Revising Paragraphs Help
This lesson on the revision process shows you how to revise paragraphs for more effective organization and transitions. You'll also learn how to strengthen individual paragraphs.
The next step in re-visioning looks at your essay with a stronger lens, examining it at the paragraph level. The first question to ask about paragraphs is also a "big picture" question:
- Are you paragraphs in a logical and effective order?
- Does each paragraph have only one controlling idea?
- Are there effective transitions between ideas?
- Do special paragraphs fulfill their functions?
Once you've addressed this question, you can look at each paragraph individually with the following questions in mind:
Checking Your Organization
If your ideas don't flow logically, they'll be difficult for your reader to follow.Make sure those ideas are placed within the essay in order in which they make sense. Seven organizing principles were discussed in Lessons 6 and 7:
- cause and effect
- spatial order
- order of importance
- comparison and contrast
- problem → solution
As you read your paragraphs checking for organization, consider the following questions:
- What organizing principle holds the essay together? One overlying organizing principle should be clear. If you can't identify one, look carefully at how you presented your ideas. If you haven't used an organizing strategy, chances are your essay will feel disjointed to readers. Think about which strategy makes the most sense for your subject and purpose.
- Is this the most effective organization for your subject and purpose? Once you've identified your organizing principle, consider whether it's the best one for your essay. For example, if you've used the block technique for a comparison and contrast essay, you might consider whether the point-by-point method would work better instead.
- Do any paragraphs or sections disrupt this organizational pattern? If there is a break in your organizational structure, it should not only be intentional, but also serve a legitimate purpose. Perhaps you decided to keep the block comparison and contrast. In one section, though, you slip into the point-by-point mode and compare two items directly. Unless there is a solid reason for the inconsistency, such as making sure that those two items stand out as more significant than the others being compared, change that section to the block technique. Consistency makes your essay easier to read and understand.
Revising Individual Paragraphs
To check the paragraphs that make up your essay, you'll need to examine your writing with a stronger lens than the one you used to for "big-picture" issues. You will be determining whether each paragraph has just one main idea, whether there are adequate transitions between paragraphs, and if your introductory and concluding paragraphs fulfill their distinct purposes.
One Controlling Idea
A paragraph is a group of sentences about one idea. That idea should be stated in a topic sentence, which is typically the first or last line. Topic sentences not only guide your reader, but they also link the sentences in the paragraph together by stating the idea that they all relate to. If you can't locate a topic sentence, should the main idea be stated in one, instead of implied by your examples?
If there is a topic sentence, does each sentence relate to it? In the lying with silence essay, each paragraph contains only one main idea except for the sixth paragraph. Here, the writer describes the lie and its consequences in one paragraph. It would be more effective to dedicate another paragraph to the consequences. The revised paragraphing then looks like this (topic sentences are in bold):
I'm guilty of silent deceptions, too. Last year, I discovered that my friend's boyfriend was seeing someone else. I kept quiet about it because I didn't want to hurt my friend. A few weeks, later, someone else told her about the wo-timing—and I told her I knew about it.
She couldn't believe that I deceived her like that. She felt just as betrayed as if I'd lied to her face about it. Her boyfriend's deception ruined their relationship. My deception destroyed our friendship.
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