Writing Effective Paragraphs

Topics: Word, Paragraph, Typography Pages: 13 (729 words) Published: November 1, 2014
What Is a
Paragraph?
WRIT 1044

What Is a
Paragraph?
Paragraphs are clusters of
information supporting an
essay’s main point (in works
of fiction, they advance the
action or develop the
characters).
Paragraphs need to be clearly
focused, well developed,

organized, coherent, and a
manageable length –
generally 5-8 sentences.
See page 81 in your textbook!

How Do You
Begin?
Each paragraph should begin
with what is called a topic
sentence – a one-sentence
summary of the argument to
be pursued in the remainder
of the paragraph.

How Do You
Begin?

More advanced writers
sometimes move the topic
sentence around, and some
paragraphs are clearly
developing a point that was
raised in an earlier paragraph,
but for now, you should aim to
begin each paragraph with a
topic sentence.
Don’t get cute.

Organizing
Paragraphs
There is no “right” way to
organize a paragraph, but
certain patterns do recur, and
some are better suited to

certain rhetorical situations
than others.
Your textbook suggests that
there are seven possible ways
to develop your topic: tell a
story, define your topic, use
examples, use a quotation or
paraphrase, use a
comparison, explain steps or
stages in a process, or
provide specific details.

Paragraph
Coherence
Each sentence within a paragraph,
and indeed, each paragraph
within an essay, must be
coherent – that is, they must

flow from one to the next without
any abrupt or jarring shifts.
Coherence can be improved by
strengthening the links between
each piece of information.

Linking Ideas
Clearly
Each paragraph should begin
with a topic sentence, and
the body of the paragraph
should provide specific
facts, details, or examples
that feed into and support
that topic sentence in one
way or another (either
linking back to the topic

sentence itself or to another
sentence within the
paragraph).

Linking Ideas
Clearly
The first paragraph on page 90 of
your text is a straightforward
example of each sentence
supporting the topic sentence.
More complex paragraphs are
also possible, containing both
direct and indirect support for
the main point.
For now, keep things simple –
think of each point as a link in a
chain.

Repeating Key
Words
The recurrence of key words is a
useful technique for reinforcing
coherence, as it keeps both the
writer and the reader on track.
To avoid overusing the same
word, you should consider
variations on the key word,
pronouns referring to the word,
and synonyms (make sure that
the replacement word means
the same thing!).

Parallel
Structure

Parallel structure is often used
to emphasize similar ideas
in consecutive sentences.
We will talk more about
grammatical parallelism
later on in the course, but
you can probably get a
sense of what that means
by examining the paragraph
on pages 94-95.

Maintaining
Consistency
When writing, try to ensure that
you do not shift between
points of view (from I to you,
for example) or from one verb

tense to another (most often,
from the present to the past,
or vice versa).

Providing
Transitions
Transitions are a crucial
element in terms of making
paragraphs coherent – they
help the reader to make
logical connections between
sentences, and indeed,
between paragraphs.

Providing
Transitions

Sentence-level transitions
make connections between
or within sentences, as in
the example on page 102.
Note the difference between
the two paragraphs!
Paragraph-level transitions
link the first sentence of a
new paragraph with the first
sentence of the previous
paragraph, thus indicating
the link between more
complex ideas.

Providing
Transitions
In longer essays, you may

have to alert readers to
connections between large
blocks of text by providing
what is called a transitional
paragraph, but none of the
writing that you have to do
in this particular course is
long enough to require...
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