SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 12
WRITING A GREAT ESSAY

Lesson 7: Write Logically

Be Specific


Your argument is much more effective when you discuss real and specific examples rather than hypothetical and general ones. You can generalize in your thesis and conclusion, but be specific everywhere else.


Consider this paragraph:

Although our Constitution provides us with the right to bear arms, this right should not be a universal one. That’s not what the Second Amendment was intended for. A lot of times it’s not appropriate and just plain dangerous or foolish. This is obvious to anyone who reads newspapers or watches the TV news and knows about what is going on in the world.

The argument isn’t effective because it gives no specifics. Consider this improvement:

Although our Constitution provides us with the right to bear arms, this right was intended only to protect citizens from the tyranny of government, and not to arm citizens against one another. In many places, for instance in schools and other public places, the right to bear arms does not enhance public safety. Even the popular argument that it makes our homes safer is absurd. Rather, it merely increases the likelihood that a problematic situation like an argument will turn deadly, as it did last month when an eight-year-old boy shot his six-year-old sister to death in New Jersey.

This revision is more forceful because it turns the generalizations into specifics, and gives concrete examples.

Help Your Reader with Logical Transitions


Provide your readers with “guideposts” to help them understand the logical relationships between your ideas. These guideposts, which usually come at the beginning of a paragraph or a sentence, are called transitions. They include words like however (to indicate a contrast), therefore (to indicate a result), furthermore (to indicate an extension of an argument), first, second, or third (to indicate a sequence of examples or reasons), nevertheless (to indicate irony), and so on.


Consider the following paragraphs:

Every first-year chemistry or physics student learns that opposite charges attract and like charges repel. If we try to force two positive charges together, they will fly apart as soon as we release them. Similarly, if we try to hold a positive charge apart from a negative charge, they will fly together as soon as we release them.

The nucleus of an atom consists of a collection of positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons squashed together in a very small space. Negatively charged electrons remain in “shells” that never touch the nucleus.

You should notice that the facts in these paragraphs don’t “fit” logically. If like charges fly apart, then how on earth could they remain together in a nucleus? Also, if unlike charges fall toward each other, why don’t the negative electrons fall into the positive nucleus? However, the second paragraph provides no logical “guideposts” to indicate this surprising relationship between these ideas. A good writer should acknowledge the contrasts between the ideas of the first paragraph and the ideas of the second paragraph with logical transitions. Notice how this revision provides the necessary transitions:

Every first-year chemistry or physics student learns that opposite charges attract and like charges repel. If we try to force two positive charges together, they will fly apart as soon as we release them. Similarly, if we try to hold a positive charge apart from a negative charge, they will fly together as soon as we release them.

However, science students are also told that the nucleus of an atom consists of a collection of positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons squashed together in a very small space. They are also told that negatively charged electrons remain in “shells” that never touch the nucleus. How can this be?

You need to think carefully about the logic of individual sentences, as well.

Practice 7: Write Logically

Logical Transition Practice

Rewrite the second sentence of each of the following pairs so that it includes a logical transition from the previous one.

1. We knew that the game would be hard fought. We never thought it would last 8 hours and 20 innings.

2. There were thousands of visitors in town for the game. It was almost impossible to find a hotel room.

3. The theory of evolution has had a profound effect on scientific thought. It has influenced many artists and writers.

4. We knew that punishing the culprits would do no good. We took no action against them.

5. Perfect games are rare. In the last two years, only one was bowled in the entire state.

6. There were several reasons for the delay. The bus driver had the wrong directions.

Check your answers with the answer key at the end of the chapter.