What is a Paragraph?

November 23, 2010 at 2:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a basic unit of organiazation in writing in which a group of related sentences developes one main idea. A paragraph can be as short as one sentence or as long as ten sentences. The number of sentences is unimportant; however, the paragraph should be long enough to develop the main idea clearly.

The Three Parts of a Paragraph

A paragraph has three major structural parts:

1. The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. It not only names the topic of the paragraph, but it also limits the topic to one or two areas that can be discussed completely in the space of a single paragraph. The specific area is called the controlling idea.
eg. Gold, a precious metal, is prized for two important charateristics.
Gold -> topic
two important charateristics -> controlling idea

Every good sentence has a topic sentence, which clearly states the topic and the controlling idea of the paragraph. It is a complete sentence. It is usually (but not always) the first sentence in the paragraph.
A topic sentence is the most important sentence in a paragraph. It briefly indicates what the paragraph is going to discuss.

There are three important points to remember about the topic sentence:
– A topic sentence is a complete sentence; that is, it contains a subject, a verb, and (usually) a complement.
– A topic sentence contains both a topic and a controlling idea. It names the topic and then limits the topic to a specific area to be discussed in the space of a single paragraph.
– A topic sentence is the most general statement in the paragraph because gives only the main idea. It does not give any specific details.

2. Supporting sentences develop the topic sentence. That is, they explain the topic sentence by giving reasons, examples, facts, statistics, and quotations.

3. The concluding sentence signals the end of the paragraph and leaves the reader with important points to remember. A concluding sentence is not absolutely necessary; in fact, a concluding sentence is not customary for every paragraph in a multiparagraph essay.

A concluding sentence sentence serves three purposes:
– It signals the end of the pargraph
– It summerizes the main points of paragraph
– It gives a final comment on your topic and leaves the reader with the most important ideas to think about

Unity and Coherence

In addition to the three structural parts of a paragraph, a good paragraph also has the elements of unity and coherence.

Unity means that you discuss only one main idea in a paragraph. The main idea is stated in the topic sentence, and then each and every supporting sentence develpos that idea.

Coherence means that your paragraph is easy to read and understand because (1) your supporting sentences are in some kind of logical order and (2) your ideas are connected by the use of appropriate transition signals.


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