Vandal! Thief! Traitor! Murderer!
Details matter. They also get attention. Though the categories listed above do lack a certain level of detail, they carry more emotional resonance than, say, “criminal!” Sometimes you need to get the attention of your audience, and generalizations will not do. For this reason, the specific-to-general pattern is here to help.
Similar to its opposite (the general-to-specific pattern), the specific-to-general pattern does what its name suggests. It begins with details and leads the reader to a generalization, which may be a thesis or conclusion. In addition to getting the reader’s attention, this pattern also creates suspense and curiosity as you lead the reader through your thinking to your concluding statement.
The details listed above are quite dramatic, but a subtler approach, using the same pattern, can be just as effective.
The paragraph above contains two specific-to-general progressions. First, the author begins with a specific age and how it feels. She also presents us with a mystery. Why does turning 60 feel weird? From there, the author begins to explain, providing details that are still specific, but less so. The author ends the first progression with a tentative explanation of why turning 60 feels weird, offering two general, but contrasting, observations about turning 60.
The author begins her second general-to-specific progression with a specific photograph. She follows that with an account of her personal feelings. Though these feelings are recent, they are not as timebound as the photograph or her age, and so the progression continues to become more general. Finally, the progression ends with a reflection on the passage of time, aging, and life itself. The author also solves the overall mystery. Turning 60 feels weird because she feels disconnected from the past.