Paragraph Writing

Writing Paragraphs
Writing Paragraphs. Westend61/Getty Images

There are two structures to learn in English that are important in writing: the sentence and the paragraph. Paragraphs can be described as a collection of sentences. These sentences combine to express a specific idea, main point, topic and so on. A number of paragraphs are then combined to write a report, an essay, or even a book. This guide to writing paragraphs describe the basic structure of each paragraph you will write.

In general, the purpose of a paragraph is to express one main point, idea or opinion. Of course, writers may provide multiple examples to support their point. However, any supporting details should support the main idea of a paragraph.

This main idea is expressed through three sections of a paragraph:

  1. Beginning - Introduce your idea with a topic sentence
  2. Middle - Explain your idea through supporting sentences
  3. End - Make your point again with a concluding sentence, and, if necessary transition to the next paragraph.

Example Paragraph

Here is a paragraph taken from an essay on various strategies required for an overall improvement of student performance. The components of this paragraph are analyzed below:

Have you ever wondered why some students can't seem to concentrate in class? Students require more recreational time in order to better focus on lessons in class. In fact, studies have shown that students who enjoy a recess of more than 45 minutes consistently score better on tests immediately following the recess period. Clinical analysis further suggests that physical exercise greatly improves the ability to focus on academic materials. Longer periods of recess are clearly required to allow students the best possible chances of success in their studies. Clearly, physical exercise is just one of the necessary ingredients for improving student scores on standardized tests.

There are four sentence types used to construct a paragraph:

Hook and Topic sentence

A paragraph begins with an optional hook and a topic sentence. The hook is used to draw readers into the paragraph. A hook might be an interesting fact or statistic, or a question to get the reader thinking. While not absolutely necessary, a hook can help your readers begin thinking about your main idea.

The topic sentence which states your idea, point, or opinion. This sentence should use a strong verb and make a bold statement.

(hook) Have you ever wondered why some students can't seem to concentrate in class? (topic sentence) Students require more recreational time in order to better focus on lessons in class.

Notice the strong verb 'require' which is a call to action. A weaker form of this sentence might be: I think students probably need more recreational time ... This weaker form is inappropriate for a topic sentence.

Supporting sentences

Supporting sentences (notice the plural) provide explanations and support for the topic sentence (main idea) of your paragraph.

In fact, studies have shown that students who enjoy a recess of more than 45 minutes consistently score better on tests immediately following the recess period. Clinical analysis further suggests that physical exercise greatly improves the ability to focus on academic materials.

Supporting sentences provide the evidence for your topic sentence. Supporting sentences that include facts, statistics and logical reasoning are much more convincing that simple statements of opinion.

Concluding sentence

The concluding sentence restates the main idea (found in your topic sentence) and reinforces the point or opinion.

Longer periods of recess are clearly required to allow students the best possible chances of success in their studies.

Concluding sentences repeat the main idea of your paragraph in different words.

Optional Transitional sentence for Essays and Longer Writing

The transitional sentence prepares the reader for the following paragraph.

Clearly, physical exercise is just one of the necessary ingredients for improving student scores on standardized tests.

Transitional sentences should help readers logically understand the connection between your current main idea, point or opinion and the main idea of your next paragraph. In this instance, the phrase 'just one of the necessary ingredients ...' prepares the reader for the next paragraph which will discuss another necessary ingredient for success.

Quiz

Identify each sentence according to the role it plays in a paragraph.

Is it a hook, topic sentence, supporting sentence, or concluding sentence?

  1. To sum up, educators must try to ensure that students practice writing rather than just taking multiple choice tests.
  2. However, due to the pressures of large classrooms, many teachers try to cut corners by giving multiple choice quizzes.
  3. Nowadays, teachers realize that students need to actively practice their writing skills though review of basic concepts is also required. 
  4. Have you ever done well on a multiple choice quiz, only to realize that you don't really understand the topic?
  5. Real learning requires practice not just style exercises that focus on checking their understanding. 

Answers

  1. Concluding sentence - Phrases such as 'To sum up', 'In conclusion', and 'Finally' introduce a concluding sentence.
  2. Supporting sentence - This sentence provides a reason for multiple choices and supports the main idea of the paragraph.
  3. Supporting sentence - This sentence provides information about current teaching practices as a means of supporting the main idea.
  4. Hook - This sentence helps the reader imagine the issue in terms of their own life. This helps the reader become personally engaged in the topic.
  5. Thesis - The bold statement gives the overall point of the paragraph. 

Exercise

 Write a cause and effect paragraph to explain one of the following:

  • The difficulties in finding a job
  • The effects of technology on learning
  • Causes of political unrest
  • The importance of English