How to begin and end paragraphs

When you have revised your provisional thesis statement and mapped out the supporting points you will develop in your essay, you can start writing the body of the essay.

It’s advisable to begin with the middle paragraphs of the essay rather than the introductory paragraph because it’s the middle paragraphs that support the thesis statement and constitute the argument of the essay.

The introductory paragraph leads up to your thesis statement and the concluding paragraph begins by restating your thesis and then wraps up the essay; first and last paragraphs function as a frame around your essay’s argument, but are not part of the argument.

Once you have developed your argument through the middle paragraphs, you are better able to write an opening paragraph that positions the reader to engage with your argument.

Paragraphs

Keep the following points in mind when constructing your middle paragraphs:

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

  • A paragraph is a unit of thought.
  • Each paragraph should make one point.
  • A new paragraph signals to the reader that the writer has moved to a new topic or point of evidence.
  • Paragraphs should have internal cohesion.
  • Paragraphs should be linked logically to each other.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

The length of a paragraph depends on the complexity of the topic, the purpose of the writing, the medium, and the anticipated needs of the reader. Because most academic writing is formal writing that involves complex topics and a critical reader, it is advisable to aim for at least 100 words (up to 200 words) when you write an academic paragraph.

Paragraph Structure

Structure is important not only in the essay as a whole but also in every paragraph that makes up the essay. There are three parts of a paragraph: the topic sentence, which introduces the paragraph’s topic; middle sentences, which constitute the body of the paragraph; and the wrap sentence, which concludes the paragraph.

  • States the paragraph’s main point,
  • Should be clear and stand out from the rest of the paragraph to make it easier for readers to grasp the main point,
  • Usually comes first (except in the introductory paragraph, where the topic sentence is the thesis statement and comes last),
  • Connects to the wrap of the previous paragraph.
  • Justify, explain, clarify, support, elaborate, give evidence, examples, fill in details,
  • Constitute the body of the paragraph.
  • Closes the paragraph as a unit of thought,
  • Reinforces the paragraph’s main point,
  • Can assess the significance of what is established in the paragraph.

To demonstrate this structure, we can look at the second paragraph of Model Essay One and the third paragraph of Model Essay Two.

In the strategic plan, paragraph two had ‘focus’ as its topic. (Note that apart from its last sentence ‘the thesis statement’ the introductory paragraph has not been written at this stage.)

Thesis statement:

A successful essay has three key elements: focus, organisation, and clarity.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

Analysis

Sentence 1 (topic sentence) introduces the topic of ‘focus’, which is developed further in sentences 2, 3, and 4. Sentence 5 (wrap sentence) sums up how ‘focus’ can be achieved in writing the thesis statement.

In the strategic plan, paragraph three concedes (as the essay brief states) that essays are not written in the workplace, then counters the concession by asserting that the skills required are transferable to the workplace.

Thesis statement:

Setting essay assignments as a component of student assessment at university is a valid practice.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

Analysis

Sentence 1 (topic sentence) introduces the topic of ‘professional performance’. Sentence 2 concedes the point that essay writing may seem irrelevant to professional performance.

Sentence 3, signalling a change of direction with the transition marker ‘however’, shows the limitations of the conceded point, and presents the counter-argument that essay skills are transferable from an academic to a professional context.

Sentence 4 identifies these skills, and sentence 5 (wrap sentence) affirms the relevance of essay writing to the professional skills identified.

Cohesion

An effective essay is a coherent whole, in which sentences within paragraphs and paragraphs themselves are connected, flowing on from one to another, leading the reader through the essay.

One of the ways to create cohesion between sentences is by using transition markers. Transition markers are words or phrases used to link sentences and paragraphs and to help the reader follow the direction of your argument.

A Few Transition Markers

Adding:
and, also, in addition, moreover, furthermore,

  • Contrasting:
    however, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, by contrast,
  • Clarifying:
    in other words, that is, in effect, to simplify,
  • Sequencing:
    to begin with, firstly, secondly, lastly, finally
  • Exemplifying:
    for example, for instance, in particular, to illustrate,
Conceding a point:
although true, even though, although, despite this,

  1. Summing up:
    to summarise, to conclude, in conclusion, clearly then
  2. Endorsing:
    clearly, in particular, importantly, naturally, obviously
  3. Stating a logical conclusion:
    therefore, thus, hence, as a result, consequently, accordingly, for that reason.

