A paragraph is a collection of sentences within a piece of writing, connected by a single focusing idea. Usually, paragraphs aren’t hanging out on their own. Instead, they live inside and make up essays, books, and other lengthier kinds of writing.
Most paragraphs will be made up of three to seven sentences, which should all be focused on one governing idea. If you’ve covered the material about one idea sufficiently, then start a new paragraph to discuss new and related ideas.
Most paragraphs should have:
If you’re going to write a paragraph, it’s useful to make a quick paragraph outline that includes a list of each point that paragraph needs to make in brief, and in the order that you’ll want to write it.
If you wanted to write a very short paragraph about why people love sandwiches, you might make an outline like this:
1. Topic sentence: people love sandwiches because they're versatile.
2. Supporting sentences: (1) any kind of bread, (2) any kind of filling, (3) any time of day
3. Concluding sentence: Sandwiches are thus versatile in form and function.
See how each point is mentioned, but the details haven’t been filled in yet? That’s how a good and quick outline will look.
That outline can then be broken down piece by piece to evaluate what each element does.
As mentioned previously, each paragraph will have three things:
Looking at a sample paragraph can help you see how each of those elements functions in action. You’ll be referring to the following paragraph as you continue to closely examine the three components throughout the remainder of this lesson:
One might surmise that people love sandwiches because of how versatile they are. Sandwiches can be made on any kind of bread, from a tortilla to rye to white. Moreover, they can include virtually any filling, making them easy for vegetarians, meat lovers, and anyone else. And since they can be made to each person's desires, they can also be enjoyed at any time of the day, using breakfast staples like eggs in the morning or heartier fare for dinner. Thus sandwiches are both versatile in form and function, proving that just about anyone can love them.
2a. Topic Sentence
The paragraph begins with a topic sentence, which is a sentence expressing the main idea of a paragraph. This is usually the first sentence.
One might surmise that people love sandwiches because of how versatile they are.
See how it explicitly states the main purpose or idea that you know the paragraph is going to cover?
2b. Supporting Sentences
Then you have the supporting sentences. Those will each do something slightly different; however, as a group, they are the sentences of a paragraph that offer:
that develop the idea presented in the topic sentence.
In general, each of the supporting sentences offers something that supports the main idea without just repeating that main idea. They’ll add more new and important information that will help develop the main idea.
Sandwiches can be made on any kind of bread, from a tortilla to rye to white. Moreover, they can include virtually any filling, making them easy for vegetarians, meat lovers, and anyone else. And since they can be made to each person's desires, they can also be enjoyed at any time of the day, using breakfast staples like eggs in the morning or heartier fare for dinner.
See how each of the three sentences from the above paragraph adds a new piece of support for that main idea?
2c. Concluding Sentence
Finally, most lengthy paragraphs will end with a concluding sentence, which is a sentence that either summarizes the paragraph or creates a transition to the next paragraph.
If a paragraph is all on its own, it needs a sentence to conclude it by summarizing and reprising its info. If the paragraph is very short, it may not need much conclusion.
Thus sandwiches are both versatile in form and function, proving that just about anyone can love them.
In general, the concluding sentence will look like this one does. Note that this sentence does not just rehash the topic sentence. Instead, it adds something new to the paragraph by reminding the reader of how the supporting sentences help support the main idea that the topic sentence presents.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.