How to write a paragraph

Understanding the various types of paragraphs is useful for outlining a piece, but it does not teach you how to write one. Let’s get started with some practical advice for producing a beautiful paragraph.

Academic paragraphs have a simple but effective form that consists of four parts:

Topic sentence

Your topic sentence, often known as the “paragraph leader,” should introduce the concept and clarify what the paragraph is about. Be careful not to cram your entire message into this opening sentence. You need to mention enough to let the reader know what the rest of the paragraph will be about.

Development

Your second and possibly third sentences should be used to expand on your point. Everything that didn’t fit in your topic sentence should go here. To ensure that the reader fully comprehends the idea, feel free to attach references or assertions from other sources.

Support

This is where you get down to business: Present your facts, data, statistics, logical conclusions, compelling opinion, real-life or hypothetical examples, and so on—anything that backs up your initial claim.

Summary

Finally, you should summarize or evaluate your major point—what conclusion may the reader derive from your argument? In addition to concluding, your summary should adhere to the basic practices for writing conclusions.

More tips for writing paragraphs

How lengthy should a paragraph be?

There are no strict boundaries to how lengthy or short a paragraph can be, but three to five sentences should sufficient. Sometimes you only need one sentence to add emphasis or effect, while other times you’ll need more than five sentences to present all of your data. Use your discretion, but err on the side of too short rather than too lengthy.

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Parallel structure

In sentence construction, parallelism refers to the employment of consistent structure between two clauses or phrases (for example, saying I prefer trains over buses rather than I prefer trains over a bus). The same idea applies to paragraphs inside a larger text: for consistency, each paragraph should have a comparable structure.

Parallelism is essential when writing about comparisons or using a point-counterpart format. When comparing two or more arguments, it’s ideal to use the same form for both arguments (and the paragraphs that clarify them). The two most prevalent formats are block and point-by-point.

Assume you’re writing an essay contrasting apples and oranges. An individual paragraph detailing everything about apples—taste, look, etc.—would be followed by another individual paragraph discussing the same features for oranges.

A point-by-point structure, on the other hand, would add some variety. The first paragraph might be about taste and include information about both apples and oranges. The second paragraph would then move on to a different topic, such as appearance, and would include information on both apples and oranges.

Transitions

Transitions are one of the most difficult aspects of writing. Good writing looks to flow from one point to the next. But what if the various points are disconnected or irrelevant on their own? Transitions are useful in this situation because they allow you to go to a new point without being sudden or jarring.

Transitions can be as simple as adding linking words to the beginning of a sentence: yet, in contrast, additionally, on the other hand, and so on. If you’re making a list, you can use ordinals (first, second, etc.) or more casual connectors like for starters, next, and last to connect each item. The same criteria that apply when transitioning from sentence to sentence apply when shifting from paragraph to paragraph.

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