What is a paragraph?
Paragraphs are comprised of sentences, but not random sentences. A paragraph is a group of sentences organized around a central topic. In fact, the cardinal rule of paragraph writing is to focus on one idea. A solidly written paragraph takes its readers on a clear path, without detours. Master the paragraph, and you’ll be on your way to writing “gold-star” essays, term papers, and stories.
How do you write a paragraph?
A basic paragraph structure usually consists of five sentences: the topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. But the secrets to paragraph writing lay in four essential elements, which when used correctly, can make a okay paragraph into a great paragraph.
- Element #1: Unity. Unity in a paragraph begins with the topic sentence. Every paragraph has one single, controlling idea that is expressed in its topic sentence, which is typically the first sentence of the paragraph. A paragraph is unified around this main idea, with the supporting sentences providing detail and discussion. In order to write a good topic sentence, think about your theme and all the points you want to make. Decide which point drives the rest, and then write it as your topic sentence.
- Element #2: Order. Order refers to the way you organize your supporting sentences. Whether you choose chronological order, order of importance, or another logical presentation of detail, a solid paragraph always has a definite organization. In a well-ordered paragraph, the reader follows along easily, aided by the pattern you’ve established. Order helps the reader grasp your meaning and avoid confusion.
- Element #3: Coherence. Coherence is the quality that makes your writing understandable. Sentences within a paragraph need to connect to each other and work together as a whole. One of the best ways to achieve coherency is to use transition words. These words create bridges from one sentence to the next. You can use transition words that show order (first, second, third); spatial relationships (above, below) or logic (furthermore, in addition, in fact). Also, in writing a paragraph, using a consistent verb tense and point of view are important ingredients for coherency.
- Element #4: Completeness. Completeness means a paragraph is well-developed. If all sentences clearly and sufficiently support the main idea, then your paragraph is complete. If there are not enough sentences or enough information to prove your thesis, then the paragraph is incomplete. Usually three supporting sentences, in addition to a topic sentence and concluding sentence, are needed for a paragraph to be complete. The concluding sentence or last sentence of the paragraph should summarize your main idea by reinforcing your topic sentence.
Writing Paragraph Prompts: Using the Four Essential Elements
Writing paragraphs takes practice, but what should students write about? Good paragraph writing prompts allow students to write about what they know and like, so their focus can be on the writing process and using the four essential elements. Paragraph writing prompts, such as Explain why ______ is your favorite activity, encourage students to develop a topic sentence, write supporting sentences in a proper order, use transition words to achieve coherency, and conclude their paragraphs for completeness.
Personal Training for Good Paragraph Writing
Students love Time4Writing’s online writing courses because they help develop strong writing skills and a high level of comfort with the entire writing process. The online writing courses provide a personal approach for students because they work one-on-one with a certified teacher.
Time4Writing provides online writing classes for elementary, middle school, and high school students and pairs each student with a certified teacher for one-on-one writing instruction. Time4Writing’s eight-week online writing courses are highly effective in helping students apply the writing process and build writing confidence. Learn more about Time4Writing’s elementary, middle school paragraph and high school online writing courses.