Key words in key spots; paragraphs as musical movements

My class depends  on students bringing in and showing us models, and one student brought in “A Wideband Frequency-Shift Keying Wireless Link for Inductively Powered Medical Implants” by Maysam Ghovanloo and Khalil Najafi (IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems, 51.12, Dec 2004). The full title is here so you can access it yourself (I’d be happy to discuss these writers’ decisions in more detail with you), but I’ve tried to include examples of the two key features mentioned above so that you do not have to go find it yourself.

Key Words in Key Spots

Notice that the authors do not start with data and power transmission via inductive coupling alone. Since they are so intent upon biomedical implants, this idea goes into the first sentence of the introduction, too:

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Note that the sentence begins with “an inductive link” and ends with “prostheses”–both key words, and in the two prime spots in the sentence. Remember that the beginning and end of a sentence are the “prime real estate.”

And later, the first sentence of the last paragraph of the introduction reminds readers of these two important components of the article, (1) increasing bandwidth via the inductive method of FSK, and (2) using this to make biomedical prosthesis work better:

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Again, “FSK” is in one prime position, and “prostheses” is in the other.

Paragraphs as musical movements

The second and third paragraphs of the introduction are very clear, step-by-step discussions/explanations that boil down the problem to these authors’ point of attack. Here’s paragraph two:

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Notice how this paragraph moves from “need large amounts of data” to “a minimum of 625-1000 pixels” to specific numbers of bits in the stimulation commands, to how many bits per command frame, to  how many of those there are, to one piece of good news about lowering the required data rate, to the obvious conclusion that a high data rate is needed. It’s like the paragraph is reaching a crescendo in a musical piece, with one softening part near the end, and then a loud, loud final sentence.

Paragraph 3 does something similar with the data rates that have been achieved so far, although the data rate seems to be getting softer/lower as we add the costs/trade-offs, and then it ends with a strong determination to do better/the goal:

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If you are a musician, or if you just like to listen to music, then thinking about paragraphs as short movements in a musical composition might help you structure them so that they come across more powerfully.

An addition, to underline the importance of key words in key spots:

The American Scholar has a list of what it calls “the ten best sentences.” Here’s one, with the reasons that Roy Peter Clark gave for why it’s great:

Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.—Ernest Hemingway, “A Farewell to Arms”

Donald Murray used to preach the 2-3-1 rule of emphasis.  Place the least emphatic words in the middle.  The second most important go at the beginning.  The most important nails the meaning at the end.  Hemingway offers a version of that here. A metaphor of flowing water is framed by two abstractions Anger and Obligation.  That fact that the metaphor is drawn from the action of the narrative makes it more effective.

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