How to Write an Effective Paragraph

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?
  1. Topic Sentence: the main idea of your paragraph.
  2. Supporting Ideas and Details: evidence and arguments that support your topic.
  3. Transitional Sentence: a sentence that guides the reader to the next paragraph.
  4. Concluding Sentence: a sentence that unites your entire paragraph and reinforces or restates your topic.
What comprises a well-written, well-thought out paragraph?
  1. A topic that is clear to the reader.
  2. 3-6 supporting ideas (depending on the length of the paper) are provided that support the topic sentence.
  3. Reasons, examples, names, numbers, and so on which develop the supporting ideas, give details, and explain it more clearly.
  4. A paragraph that is unified by all the sentences directly reinforcing the topic.
  5. Coherent information that is well-organized, logically ordered, and easy to follow.
  6. Parallel grammatical structure used throughout the work.
  7. Sensible use of transitional words and phrases that carry the paragraphs from one to the next.
  8. Repetition of key words and phrases from the topic sentence forward.
What questions should I ask myself before I begin writing a paragraph?
  1. Is my topic sentence responding to the question of what my paper is answering or is it going off topic?
  2. Is my topic too vague?
  3. Are my supporting details relevant to the topic or should irrelevant details be omitted?
  4. 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?
  5. Do I know enough about my topic or does it require further research?
How do you Write a Paragraph?
  1. Start with composing a controlling idea (topic sentence) that will narrow the topic enough to support it appropriately in one paragraph.
  2. Brainstorm supporting ideas and then choose ones that successfully support your topic sentence.
  3. Rearrange sentences into paragraphs that make sense, in an order that makes your idea flow naturally from one paragraph to the next.
  4. Edit your paragraph, adding transitional words where appropriate and taking out unnecessary words, phrases, and details that do not support the topic sentence.
  5. Polish your final paragraph(s) for correct grammar and spelling.
Remember ‘The Four Fs’ for Writing a Great Paragraph
  1. Focus: your paragraph sentences do not go off-topic.
  2. Fine Points: you’ve supported your topic with enough details/explanation.
  3. Flow: your sentences and paragraphs flow logically from one topic to another.
  4. 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.

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