Writing Effective ParagraphsWriter's Web
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A paragraph should be unified, coherent, and well developed. Paragraphs are unified around a main point, and all sentences in the paragraph should clearly relate to that point in some way. The paragraph's main idea should be supported with specific information that develops or discusses the main idea in greater detail.

Creating a Topic Sentence

The topic sentence expresses the main point in a paragraph. You may create your topic sentence by considering the details or examples you will discuss. What unifies these examples? What do your examples have in common? Reach a conclusion and write that "conclusion" first. If it helps, think of writing backwards--from generalization to support instead of from examples to a conclusion.

If you know what you main point will be, write it as clearly as possible. Then, focus on key words in your topic sentence and try to explain them more fully. Keep asking yourself "How?" or "Why?" or "What examples can I provide to convince a reader?". After you have added your supporting information, review the topic sentence to see if it still indicates the direction of your writing.

Purposes of Topic Sentences

  • To state the main point of a paragraph
  • To give the reader a sense of direction (indicate what information will follow)
  • To summarize the paragraph's main point

Placement of Topic Sentences

  • Often appear as the first or second sentences of a paragraph
  • Rarely appear at the end of the paragraph

Supporting a Topic Sentence with Details

To support a topic sentence, consider some of the possible ways that provide details. To develop a paragraph, use one or more of these:

  • Add examples
  • Tell a story that illustrates the point you're making
  • Discuss a process
  • Compare and contrast
  • Use analogies (eg., "X is similar to Y because. . . ")
  • Discuss cause and effect
  • Define your terms

Reasons for beginning a new paragraph

  • To show you're switching to a new idea
  • To highlight an important point by putting it at the beginning or end of your paragraph
  • To show a change in time or place
  • To emphasize a contrast
  • To indicate changing speakers in a dialogue
  • To give readers an opportunity to pause
  • To break up a dense text

Ways of Arranging Information Within or Between Paragraphs

  • Order of time (chronology)
  • Order of space (descriptions of a location or scene)
  • Order of climax (building toward a conclusion)
  • Order of importance (from least to most important or from most to least important)

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