Tag Archives: paragraphs

Making Long Paragraphs Work

writingParagraph quality is not determined by its length, long or short. Rather, quality is determined by how well the paragraph communicates a single idea. Long paragraphs, however, can be difficult simply because they are long.

The following 2 strategies will help you write long paragraphs that work.

Day 137: Use topic chains to create cohesive paragraphs.

If you write a long paragraph (more than 4 or 5 sentences), how do you keep focused on the topic? How do you keep the reader aware of the main idea being discussed?

You do this with topic chains. A topic chain is basically a series of words and phrases that refer to the main idea. In most cases when you use a topic chain, each sentence will have one or more words that refer to the idea. If this is not possible with a particular sentence, you may need to consider whether or not that sentence belongs in the paragraph. Consider this paragraph from a proposal for state authorization to provide after school services to at-risk children. Continue reading


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Building Better Paragraphs

One paragraph = one central idea.

All writing requires both creative thinking and technical proficiency. On the far technical side, you have the mechanics of writing, such as knowing how to apply punctuation and grammar rules. On the far creative side, you have the development of ideas and new story lines. Combining these two into a written form that deeply engages your reader and effectively communicates your thoughts requires both sides. This synergy between creativity and technicality is most apparent in the paragraph. Regardless of the type of writing you produce, you have to pay attention to your paragraphs.

1. Basic Paragraph Components

Let’s think about the two basic components of all paragraphs and then examine how we may use them for effective writing.

a. The idea: One paragraph = one central idea. Has someone ever said to you, “Hey, you’ve got a good point there”? Well, that’s what your paragraph does. It makes a point, one point, which is the central idea of the paragraph. You might think of it as the purpose for the paragraph. That one point of a paragraph may be supported by several other ideas, and the paragraph, itself, may be written to support a broader idea, but its purpose remains the same. It stands alone as the vehicle to express one complete idea to the reader. Continue reading

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Ending Paragraphs at the Right Place

Hmmm. Is that the right paragraph length?

Although paragraph structure challenges writers, it is essential not only to help organize the content logically but also to keep the reader interested to the end of the document. On the other hand, if paragraphs are not structured well, the reader will have difficulty understanding the ideas being presented and will be unlikely to respond as you wish.

You need to know when to break the paragraph. Two of the most common problems I encounter when editing academic papers are paragraphs that are incomplete and paragraphs that are too expansive. While editing a graduate student’s paper recently, I came across a paragraph that was nearly 1.5 pages long. That, alone, is not a problem. A paragraph can be quite long, or quite short, and still accomplish its purpose—but only if it follows two essential principles.

1. A paragraph discusses one, and only one, idea.
2. A paragraph provides a transition to the next idea. Continue reading

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