Writing Paragraphs

Making paragraphs is essential for structured writing. Paragraphs divide the text into various segments. However, they shouldn’t only break up the text into smaller units to make it easier for the reader. The layout should also visualize the structure of the essay’s content.

  • Typically, paragraphbreaks indicate some shifts in your essay. You want to come up with a new concept, move on to the next argument, finish the introduction or start with your conclusion, introduce a new example or speaker, move to a different place or time.
  • Conventionally, paragraphs consist of three elements: topic sentence, supporting sentences, and conclusion.
  • To be able to decide what your paragraphs will be about, you need to plan ahead. Only if you know what the whole essay will look like, you will be able to draft individual paragraphs. Each paragraph should be related to the overall topic.
  • A topic sentence informs the reader what your paragraph is all about. Moreover, it helps the reader to focus on the main point of your paragraph. A topic sentence consists of a topic and a controlling idea: “Making paragraphs is important (topic) for several reasons (controlling idea).
  • Topic sentences usually appear at the very beginning of a paragraph (which adds further facts to the topic sentence) or at the ending (to draw a conclusion from what has been said before). Sometimes, you might want to combine these two variants.
  • Each paragraph should have a specific function:
  1. Description gives the reader a detailed impression of what things are like (sights, smells, textures...). Start with a sentence to give an overview of the situation you would like to deal with. Then, follow a logical order to arrange the things that add purposefully to your description.
  2. Narration makes the reader understand a process by arranging events on a timeline. After the topic sentence, narrate the events in chronological order.
  3. Comparison and contrast help the reader to see similarities and differences between two things. Start with a sentence to establish the terms of comparison. Then, you can organize the facts in two different ways. Either you start with all the similarities, after which you lay down all the differences; or you move back and forth from similarities to differences.
  4. Defining the key terms allows the audience to understand the specific meaning and implications of the terms you are about to use. Start with a sentence to introduce the term you’d like to cover, add a standard definition and modify it in a way so that it suits your demands.
  5. Examples and illustrations can be used in opening and closing paragraphs or fill a whole paragraph. Start with the main point or concept, then give a vivid example (or two) to illustrate the main point.
  6. Cause and effect. Writing about cause and effect makes it easier to understand the logics of the process you want to explain. Start with a single cause and show what kind of effects it can produce, or start with an effect and go on with various causes. It can be helpful to move on from more obvious causes to the underlying causes.
  7. Classification makes the reader understand in which category specific objects belongs and offers further analysis why that seems to be the case.
  8. Division enables the audience to see how an issue or object can be broken down into different elements.
  • Your paragraphs should sound smooth to the reader – there must be flow. You can either repeat the key concepts or phrases (but avoid redundancy) or use transitional terms (linking words). Check whether all sentences are connected to the next.
  • As for paragraph length, go for 150 to 200 words in academic writing. If you feel your paragraph is getting too long but nothing can be left out, think about breaking it down into smaller and more specific units.
  • Make sure there are links between paragraphs. The reader should see how your paragraph follows from the previous one and how it leads to the next.
  • Take some time to elaborate the beginning of each paragraph to arouse curiosity in the reader and make them read on. There are various ways how you can start a paragraph effectively – with questions, surprising facts, an interesting quote, images, anecdotes, problems waiting to be solved, contradictions, or paradox.
  • Also, make sure the ending of each paragraph goes beyond summary and provokes the reader to think on. Again, there are several ways how to do that. You last line can be a call to action or a recommendation. You may offer an outlook into the future, tell a meaningful anecdote or describe a key image. Show how the reader can apply your argument or explain the implications and further consequences it has. It’s also possible to finish with a rhetorical question or a quotation that sums up your argument.
  • In general, avoid monotony. Use different sentence structures in a paragraph. Also, vary the adverbs you use.
  • Keep to the same point of view all throughout a paragraph. Also, be consistent in tense and number.