A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.
Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs .
Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.
Introduction: the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.
Body: follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.
Conclusion: he final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.
A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.
Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.he body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.
Unity refers to the extent to which all of the ideas contained within a given paragraph “hang together” in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. When the writer changes to a new idea — one which is not consistent with the topic sentence of the paragraph — the writer should begin a new paragraph. Unity is important because it aids the reader in following along with the writer’s ideas. The reader can expect that a given paragraph will deal only with one main topic; when a new paragraph begins, this signals that the writer is moving on to a new topic.
Consider the following example. Note that there are two main ideas presented in this paragraph. The topic sentence indicates that the paragraph will deal with the subject of “employees’ attitudes,” but the paragraph shifts unexpectedly to the topic of “management’s attitudes.” To achieve unity in this paragraph, the writer should begin a new paragraph when the switch is made from employees to managers.
“Employees’ attitudes at Jonstone Electric Company should be improved. The workers do not feel that they are a working team instead of just individuals. If people felt they were a part of a team, they would not misuse the tools, or deliberately undermine the work of others. Management’s attitude toward its
employees should also be improved. Managers at Jonstone Electric act as though their employees are incapable of making decisions or doing their own work. Managers treat workers like objects, not human beings.”
Coherence refers to the extent to which the flow of ideas in a paragraph is easily understood by the reader. For this reason, coherence is closely related to unity. When a writer changes main ideas or topics within a paragraph, confusion often results. To achieve coherence, then, a writer should show how all of the ideas contained in a paragraph are relevant to the main topic.
Consider the example below. In this paragraph, the writer begins with the topic of job-skills courses, but veers off onto the topic of algebra and history before returning to the subject of courses on employment. As a result, the paragraph is disjointed and difficult to understand.
“Schools should offer courses to help students with the problems of unemployment. Such a course might begin with a discussion of where to find employment, then cover resume writing and interviewing. Algebra and history don’t help students with real-world needs. They are required courses that students aren’t interested in, and this is frustrating for students who would rather learn about other subjects. If schools offered job-skills courses, students would be well prepared for the difficult task of finding a job once they finish school.”
A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.
Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.
Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.
Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number: Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal “you” to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.
Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs:
Adequate Development : Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.
A paragraph is adequately developed when it describes, explains and supports the topic sentence. If the “promise” of the topic sentence is not fulfilled, or if the reader is left with questions after reading the paragraph, the paragraph has not been adequately developed. Generally speaking, a paragraph which consists of only two or three sentences is under-developed. A good rule of thumb to follow is to make sure that a paragraph contains at least four sentences which explain and elaborate on the topic sentence.
Consider the paragraph below. The topic sentence promises to discuss “several” points of comparison and contrast between leadership and management, but the remainder of the paragraph falls short of fulfilling this promise. Only one point of comparison is raised, and this point is left unexplained. Several questions remain unanswered. How are leaders different from managers? In what specific ways are the two alike? Why must a manager be a good leader to be effective? Why must good leaders know how to manage people effectively? To achieve adequate development in this paragraph, these questions should be addressed.
“The topics of leadership and management are both similar to and different from one another in several important ways. To be effective, a manager should be a good leader. And good leaders know how to manage people effectively.”
Generally speaking, a paragraph should contain between three and five sentences, all of which help clarify and support the main idea of the paragraph. When a writer begins a new paragraph, it signals to the reader that the writer is changing thoughts or ideas, or is moving on to discuss a different aspect of a main idea.
TYPES OF PARAGRAPH
• NARRATION AND EXPOSITION:
Authors use narrative paragraphs to tell stories. These may contain plot components such as characters, settings, conflicts, and resolutions. Events are often told sequentially using transition words. Character dialogue may also be included. Although you’ll most likely use narrative paragraphs in works of fiction, they are also useful in journalism, biographies and other genres where a storyline of events can be found. Exposition and narrative paragraphs are similar in that they focus on an event, but they differ in their use and style. Authors use exposition paragraphs to explain an event. To boost an explanation’s credibility, authors often include quotations or citations from various experts. Clarity is an important fact of these paragraphs. An exposition paragraph in an article may come after an introduction and explain why the topic of the article is important.
• DEFINATION AND EXPOSITION:
Definition and DescriptionIn a definition paragraph, a word or concept is defined. According to Florida A;M University journalism professor Gerald Grow, do not refer to a dictionary in a definition paragraph. Use examples and descriptions to define words and concepts. You may explain what the word or concept is not, but don’t define words only by negation or opposites. While a definition paragraph encompasses the meaning of a word or concept, a description paragraph gives readers such a variety of details about a person, place, or thing that they can visualize the topic. Include descriptive adjectives, but don’t neglect other senses. Describing what you hear, smell or feel — both physically and emotionally — can immerse the reader deeply in the description.
• Compare and Contrast
When authors want to discuss the similarities or differences between two people, places or things, they use compare-and-contrast paragraphs. For every aspect of one of the pair that is discussed, the same aspect must be discussed for the second part of the pair. For example, do not discuss one actor’s hairstyle but leave out the second actor’s. Write in block organization style, completely describing one member of the pair and then the other, or in point-by-point style, listing aspects one by one and describing both pair members together.
