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PARTS & SECTIONS

Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar 

   www.OnlineGrammar.org
 
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 Study Questions
     

 

                                             

Chapter 11: TYPES OF PARAGRAPHS

                 
What are basic methods of forming a paragraph?

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Introductory Paragraph

Concluding Paragraph

Background Paragraph

Basic Body Paragraph

Idea, Time, or Place Shift

Dialogue Shift

Variety of Length

Emphasis Paragraph

Transition Paragraph

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NEW TOPIC SECTION:

Topic Shifts (with Multiple Paragraphs)

Topic Shifts (with Underlined Subtitles)

Starting & Concluding Sentences in Topic Sections

Starting & Concluding Sentences in Paragraphs

 

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This chapter shows the basic pattern of a paragraph and a number of reasons, ways, or formats for developing or organizing a paragraph. 

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INTRODUCTION

An important element of easy-to-read writing is the development of paragraphs. Sometimes the easy-to-read paragraph is symbolized by an inverted triangle: 

-------------------------------------

SUMMARY SENTENCE

 -----------------------------

General Idea(s)

-----------------------

Details
Details
Details

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A longer paragraph starts with a general statement that in some way summarizes or announces the subject of the paragraph. Then the paragraph develops this statement or summary by giving specifics. Writing paragraphs like this makes them easier to read: in fact, one method of skimming books that is taught by speed-reading courses is to read just the first sentence of each paragraph. (This method got the author of this book through a graduate research-writing course requiring the reading of one novel per week by Charles Dickens (over 800 pages). If the first sentence of your paragraph summarizes your subject well, then this lead sentence not only gives the reader a quick idea of what the paragraph is about, but also prepares the reader for understanding the purpose of the details in the rest of the paragraph.  

One of the most basic and simple units to revise is the paragraph, and groupings of paragraphs.  If we can create paragraphs and paragraph groups in a number of different ways, then we know most of the basics that are universal to organizing papers for school, for work, for advertising, and for publication.  The unit of the paragraph works because it creates breaks in our writing--spaces--that help readers pause, take a mental breath, and swallow what we have just said.  This chapter discusses nine different ways--or reasons--to create paragraphs.  They are basic ways used by top academic and professional writers, and all of them will help you become a more polished, successful, and impressive communicator both in the classroom and in your professional jobs. 

Keep in mind as you paragraph that most of the paragraph guidelines are just that: guidelines, not rules.  Here are eleven important guidelines—eleven important reasons for starting, using, or having a paragraph:

Introduction
Conclusion
Background

Idea Shift
Place Shift
Event or Time Shift

Dialogue Shift

Variety of Paragraph Size

Emphasis of Important Idea

Transition between Major Sections

Major Topic Shift
     (and how to use topic sents.
     for topics and paragraphs)

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The following diagrams illustrate, first, a introductory, concluding, and background paragraph.  Then they illustrate a basic paragraph and eight other reasons as listed above.  Finally, four graphic boxes show how to place subtitles and topic sentences for several topic sections (also known as body sections).

INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH:

 

Title

by Your Name

   

 

 

 

        Introductory paragraph: 2
sentences to 150-200 w. summarizing your overall subject

 

      


 

Rest of paper....

 

 

 

 

The Introduction

Typically, the intro to a short or medium-length college paper is written in one parag.  Sometimes--espec-ially if the paper is 10+ pages long--the introduction may be two-three paragraphs. 

An intro is almost never longer than one or two paragraphs.  This is because it is supposed to be, by definition, a brief summary of what the paper is about. Often, intros also have an interesting quotation (perhaps the best quotation in the paper), an anecdote, or a challenge.

For more, see Ch. 12.

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CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH:

 

Title

by Your Name

   

 

 

 

        Introductory paragraph: 2
sentences to 100-200 w. summarizing your overall subject

   

      

 

Body of paper
   
(multiple paragraphs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

        Concluding paragraph: 2
sentences to 150-200 w. summarizing the paper or stating its point or result
    

      

       

 

The Conclusion

A conclusion often is roughly similar in length to the intro, thus providing symmetry.  A conclusion provides the ending summary, point, or result regarding the content of the paper. 

