ENGL 2105 : Workplace-Based Writing and Research

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Paragraph Structure Tool


This simple program explains a basic concept of paragraph-level sentence arrangment and provides a practice space. It saves nothing. It remembers nothing. It is competely anonamous. All it does is shuffle the order of sentences you give it so you can think about optimum order.

Explanation of the Concept

Writing is difficult partially because we don't always know what we are trying to say. When we write a draft, we tend to put the sentences down as they occur to us, which isn't always the best order to read them in. There's an exchange in a famous dialogue by Plato, called Phaedrus, during which this idea is discussed. I've paraphrased it below.

Soc. Lysias appears to have jumbled his sentences, begun at the end instead of the beginning. Don't you think, Phaedrus?
Phaedr. Yes, indeed, Socrates; he begins at the end.
Soc. There's no logical order to the sentences. He seems to have written them down as they occurred to him. Every discourse ought to be a living creature, having a body of its own and a head and feet; there should be a beginning, a middle, and an end, adapted to one another and to the whole?
Phaedr. Certainly.
Soc. Consider the following poem:
I am a maiden of bronze and lie on the tomb of Midas.
So long as water flows and tall trees grow.
So long here on this spot by his sad tomb abiding.
I shall declare to passers-by that Midas sleeps below.
Soc. In this rhyme whether a line comes first or comes last makes no difference.
Phaedr. Indeed.

The point: Any paragraph whose sentences can be written in any order is formless and therefore less meaningful than it might be.


Copy a paragraph from any online text, or from your own writing, and paste it into the space below. Click the submit button, and the machine will reprint the paragraph with the sentences in random order. If you wrote the paragraph, seeing the sentences scrambled may tell you something about how to revise.