While transition markers are an effective way of emphasising for the reader the relationship between one sentence and the next, there is little value in using them when the logical relationship between the sentences is already clear. In fact, over-using transition markers reduces their effectiveness; save them for the places where you need to guide the reader.

Essay writing is difficult, demanding, and time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is worth mastering, because it is the basis of all academic writing.

In the example, the transition marker ‘nevertheless’ functions effectively to prepare the reader for a shift in direction from focusing on the negative characteristics of essay writing to focusing on the positive characteristics.

If you have a number of points to make, numeric transitions (first, second, etc.) are useful for signposting to the reader that each individual point should be considered separately.

Transition markers have many useful functions in academic writing. Firstly, they guide the reader through the writer’s development of ideas. Secondly, they create coherence in a paragraph or essay. Lastly, they add variety to sentence structures.

Faulty Transitions

Using paragraphs

For a printer-friendly PDF version of this guide, click here

This guide explains how to make effective use of paragraphs in your writing. The function and features of a paragraph are explained, together with guidelines for using paragraphs to create a clear and coherent written structure.

Other useful guides: Using the comma, Sentence structure.

Writing of any length requires subdivision into a number of points or stages, and these stages are expressed in a paragraph. Paragraphs, whether denoted by a new line and an indentation or a line break, provide a structure for your writing.

The end of a paragraph represents a significant pause in the flow of the writing. This pause is a signpost to the reader, indicating that the writing is about to move on to a different stage.

Each paragraph should deal with one idea or aspect of an idea, and it should be clear to the reader what this main idea is.

How long should a paragraph be?

There is no absolute rule: very short or long paragraphs can work when used by an experienced writer. However, as a guideline, paragraphs should usually be no less that 2 or 3 sentences long and there should be 2 or 3 paragraphs per page of A4.

The length of a paragraph depends on the idea being treated, but if a paragraph is shorter than 2 or 3 sentences, check to see if it is not really part of the previous or next paragraph.

If your paragraph is longer than half a page, check to see if the idea would be better explained in two or more paragraphs.

When do I start a new paragraph?

Start a new paragraph for each new point or stage in your writing. When you begin a paragraph you should always be aware of the main idea being expressed in that paragraph. Be alert to digressions or details that belong either in a different paragraph or need a paragraph of their own.

How do I write a paragraph?

A paragraph can have an internal structure with an introduction, main body and conclusion in the same way as an essay The example below shows a paragraph which:

  • introduces the paragraph's main point;
  • develops and supports the point;
  • shows the significance of the point made.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

The previous example showed one style of paragraph. It is a useful rule always to have three stages in a paragraph: introduction, development and conclusion.

The introduction

The introduction makes the purpose of the paragraph clear so the reader can read the paragraph with this purpose in mind. It is usually necessary to show the place the paragraph has in the structure of the piece as a whole.

This can be done with just a word (Nevertheless, However, Furthermore) or it may need a phrase (Another point to consider is….). In an essay, this might mean showing how the main idea of the paragraph answers the essay question.

In some cases when the paragraph begins a new section, it may be necessary to write a separate paragraph which explains how the following section relates to the piece as a whole.

The development

The body of the paragraph should develop the idea that has been introduced at the beginning of the paragraph. This can be done by:

  • redefining the idea;
  • giving examples;
  • commenting on evidence;
  • showing implications or consequences;
  • examining opposing ideas.

The conclusion

The end of the paragraph can show the significance of the point, link back to the beginning of the paragraph, comment on the implications of the point as a whole, or make a link to the next paragraph. It is important not to end the paragraph with a digression or irrelevant detail. Each sentence in the paragraph should be part of the internal structure.

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Another example of a paragraph using this three part structure is given below.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

Summary

Paragraphs provide a structure for your writing which enables the reader to identify and follow the developing stages in your treatment of the material. Remember that paragraphs should have their own internal structure whilst fitting into the larger structure of the whole piece of writing.

