Classification is sorting. When you put people or objects or ideas into categories, you are classifying. A classification paragraph explains how things fit into categories. Baseball players, for example, can be classified by position; infielders, outfielders, pitchers, catchers. Or they can be classified by their level of professionalism; single A, double A, triple A, major-league. Or they can be put into sub-categories; pitchers can be starters or middle-relievers or closers. Whichever method of classification you choose, your categories must make sense. A baseball player, for example, can be either a minor or major-leaguer, but a major-leaguer cannot be either an amateur or professional athlete; all major-leaguers are professional athletes.

The following classification paragraph puts the writer’s ex-girlfriends into categories:

When I was single, girls I dated fell into three categories: the self-absorbed misfit, the drug-addicted artist, and the can’t-make-up-her-mind-lesbian. The first category was epitomized by Cathy, a woman so fascinated by the minutia of her daily life, so convinced of her uniqueness, so thrilled by the mundane details of her existence, that for six months I was hypnotized. “I’m the only person I know who writes stuff on their hands so I won’t forget,” she gushed, showing me a phone number she had inked on her palm. The sheer force of her narcissism convinced me that writing phone numbers on one’s hand was an extraordinary act of non-conformity. Diane, a punky art student from Montreal, falls neatly into the second category. When I first visited her apartment, I noticed an enormous canvas on which she had begun painting barnyard chickens. On the floor beneath the canvas, coffee cans held an impressive array of wet brushes and paints. During my second visit, two months later, the painting had not changed and the coffee cans held the same brushes and paints. But because I loved her, I understood that true artists don’t always make art; sometimes, to stay creative, they snort a lot of coke. For the third category, I pick Ruth. When she wasn’t complaining about how gross men looked naked, she was telling me about the crush she had on her best friend, Patricia, or the crush she had on her oldest friend Susan, or how much fun she had dancing at a gay bar. When I suggested she might be a lesbian, she angrily accused me of having “typical male fantasies.” When she finally did start sleeping with girls, she would occasionally return to my arms, giggling, “Some things about guys I miss.”

Below is a list of classification paragraph topics. You can choose one or choose your own.

jobs                                                    mothers
car ads                                               toupees
fast-food outlets                              street musicians
pick-up lines                                     weddings
high school teachers                        dogs
kissers                                                cities you have lived in
facial hair                                          breakfasts
lover’s spats                                      Choose your own


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