• Persuasion and Process Analysis:
Persuasion paragraphs, also called opinion paragraphs, are meant to get readers to act on the advice or exhortations given and often come at the end of articles. They include the author’s opinion as well as facts and analyses to support the opinion and spur readers to action. Rather than phrases such as, “I think” or “I believe,” use sentences with modal auxiliaries to strengthen your argument. For example, say, “The senate must not pass this bill,” or “School-aged children ought to be accompanied by an adult at movies.”
• A process analysis paragraph can be either a how-to guide or a description of how a certain process happens. In either case, break the process into a sequential series of steps and list them in order. Organizational bullet points or numbers can help clarify process analysis paragraphs. Ask someone to review this type of paragraph to identify holes in the process description or instructions.
DOS AND DONT’S FOR PARAGRAPH WRITING
• Here are some dos and don’ts you can follow and keep in mind when writing a paragraph
DOS FOR PARAGRAPH WRITING
• Always have a topic sentence in your paragraph because this gives clarity and coherent flow to the paragraph and this would also help in enforcing and clarifying the central idea of the paragraph to all kinds of readers.
• Always make sure that you have added relevant information that supports the topic sentence or the central theme of the entire write-up.
• You can make use of examples that would make your entire paragraph more convincing and relevant. Additional examples would also support the entirety of your paragraph.
• Ensure that you are only dealing with a single idea in a single paragraph so that it would make sense to the reader what you are talking about in a paragraph.
• End your paragraph with a concluding statement that summarizes your supporting points and connects to your topic sentence.
• To make strong and solid arguments, always research beforehand about the topic you were given in order to form supporting sentences that are, indeed, supporting the topic sentence of your paragraph.
• Write as simple as you can. Writing unnecesary highfalutin words is a pain to the readers’ eyes.
• As much as possible, always write in the active voice. Let your words do the work for you and it would also be too wordy if you would always write in the passive voice.
• You may maintain a variety when it comes to your sentences’ structure.
• You may also have a variety of the length of your sentences. Keeping your sentences always short may not be pleasing to your readers. You may also want to know how to write short sentences.
• Always maintain a consistent tense all throughout your paragraph and even the rest of the paragraphs of your write-up.
• Proofread your paragraph. Proofreading always works wonders.
DONT’S FOR PARAGRAPH WRITING
• Do not add the unnecessary information or details because this would only cause great confusion among your readers.
• Do not anymore add or introduce additional information in your concluding sentence.
• Do not try to discuss more than one idea in your paragraph. This would also cause confusion among your readers because a paragraph must always maintain a single idea all throughout and if you would introduce more than one, it would only cause misunderstanding.
• Do not make your sentences extra long. You can always cut it off into shorter sentences that could even effectively relay the message you want to convey to your readers.
• Do not even attempt to use any of the first person pronouns which are I, we, me, us, my, and our especially if it is a formal paper. The readers already know who is writing the paper, so this means that there is already no need for you to refer to yourself. Plus, it makes your entire write-up universal.
• Additionally, do not use the second person pronoun you.
• Avoid using contractions especially if you are writing a formal paper. It makes your entire write-up clean and professional even if you are just writing a simple topic.
• Avoid using vague and cliche terms especially if you are writing a formal paper. Such terms do not make your paragraph effective and convincing to your readers.
• Avoid using the ever-famous and overused qualifiers which are really, very, surely, often, sometimes, and basically. Qualifiers would only make you and your sentences sound unsure and that it would also make you seem to have no credibility at all to even make any statements regarding the topic you are discussing. If you want to have a strong and solid paragraph, avoid all of this at all cost.
• When concluding your entire paragraph, do not use “In conclusion” to indicate that you are already writing the concluding sentence of your sentence. This is another cliche term you should avoid.
• Do not forget to verify the information you have written as your supporting sentences.
• We hope that you have learned so much about paragraph writing. Should you want to read additional articles regarding writing paragraphs, you may also be interested in Writing Templates ; Examples.
Writing logical paragraphs
Organising the sentences in your paragraph according to a logical order helps the reader to follow the development of your ideas
Some common kinds of logical order are:
• Chronological order
• Logical division of ideas
• Order of importance
• Cause and effect
Each kind of order uses particular words and phrases (transition words) to show the relationships between ideas. For example in a paragraph using chronological order, you would use expressions of time: first, next, after that, finally, before the last war, after 2010, since then,
In a paragraph describing differences (contrast), you would use expressions like these: the most significant difference, larger than, unlike, on the other hand, in contrast, differ from
In a paragraph showing similarities (comparison), you would use expressions such as: similarity, similarly, as expensive as, just as, just like, compare with, in comparison
Logical division of ideas simply means that ideas are grouped together, and each group is discussed accordingly. They may be introduced in order of importance, or in some other order that makes sense to the reader. You would use transition words such as firstly, secondlsy, thirdly to introduce each group.
A cause and effect paragraph uses transition words that express reasons and results, such as: the first cause, the next reason, because of … the first effect, as a result, therefore
Strong writers frequently combine the features of different types of paragraphs in order to successfully express their ideas and to suit the purpose of their writing. Using paragraph structure is essential, as it helps the reader to follow your meaning.