Knowledge of Language

Paragraphs

A paragraph is a section of text, usually consisting of several sentences, which addresses a particular topic or aspect of a subject. A paragraph may occasionally be one sentence - or even one word long - to make a particular effect. 

One way to decide if a paragraph is needed is to consider if there is a change in time or place in the passage, or if different people are introduced.

If a written text is clearly about different aspects of a subject, it is clear where there needs to be a new paragraph. See Example one: Dogs for this. Here each paragraph is about a different way in which dogs can support humans. Example one also shows how to use an introduction, a topic sentence, links and a conclusion.

It is harder to decide where a paragraph goes where the text is all about the same subject, but is still long enough to divide up into paragraphs. See Example two: The Olympic Games.

Layout

In a handwritten text each paragraph should be indented. This means that the first line should not be right against the margin but should start a short space in from it. In a word-processed text it is normal to show a new paragraph by pressing 'return' or 'enter' twice to leave a space between the lines.

The structure of a written text

A long piece of text will generally start with an introduction, which will be a paragraph by itself. The main part of the text will be divided into several paragraphs. It will end with a conclusion which will be one paragraph.

Introduction

This paragraph will state the main point or purpose of the text.

It should:
  • be clear about the main focus of the text
  • give some indication of how this main focus will be addressed, eg it might give a very brief breakdown of what will be covered in each section.
It should not:
  • give any specific detail
  • use quotations
  • make a personal statement such as, 'I am going to write about...'
  • use the words, 'This essay', eg 'This essay is going to be about...'

Main body

Structure of a paragraph

  • Each paragraph should normally contain a topic sentence which will make clear what the main point of the paragraph is. It will often, though not always, be the first sentence of the paragraph. This sentence should not say ‘This paragraph will be about.’
  • The paragraph will give details, eg facts and figures, quotations, evidence, examples.
  • Good writers will link their paragraphs to each other.

Conclusion

This paragraph will bring together or sum up the main points of the text.

It should:
  • be fairly short
  • be clear about the main result(s), finding(s), idea(s) conclusion(s).
It should not:
  • add any new information
  • repeat exactly the same words as the introduction.

Linking

Linking words and phrases

There are different sorts of links.

Links to show that additional information is coming up:
  • In addition...
  • Moreover...
  • Another...
  • Furthermore...
  • As well as this...
  • Also...

Avoid using also to start a sentence. It’s not grammatically wrong but an unsophisticated link. Use it later in the sentence (eg They also think...) but do not overuse it as a link.

Links to show that an opposite point of view or a turning point is coming up:

  • In spite of this...
  • Nevertheless...
  • Notwithstanding...
  • However...
  • Yet...
Links to show that a summary or conclusion is coming up:
  • In conclusion...
  • Consequently...
  • Therefore...
  • In summary...
  • Because of all this...

Other information

Paragraphs which are one sentence or one word long

These would normally be used in creative or personal writing or occasionally in discursive writing, but not in functional writing.

The purpose of a one-word or one-sentence paragraph is to make it stand out dramatically.

Types of writing

  • Creative writing means a fictional piece like a story, a novel or a play.
  • Personal writing is about something that has actually happened to the writer.
  • Discursive writing is where the writer explores opinions about an issue.
  • Functional writing gives information, including reports and summaries.