The dismount

Don't end your body paragraphs like this.

Don’t end your body paragraphs like this.

Some people write their body paragraphs, providing a great topic sentence and a relevant, interesting example. And then they just stop and move on to the next paragraph. This is not a strategy; it’s a stumble. When you reach the end of your example, your body paragraph is not over; you need to signal to your reader that you have some level of skill with a graceful dismount.

Again, I have two elegant strategies for this, as it so happens! The first is

The Counterfactual: This simple dismount allows you to deploy a complicated grammatical structure which, if used correctly, will impress your grader. Basically, a counterfactual argument tells a hypothetical past situation. For example, look at this body paragraph:

Nothing arrogant here.

Nothing arrogant here.

 Success can cause a sense of arrogance, creating a feeling of invulnerability that inevitably leads to failure. One prime example of this process is Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia. After a marvelously successful campaign throughout Europe, which he used to create new governments across the continent, Napoleon believed that he was invincible and set his sights on the land of the czars. Gathering his Grand Armee, he marched on the Russian Empire. Though he was victorious at first, he faced only token resistance from the Russian Army, which fell back instead of engaging, hoping that the vast expanses of their country, as well as the illness that followed any army in those days, would defeat Napoleon. The Russian generals were right; despite having taken Moscow, Napoleon’s army could not impose its will over the colossal Russian empire, and he fled, his army reduced by about 90 percent by disease and desertion. This was the beginning of the cascade of defeats that culminated in the Battle of Waterloo, when he was finally defeated, dethroned and exiled to St. Helena, where he died. If Napoleon had failed in a few more of his earlier battles, perhaps he would have had a more humble  sensibility, saving himself from the massive disasters of Russia and Waterloo.

Notice how the last sentence provides a different possible outcome based on a slightly different set of actions? This type of concluding sentence shows critical thinking (asking “What if…?”) and a fairly complex (though simple, with practice) grammatical structure, both of which tickle your readers in all the right spots. Here, practice it yourself with this paragraph:

Success can cause an arrogance that leads to impulsive actions that eventually result in disaster. My uncle Tom’s story epitomizes this idea. As a college student, he inherited a bit of money from his grandfather, and he invested it in the stock market, generating some impressive returns during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. However, this early success made him proud, and caused him to believe that he had a preternatural ability to choose winning securities. He began trusting his intuition instead of doing diligent research, investing in companies like Pets.com, Webvan and Kozmo.com. Although these sites were popular for a time, in the long run they were a flash in the pan, wiping out my uncle’s previous gains and a big portion of his savings when the dot-com bubble burst.

How would you finish this paragraph using the counterfactual method? Leave your attempts in the comments!

Impress me.

Impress me.

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One thought on “The dismount

  1. Pingback: In my end is my beginning | Number One Pencil

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