Friday, August 3, 2007

Writing for Style: Paragraphs 2

Elements of a Paragraph

To be as effective as possible, a paragraph should contain each of the following:

  • Unity
  • Coherence
  • A Topic Sentence, and
  • Adequate Development.

As you will see, all of these traits overlap. Using and adapting them to your individual purposes will help you construct effective paragraphs.

Unity

The entire paragraph should concern itself with a single focus. If it begins with a one focus or major point of discussion, it should not end with another or wander within different ideas.

Coherence

Coherence is the trait that makes the paragraph easily understandable to a reader. You can help create coherence in your paragraphs by creating logical bridges and verbal bridges.

Logical Bridges

The same topic idea is carried over from sentence to sentence. Successive sentences can be constructed in parallel form.

Verbal Bridges

Key words can be repeated in several sentences. Synonymous words can be repeated in several sentences. Pronouns can refer to nouns in previous sentences. Transition words can be used to link ideas from different sentences

A Topic Sentence

A topic sentence is a sentence that indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is about. Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph. (This is a good general rule for less experienced writers, although it is not the only way to do it).

Regardless of whether you include an explicit topic sentence or not, you should be able to easily summarize what the paragraph is about.

Adequate Development

The topic (which is introduced by the topic sentence) should be discussed fully and adequately. Again, this varies from paragraph to paragraph, depending on the author's purpose, but writers should beware of paragraphs that only have two or three sentences. It's a pretty good bet that the paragraph is not fully developed if it is that short.

Some methods to make sure your paragraph is well-developed:

  • Use examples and illustrations
  • Cite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)
  • Examine testimony (what other people say in quotes or paraphrases)
  • Use an anecdote or story
  • Define terms
  • Compare and contrast
  • Evaluate causes and reasons
  • Examine effects and consequences
  • Analyze the topic
  • Describe the topic
  • Offer a chronology of an event (time segments)

How do I know when to start a new paragraph?

You should start a new paragraph:

  • When you begin a new idea or point. If you have an extended idea that spans multiple paragraphs, each new point within that idea should have its own paragraph.
  • To contrast information or ideas. Separate paragraphs can serve to contrast sides in a debate, different points in an argument, or any other difference.
  • To give readers a break. Breaks in paragraphs will help your writing more readable. You should create a break if the paragraph becomes too long or the material is complex.
  • When you are ending your introduction or starting your conclusion. Your introductory and concluding material should always be in a new paragraph, and many introductions and conclusions have multiple paragraphs depending on their content, length, and the writer's purpose.

In Part 3, we will talk about signposts to guide readers and transitions to link paragraphs.

1 comment:

Camiseta Personalizada said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.