Listed here are some rules of thumb to use when paragraphing. As your writing improves, you'll be able to break these "rules" to meet your own needs. Until then, these suggestions can be helpful. Use the following graphics as a tool to organize your paper with one main idea in each box.
Use as many pages and boxes as needed. The determination to make in composing a given paragraph is not the number of sentences or words or letters, but the number of ideas. The rule of thumb — in nonfiction, at least — is that each paragraph should focus on one idea or concept; when you shift to a new idea, shift to a new paragraph.
In fiction, its function is more nebulous: A paragraph is a unit of writing that further develops a story through exposition. However, ideas, as we all know, are slippery things, difficult to package and unlikely to remain in their allotted places. How big or small is an idea?
What about an idea within an idea?
Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Paragraph Development
Where, then, did the various judgments of proper paragraph length come from? They result from well-intentioned but misguided efforts of educators to help students learn the fundamentals of writing. The topic-support-conclusion model one variation of which is named the Schaffer paragraph, after its developer, Jane Schaffer is valid in that it helps developing writers discipline themselves to craft effective persuasive arguments. Opinions easily dissipate if they are not backed up by facts or reasoning. But the form is only that — a mold that can and should be broken once a writer learns how to use it.
And dictating that a paragraph consist of a given number of sentences is an understandable but lazy approach that ensures that student writers provide details before moving on to the next idea but does not teach them why they must hit the number — much like requiring a word count for an essay or report ensures that most students will focus on grasping for quantity rather than striving for quality. There are, of course, practical considerations in determining paragraph length. Similarly, websites are easier to read when paragraphs are brief. Care should be taken, likewise, in book manuscripts to avoid paragraphs that extend for more than half a page.
Writing Your Outline
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Good stuff Mark. Style Guides can be useful, but often seem to lack common sense — your post offers a useful antidote!
How to structure an essay
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- How to write paragraphs people want to read!
- What this handout is about!
- What Points Do You Have to Cover?.
- 4 Guidelines on Paragraph Length.
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Writing Guide: Paragraphs
Reference list vs. Essay body paragraphs After the introduction come the body paragraphs. They usually take up most of the essay.
Point All paragraphs should be focused: they should discuss only one major point. Illustration The largest part of any body paragraph is the illustration, which consists of explanations, supportive evidence and examples. Explanation The explanation should clarify how the reader should interpret your illustrative evidence and also how the paragraph's controlling idea works to support the thesis statement.