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The 3 Cs of Effective Paragraphs


Every well-written paragraph needs three parts: context, content, and conclusion. These three parts are known collectively as the 3 Cs. When you use the 3 Cs, you present information logically, you help the reader understand your message, and you demonstrate the relevance of your idea.

Context. The first sentence (or two) of a paragraph establishes the context. The context has two purposes:

1.   Reveal the single idea that will be discussed, and

2.   Demonstrate how the idea relates to the previously discussed idea.

To establish context, first determine the single idea you will discuss next. The first sentence (or two) presents that idea. Second, think about the logical connections between the idea and the previous idea. The first sentence (or two) provides the transition from one idea to the next by demonstrating those connections. Example B1 illustrates how context is established.

Example B.1:

[final sentence of a paragraph about nurses’ responsibilities] When nurses fully understand these duties, they can interact as a team to improve patient well-being.
[first sentence, i.e., context, of the next paragraph] A patient may have many needs that a single nurse, or other healthcare provider, cannot address alone.

In example B.1, the first sentence of paragraph two establishes the context for the paragraph that follows. First, it reveals the main idea: patients have multiple needs. Second, it shows the relevance of the main idea to the previous idea. It does this by echoing words or concepts found in the final sentence of the previous paragraph. Here, the first sentence of paragraph two contains the words patient, needs, and single nurse. These words relate to patient, well-being, and team (of nurses) in the final sentence of paragraph one. As a result, the reader will know what to expect from the paragraph, will be able to make sense of the information to follow, and will understand its relevance within the logical flow of ideas. Continue reading

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