Making Connections

Recently, I was milling about the lobby of a historic hotel, waiting for my husband to finish tooling around on the computer, and I heard a fellow complaining at the front desk.  He had been under the impression that his room would feature a fireplace and was disappointed to find that it had been deactivated. 

He soon realized that the hotel staff was accustomed to the complaint and skilled at ignoring it.  Yet on he went, about how he had been so looking forward to settling down by a roaring fire until everyone’s eyes were rolling.  So I strolled a bit nearer and said, did I hear you say you were looking for a fireplace?

His eyes lit up as he rapidly nodded his head, and I continued, because my husband and I are headed for this very cool English pub just down the street.

Apparently he found my silence baffling.  So he asked, does it have a fireplace?

No, I replied.  But it has a very pretty water fountain.   

Readers need writers to make connections for them.  There are a few simple ways to do this.  One of them is by using a thesis statement.  You should never compose a document without one.  Glance quickly at the upper right hand corner of my home page, and you’ll see the one I wrote for my welcome statement:  The key difference between associates and executives is the ability to communicate clearly. 

A thesis statement acts as a signpost to show your reader where they are and where you will be taking them.  It also helps you to clarify your thoughts and outline your main points.  While you should think enough about your document to draft a thesis statement before you begin writing, you should go back and revise it to match the final product because the process of writing tends to clarify and even change our focus. 

Another way you can make connections is by using topic sentences.  Topic sentences announce the subject of a paragraph.  They also include a transition that allows the reader to move from one thought to another while still keeping the big picture in mind.  Take this paragraph as an example.  My topic sentence is:  Another way you can make connections is by using topic sentences.  This paragraph is focused on topic sentences, in an article on making connections.  The phrase “another way” signals that I’m introducing a new topic. 

And that brings me to my final suggestion for today, transitions.  Transitions are words and phrases that connect the dots.  They’re like the symbols in mathematical equations.  A  B  C  doesn’t mean anything.  But, A  +  B  =  C constitutes a statement that can be deciphered and understood. 

Transitions include small simple words called coordinating conjunctions.  There are 7 of them in English and you can remember them using the mnemonic FANBOYS:  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.  By the way, it’s okay to use them at the beginnings of sentences, no matter what your high school English teacher may have told you. 

You can also use transitional expressions.  Short phrases, like “by the way” or “in addition” help move the reader through your document.  Or you can get really fancy and add a conjunctive adverb:  Therefore, However, or Moreover. 

Whichever you choose, remember that you are trying to direct your reader.  So be sure the transition makes logical sense in its context.  Don’t use a therefore unless you’ve actually reached a conclusion.  Reserve moreover for times when you’re truly adding more information and not just moving on to a different topic. 

So what do a fireplace and a water fountain have in common?  I’m not really sure myself.  But you should have seen his face!  Happy writing.

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