How to Write a Paragraph

Your paragraphs are the building blocks of your paper.  It’s how you structure your logic, how you make your essay flow, and how you organize your ideas.   There’s a reason why the most common essay format taught in schools is called the five-paragraph essay; paragraphs are really the defining structural feature of your writing.

Knowing you need to use paragraphs and knowing how to use them, however, are two different things.  For students first experimenting with longer writing, knowing how to write a paragraph and when to start a new paragraph can be tricky; it’s a more organized way of communicating than casual conversation or something along those lines.  Here are some important things to remember about paragraphs.

A paragraph gathers together ideas that connect to each other and to the main purpose of your piece of writing.  They should logically flow from one to another with transition sentences to help guide your reader from idea to idea without abruptly introducing new ideas.

There are two major reasons to start a new paragraph.  One is to mark a new point in your narrative or argument—when you have a new idea, it’s time to start a new paragraph.  The other is to break up a really long discussion into easier-to-read chunks; if a paragraph starts going on for sentence after sentence with no break in sight, it’s better to start a new paragraph just to make it easier to read.

A big idea is the concept of a unified paragraph—that is, your paragraph is about one main idea which the rest of the paragraph explains, supports and develops.  You usually have a topic sentence directly stating the main idea of your paragraph, and everything else should work to support it, with concrete details and commentary helping explain your point.  Your paragraph shouldn’t digress or switch topics halfway through; it should be focused on your main point—unified.

Within this framework there’s a lot of wriggle room for creativity and changes.  When I was in school, my English teachers instructed us that every paragraph should include one topic sentence at the beginning, three concrete details each with two sentences of supporting commentary, and a closing transition sentence at the end.  It’s sort of a paint-by-numbers formulaic approach to writing; fill in all the blanks with the proper sentence and you have your paragraph.  It leads to boring, formulaic writing, but it’s a valuable learning tool; it’s basically training wheels for a paragraph.  Once you learn the rules and guidelines for how to construct a paragraph, you can experiment with breaking them for effect—but it’s important to know what’s “supposed” to be included before you start tinkering.

Once you’re done with your paragraph, why not pop by Wordsmith Essays’ order page and have our team of editors take a look at it?  We’ll not only give it a grammatical checkup; we’ll give useful advice and help on how to structure your writing.  Give us a try today!


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