Don’t roll your eyes. Writing a paragraph━or, paragraphing, as it is apparently called━isn’t as simple as it may seem. Sure, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end; that’s easy. But we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty: we’re talking paragraph sentences, transitions, and types (oh, my!).
There are a few different types of paragraphs one can write, and we’ll get into that. Just know that no matter what type of paragraph you are writing, the action you are undertaking is called paragraphing.
The above section (starting with “A paragraph” and ending with “...called paragraphing”) is a whole paragraph. Congratulations, you just learned your first paragraph-writing lesson.
What is a paragraph?
A paragraph is a section of text that pertains to a single theme and is designated by an indent or a line break. Paragraphs are at least one sentence long and are usually one part of a larger whole.
Visually, a paragraph is a "chunk" of text on a page with space above and below. Each one contains a point or idea that should connect to the paragraphs around it.
How to Write a Paragraph
Let’s dive right into paragraph structure. A basic paragraph has five sentences: one topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and one concluding sentence.
The first sentence, or topic sentence, introduces the main idea that will be presented in the paragraph; the supporting sentences dissect and support the main idea, sometimes with statistics or hard evidence; and the concluding sentence answers the question, “So what?”
How Long is a Paragraph?
You’re not off the hook yet. We just discussed the structure of a basic paragraph, which includes 3 types of sentences. However, not all paragraphs will be 5 sentences long, and many paragraphs will utilize a myriad of different sentence types.
Okay, you might be wondering, then how many sentences are in a paragraph? Well, it depends. Technically, a paragraph can be one sentence long, or it can be over seven sentences long.
Some people argue that a paragraph should be measured by its ideas and not its sentence lengths, but a good general rule of thumb is to keep your paragraphs between 3 to 5 sentences long. This ensures that you are brief but still thorough in your writing.
Because there are technically no hard-and-fast rules to how long a paragraph should be, it is ultimately up to you, the writer. How many sentences are in one paragraph should depend on how well you convey information, and this number of sentences will vary from paragraph to paragraph. Don’t sweat it!
Types of Paragraphs
The types of paragraphs that exist are very similar to the types of sentences we just discussed.
There is the introduction paragraph, which establishes the argument or main idea of your body of work; there are body paragraphs, which function similarly to supporting sentences in that they explain the main idea and contain the bulk of the essay; and then there is the concluding paragraph, which summarizes the main points of the essay, offers a solution to the problem presented, or wraps up an argumentative stance.
How to Write an Introduction Paragraph
For whatever reason, introduction paragraphs tend to give people a lot of unnecessary trouble during the writing process. The blank page can surely be intimidating, so let’s break it down step-by-step.
- Start with a hook. A hook is an attention-grabbing first sentence that ties in with the main topic of the text. A good hook will capture the reader and they won’t be able to look away.
Example: Dogs should be allowed to eat homework.
2. Write 2-3 sentences that will ease your reader into the main idea that you are trying to get across in your writing.
Example: The way we monitor our canines’ consumption of paper goods is restrictive to both the pets and their owners. Homework is not something people generally enjoy, so there is no problem in letting dogs chew on some take-home tests.
3. Finish with your thesis statement. Your thesis is the basis/central idea for the entire essay, so it must be specific. Take a stance on your topic and support it with around three ideas that will become the main arguing points in your essay.
Example: The world would be a better place if we encouraged dogs to eat homework because kids would be happier, teachers wouldn’t have to grade papers, and the dogs would be getting treats.
How to Write a Body Paragraph
The body paragraphs are the most basic paragraphs in your essay, sentence-wise.
For a body paragraph, you can pretty closely follow the basic paragraph structure of a topic sentence, 2-3 supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. If you have three supporting points in your thesis, you should have three body paragraphs━one for each.
How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph
Conclusion paragraphs can be structured in the exact opposite way as the introduction paragraphs. Using a paraphrasing tool will help you to reword your initial ideas to fit a conclusion.
- Rewrite the hook into a topic sentence. This will pull the reader back to the beginning of the text, and help them to understand how everything in the essay connects.
Example: We should not ban dogs from eating our homework.
2. Briefly summarize the points you made in your essay. These will likely mirror the three points you made in your thesis statement.
Example: The rate of childhood happiness increases when the amount of homework given to kids decreases. Additionally, teachers are less stressed out when they don’t have to bring work home. Our four-legged friends will surely appreciate the papery snacks we feed them.
3. Finish with a strong last sentence. Appeal to emotions, use strong language, and make your mark.
Example: We could achieve world peace if we let our dogs eat our homework.
Because starting at the beginning always makes the most sense, let’s talk about transition words to start a paragraph.
Depending on what type of paragraph you are writing, the transition words will change. Because an introduction paragraph comes first in a paper, it does not need a beginning transition sentence. However, each subsequent paragraph will need to start with one in order to bridge between itself and the previous paragraph. Usually a transition word at the beginning of a paragraph will indicate the introduction of a new idea.
Here are some transition words and phrases to start a paragraph:
- First; second; third; etc
- For example
- As well as
The transition words that come between paragraphs are usually tacked on to the end of the preceding paragraph. So, in this case, the introduction paragraph would have a transition word or phrase, but the conclusion would not have a transition word at the end. A transition word between paragraphs will usually assist in wrapping up a particular idea.
Here are some transition words and phrases for between paragraphs:
- Equally important
- And then
Final Thoughts on Paragraphing
Paragraphing is a delicate art, we know. But with a little time and patience, you’ll quickly become the pro you’ve always thought you were. The power to write paragraphs is within you.
Remember: lead with a hook, make your transitions count, and leave the reader contemplating life with your powerful conclusion. Happy paragraphing!