Writing of Single Paragraphs

In the previous section, we have been treating of paragraphs which are sections of a more or less lengthy composition, like an essay or the chapter of a book. But students are often asked in examinations to write short separate paragraphs, instead of essays, on subjects of ordinary interest. Such single paragraphs are really miniature essays; but the same principles as we have discussed in the previous section (except the principle of variety), must be followed in their construction. Each paragraph must be have unity, treating of one definite subject, and must follow a logical order of thought. In most cases, too, the rules about the topical sentences and the conclusion should be borne in mind.

A few examples should make this clear. Suppose, for example, you are asked to write a paragraph on “The Cat". It is obvious that you cannot treat this subject fully, as you might in a long essay. And yet you must, according to the principle of unity, confine your paragraph to one definite topic. You must, therefore, choose one thing to say about a cat, and stick to it throughout. You might, for example, write of one characteristic of the cat, say, its love of comfort and attachment to its home. In that case, your might write a paragraph something like this:-

The Cat

There is some truth in the common saying that while dogs become attached to persons, cats are generally attached to places. A dog will follow his master anywhere, but a cat keeps to the house it is used to; and even when the house changes hand, the cat will remain there, so long as it is kindly treated by the new owners. A cat does not seem to be capable of the personal devotion often shown by a dog. It thinks most of its own comfort, and its love is only cupboard love.

Notice the construction of this paragraph. It begins with the topical sentence, which clearly states the subject. The following sentence explains the statement by expanding it; and the last sentence, by given a reason for the attachment of a cat to a particular house forms a fitting conclusion. The paragraph is therefore a Unity, treating of one characteristic of cat character; and it follows and orderly plan.

The paragraph on the cat is descriptive. Now take an example of narrative paragraph, in which you are required to tell a story. Suppose the subject is to be a motor-car accident; you might treat it in this way.

A Motor-Car Accident

It is the mad craze for speed that is responsible for many motor accidents. Only last year I witnessed what might have been a fatal accident on the Kashmir Road. I was motoring down from Sringer; and as I was nearing Kohala, I came upon the wreckage of two cars on the road. The smash had been caused by a car coming down, which swept round a sharp corner at forty miles and hour and crashed into a car coming up. Happily no one was killed; but several were badly injured, and the two cars were wrecked. To drive at such a speed down a twisting mountain road is simply to court disaster.

In this paragraph, the topical sentence is again first; the narrative that follows is simply an illustration of the statement in the topical sentence that many accidents are caused statement of the topical sentence in other words.

The following is an example of a reflective paragraph; that is, one that expresses some reflection or thought on an abstract subject:-


To forgive an injury is often considered to be a sign of weakness; it is really a sign of strength. It is easy to allow oneself to be carried away by resentment and hate into an act of vengeance; but it takes a strong character to restrain those natural passions. The man who forgives an injury proves himself to be the superior of the man who wronged him, and puts the wrongdoer to shame. Forgiveness may even turn a foe into a friend. So mercy is the noblest form of revenge.

The topical sentence of a paragraph is usually the first, or at latest the second; and this is the best place for it. But for the sake of variety it may be placed in a different position. In this paragraph, it comes last – “So mercy is the noblest form of revenge". But the opening sentence is also a good introduction to the subject, and is calculated to arouse interest by stating an apparent paradox.

To sum up:

In writing single paragraphs, the principles of Unity and Order must be kept in mind, and also the rules of the topical and concluding sentences. The languages should be simple, the style direct, and the sentences short; and, as a paragraph is limited, all diffuseness must be avoided.

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