# 6.8: Creating Paragraphs

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 LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1. Recognize the overall key ideas involved in a good paragraph. 2. Know how to use specialized paragraphs. 3. Understand common organizational patterns for paragraphs and means of maintaining the internal integrity of paragraphs.

Each paragraph in a piece of writing has to function well independently so that the work as a whole comes together. This section presents a variety of ideas you should think about and methods you should consider using when writing paragraphs.

## Starting with an Introduction or a Transition

Each paragraph needs to start with an introduction, a transition, or a combination of the two. The first sentence of a paragraph always has to help a reader move smoothly from the last paragraph. Sometimes two paragraphs are close enough in content that a transition can be implied without actually using transition words. Other times, specific transitions are needed. When no transition is used, an introductory sentence is needed so the reader knows what is going on. If a transition sentence is used, it is logical to follow it with an introductory sentence or to have one joint sentence.

Here are some examples:

A transition sentence: Canned goods are not the only delicious foods available at a farmers’ market.
An introductory sentence: Farmers’ markets feature a wide variety of fresh produce.
A transition/introductory combination sentence: Along with canned goods, farmers’ markets also feature whatever produce is fresh that week.

## Sticking to One Main Idea

By definition5, all sentences in the paragraph should relate to one main idea. If another main idea comes up as you are drafting a paragraph, it is most likely time to start a new paragraph. If in revising a draft you notice that a paragraph has wandered into another main idea, you should consider splitting it into two paragraphs. The main idea should be clear and obvious to readers and is typically presented within the topic sentence. The topic sentence is, in essence, a one-sentence summary of the point of the paragraph. The topic sentence is often the first sentence in a paragraph, but it does not have to be located there.

 5. Clarification of key words or concepts.

## Building around a Topic Sentence

While the main idea is presented within the topic sentence6, the rest of the sentences in the paragraph support it. The other sentences should present details that clarify and support the topic sentence. Together, all the sentences within the paragraph should flow smoothly so that readers can easily grasp its meaning.

When you choose sentences and ideas to support the topic sentence, keep in mind that paragraphs should not be overly long or overly short. A half page of double-spaced text is a nice average length for a paragraph. At a minimum, unless you are aiming for a dramatic effect, a paragraph should include at least three sentences. Although there is really no maximum size for a paragraph, keep in mind that lengthy paragraphs create confusion and reading difficulty. For this reason, try to keep all paragraphs to no more than one double-spaced page (or approximately 250 words).

## Structuring Specialized Paragraphs

Many of the same common patterns of organizing your writing and thinking are available at the paragraph level to help you make your case to support your thesis. Using these common patterns helps readers understand your points more easily.

 6. A sentence that presents the main idea of a paragraph. 7. A writing pattern used for drawing comparisons between unlike people, items, places, or situations. 8. Writing that sounds like a story and is often used to personalize and intensify a point for readers. 9. A writing order that presents a problem followed by a proposal for solving it.

## Using a Clear Organizational Pattern

Depending on your writing topic, you might find it beneficial to use one of these common organizational patterns.

 10. A writing pattern that is used to describe how something is made or to explain the steps for how something is done. 11. A writing order that moves from a broad concept to narrower examples. 12. A writing order that moves from particular points to a more general conclusion. 13. A descriptive method based on the natural physical location of the subjects or items.

## Maintaining Internal Integrity of Paragraphs

A paragraph is more than just a group of sentences thrown together. You need to make linkages14 between your ideas, use parallelism15, and maintain consistency16.

 14. Techniques used within and between paragraphs to relate one piece of content or one idea with the next. 15. The internal logic of a paragraph that aids in readers’ comprehension. 16. An expectation in paragraphs that the tense and point of view will remain the same.

## Using Transitions

Transitions within paragraphs are words that connect one sentence to another so that readers can easily follow the intended meanings of sentences and relationships between sentences. The following table shows some commonly used transition words:

 Commonly Used Transition Words To compare/contrast after that, again, also, although, and then, but, despite, even though, finally, first/second/third/etc., however, in contrast, in the same way, likewise, nevertheless, next, on the other hand, similarly, then To signal cause and effect17 as a result, because, consequently, due to, hence, since, therefore, thus To show sequence or time after, as soon as, at that time, before, during, earlier, finally, immediately, in the meantime, later, meanwhile, now, presently, simultaneously, so far, soon, until, then, thereafter, when, while To indicate place or direction above, adjacent to, below, beside, beyond, close, nearby, next to, north/south/east/west, opposite, to the left/right To present examples for example, for instance, in fact, to illustrate, specifically To suggest relationships and, also, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, too

 17. A writing pattern used to clarify how one thing is a result of another thing.

## Closing the Paragraph

Each paragraph needs a final sentence that lets the reader know that the idea is finished and it is time to move onto a new paragraph and a new idea. A common way to close a paragraph is to reiterate the purpose of the paragraph in a way that shows the purpose has been met.

 KEY TAKEAWAYS • A good paragraph should cover one main idea, be built around a topic sentence, follow a clear organizational pattern, have internal integrity, and include a final closing sentence. • Specialized paragraphs are common writing patterns that you can use to help support your thesis. Some common examples include analogy, cause and effect, comparison/contrast, definition, description, examples, narration, opening and closing, problem and solution, and process explanation. • Common organizational patterns include chronological, general-to-specific, specific-to-general, and spatial. Some methods of maintaining paragraph integrity include linking ideas, using parallel structure, being consistent, and transitioning.

 EXERCISES 1. Use cause and effect to write a paragraph about high humidity and rust. 2. Choose a word with which you are unfamiliar and write a definition paragraph so that others will understand the meaning of the word. Make sure to choose a word about which you are able to write a whole paragraph. 3. Choose a problem that is often discussed at election time and write a problem-and-solution paragraph presenting your ideas about the solution. Make sure to use facts to support any opinions you present. 4. Draw from one of the readings from this course or from another course you are taking. Find at least five different kinds of paragraphs, using the labels provided and described in this section.

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