As you learned in a previous lesson, a paragraph is a collection of sentences within a piece of writing connected by a single focusing idea.
Most paragraphs have:
However, you can put those three elements together in all kinds of ways, and you can emphasize different things depending on what the purpose of that paragraph is.
Now that you know about the various parts of a paragraph, you can think about ways to organize these parts into an effective whole.
There are four different organization structures:
Each of these is like a model for how you can build a paragraph, and each model can be deployed in a variety of situations. Once you master these four, you’ll have plenty of options for any writing challenge.
The first model is the spatial organization method. Spatial paragraphs examine the details in a particular setting or of a particular person or object. That can include physical spaces or locations that may need description.
This is a really useful paragraph structure when your goal is to describe something specific to a location, such as the best sandwich shop in your home town.
Notice how the topic sentence and concluding sentences are on either end, with the supporting sentences on the inside.
Also notice that this paragraph is highly descriptive, full of adjectives and sensory details. It develops in a spatial manner, as if the author were walking the reader through this deli.
The second kind of paragraph we’re going to practice is the chronological paragraph. Just as a spatial paragraph moves physically, chronological paragraphs move in time. They tell what happened in the order in which the events occurred.
This is a great tool for narrating a story, whether that’s a story you’ve made up or a retelling of something that really happened.
Again, this retains the core paragraph structure of topic, supporting, and then concluding sentences. But here, you move through time with this author as she grows up.
Thus, the chronological method can tell the story of a short period of time, (such as what happens in one day), a longer period of time (such as one’s whole life), or even one event (such as telling someone the plot of a movie from when it starts to how it ends).
The third organizational model is the emphatic paragraph. In this structure, you’ll organize your sentences based on how important each piece of information is.
You might start by giving the least important facts and move to the most important ones, or you could switch that around and write from most to least important.
Emphatic paragraphs are a great tool when you’re writing an argument and trying to convince your readers of something. If you’re providing a number of supporting reasons for one claim, you might start with the most convincing argument and then move through to the least convincing one.
You can probably already spot that topic sentence and concluding sentence, and even find the supporting sentences. You’ll also notice that in this argumentative paragraph, the author moves from the most essential reason to the least.
The last paragraph structure is called the TEE paragraph. These paragraphs relate a set of facts, explanations, and analysis. Additionally, they contain a topic sentence, explanation, and examples, which is where this type of paragraph gets its name.
A TEE paragraph is a great choice when you’re writing an informative paragraph because it will provide a lot of details. Just like all the other paragraphs, a TEE paragraph will have a topic sentence that is then supported by other sentences providing examples and explanations to help prove the main point.
Each of these examples will be a specific piece of information designed to support the topic sentence, and the explanations will be further details about that support that go beyond what is presented in the topic sentence.
This kind of paragraph will generally start with more general information, and then move to more specific ideas. You’ll generally have multiple examples and explanations, but only one main point announced in one topic sentence.
You might use a TEE paragraph if you were trying to inform someone with a dairy allergy about what they can order at Saul’s deli.
A topic sentence for that paragraph might look like this:
That sentence could then be followed with an example.
See how the example provides support for the main point and then offers some explanation for how that example justifies the topic sentence?
Now consider this as part of the larger paragraph.
Do you see the topic sentence, the examples and explanations, and the concluding sentence?
This kind of writing is particularly applicable in professional and academic settings, such as when you’re writing a business proposal and need to provide clear examples and explanations for each point in your plan.
In the following paragraph, notice that the topic sentence opens the paragraph and gives a summary of what the main point of the whole discussion is.
The topic sentence is followed by supporting sentences, which provide evidence for the main point.
The example gives some detail that would help a reader trust that the statement made in the topic sentence is believable.
The explanation clarifies the example, which all goes to prove to the reader that the example is true.
Then of course, there is the the concluding sentence, which offers a summary and synthesis of the whole paragraph.
Which one of these is the topic sentence? It’s the only sentence here that doesn’t offer an example or sum up examples you’ve already seen, and it introduces the whole point of this paragraph. You can clearly say that this is the topic sentence:
What sentence should have come next? To figure this out, look to the transitions in each sentence. Transitions are the words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas.
Words such as “first” and “finally” indicate connection and movement. They are key transition terms. See how the following sentence starts with “first?” That indicates that this is the first supporting example.
The phrase “in addition” tells you that this is another piece that’s being added to the support, so the sentence that would come next is:
Therefore, the last supporting sentence is:
Looking at the transition word “overall,” you can probable tell that the concluding sentence is:
That transition word says that this is going to cover what happened over all of the rest of the sentences.
Also, look at how it compares to the topic sentence. This summarizes what you’ve already been through in this TEE paragraph, whereas the topic sentence introduces what you’re going to go through.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.
Tell what happened in the order in which the events occurred.
Organize concepts within the paragraph based upon importance.
A collection of sentences within a piece of writing, connected by a single focusing idea.
Examine the details in a particular setting or of a particular person or object.
Relay a set of facts, explanations, and analysis. Contain a topic sentence, explanation and examples.
Words, phrases, or sentences that clarify connections between ideas.