And, like the intro, the conclusion often offers something interesting.  This might be a quotation (perhaps the second best in the paper), an interesting anecdote, a twist to the point, or  possible problems and challenges resulting from the point.

 For more, see Ch. 12.

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BACKGROUND PARAGRAPH:

 

Title

by Your Name

   

 

 

 

        Introductory paragraph: 2
sentences to 100-200 w. summarizing your overall subject

   

      

 

 

 

        Background paragraph: 2
sentences to 150-200 w. providing background details for the subject: summarizing, defining, explaining, or describing what should be understood before the paper starts.

 

 

Body of paper
   
(multiple paragraphs)

 

 

      

       

 

Background

A background paragraph often is used to offer the reader a brief glimpse or understanding of useful background information before the body of the paper starts.  This background paragraph may define the subject, explain it, bring readers up to date about it, or provide a general background about what happened or existed before the present activities or information you are writing about in the rest of the paper. 

 

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BASIC, WELL-DEVELOPED PARAGRAPH:

         
Title

by

Your Name

_______________________________________________

\                                             /

\     General statement of subject.      /

\-----------------------------------------/

\                                 /

\    1-3 general explanations.    /

\                             /

\---------------------------------/

\                               /

\       Details: facts,     /

\                           /

\  figures, examples,  /

\                     /

\quotations, charts,/

\                   /

\       etc.      /

\               /

\-------------/

\    Final   /

\   point. /

\       /

\     /

\   /

\ /

.

  

   

The Basic Paragraph

In college writing, a longer paragraph starts with a general sentence stating the paragraph's subject.  There might next be 1-3 more general statements, if needed.  Then most of the rest of the paragraph has sentences that "narrow" the focus or "get to the point" by giving specific details.  The last sentence or two summarize the paragraph's result or point.

 A paragraph usually must be a min. of two sentences long. The first line is, if printed on paper, indented 1/2".  The maximum length of a paragraph is about 100-150 words in a paper of just a few pages, but perhaps 150-200 w. in a 5-9 page paper.  In a 10+ page paper, the max. length of a paragraph can be 200-300 words. 

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TOPIC SHIFT: IDEA, TIME, or PLACE:

 

Title

by Your Name
            

 

 

 

                  Introduction

 

      

 

 

 

1st idea, event, or place (or the first subdivision of the overall idea, event, or place).

 

      

 

 

 

2nd idea, event, or place (or a 2nd subdiv. of overall idea, event, or place).

 

  

 

 

 

3rd idea, event, or place (or a 3rd subdiv. of overall idea, event, or place).

 

      

 

 

 

                  Conclusion

 

          

Idea Shift (or a Shift of an Event or Time, or of a Place)

Paragraphing is more of a craft than a set of hard and fast rules.  One strong guideline for starting a new paragraph is to explain a new idea.  Or, if the idea is really long, then you can break it into a few major subideas or parts of the idea.

The same is true for dividing a series of events or times, or of several places.  Or you may need to divide one big event, time, or place into subdivisions.

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DIALOGUE-SHIFT PARAGRAPHS--New Paragraph for Change of Speaker:

 

 

"How are you?" Chris asked.

 

      

 

"Fine," said Haley.  "Are you going any-

where tonight?"

      

 

"Maybe," Chris answered.

 

  

 

"Why 'maybe'?" Haley asked.

 

             

 

"I'm waiting for someone to call."  Chris

shrugged.  "If he does, then I will.  If he doesn't, I won't."

             

 

"I was thinking," said Haley, "about us

finding something to do."

             

 

"Really?  Like what?"

 

             

 

"Maybe dinner, then a movie, and then

going somewhere where there's dancing. After- wards, we could go to my place. What do you think?"      

             

 

"Who's paying?" asked Chris.  

 

 

Dialogue Paragraphs

Dialogue -- talking -- is different in paragraphs. Each time there is a change in  speaker, a new paragraph starts, even if this results in one-sentence paragraphs. 

Use double quotation marks (" ") around spoken words.  "S/he saids" usually go after (or sometimes in the middle of) spoken words.  A "s/he said" is not necessary in every paragraph, but use them often so that readers can quickly identify who is speaking.  Don't worry about having too many "s/he saids."  To readers they are, like periods, invisible: i.e., rarely is a writer accused of making periods too obvious. 

