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Moving from Abstract to Concrete: The Basics of Writing

Most of the writing in college moves from the abstract to the concrete. Abstract ideas are so general that a reader will not have a clear idea of what the writer is talking about. Some words are more abstract than others, but overall, abstract words leave the reader hanging and wondering what specifically the writer means.

Ex. love, happiness, movie, school

In the examples above, notice each one means something different from one person to the next. What makes Sheila happy will be quite different than what makes Damon happy. That is what makes these words abstract.

Concrete ideas are specific, so they create a picture in the reader’s mind of what the writer is talking about. These are words that can be smelled, seen, heard, tasted, touched, and felt.

Ex. Lansing Community College, Lansing, Michigan, Jamal, A Tale of Two Cities

Exercise 1: For each of the abstract words and ideas listed below, write a more specific (concrete) word or example.

Ex. Movie ____Batman____

  1. Movie _____________________________________
  2. Singer/musical group __________________________
  3. Type of music ________________________________
  4. Type of food _________________________________
  5. A Selfish action _______________________________
  6. Candy ______________________________________
  7. Store _______________________________________
  8. Act of kindness _______________________________
  9. Act of hatred _________________________________
  10. Bad habit ____________________________________
  11. Good habit ___________________________________
  12. Historical figure ______________________________
  13. Political figure ________________________________
  14. Act of stupidity ________________________________
  15. Celebrity _____________________________________

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Writing for College Introduction to College Writing with Grammar Skills Review by Cheryl McCormick, Sue Hank, and Ninna Roth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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