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2.3: Using a Main Idea to Organize Your Paragraph

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    Once you have selected a point (main idea) you want to make in a paragraph, you can then decide what else you want to say (support) about that point. The support you choose will depend upon your purpose for writing.

    Example 1: If you are writing a descriptive paragraph (describes) or narrative paragraph (tells a story) you will use vivid language to support your description.

    Topic: pie

    Main Idea: I love pie.


    • Tastes like
    • Looks like
    • Smells like
    • Sounds when there is pie
    • Texture/feel of pie

    What is the author’s purpose in this kind of writing?

    Example 2: If you are writing an expository paragraph, your details would include the step or parts that make up whatever it is you are trying to explain.

    Topic: pie

    Main Idea: Make your pie crust a work of art.


    • Items needed
    • Process for making a pie crust decorative
    • Baking the pie crust

    What is the author’s purpose in this kind of writing?

    Example 3: If you are writing a persuasive paragraph, your details will necessarily include your reasons for your opinion.

    Topic: pie

    Main Idea: Homemade Pie is better than cake.


    • Pies are made from scratch with relatively few ingredients that can be used for many other purposes, cakes might be made with a mix full of chemical ingredients, or require a number of special ingredients that are often only used for making cake (like cake flour)
    • Pies are versatile – they can be filled with everything from sweet fruit or cream fillings to savory fillings such as meat, vegetables, cheese and/or eggs.
    • Pies can be made in around 15 minutes if you know what you are doing, and cakes take hours.
    • Pies bake up pretty reliably, cakes are very fragile and can become ruined at any step of the baking/assembling process.

    Structuring a Paragraph

    Speaking of pie, the following P.I.E. Paragraph Structure format is a tool you can use for not only analyzing a paragraph when you read it, but is also useful for planning paragraphs that you want to write.

    P.I.E. Paragraph Structure

    P = Point

    What is the point of the paragraph?

    What claim is being made?

    Often, but not always, the point is the TOPIC SENTENCE (Exception: implied main ideas.)

    I = Information

    How is the point supported with specific data, experiences, factual material or sensory details?

    The information supports or develops the paragraph’s main point.

    E = Ending

    This sentence either brings the paragraph to a close and/or provides a transition to the next paragraph.



    In-Class Exercise 2.3: P.I.E.

    Scan the following descriptive paragraph. Then read, analyzing for P.I.E. Mark the paragraph, identifying each component of the paragraph.

    Example of a descriptive paragraph:

    When I was a child, my Dad would sometimes take me with him to visit his mother, my Grandma Nellie. Grandma made the best pie in the world, and when we arrived, we would often find some elderly men sitting at Grandma Nellie’s table enjoying pie and coffee. Dad and I would join in, and I’d listen to the funny stories while enjoying a hot cup of coffee with cream, and a slice of Grandma Nellie’s homemade pie. I think this was the beginning of my love affair with pie. I love pie. I have to agree with Dad when he says his favorite kind of pie is “hot pie, cold pie and warm pie.” I love mixing the flour, butter, pinch of salt, and water to make a nice pliable but flakey pastry. I love when the crust rolls out in an almost perfect, thin circle. I love creating little designs on the top crust. Apple or peach, cherry or marionberry, apricot or blueberry-rhubarb, no filling is wrong. When the raw pie goes into the oven, I even love cleaning up the floury mess that is on the counter. The timer goes off, the pie is golden brown, the bubbly fruit filling sends a scent sneaking through the house into every room. People drift into the kitchen and ask, “Is it ready yet?” The hour or two waiting for the pie to cool enough to serve seems like a lifetime, but eventually the pie does cool. I brew up a pot of coffee, and everyone sips on it, anticipating the flaky warm pie to come. Before we know it, we are all sitting at the table sharing hot coffee, funny stories, and warm pieces of pie topped with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream. No matter what is going on in the world, for that window of time, we are happy.

    P = Point

    I = Information

    E = Ending


    Look Ahead

    Check your syllabus. What assignments are coming up to which you will apply your understanding of paragraph structure? When will this be due?

    Unit 2 Review

    Write an Important Thing Summary for Unit 2 to review the information you learned. Follow the steps below to complete the activity:

    1. Review your notes from Unit 2, and identify the topic, key terms, and main ideas in this Unit.
    2. Visit the Course Resources section of this book and learn how to write the “Important Thing Summary.”
    3. Write an Important Thing Summary of Unit 2 of this textbook using the information you learned in the previous step.

    This page titled 2.3: Using a Main Idea to Organize Your Paragraph is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Amee Schmidt & Donald Winter.

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