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PARAGRAPH VARIETY--Making Paragraphs of Different Sizes on a Page To Maintain Easy Readability:

       

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

 

         

Variety of Length

A variety of paragraph lengths on each visibile page is important because it better maintains reader attention.  a lack of variety is similar to the "white noise" of a radio tuned between stations, or of a fan or humidifier: it tends to lull readers to sleep. Variety makes them feel more alive and alert. 

Try to mix the lengths.  If you make too many short paragraphs, merge some of them.  If you make too many long or medium ones, break a few in two.  You can break a paragraph by creating separate two-sentence intros or conclusions to them (as in the two major boxes below).

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AN EMPHASIS PARAGRAPH--Making a Short Paragraph To Emphasize an Important Point:

       

 

The giant inland lakes in the Midwest of

North America are well worth seeing, especially at night.  At night, the wind sometimes is calm and the full moon dances on a path of silky wavelets brushing the shore.  gulls, brilliant white in the moonlight, sit like lighthouse sentinels on half-submerged rocks, sleeping.

      

The human soul lives for such nights.

 Nights like this make life worthwhile.

      

 

The shores also are alive at night,

  especially in the wilder regions of some lakes. Owls hoot and crickets chirp.  Night animals slide through the underbrush.  Even the trees creak in the wind as their leaves whisper.  Night life never is quiet there.

         

A Short,
Single Paragraph
for Emphasis

Sometimes a short paragraph is useful to emphasize an impor-tant or interesting idea or fact.  A short, emphatic paragraph also is useful from time to time just because of the need for variety of paragraph lengths.

A short emphasis paragraph also works well as a transition or break when a paper shifts from one ideas, place, or event to another.  The example at the left shows this.

 

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A TRANSITION PARAGRAPH--To Transit Smoothly from One Main Section to the Next:

       

 

In human affairs, sometimes a person

finds he or she must choose between two evils.  For example, should someone lie to comfort a dying friend if the friend will be miserable from hearing the truth?  Should parents be punished for stealing food if their children are starving? 

      

 Such choices aren't always easy.  Some

 people argue that occasionally, our ethics must be "relative."

      

 

 "Relative ethics" means that in some

  situations, especially difficult ones, a person must consider all sides, then choose the least worst.  Most religions accept this, up to a point.  Many people often use a relative system of ethics.  For example, most people will tell a small lie if it helps someone avoid being beaten in a meaningless fight with, say, a drunk.  And most moral authorities--such as pastors and teachers--forgive such lies.  In other words, a small wrong to avoid a big one is acceptable.

  

Brief Transition

An important way to make short paragraphs is transition paragraphs like the short one to the left. Such paragraphs sum up what came before and/or what comes next. Cover the small paragraph and see how the other two read without it. Then read them again with the short paragraph. You should notice how much the middle makes the long ones flow more logically.

In the short paragraph, the first sentence summarizes the paragraph before it; the second sentence summarizes the paragraph after it.

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TOPIC SHIFTS (with Multiple Paragraphs):

 

Title

by Your Name

      

 

 

 

                  Introduction

 

---

 

          Topic I, paragraph 1

 

        

 

 

 

          Topic I, paragraph 2

 

---

 

 

 

          Topic II, paragraph 1

 

        

 

 

 

          Topic II, paragraph 2

 

        

 

 

 

          Topic II, paragraph 3

 

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         Topic III, paragraph 1

 

        

 

         Topic III, paragraph 2

 

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                  Conclusion

 

       

2+ Paragraphs
per Topic Section

College papers often have 3-5 body sections known as "topic sections" with several paragraphs in each. The left diagram shows a short paper with 3 sects. and 2-3 paragraphs per sect.

The number of paragraphs per sect. may vary a little, but dramatic differences require different organization: e.g., in this diagram, if sect. 2 had 10 paragraphs, it should be divided into more sections; if it had just 1 paragraph, more should be added, or that paragraph should be added to another section.

