Saturday, April 13, 2013

Paragraphs and Paragraphing!

Apply principles of usage/conventions to your writing.


Paragraphs are the basic unit of composition, and it is crucial to use paragraphs effectively. Unfortunately, I often teach seniors in high school that still don't know how to use paragraphs. I hope that you do, and that this small usage lesson will serve as a refresher course. But, if you don't use paragraphs effectively, make sure you internalize these concepts.

The following are some basic concepts to think about as you decide where to make paragraph breaks:

There is no law on how short or long a paragraph must be. You should, however, keep the other paragraph guidelines in mind when writing.

A paragraph is a way of signaling to the reader that a single topic is covered in the space of any given paragraph. Inside that paragraph you should typically have a topic sentence with supporting details in other sentences. Ask yourself if you have more than one topic covered in a paragraph. If you do, you should probably divide it accordingly.

Of course, in narrative type writing (writing that tells a story), topics are not necessarily going to be the decision for creating paragraphs. Nevertheless, you should use good judgment regarding the use of paragraphs. One of the benefits of paragraphing in narrative writing is that it gives readers a chance to catch their breath. Think about reading a newspaper. Imagine if there were no paragraphs in any news stories. It would be very cumbersome to read. Newspapers have many short paragraphs for the very reason that it makes it easier for the reader to read.

You will normally start a paragraph with a topic sentence or a transition sentence that ties that paragraph to the previous one.

When you are writing dialogue (people talking to each other), you must have a new paragraph every time the speaker changes. For example:

"Hi, Bob!" yelled Susan.

"Hi, Susan," retorted Bob.

"I can't believe it has been six years since I saw you last. You don't look like you have changed a bit. Where are you living now?" asked Susan.

"In Detroit," replied Bob.

In an essay, you will usually have a paragraph for your introduction, another one for your conclusion, and one for each of the topics that you discuss.

In conclusion, remember that there is no exact set of rules that governs the use of paragraphs, but you should follow these basic guidelines and use good sense when deciding how to break up your writing into paragraphs. Use paragraphs as tools to help you organize your paper and to serve the reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment