The Importance of Specific Details

writing

The point that opens a paragraph is a general statement. The evidence that supports a point is made up of specific details, reasons, examples, and facts.

Specific details have two key function. First of all, details excite the reader's interest. They make writing  a pleasure to read, for we all enjoy learning particulars about other people what they do and think and feel. Second, details support and explain a writer's point; they give the evidence needed for us to see and understand a general idea. For example, the writer of "The Children of Huang Shi:  A Must See" provides details that make vividly clear why a person should see the film. She specifies the filming techniques used to immerse the viewer  (wide angled shots and low-key lighting). She explains how the music enhances the emoticon the audience experience (bold,  delicate, and intimate). She tells why the cast enriches the audience's enjoyment of the movie (realistically portrays; believable as communist resistance fighter; amazing as a businesswoman).

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The writer of "Why I'm in School" provides equally vivid details. He gives clear reasons for being in school (his father's attitude, his girlfriend's encouragement, and his wish to fulfill a personal goal) and backs up each reason with specific details. His details give us many sharp pictures. For instance, we hear the exact word his father spoke: "Mickey, you're a bum." He tells us exactly how he was spending his time ("working at odd jobs at a pizza parlor and luncheonette, trying all kinds of drugs with my friends"). He describes how his girlfriend helped him (filling out the college application, lending money and her car). Finally, instead of stating generally that "you have to make some kind of decision,"as the writer of "Reasons for Going to College" does, he specifies that he has a strong desire to finish college because he dropped out of many schools and programs in the past: high school, a job-training program, and a high school equivalency course.


In both "The Children of Huang Shi: A Must See" and "Why I'm in School," then, the vivid, exact details capture our interest and enable us to share in the writer's experience. In the first case, we gain a specific and deep grasp of the writer's opinions; in the second, we see people's actions and hear their words. The details provide pictures that make each of us feel "I am there." The particulars also allow us to understand each writer's point clearly. We are shown exactly why the first writer feels the movie is worth seeing and exactly why the second writer is attending college.

Source English Skills with Readings (9th Edition) - John Langan - ZoĆ© L. Albright - McGraw-Hill Education (International)

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