What Statements: Old + New

What Statements: Old + New

A What Statement is a short, simple sentence that tells the reader what the subject is. It consists of two variables joined by a verb or verb phrase.  For example:


A What Statement has two variables.  Think of the ends of a barbell.  At least one of the two (or their relationship) must be New information.

Old Information

As you have learned, Old information is a variable readers probably already know about or probably do not care about.

The Word I

One form of Old information is the word I. We write for adult strangers. They do not know about you, and it is unlikely they care about you. So the word I is almost always Old information.

New Information

New information is a variable readers probably do not know much about and are likely to find interesting. To keep your document from being boring, at least one of the variables must be New information. We can summarize a What Statement with a formula:

O + O = poor subject

O + N (or N + O) = good subject


A picture containing vector graphics Description automatically generatedYell the formula!                 


Yell the formula and hit your desk!

Let’s examine two What Statements.

Example 1

This What Statement has two Old variables:

“I” is always Old.

Everyone knows a lot about whales, so variable 2 is Old information.

Old + Old = poor subject

Example 2

If I could be any wild animal, I would be an aye-aye lemur.

This What Statement has one Old and one New variable:

I” is always Old.

Most people know little if anything about aye-aye lemurs. They are a very interesting animal.

Old + New = good subject

Small Group or Individual Activity

  1. Determine the two variables in the following What Statements.
  2. Decide if the What Statement is O+O or O+N

       Prompt: If you could do anything you want this weekend, regardless of cost, what would you do?

If I could do anything this weekend, regardless of cost,

What Statement

Variable 1

Variable 2

1. I would play basketball


2. I would hunt ice worms


3. I would go skiing


4. I would go ski-joring


5. I would explore a cave


6. I would go snowmobiling


7. I would hunt moose


8. I would work on my stamp collection


9. I would go to Japan


10. I would explore Mammoth Cave with a professional spelunker*


*cave explorer

Individual or Small Group Activity

Complete the exercise:      Jamaica

Optional Activity