The paragraph is the fundamental unit of composition. It consists of several sentences that are grouped together. This group of sentences together discuss one main subject. Paragraphs have three principal parts: the topic sentence, supporting sentences, and the concluding sentence.
The Topic Sentence
A topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph; that is, it is usually the first sentence in a formal essay paragraph. Not only is a topic sentence the first sentence of a paragraph, but, more importantly, it is the most general sentence in a paragraph, which introduces an overall idea in the paragraph.
The Supporting Sentences
Supporting details are sentences which support your topic or theme. You support your main idea, topic sentence by explaining it, describing it, defining it, or otherwise giving information about it. You will usually need to actually look up or research this information.
When you are writing an essay or report, each paragraph after the introduction should discuss one supporting detail. Depending on how many paragraphs you want to include, you can have any number of supporting details. These details are then repeated or rephrased in your concluding paragraph, to restate the fact that they support your main idea.
The Concluding Sentence
In formal paragraphs you will sometimes see a sentence at the end of the paragraph which summarizes the information that has been presented. This is the concluding sentence. You can think of a concluding sentence as a sort of topic sentence in reverse.
Not all academic paragraphs contain concluding sentences, especially if the paragraph is very short. However, if your paragraph is very long, it is a good idea to use a concluding sentence.
Tips on Paragraph Writing
1. Choose a topic with which you are familiar. Your choice doesn't have to be complicated; in fact, the topic can be simple as long as you are knowledgeable about the ideas you're presenting.
2. Write down everything you can think of about this topic. Avoid using complete sentences. Instead, just write random thoughts on your topic. Some of your thoughts may be off the subject. You can cross them out later.
3. Look over your list of ideas and cross out anything on the list that is not directly relevant to the topic you've chosen. Having several items on your list that are not related to the topic is a natural part of brainstorming. To get all the best ideas, we often have to sort through several concepts that may not be related.
4. The supporting sentences of a paragraph should gradually move from the general to specific qualification of the idea.
5. Keep the sentences of a paragraph focused and unified in the discussion of the topic. Avoid digressions (irrelevant details) and deviations (shifts in focus).
6. Try to keep your paragraphs about no more than 10 sentences, or 14 lines. Long paragraphs tend to decrease comprehension.
7. Write transitional paragraphs when switching between two closely related topics, beginning with the old topic and ending with the new.
8. A good paragraph is one that keeps to one idea. Discuss only one idea or topic of the subject in a paragraph. When moving on to a new idea, start a new paragraph.
9. Bring coherence to your paragraph in order to make it easily understandable to the reader by doing the following:
1. Arranging sentences in a logical order.
2. Relating all sentences to each other.
3. Forming parallel grammatical structure.
10. The closing sentence is the last sentence in a paragraph. It should restate the main idea of the paragraph. But remember ¨C do not repeat the topic sentence; if the idea is the same, then rephrase it. Try and make your closing sentence a ¡®clincher¡¯, leaving your reader thinking about it.
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