- About the function of a paragraph
- The structure of the body paragraph
- Five easy steps to paragraph writing
- More information
Key words: paragraph, topic sentence, support sentence, concluding sentence
About the function of a paragraph
The paragraph is the basic unit for organising information in your writing. You use paragraphs to structure information in all of your exam and assignment essays and short answer questions. If you write well-constructed paragraphs, then the reader/marker will be able to understand what it is that you are trying to explain. If you write poorly constructed paragraphs, then the marker has to go on a 'treasure hunt' to find information—the perfect recipe for losing those valuable marks.
The structure of a paragraph
A paragraph has a distinct pattern that you can use to structure your writing. It is made up of a group of sentences that contribute to developing ONE main idea.
Exercise 1: Paragraph structure
Click on each part of the paragraph for a description of its function.
Exercise 2: The parts of a paragraph
Read the following paragraph. Then, CLICK on the paragraph label and DRAG it to the correct part of this paragraph.
Exercise 3: The topic sentence
The topic sentence is missing from this paragraph. Read the rest of the paragraph and think of a suitable topic sentence.
A short paragraph can be about four sentences long as you only need a few facts (evidence) to support your argument. If you are developing a complex idea or argument, then your paragraph may be longer. For example, a long paragraph could have up to ten sentences. Therefore, you should aim to write paragraphs that are between four and ten sentences in length.
Exercise 4: Editing for correct paragraph structure
When you develop some understandings about paragraph structure, you will be able to EDIT your paragraphs to make sure that they are following the rules. See if you can work out why the following paragraphs are correctly or incorrectly written.
Five easy steps to paragraph writing
Every paragraph you write in your essay is worth marks, so put an effort into each and every paragraph.
Click on the following steps for the details.
|This is the best starting point. The general topic for your paragraph should come from your essay plan. Remember that the topic sentence is a summary of the whole paragraph and generally does not have a reference.|
|Once you have written the topic sentence, you need to gather information to support what you have stated. Try brainstorming. In a list, jot down everything (facts, details, examples, reasons, diagrams, pictures) that relates to the topic sentence. (TIP: try sticky Post-its)|
|Brainstorming usually gives you too much information (about 100-150 words for good-sized paragraphs), so the next step is to cut out irrelevant information and combine like ideas. Then, use numbers to arrange the order of your ideas. This ordering is where you get your paragraph to flow (logical sequence), so it is an essential step.|
|Once you have your topic sentence and your ideas sorted out, you can attempt to write up your paragraph. Edit for sense and flow as you revise each sentence. Look at your transitional word list and signal phrases to help you find the right connecting words within and between sentences. Write a concluding sentence if it helps the paragraph feel complete.|
|Now that you've created a well-put-together paragraph, don't stop there! You will lose marks if your writing has literacy errors. Check your sentences, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Computer grammar and spelling checkers will only partially do the job. If you experience literacy difficulties try the information in the ASO factsheets: Writing correctly.|