Be clear what the main idea for each paragraph is, deal with it as fully as is necessary for your purpose, but be alert to digression or irrelevancies. Check your own use of paragraphs by reading the first sentence to see if it outlines the paragraph's main idea.

The effective use of paragraphs can be seen in writing when the reader can gain an overview of the content by reading the first sentence of each paragraph.

Choosing Engaging Words To Start a Paragraph

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

Starting a new paragraph isn’t my favorite thing. I mean, I literally just finished a paragraph, and now I have to start a new one? Aren’t there unions to protect against this kind of thing? Like it or not, writers have to launch into new paragraphs a billion times every day. To make each new section unique and readable, I try to use a variety of sentence intros. When you can come up with engaging words to start a paragraph, the next few sentences are much easier to write. You can actually become a better writer just by focusing on how you start each sentence.

Types of Words To Start Your Paragraph

Consider the three main ways you can start a new paragraph and add interest to your content.

1. Starting With Adverbs

Too many adverbs in a sentence leads to hyperbole problems. “I am perfectly equipped to write this tremendously informative article about elegantly starting sentences.” Gross gross gross stop stop stop.

That said, an “ly” word at the beginning of a new paragraph can create an excellent link from the last idea to the next. “Consequently” leads to a result stemming from information in the previous paragraph; “similarly” allows you to break one idea into two sections; and “conversely” provides a simple step toward a counterpoint.

Quick-hitting adverbs are especially important when you’re diving into a meaty sentence. Instead of opening with a long linking phrase, start succinctly and then get to your point.

2. Using Words That Aren’t ‘However’

‘However’ is a very useful word. Some might even say it’s too useful. I would go so far as to say it’s way overused. Fortunately, you have alternatives! Here are a few substitutes:

  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • Alternatively
  • Conversely
  • That said
  • Despite this
  • At the same time

Not all of these pack the same punch as ‘however,’ but these words can serve as admirable replacements and save you from sounding painfully redundant.

3. Relying On Dependent Clauses

Essay Tigers

They tend to be the most emotional, the most dramatic, the most inspiring, and the most thought provoking. Simultaneously, they are the most difficult, the most challenging, and the most dreaded. What am I talking about? Beginnings and endings.

We are all familiar with the scene: a sobbing mother stands outside her son’s kindergarten classroom as the youngster scampers off to his first day of school. Fast forward several years and the same mother is sobbing over his last day of school. Why? Because beginnings and endings are hard!

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

The First and The Last

Just as a child’s first day of school and last day of school are memorable, your first paragraph and your last paragraph need to be noteworthy. Here are some tips to make your academic writing more successful.

The First

The first paragraph of your essay could be the most important. You need to find a creative “hook” to grab – and keep – your readers’ attention. Otherwise, there is very little chance they will proceed.

In The New Writer’s Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career, author Brandi Reissenweber commented:

“Your reader is not a penniless and weary traveler who will be happy to take any bed you can offer. They are discerning, with plenty of money for a night’s sleep and if you show them something uninspired, they’re off to the next inn. You have to work to get them to stay with you.”

How can you keep readers from going to the next inn? Here are three examples of quality essay hooks:

Use an Introduction that Exposes the Author

This technique allows the author to be vulnerable, making the readers feel they are getting an inside glimpse at the writers feelings and emotions. This all-access pass gives readers something they couldn’t get anywhere else.

“I cried at work today. I couldn’t help it. My boss was going on and on about an error I made in one of his precious reports. Before I could stop it, my chin began to quiver. I bit down – hard – on my lip to try to stem the tide. However, that just seemed to make things worse.”

Use an Introduction that Infuses Humor

Before you can begin writing your essay, you must determine who your audience is. Once you are focused on who you are writing for, you can find a way to connect with them. Get inside their heads. Meet their needs. Relate to what they are going through. Embrace those feelings and put a humors spin on it.

“Before I had children, I was the perfect mother.”

Jen Lawrence

Use an Introduction that Asks a Question

Used effectively, a question can make readers beg for more. Spark their curiosity and you’ve almost created a guarantee they’ll make it to the end of your essay. Just make sure the question relates to the overall theme of the story. Otherwise, readers will feel duped.

