- A paragraph is a group of sentences developing a single main idea.
- A paragraph begins with a topic sentence that identifies the subject of the paragraph and the controlling idea.
- Supporting points provide details, facts, examples, interpretations, etc. that prove the validity of the main idea (as expressed in the topic sentence).
- A paragraph sometimes closes with a concluding sentence, especially when the paragraph is not part of a larger text.
- The paragraph must be focused on just one main idea.
- Everything in the paragraph must be on topic, meaning that every point supports the main idea or argument of the paragraph.
- Paragraphs are usually 6-10 sentences in length or 100-150 words long, though there is no actual rule for paragraph length.
- Paragraphs must be formatted correctly so that the reader recognizes divisions between paragraphs: indent the first sentence!
- The topic sentence expresses the point you want to make about your subject; it can be called the argument.
- The topic sentence should clearly identify the text under discussion.
- The topic sentence, like a thesis statement, should be arguable.
- must not be a factual statement
- must not be a matter of taste
- The topic must be focused so that it is neither too broad nor too narrow.
- The topic sentence must not contain “I”: no “I think,” “I believe,” “in my opinion”
- The topic sentence must not be a question.
- The topic sentence must be a complete sentence.
Exercise: Identify the problem with the following topic sentences. Try to fix them by adding missing elements or changing them as necessary.
- I like to read horror stories.
- The American writer Ernest Hemingway spent several years in Europe.
- In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” what are the symbolic elements?
- John Steinbeck won the Nobel prize for literature.
- This story is really well written.
- In my opinion, Gothic literature is too unrealistic.
- There are many excellent short stories in English.
- The symbolism of the setting in “The Story of an Hour.”
- What makes a short story great?
- Indigenous writers always use a lot of irony.