Paragraph Development Study Guide
Paragraphs are groups of related sentences that form complete units. They usually support the main ideas of an essay, article, or story; however, every paragraph has an identity and an idea of its own. A paragraph is like a miniature essay. For practice in paragraph development and unity, Section 5 will ask you to identify the best topic sentence for a particular paragraph, find the sentence that best develops a topic, and eliminate the sentence that does not belong. You will also choose the best order for a group of sentences. The guideline below will help you to organize your paragraphs. Paragraphs and essays are similar in structure, so these guidelines can be applied to the organization of an entire essay.
Write a paragraph to explore a single idea using a topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph.
Maintain paragraph unity, the logical development of a single idea in a group of related sentences, by using:
- a consistent organizing strategy. Paragraphs present ideas and group detailed information necessary to develop ideas. Organizing strategies arrange that information into logical and easy-to-anticipate patterns. These patterns can be top to bottom, left to right, near to far, then to now, beginning to ending, general to specific, least important to most important, least familiar to most familiar, or simplest to most complex. Other strategies use stories, descriptions, examples, definitions, categorizations, comparisons and contrasts, or causes and effects to logically organize information. As you become more proficient at writing, you will probably incorporate more than one strategy in a paragraph.
- parallelisms. By arranging sentences in identical patterns, a writer can convey that two different things are equally important. Patterning sentence structure is called parallelism. → Bob quickly ran to the store; Alex also quickly ran to the store. It was a race to see who was faster.
- repeated words or word groups. Repeating words is a tactic similar to parallelism, except that repetition can occur anywhere in a sentence. → Mark persevered in practice. The work was hard—but he persevered. The pain grew intense, but still, he persevered.
- transitional phrases or words to connect sentences and ideas → First, Katie gathered the ingredients. Then she assembled the meal.
Important: Try not to shift a pronoun's case or a verb's tense in a paragraph unless your organizing strategy requires it.
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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