On Paragraphs :
The purpose of this page is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding the Paragraphs and Paragraphing.
What is a paragraph?
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
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.
The entire paragraph should concern itself with a single focus. If it
begins with a one focus or major point of discussion, it should not end
with another or wander within different ideas.
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.
- The same idea of a topic is carried over from sentence to
- Successive sentences can be constructed in parallel form
- 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
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.
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 beware 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
- Use examples and illustrations
- Cite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)
- Examine testimony (what other people say such as quotes and
- 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
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 in paragraphs
function as a short "break" for your readers—adding these in will
help your writing 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
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.
Other Pages in This Section :
Paragraphing (Length Consistency) : : The purpose of this handout is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding Paragraphing.