Specifics vs. Generalizations 

Being able to recognize whether a sentence is specific or general is key to understanding how sentences operate in a given paragraph.  Usually topic sentences of paragraphs are general statements that must be proven in the body of a paragraph.  Supporting information for a topic sentence is of a much more specific nature.  Identifying specific and general sentences creates an understanding of the relationships that exist in good writing, namely that specific information must be provided to support general statements in a given piece of writing.  The following exercise will test your ability to differentiate between specific and general sentences.  Decide whether the following sentences are general or specific.

1. Sigmund Freud is one of the greatest names in medical history.

General    Specific

 

2. Mario Andretti is a successful Race-car driver.       

General    Specific

   

3. In the four years 1930-1933, more than 9,000 commercial banks failed, almost 40 percent of all the banks in the country.       

General    Specific

 

4. On Labor Day in 1963, Mario Andretti won seven midget races—three in the afternoon at Flemington, New Jersey, and four at night in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.       

General    Specific

 

5. Movies are becoming more and more daring in their subject matter.       

General    Specific

 

6. Most people grow faint at the sight of blood.       

General    Specific

 

7. To test the mathematical accuracy of account balances, the auditors should verify the footings of some or all of the ledger accounts.       

General    Specific

 

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Correct!  In this statement, several specific examples could be given to prove why Freud is one of the greatest names in medical history, so this is a General Statement.

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Incorrect.  This statement about Freud does not offer support for a more general point.

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Correct!  This statement about Andretti suggests that there are many specific examples that you could list to prove that he is a successful racer.

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Incorrect.  This statement does not offer support for a general claim. 

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Incorrect.  This statement offers supporting information regarding the state of banks in America from 1930-33.  It should be used to support a more general point regarding insolvency of banks after the 1929 stock market crash. 

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Correct!  This statement offers specific support for a more general idea, namely what happened to banks after the 1929 stock market crash. 

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Incorrect.  This statement seems to support a more general claim regarding the successfulness of Mario Andretti as a race-car driver. Consider this sentence as supporting information for question number two.

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Correct!  This statement offers support for a general statement regarding the successfulness of Mario Andretti as a race-car driver.  Consider this sentence as supporting information for question number two.

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Correct!  In this statement, several examples could be given offering support for the idea that movies are becoming more daring in their subject matter.  

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Incorrect.  This sentence offers no support for a general claim.  Rather, it is a general claim in itself. 

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Correct!  In this sentence, several examples could be given illustrating how people grow faint at the sight of blood. 

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Incorrect.  This sentence offers no support for a general claim. 

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Incorrect.  While several steps could be given to explain how accountants test the footings of ledger accounts, this sentence offers "how to" support for testing the mathematical accuracy of account balances.  Hence, this sentence gives more specific information than it does general. 

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Correct!  This sentence offers support regarding how to test the mathematical accuracy of account balances. 

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