* Both paragraphs and essays begin with a topic sentence, or a thesis statement, that explains to the reader what the paragraph, or essay, is about. A thesis statement for an essay is longer and more detailed than the topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph. For example, a thesis statement for an essay might be: "The gravity of marriage becomes more apparent over time; newlyweds imagine a glamorous life ahead and cannot yet imagine the test their love will endure, while couples married for a decade or more are beginning to understand the depth of their promise." A topic sentence for a paragraph might simply be: "A lasting marriage requires many levels of compromise."
* Paragraphs and essays both require supporting details that elaborate on the statements made in the topic sentence or thesis statement. In a paragraph, each subsequent sentence builds upon the point made in the topic sentence and the sentences following the topic sentence are called "supporting details". In an essay, the first sentence in each paragraph discusses points made in the thesis statement. The paragraphs following the thesis statement are called "supporting paragraphs." Each supporting paragraph has its own supporting details.
* Paragraphs and essays differ in their length. Paragraphs are typically between five and six sentences long. They're composed of a topic sentence and four or five supporting details. Essays contain at least five paragraphs; they're composed of an introductory paragraph (which includes the thesis statement), at... [continues]
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