You may be rolling your eyes in exasperation at this topic. Come on—we learned how to write paragraphs in high school; give me a break! Rest assured you did not learn how to write effective paragraphs in high school; certainly not university level paragraphs. Indeed, knowing how to write a polished paragraph will drive you all the way to the end of a winding term paper road with higher marks.
What are the main parts of a paragraph?
- Topic Sentence: the main idea of your paragraph.
- Supporting Ideas and Details: evidence and arguments that support your topic.
- Transitional Sentence: a sentence that guides the reader to the next paragraph.
- Concluding Sentence: a sentence that unites your entire paragraph and reinforces or restates your topic.
What comprises a well-written, well-thought out paragraph?
- A topic that is clear to the reader.
- 3-6 supporting ideas (depending on the length of the paper) are provided that support the topic sentence.
- Reasons, examples, names, numbers, and so on which develop the supporting ideas, give details, and explain it more clearly.
- A paragraph that is unified by all the sentences directly reinforcing the topic.
- Coherent information that is well-organized, logically ordered, and easy to follow.
- Parallel grammatical structure used throughout the work.
- Sensible use of transitional words and phrases that carry the paragraphs from one to the next.
- Repetition of key words and phrases from the topic sentence forward.
What questions should I ask myself before I begin writing a paragraph?
- Is my topic sentence responding to the question of what my paper is answering or is it going off topic?
- Is my topic too vague?
- Are my supporting details relevant to the topic or should irrelevant details be omitted?
- Who is my audience (the reader)? How much prior knowledge do they have about my topic? How much explanation do they require to fully understand?
- Do I know enough about my topic or does it require further research?
How do you Write a Paragraph?
- Start with composing a controlling idea (topic sentence) that will narrow the topic enough to support it appropriately in one paragraph.
- Brainstorm supporting ideas and then choose ones that successfully support your topic sentence.
- Rearrange sentences into paragraphs that make sense, in an order that makes your idea flow naturally from one paragraph to the next.
- Edit your paragraph, adding transitional words where appropriate and taking out unnecessary words, phrases, and details that do not support the topic sentence.
- Polish your final paragraph(s) for correct grammar and spelling.
Remember ‘The Four Fs’ for Writing a Great Paragraph
- Focus: your paragraph sentences do not go off-topic.
- Fine Points: you’ve supported your topic with enough details/explanation.
- Flow: your sentences and paragraphs flow logically from one topic to another.
- Finality: you’ve united your paragraph with a strong concluding sentence.
While not the most exciting segment about writing an article or assignment, composing a well-crafted paragraph builds up to a well-crafted finished product. And that, my fellow students, is one of life’s simple pleasures.