Paragraphs

Good paragraphs are united, coherent, and adequately developed. They should not be too long (containing too many points) or too short (because of a lack of development). Here are some guidelines on writing good paragraphs:

Good paragraphs are:

  • Unified – The sentences relate to a single main idea.
  • Coherent – The ideas progress smoothly from sentence to sentence.
  • Adequately developed – Move from the main idea to support the idea using specific details.

United

  • The main idea of the paragraph should be stated clearly, either through a topic sentence or less explicitly, through details that unmistakeably convey the main idea.
  • In unified paragraphs, every sentence helps develop the main idea of the paragraph.
  • When writing paragraphs, eliminate unrelated information. Suppose a writer is discussing welfare. In the middle of a paragraph about the types of aid available through the welfare system, he goes into commentary on the problem of environmentalists’ effect on the budget, readers would be lost, as it’s not supporting the main idea – types of aid – of the paragraph.

Coherence

  • A paragraph is coherent when there is a clear flow from one sentence to the next, making it easy for the reader to follow.
  • The ideas are arranged in a logical order, with transitions between sentences to ease the reader along.
  • Ideas may be arranged chronologically or in order of importance.
  • The writer may also move from general statements to specific support.
  • Transitions between paragraphs are also necessary.

Development

  • Develop each paragraph with details and examples.
  • Illustrate and clarify your ideas.
  • You may narrate a series of events to illustrate your point.
  • You may explain a process, show cause and effect, or compare and contrast to develop an idea.
  • Descriptions, including metaphors and similes, will help you make your point.

Remember to consider your audience – the language that’s appropriate, the background information they’ll need, etc – and the occasion for which you are writing.


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