The opening sentence makes clear, not only the topic, but also how it will be analyzed and developed:
There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and bestsellers—unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns woodpulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books—a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.) The third has a few books or one of them dog-eared and di lapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back. (This man owns books.)
Adler early on indicates his plan ("three kinds") and introduces each aspect of the topic with the appropriate term: "First," "second," "third." Sometimes, instead of words, numbers or letters introduce the parts of a paragraph:
For the majority of situations in which a dictionary is consulted for meaning, words may be roughly divided into three groups: (1) Hard words which circumstances make immediately important: "The doctor prescribed synthesized cortisone." "Recidivism is a serious criminal problem in some urban communities." "Existentialism is a subjective philosophy." (2) Words frequently seen, usually understood loosely, but suddenly and recurrently unstable (for the individual): synthesize, urban and subjective in the preceding sen tences. (3) Common familiar words which unexpectedly need to be differentiated (break vs. tear, shrub vs. bush) or specifically clarified, such as fable, adventure, shake, door, remainder, evil. Most people get by without having to clarify these common words in the third group until they become an issue. Without an issue definitions of these common words are frequently jumped on because the word looks easy to the uninitiated, although in practice they are usually more difficult than hard words to define. Philip B. Gove
Numbering the parts of a with words or with figures—is simple and clear. But it suits only topics which can be easily broken into parts. Moreover, it can seem mechanical and, overused, prove confusing. In a short essay one paragraph using this method of flow is enough.
The obviousness of "first," "second," "third" can be avoided by introducing key terms right in the topic sentence to label the particular parts of the subject, and repeating those terms as each aspect is brought forward in the body of the paragraph (italics are added):
We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine them; domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally, for many millions of people we are an unmitigated disaster.
One way of creating flow, then, is to announce your plan and explicitly fit each unit into that plan. It is not a method confined to single paragraphs. You can use it to organize a portion of a long paragraph (which is what Baldwin does), or expand it to organize a short theme, in which case the units would be individual paragraphs rather than sentences. But it is, as we said, a mechanical mode of organization to be employed with restraint.
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