An Introduction to Paragraphs
A paragraph is a series of sentences that develops one topic in a clear and logical manner. To say it another way, a paragraph is a group of sentences which are all about the same topic. A paragraph consists of a topic sentence, followed by a series of supporting sentences and ending with a concluding sentence.
All paragraphs follow a certain structure which should be maintained to ensure unity and coherence. A paragraph generally has a beginning, a middle, and often a conclusion or summary. The first sentence should be indented 5 spaces, except when writing for publication on the web. It is then acceptable to have all the lines of a paragraph aligned with the left margin. Finally, a paragraph is NOT a list of sentences. Each sentence in a paragraph follows the previous sentence, until the end of the final sentence of the paragraph.
The following example is not a paragraph.
This is the beginning of a paragraph.
I have written each sentence on a new line.
I should have written the sentences one after another.
Because, like this, I have only a list of sentences and not a paragraph.
The following example is a paragraph.
This is now a paragraph. I have written each sentence so that the sentences follow one another. This is how a paragraph should be written. Because, like this it is a paragraph and not just a list of sentences.
The chart below is a visual representation of a paragraph.
|Parts of a paragraph:|
As mentioned above, a paragraph has a beginning, a middle, and often a conclusion or summary. The first sentence in most paragraphs is the topic sentence. The sentences that make up the middle section of a paragraph are supporting sentences. If there is a concluding statement or summary sentence, it will be at the end of the paragraph.
Let's pretend you have tickets to a jazz concert. You get to the concert and for the first 30 minutes the band plays some of your favorite jazz tunes. Then, all of a sudden, the band starts playing Bach's Third Symphony. Would you be confused? Of course you would. Why? Because the band changed topics in the middle of the concert. That's the same thing that happens when a paragraph doesn't focus on only one topic. For example, if your topic is baseball, all the senetences in your paragrapgh should be about baseball. If you include sentences about karate in your paragraph, your readers will get confused. Unity in a paragraph is achieved by making sure that the paragraph has only one topic. That one topic is stated in the topic sentence, and all of the other sentences support the topic sentence.
Coherence in a paragraph means that all the sentences are arranged in a logical and clear manner. All the ideas in a coherent paragraph flow smoothly and logically.
To make sure your paragraph is coherent, you must plan what you will write. Begin by listing ideas that relate to your topic. Then study the list thoughtfully and decide on the best possible order for presenting your ideas to your reader.
There are four commonly used ways to order ideas in a paragraph. They are: chronological (order by time), order of space, order of importance, and order by comparison or contrast.
Remember, clear thinking and careful planning are necessary for clear writing.