Suzanne has taught 12 years in the NC Public School System and three years at Campbell University. She has a master's degree in English Education.
Unity Definition and Purpose
The United States is the birthplace of basketball and recruits the best players in the world to the NBA. So everyone expects the U.S. National Basketball Team to be the best. After the 1992 Dream Team dominated the Olympics, winning by an average of 40 points each game, U.S. basketball seemed invincible.
But in 2004, the U.S. National team lost its opening Olympic game by 19 points. Americans were stunned. How could a team composed of all NBA players lose to a team that only had two players from the NBA? The answer was simple - the players were individual stars who did not work together as a team. Without unity among the players, they couldn't work together to be successful. Individual talent is not enough to compensate for a lack of unity in a team sport.
The same concept of unity applies to our writing as well. Without a unified document, our message is lost. Unity in writing refers to the focus of ideas in sentences and paragraphs that work together to make the document easy to understand. This means that each sentence in a paragraph must be focused on the same topic, and each paragraph must be focused on the same message in order to create consistency.
Unity helps the audience more easily follow the progression of ideas in a document. In school, we're taught that each paragraph will focus on one idea, so as readers, we expect and look for that format when we're reading a document. We know that when a new paragraph begins, we can expect a new topic. Since this is the expectation of our readers, as writers, we must adhere to these guidelines in order to create unity and understanding for our reader.
Unity in writing can be achieved by keeping each paragraph focused on one topic, by keeping all paragraphs focused on one thesis, and by using a similar structure in all aspects of our writing.
The first step to keeping your document unified is to establish a clear thesis. A thesis is a sentence that clearly states what the document will address. The thesis should be located in the first paragraph of your document so that the audience knows your purpose for writing. The thesis should foreshadow the topics you discuss in your paragraphs. I like to view the thesis as a road map for my document. It explains what the document will say and how the document plans to arrive at a conclusion.
Here are some examples of thesis statements:
In order to improve McBurger Queen, we must arrive to work on time, expand our menu offerings, and focus on improving our customer service.
This traditional three-pronged thesis explains the purpose of the document to explain how to improve the company and provides a glimpse at what the body paragraphs will be about: arriving on time, expanding the menu, and improving customer service. Assuming that the body paragraphs address each of those issues, the document will be unified.
Here's another example:
Despite recent setbacks in our taco division, we still believe that McBurger Queen can continue to expand its menu options by offering gyros and lo mein.
This thesis provides structure by creating a vision for what the document will discuss: the new menu options. Assuming that the writer focuses each paragraph on the menu options, the document will be unified because the thesis explains the purpose and lays out subtopics that will support the purpose.
Notice that the focus of each document will be slightly different based on the thesis: the first on improving customer service and the second on expanding menu options. It is important that each document only focus on one main purpose. Trying to address more than one purpose can confuse your reader and make it difficult to keep your information unified.
Once you've written a clear thesis, you should know what each paragraph of your document will address because the paragraphs will be the subtopics foreshadowed in your thesis. But having each paragraph unified is important to the unity of the overall document.
To keep your paragraphs unified, start with a topic sentence. A topic sentence is a sentence that explains the general idea or message of a paragraph. The topic sentence serves to focus the information in the rest of the paragraph around a single subject. Without a topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph feels like a jumble of random information with no real purpose.
Topic sentences contain a general overview of the rest of the information in the paragraph. The sentences following the topic sentence will contain facts and examples to support the topic sentence. If we were writing a paragraph to support our last thesis statement about expanding menu options at McBurger Queen, we might write the following topic sentence:
McBurger Queen will begin offering chicken and lamb gyros to meet the needs of our diverse population.
Notice the topic sentence clearly lays out what the paragraph will discuss, the new gyro options, while also providing a reason for the new item, to meet the needs of the diverse customers.
The rest of the paragraph will be focused on the gyros. One sentence might tell when the restaurant will begin serving the menu items. Another might explain what a gyro is and what will go on the sandwich. And one might explain which customers the gyro is geared toward. Though each sentence's focus may vary slightly, all of the sentences would support the topic of the gyros, which will keep the paragraph unified.
Do you follow a daily schedule? Maybe you get up at the same time, go to lunch at the same time, or drive home at the same time. My life is run by a daily schedule, but I like following a schedule because I know what to expect each day. It gives me a sense of peace to have a regular routine. Most people like to have a regular structure to their day. It allows them to anticipate what comes next without feeling anxious about unexpected interruptions. The same applies to writing. We like structure. Structure allows the reader to anticipate what will come next. It helps create organization and unity in the writing.
Structure in writing comes from organizing paragraphs in a similar manner. Every paragraph will start with a topic sentence, which begins to establish a parallel structure for each paragraph. But we can extend that structure by making each sentence after the topic sentence follow a similar structure.
For example, if your first paragraph uses an example following the topic sentence, your second and consecutive paragraphs should do the same. Likewise, if the next sentence is a fact, then you should include a fact in your other paragraphs. You don't have to use the same language in each sentence, just a similar structure. Using the same organizational pattern in each paragraph creates consistency and structural unity in the document.
Unity in writing refers to the focus of ideas in sentences and paragraphs that work together to make the document easy to understand. Unity helps the audience more easily follow the progression of ideas in a document.
Unity in writing can be achieved by doing the following:
- Keep each paragraph focused on one topic by having a clear topic sentence and strong supporting details that focus on one topic
- Keep all paragraphs focused on one thesis that is included in the introductory paragraph
- Use a similar structure for the sentences in each paragraph
Keeping your document unified will make it easier to understand, which will help your target audience better comprehend your message.
After completing the lesson, you should be able to:
- Explain what unity means in regards to writing
- Consider how a thesis impacts unity
- Demonstrate paragraph unity through the use of topic sentences
- Describe what structural unity entails as it relates to writing
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