“Last week, I learned the secret to parenting. The last ten years of my life would have been so different if only I had known this one piece of information! It changed my life. Do you want to know the secret?”

The Last

If the first paragraph of your essay is the most important, the conclusion is the second most important. You want your readers to leave with a feeling of closure. You don’t want any loose ends. The conclusion needs to develop naturally from the essay; it can’t be an afterthought.

How can you leave readers feeling satisfied?

End with a Startling Statement

You don’t want to use anything too radical in the conclusion. After all, if the information was that important, you should have featured it prominently earlier in the piece. However, leaving them with something to think about can be good.

“A recent study showed that women are more sensitive to a key stress hormone. Just a tiny amount can send their emotions into overdrive. Meanwhile, men seem immune to this chemical. I think today’s incident proved that nicely.”

End with the Beginning

Bring your essay full circle. While your introduction and conclusion shouldn’t be interchangeable, they could be similar. Book-end your essay with the same thought.

“Now you know the secret to parenting, what will you do with the information? Will you share this life-changing information with others or will you keep it to yourself?”

End with a Summary

This is probably the most textbook answer to your problems. At the very least, it could be Speech Writing 101: tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. While this standby method will get you by in a pinch, don’t rely on it too often. It’s…well…boring.

“In this article, we focused on one of the most difficult tasks in writing. Composing an introduction and conclusion for an essay can be quite challenging. However, you always want to write an opening paragraph that will hook the readers and a closing paragraph that will wrap up all your lose ends.”

See? That was boring, right? Wouldn’t you rather I said…

4 Ways to Improve Paragraph Transitions – Professional Writing

Transitions show how your paragraphs work together and build off each other. However, when you fail to use transitions, your essay could end up feeling choppy and leave the reader struggling to follow your train of thought. Because of this, it’s important to use paragraph transitions in every essay. Use these four tips to help you improve the paragraph transitions in your writing.

1. Transition Words

Transition words cue the reader to relationships between your ideas, especially for a change of ideas. Some examples of transition words you can use include:

  • First
  • In addition
  • In contrast
  • Next
  • Then
  • However
  • Obviously
  • Therefore
  • Consequently
  • In conclusion
  • For example

Make sure to vary the transition words that you use. Using “however” throughout your essay will sound repetitive and confuse the reader. Therefore, take the time to think about which transitions will work best to help you move through your ideas, and help your readers understand the point that you want to make in your writing.

How to Begin and End Paragraphs

2. Topic Sentences

At the beginning of each supporting paragraph, start with a topic sentence. This is a way to introduce the ideas that you’re going to discuss in that paragraph. You can elevate your topic sentence by using a transition word or phrase to show that you’re switching to a new idea.

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3. Organization

The organization of your paper can also help boost the paragraph transitions. As you think about the supporting ideas in your body paragraphs, determine which order you should present them in. Consider how the ideas in each paragraph can build off each other. Is there a logical order that you could use? Try rearranging the ideas to find the right order for your ideas.

4. Relationships

Along with organizing your essay, you can improve paragraph transitions by discussing the relationship between ideas. For example, at the end of your first supporting paragraph, you could discuss how that idea leads into the next body paragraph.

Help your readers understand why you ordered the ideas the way that you did.

How does your first body paragraph relate to the second paragraph? Don’t make your reader guess what you’re thinking; state your ideas, and let the reader know how those ideas relate.

Using Paragraph Transitions: Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it’s important to use paragraph transitions to help lead your reader through your ideas. By using transition words, topic sentences, organization, and relationships, you can improve paragraph transitions and keep your reader following your thought process from start to finish.

For more ways to strengthen your essay writing, sign up for our Professional Writing lessons!

The Five-Paragraph Essay

A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.

Introduction:

Introductory Paragraph

See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay.

The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about.

The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional “hook” which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.

Body:

Body — First paragraph:

The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point.

The first sentence of this paragraph should include the “reverse hook” which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence.

This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.

Body — Second paragraph:

The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body.

The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph.

The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.

Body — Third paragraph:

The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph.

The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper.

This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.

