An effective paragraph is a cohesive group of sentences based on a central theme -- in this case, a vacation. So if you enjoyed a recent trip to the Bahamas, the paragraph should come alive with vivid detail and illustrations so that the reader understands why you enjoyed the trip. While there is no set length to a paragraph, between three and five sentences is a good rule of thumb to follow. When you shift from the theme of a paragraph, it's time to start a new one.
Plan the Paragraph
Establish the overall theme of your paragraph. The theme determines your approach and the points you will make.
Write a draft topic sentence -- the first sentence of a paragraph that should set the stage for what follows. It can be general in nature; subsequent sentences should be specific. For example, "My summer vacation to Key West, Florida, was the best vacation I've ever had." This sentence mentions the destination, as well as the angle from which you are writing the paragraph. Now the reader knows where your vacation was. You have set the expectation that you will explain why this vacation was "the best."
Write down at least three specific reasons or examples that elaborate on your topic sentence and support the theme. Using the Key West example, the beaches, friendly residents and rich history of the area would help demonstrate why Key West is your favorite vacation destination. These points will help you develop a unified paragraph.
Elaborate on each reason you came up with in Step 3 with specific examples. With Key West, you could explain why you enjoyed the beaches, the amenities they include and how the beaches compare to each other.
Write the Paragraph
Scrutinize your topic sentence and tweak it for specificity. Review it to ensure that it is interesting and will compel readers to want to learn more about your vacation. Be prepared to amplify your paragraph if you make changes to the topic sentence. For example, if you add a foreshadowing clause to your topic sentence -- "My summer vacation to Key West, Florida, was the best vacation I've ever had, despite the delays we endured to get there" -- your reader is going to want to hear a few details about the delays, too.
Write your first supporting sentence, including the example and detail you've come up with. For instance, "The waters of Rest Beach provide nature lovers with a rare opportunity to see fish in their natural habitat."
Write several more supporting sentences, ensuring that each one amplifies the topic sentence. Together, these sentences form the body of your paragraph and should give your topic sentence substance and meaning.
Read the paragraph as a whole to ensure that it flows easily and logically from one point to the other. Weak paragraphs often develop when writers foist sentences on a page rather than strive to connect them in a meaningful, coherent way. So look for opportunities to insert linking words and transitional phrases so that collectively, reading your paragraph sounds natural -- as if you were talking to a friend.
- Proofread your work and correct spelling and grammar errors.
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Writing Center-- Paragraph Development
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Basic Paragraph Structure; F. Scott Walters; April 2000
- Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary: How to Write Good Paragraphs
- Purdue Online Writing Lab; On Paragraphs; Cana Lynn Driscoll, et al.; April 2010
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