Test Your Understanding

Read the following introduction and excerpt.

In November 2010, the voters of Arizona passed a controversial law that opponents say promotes intolerance because it is aimed at a particular group of people. In an opinion piece about the new law, journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr., a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, wrote the following:

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of America’s mind. . . .

That loss has occurred with distressing frequency over the years, often coming in times of hysteria and fear, often involving the demonization of some American subset for the actions of those with whom they share some cultural, racial or religious trait.

For instance, Americans of German descent were bullied and beset during the First World War in a nation that found it necessary to rename sauerkraut “Liberty Cabbage.” Americans of Japanese descent were imprisoned during the Second World War, many of them losing their homes and livelihoods.

You’d think that sordid history would make us wary of entreatments to blindly castigate our fellow Americans. And you would be mistaken. . . .

Coherence in this 10-line excerpt is achieved with the help of at least three factors discussed in this lesson: repetition, parallel construction, and transitional words and phrases. Read the excerpt again. Then, using your notes, write your answers to the questions below. Check your understanding when you are finished.

  1. List at least two examples of repetition in the excerpt. In addition to coherence, what is the specific effect of those examples of repetition?
  2. Write at least one example of the use of parallel construction in the excerpt. What is the effect of that parallelism?
  3. Write at least one transitional word or phrase in the excerpt. What is the effect of that word or phrase?
Check Your Understanding

Sample Responses:

  1. Repetition:

    • loss—Emphasizes the perceived seriousness of the situation
    • America/American(s)—Reminder that this is America, a country whose citizens are not supposed to let things like this happen
    • you—Almost pointing a finger at the reader

  2. Parallelism: often coming, often involving; Americans of German descent were, Americans of Japanese descent were—Parallelism adds to the flow and balance of the writing; indicates more than one such example

  3. Transitional words and phrases:
    • For instance—Connects previous paragraph with examples of specific “times” and “subsets”
    • And—Connects this sentence to previous one but with added emphasis because the conjunction starts the sentence