Conclusion:

Concluding paragraph:

This paragraph should include the following:

  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that “echoes” the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a “call to action” in an persuasive paper.)

A Sample Paper

1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses. The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words “manipulation” and “senses” as transitional hooks.
1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: “His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . .” Poe used the words “black,” “pitch,” and “thick darkness” not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness.” 3″Thick” is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight. In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words “sense” and “manipulation” are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph–imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from “The Tell-Tale Heart” is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions “sense of feeling” and “sense of sight” as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.

Middle – Structure and paragraphs – KS3 English Revision – BBC Bitesize

Write a persuasive article for your local paper, arguing that the local park should be preserved. In this question, you will be mainly dealing with ideas, so you need to concentrate on changes in topic.

Where would you put the new paragraph in the following passage?

The park is excellent for children. There is a small playground with a slide and swings, but there are also places where children can run around safely. In fact, it's the best place in town to take children to because there is always something to do.

The war memorial was first constructed in 1922, with the names of the people who died in the First World War. Since then other names have been added, from the Second World War and from other more recent conflicts.

We cannot just forget these people and we certainly cannot just destroy the memorial.

The park is excellent for children. There is a small playground with a slide and swings, but there are also places where children can run around safely; in fact it's the best place in town to take children to because there is always something to do.

The war memorial was first constructed in 1922, with the names of the people who died in the First World War. Since then other names have been added from the Second World War and from other more recent conflicts. We cannot just forget these people and we certainly cannot just destroy the memorial.

The new paragraph starts at the new topic.

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Essay Writing for Standardized Tests: Tips for Writing a Five Paragraph Essay

Most, if not all, high school and college standardized tests include a writing portion. Students are provided a writing prompt and must then write an essay on the topic.

Writing for standardized tests can strike fear in the hearts and minds of students of all ages, but it doesn’t have to.

If you know what to expect and understand how to write a five paragraph essay, you will be prepared to tackle any essay writing prompt.

Types of Essays on Standardized Tests

When you begin to write your essay for a standardized test, you must first decide what type of essay you are being asked to write.

There are many different types of essays, including narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. The type of essay will determine your topic and thesis.

Essays for standardized tests are typically either persuasive, in which you will answer a question, or literary, in which you will write about something you read.

For standardized tests, students usually have to write a five paragraph essay, which should be 500 to 800 words long and include an introductory paragraph, three supporting paragraphs and a concluding paragraph.

The First Paragraph: The Introduction

The first paragraph will introduce your topic. The introduction is the most important paragraph because it provides direction for the entire essay. It also sets the tone, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with interest and clarity. The best way to tackle the introduction is to:

  • Describe your main idea, or what the essay is about, in one sentence. You can usually use the essay writing prompt or question to form this sentence.
  • Develop a thesis statement, or what you want to say about the main idea. When the writing prompt is a question, your thesis is typically the answer to the question.
  • List three points or arguments that support your thesis in order of importance (one sentence for each).

Voila! You’ve just written your introductory paragraph.

The Second, Third and Fourth Paragraphs: Supporting Details

These three paragraphs form the body of the essay. They provide details, such as facts, quotes, examples and concrete statistics, for the three points in your introductory paragraph that support your thesis. Take the points you listed in your introduction and discuss each in one body paragraph. Here’s how:

  • First, write a topic sentence that summarizes your point. This is the first sentence of your paragraph.
  • Next, write your argument, or why you feel the topic sentence is true.
  • Finally, present your evidence (facts, quotes, examples, and statistics) to support your argument.

Now you have a body paragraph. Repeat for points two and three. The best part about introducing your main points in the first paragraph is that it provides an outline for your body paragraphs and eliminates the need to write in transitions between paragraphs.

The Fifth Paragraph: The Conclusion

The concluding paragraph must summarize the essay. This is often the most difficult paragraph to write.

In your conclusion, you should restate the thesis and connect it with the body of the essay in a sentence that explains how each point supports the thesis.

Your final sentence should uphold your main idea in a clear and compelling manner. Be sure you do not present any new information in the conclusion.

