Creating Strong Paragraphs


Paragraphs provide an essential way for writers to guide their readers’ understanding. In terms of paragraphs, readers usually have the following expectations:

  • The beginnings and ends of paragraphs contain important guiding information
  • The opening sentence provides direction and lets readers know what the paragraph is about
  • The middle of the paragraph develops what the paragraph is about
  • The end of the paragraph may sum up the paragraph’s contents, bringing the discussion of an idea to a close in anticipation of the paragraph that follows
  • The paragraph “makes sense” as a whole, its words and sentences clearly related
  • The paragraph relates in some clear way to the paragraphs around it

Three important qualities to a successful paragraph:

  1. Unity = it is focused on one main idea
  2. Coherence = its parts are clearly related
  3. Development = the main idea is supported with specifics (details, evidence, interpretation)

The topic sentence:

If you want readers to see your point immediately, open with the topic sentence. Such a strategy can be particularly useful in essay examinations, in memos, or in argumentative writing. The following sentence (italicized) is an example of a topic sentence:

An essential part of happiness is companionship.
This companionship can be seen in relationships of love or friends.

Relating each sentence to the main idea:

The topic sentence announces the main topic of the paragraph (companionship) and comments on it (as an essential part of happiness). The second sentence begins to give examples to develop the topic sentence’s idea (companionship is essential to happiness).

Whether the main idea of a paragraph is stated in a topic sentence or is only implied, you have to make sure each sentence relates or contributes to the main idea. A well-constructed paragraph should fit its details together clearly in a way that readers can easily follow.