Usually when you communicate you do not want to make a statement and let it sit there without further explanation. If someone were talking, for example, and they said, “I saw a cool movie,” you would want more information. If the speaker doesn’t provide it, you get annoyed. Writing is the same way. You wouldn’t want to read a news story like this: Sam was arrested for murder last night. That’s incomplete. You want to know more! Even one sentence can add a great deal of clarifying information: Sam was arrested for murder last night. When police arrived, he was standing over the body with a gun in his hand saying, “I didn’t mean to kill her.”
Student writing generally suffers from those explaining details. While it is flattering that students seem to think teachers can read their minds, we can’t. It’s true. (Shhhhh, don’t tell anybody) Like all your readers, teachers must have the details spelled out for them. While there is no specific format for details, it may help to think of them as elaboration, evidence, or explanation.
ELABORATION is a fancy word that means I like it, tell me more! Be careful when elaborating to make sure you are indeed giving more information and not just restating the same information in the first sentence. Here’s an example of restating: The Labrador retriever loves to play and go for walks. There’s nothing a Lab likes better than walking and playing. Do you see that the second sentence says exactly the same thing as the first sentence, just using different words? That is restating, not elaboration. Here’s an example of elaboration: The Labrador retriever loves to play and go for walks. A perfect activity for you and your Lab would be a walk to the park where you can play fetch with a tennis ball. See? MORE information on the same subject.
EVIDENCE is used to prove a point you are making to your reader. This is especially useful when you are writing book reports (or Response to Literature). When you make a statement about a character’s motives, you state an opinion. Now you need to use evidence from the book in order to show your reader why you formed that opinion. Here’s an example: At the beginning of the book, Susie was afraid to swim. At the pool party, she claimed she didn’t have a swimsuit when she did, pretended she was too interested in her book to get in the water, and lied about her ability.
EXPLANATION is used when you write a statement that will cause readers to sit up and say, “What now?” Don’t leave statements like this hanging (see example above about Sam and the murder). Explain them.
It is not important whether you use elaboration, evidence, or explanation to give more depth to your writing. What’s important is that your paragraphs are well-developed, and that means you have a lot of details!
You try it! Here are some sentences. Pick one, copy and paste it into your comment, and add a sentence that elaborates, adds evidence, or gives an explanation.
1. Dogs are great pets.
2. Writing is awesome!
3. Summer is the most fabulous season of the year.
4. Sleeping in wastes good vacation time.
5. My parents love me.
In paperback: Cable Hornman, the Bard Begins by C. Lee Brown