variety of writing exercises. This technique is especially useful in the essay or editorial opinion piece. The editor quotes a topical sentence from a current news story, or even a headline, and launches out from that "topic sentence" to create an editorial published as the newspaper's position on the topic. As most newspapers have a set amount of space reserved every day or every week for the editorials, lots of them are constructed this way and many of them are not more interesting or arresting than you'd expect, using the technique for the sake of meeting a quota of newsprint space to fill.

I often have difficulty coming up with topics to write on in these Jonals, as you've probably noticed. So now I'm collecting topic sentences that can be used on days when inspiration is lacking. But I'm more interested in topics considered "food for thought" or stimulating discussion rather than responding to the latest news. Contributions to this cause are welcome, though I can't promise to be able to get out 300 words on just any old topic.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Country wisdom

Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz 

Holy Week thought for today

One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the power behind death and disease and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong..it is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion and we are living in part of the universe occupied by the rebel. Enemy occupied territory—that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage.

— C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1898-1963  

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