What is a paragraph?
is a group of related sentences which presents and develops one idea or one
aspect of an idea. A good paragraph does not just state the idea; each
sentence in it supports or extends the central idea, so that the whole
paragraph is a short but complete composition (Roloff and Brosseit,
How do I write a good paragraph?
the following four points:
Most modern paragraphs range from 50 to 100 words, or about 4 to 12
sentences. Keep in mind that "if a subject is worth being mentioned at all,
it is certainly worth at least three sentences" (Grieder and Grieder). As a
rule, all paragraphs in a paper should be roughly the same length. (An
occasional paragraph of introduction, conclusion, or transition may be
significantly shorter or longer.) If a paragraph looks too short, ask these
questions: Have I developed my idea sufficiently? Could I add more details,
facts or examples? Have I chopped my ideas into tiny pieces when I could
combine them into one larger paragraph? If a paragraph looks too long, ask
these questions: Do I have more than one main idea in this paragraph? Would
these ideas be more effectively understood if they were separated?
A unified paragraph focuses on a single topic or controlling idea. Often,
this controlling idea is stated in a topic sentence; the writer should make
sure that all sentences in a paragraph relate to that topic sentence. The
following paragraph (taken from Prentice Hall)
Tropic's beaches are beautiful, and the surrounding countryside is quite
scenic. The quality of the food leaves a lot to be desired. Many vacationers
enjoy the variety of outdoor activities and the instruction available in
such sports as sailing and scuba diving. Unfortunately, security is poor;
several vacationers' rooms have been broken into and their valuables stolen.
Christmas in the Bahamas can make the thought of New Year's in Chicago
paragraph covers too many topics and is difficult to read and understand.
The following paragraph is unified because it focuses on the topic of Club
Tropic's best points:
vacationers sick and tired of the frozen north, a week at Club Tropic can
provide just the midwinter thaw they need. Club Tropic's beaches are
beautiful, and the surrounding countryside is quite scenic. Many vacationers
also enjoy the variety of outdoor activities and the instruction available
in such sports as sailing and scuba diving. Christmas in the Bahamas can
make the thought of New Year's in Chicago bearable.
A coherent paragraph may address a single topic, but the ideas are not
logically or smoothly connected. The following paragraph is incoherent:
Tropic's isolation created dissatisfaction among some vacationers. The
quality of the food was poor. People want a choice of entertainment in the
evening. Most of us spent too much time together day after day. People
expect to be able to go out for a meal if they feel like it.
paragraph sticks to one topic--some of the drawbacks of Club Tropic--but the
individual sentences do not relate to each other smoothly. The following
paragraph is coherent:
Tropic's isolation created dissatisfaction among some vacationers. Many
people expect to be able to go out for a meal if they feel like it, but the
club's location far from populated areas made that impossible. To make
matters worse, the quality of the food was poor. The isolated location also
forced people to spend all of their time together--day after day. By evening
nearly everyone was ready for a choice of food, entertainment, and company.
Finally, a well-developed paragraph gives readers plenty of examples,
reasons, or details. For example, the following paragraph is not
vacation at Club Tropic has its good points and bad points. The beaches are
nice, but they may not be enough for some vacationers.
reader is left wondering about additional, more specific details.
additional information on paragraphs see Chapter 42 of the
Prentice Hall Handbook (11th ed.) or check
out some of the other links on the OWL homepage.