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TOPIC SHIFTS (with Underlined Subtitles):

 

Title

by Your Name

        Introduction

 

                  This paper is

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

        Xxx 

 

 

 

          Topic I, paragraph 1

 

        

 

 

 

          Topic I, paragraph 2

 

       Yyy 

 

 

 

          Topic II, paragraph 1

 

        

 

 

 

          Topic II, paragraph 2

 

        Zzz 

 

 

 

         Topic III, paragraph 1

 

        

 

 

 

         Topic III, paragraph 2

 

        Conclusion

 

                This paper was

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

         

Section Subtitles

Many disciplines require or allow a subtitle (or an extra space or marker as above) for a new body section. A subtitle stands on a line of its own, and usually is just one or a few underlined words. 

Its content usually is a required word (like "Conclusion"), or it is a key phrase or word from the entire section.  Note: It does not summarize the first paragraph, but rather the entire section.

If subtitles are used, an "Introduction" subtitle may or may not be required. However, a "Conclusion" subtitle almost always is used.

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STARTING & CONCLUDING SENTENCES IN TOPIC SECTIONS:

 

Title

by Your Name

        Introduction

 

                  This paper is

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

       Xxx 

 

Xx xx.

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Xx xx.

       Yyy 

 

Yy yy.

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Yy yy.

        Zzz 

 

Zz zz.

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Zz zz.

        Conclusion

 

                This paper was

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

      

Body Section
Topic Sentences

Each topic section needs an introductory "topic sentence."  This sent. states the subject of the entire section (not just the 1st para-graph). The topic sent. is the first sentence of the first paragraph in the topic section, as shown on the left.

Each section also needs a concluding sent. showing the point, purpose, or result of the entire section (not just of the final paragraph.)

These intro and concluding sentences are powerful organizational tools: they tell readers what you are going to say and what you have said.

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STARTING & CONCLUDING SENTENCES IN PARAGRAPHS:

 

Title

by Your Name

        Introduction

 

                  This paper is

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

       Xxx

 

Xx xx. Aa aa.

 

Aa aa.

        

 

Bb bb.

 

Bb bb.

        

 

Cc cc.

 

Cc cc.  Xx xx.

       Yyy

 

Yy yy. Dd dd.

 

Dd dd.

        

 

Ee ee.

 

Ee ee.

        

 

Ff ff.

 

Ff ff.  Yy yy.

        Zzz

 

Zz zz. Gg gg.

 

Gg gg.

        

 

Hh hh.

 

Hh hh.

        

 

Ii ii.

 

Ii ii.  Zz zz.

        Conclusion

 

                This paper was

 

               about X, Y, and Z.

      

Paragraph-Level
Topic Sentences

Each major paragraph also needs its own topic sentence at its start, and a concluding sentence at its end.  The starting topic sent. for the paragraph should summarize or state what is in just the paragraph. The concluding sent. for the paragraph should state the final point or result of just the paragraph.

This pattern -- two different sets of starting and ending sents. -- may seem repetitious.  However, it gives your readers an easy-to-follow flow of ideas.  Learn this pattern with a light and efficient touch, without repetition. 

        

Conclusion

This chapter has shown you how to organize paragraphs for strong, purposeful expression of your writing ideas.  Remember that you do not at all need to write your initial paragraphs like this.  You can, instead, simply use this paragraphing knowledge in the REVISING stage--the third step of writing--to strongly change how your readers hear your flow of ideas and details.

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B. ORGANIZE

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Chapters:

  7. What Is "Organizing"?

  8. Major Organization

  9. Basic Layouts

10. Typical Section

11. Paragraph Patterns

12. Intros & Conclusions

13. Details & Images

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Additional:

Activities Page

Video

Universal Organizer
                       

                

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 Related Links in
OnlineGrammar.org:

  7. Organizing and Paragraphs

19. Visual & Multimodal Design

                

 

 

Updated 1 Aug.  2013

  

   

 

WritingforCollege.org also is at CollegeWriting.info and WforC.org

Natural URL: www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/CollegeWriting/home.htm
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998; CollegeWriting.info, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
Images courtesy of Barry's Clip Art, Clip Art Warehouse, The Clip Art Universe, Clipart Collection, MS Clip Art Gallery and Design Gallery Live, School Discovery, and Web Clip Art
Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
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