Writing Strong Paragraphs

Writing Strong Paragraphs
Writing Strong Paragraphs: the Basics TWC
Most students can significantly improve their essay by focusing on one simple part of it: the
paragraphs! The basic rule is that each paragraph should express a single idea, and there are a few tips
to help you do this. In most cases, following the four simple guidelines below
will not only improve the paragraph that you are working on, but also
This is a good
refine the paper in general. Having strong paragraphs will almost certainly
paragraph!
lead to a paper with a strong argument…which will almost certainly lead to
a strong grade!
1. Express a single idea with a clear topic sentence
Since a paragraph usually expresses only one idea, why not put that idea right at the beginning?
When you do this, you give the reader a clear sign-post towards what is significant in the sentences
that follow.
2. Use the body of the paragraph to demonstrate or expand the topic sentence
If your paper is a road, the turns should happen from one paragraph to the next instead of within the
body of a paragraph. If you aren’t sure what to write in the body of a paragraph, ask yourself how you
can expand, simplify, exemplify, or demonstrate the importance of the topic sentence...these are all
great things to do in the middle of a paragraph!
3. Tie the concluding sentence back to the topic sentence, then do your best to link it to
the next paragraph
The most important function of the concluding sentence of the paragraph is to reinforce the
importance of the topic sentence. Since you may have strayed a little from the main point of the
paragraph when you extended and/or exemplified it in the middle sentences, the concluding sentence
serves to remind the reader (and you!) what the purpose of the paragraph is. Once you are sure that
your concluding sentence does this, go through it again and see if there are any little changes that you
can make that will point to where your argument is headed in the next paragraph.
4. Check your work by going through your entire paper and reading only the first and
last sentence of every paragraph.
If you have acted on the first three tips, you should be able to understand your paper by reading only
the first and last sentence of every paragraph. Even better, you should be able to read the first and last
sentences to a friend and have them understand what you are arguing. The reality is, when professors
have large numbers of papers to mark this is what they sometimes do (not on purpose, of course); if it
doesn’t make sense to you, it won’t make sense to them!
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David Ceccheto © 2009, TWC University of Victoria. This copy is solely for the use by a student, staff, or faculty
member. Any other use may be an infringement of copyright if done without securing the permission of the
copyright owner.
Writing Strong Paragraphs: the Basics TWC
Examples:
(1) Often, writing out a couple of wellstructured paragraphs when you are in the
beginning stages of your paper can help you to
craft the type of argument that you want:
subtle, coherent, and directed towards a logical
completion. (2A) Having well-crafted paragraphs
is like having exact change for bus fare: it isn’t
completely necessary, but if you don’t have it
you end up paying more than you need to! (2B)
In any case, you have to know what you have
before can you know what you need, and
capturing an idea in a superb paragraph is the
best way to figure that out. (3) If you write a
paper that follows all four of the guidelines
above, you’ll be taking the bus home from the
library in time for dinner instead of at 1 AM…
and with a great paper in your hands!
(1) Writing strong paragraphs requires you to
express one single idea by expanding on it
through description, example, and explanation.
(2A) Logically, starting with the key idea will
help you introduce it to your readers, and
everything that follows will then seem more
familiar to them. (2B) On the other hand, if I
suddenly started writing about the life-cycle of
honey bees in this sentence, you might feel
confused and wonder what the real topic of this
paragraph is. (2C) But, if I continue to explain
the importance of topic sentences, then my
paragraph will make more sense. (3) Expressing
one clear topic in each paragraph helps your
reader follow your ideas.
2
(1) The paragraph starts with a topic
sentence that expresses a clear idea.
(2A) The first sentence of the paragraph
body gives an example of the topic
sentence by using a simile. Other ways to
provide examples would be to compare
your topic to something else or to describe
a specific case that is like the one you are
discussing.
(2B) The second sentence demonstrates
why the topic sentence is important.
(3) The concluding sentence re-states the
topic sentence. Notice that the paragraph
makes sense even if you only read the first
and last sentences.
(1) The paragraph starts with a topic
sentence.
(2A) The first sentence of the paragraph
body further explains the topic in a general
way.
(2B & 2C) The second and third sentences
clarify the topic by giving a specific
comparative example.
(3) The concluding sentence re-states the
main point of the paragraph.
David Ceccheto © 2009, TWC University of Victoria. This copy is solely for the use by a student, staff, or faculty
member. Any other use may be an infringement of copyright if done without securing the permission of the
copyright owner.
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