Parting Thoughts

When writing an essay for a standardized test, outline your essay and get through each paragraph as quickly as possible. Think of it as a rough draft. When your time is up, a complete essay will score more points than an incomplete essay because the evaluator is expecting a beginning, middle and an end.

If you have time to review your essay before your time is up, by all means do so! Make any revisions that you think will enhance your “rough draft” and be sure to check for any grammatical errors or misspellings.

On Paragraphs // Purdue Writing Lab

Summary:

The purpose of this handout is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.

A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. Learning to write good paragraphs will help you as a writer stay on track during your drafting and revision stages.

Good paragraphing also greatly assists your readers in following a piece of writing.

You can have fantastic ideas, but if those ideas aren't presented in an organized fashion, you will lose your readers (and fail to achieve your goals in writing).

The Basic Rule: Keep one idea to one paragraph

The basic rule of thumb with paragraphing is to keep one idea to one paragraph. If you begin to transition into a new idea, it belongs in a new paragraph. There are some simple ways to tell if you are on the same topic or a new one.

You can have one idea and several bits of supporting evidence within a single paragraph. You can also have several points in a single paragraph as long as they relate to the overall topic of the paragraph.

If the single points start to get long, then perhaps elaborating on each of them and placing them in their own paragraphs is the route to go.

Elements of a paragraph

To be as effective as possible, a paragraph should contain each of the following: Unity, Coherence, A Topic Sentence, and Adequate Development. As you will see, all of these traits overlap. Using and adapting them to your individual purposes will help you construct effective paragraphs.

Unity

The entire paragraph should concern itself with a single focus. If it begins with one focus or major point of discussion, it should not end with another or wander within different ideas.

Coherence

Coherence is the trait that makes the paragraph easily understandable to a reader. You can help create coherence in your paragraphs by creating logical bridges and verbal bridges.

Logical bridges

  • The same idea of a topic is carried over from sentence to sentence
  • Successive sentences can be constructed in parallel form

Verbal bridges

  • Key words can be repeated in several sentences
  • Synonymous words can be repeated in several sentences
  • Pronouns can refer to nouns in previous sentences
  • Transition words can be used to link ideas from different sentences

A topic sentence

A topic sentence is a sentence that indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is going to deal with.

Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph.

(This is a good general rule for less experienced writers, although it is not the only way to do it). Regardless of whether you include an explicit topic sentence or not, you should be able to easily summarize what the paragraph is about.

Adequate development

The topic (which is introduced by the topic sentence) should be discussed fully and adequately. Again, this varies from paragraph to paragraph, depending on the author's purpose, but writers should be wary of paragraphs that only have two or three sentences. It's a pretty good bet that the paragraph is not fully developed if it is that short.

Some methods to make sure your paragraph is well-developed:

  • Use examples and illustrations
  • Cite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)
  • Examine testimony (what other people say such as quotes and paraphrases)
  • Use an anecdote or story
  • Define terms in the paragraph
  • Compare and contrast
  • Evaluate causes and reasons
  • Examine effects and consequences
  • Analyze the topic
  • Describe the topic
  • Offer a chronology of an event (time segments)

How do I know when to start a new paragraph?

You should start a new paragraph when:

  • When you begin a new idea or point. New ideas should always start in new paragraphs. If you have an extended idea that spans multiple paragraphs, each new point within that idea should have its own paragraph.
  • To contrast information or ideas. Separate paragraphs can serve to contrast sides in a debate, different points in an argument, or any other difference.
  • When your readers need a pause. Breaks between paragraphs function as a short “break” for your readers—adding these in will help your writing be more readable. You would create a break if the paragraph becomes too long or the material is complex.
  • When you are ending your introduction or starting your conclusion. Your introductory and concluding material should always be in a new paragraph. Many introductions and conclusions have multiple paragraphs depending on their content, length, and the writer's purpose.

Transitions and signposts

Two very important elements of paragraphing are signposts and transitions. Signposts are internal aids to assist readers; they usually consist of several sentences or a paragraph outlining what the article has covered and where the article will be going.

Transitions are usually one or several sentences that “transition” from one idea to the next. Transitions can be used at the end of most paragraphs to help the paragraphs flow one into the next.

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