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What Makes a Good Paragraph?
A good paragraph is composed of a topic sentence (or key sentence), relevant supporting sentences, and a closing (or transition) sentence. This structure is key to keeping your paragraph focused on the main idea and creating a clear and concise image.
While creative writing does not necessarily follow the traditional paragraph structure, it’s more about scene building and continuing a narrative. Efficient, well-written paragraphs are a staple of good flash fiction and short fiction writing, as short stories need to stay more focused on a central idea. As long as your sentences form cohesive ideas and connect to one another, you can write a good paragraph.
5 Tips for Structuring and Writing Better Paragraphs
Whether you’re writing a short paragraph or a long paragraph, each should follow the same basic rules of structure. While this format is not as rigid when writing fiction as it is for non-fiction, the information or story you craft must logically or sequentially relate to the next paragraph. These elements help the coherency of your body paragraphs, tying them together to unify around an idea, or set up a narrative story.
- Make the first sentence of your topic sentence. The first line of your first paragraph sets up what information is to come as your audience reads on. Even in fiction, the introduction of a paragraph either establishes an idea or scenario or continues one from the paragraph before. Regardless of what format or genre you’re writing for, every good paragraph starts with a central focus that the rest of the paragraph will aim to support.
- Provide support via the middle sentences. These sentences include follow-up information to your key sentence or previous paragraph. Whatever idea you aim to convey, these sentences are where you convince your reader to believe or envision what you do, and give them everything they need to see your point of view.
- Make your last sentence a conclusion or transition. Even if it’s not at the end of the piece, a conclusive sentence can refer to the last line of its own paragraph, which concludes a particular idea or train of thought before moving on to start a new line for the next paragraph. This next paragraph can continue on the same idea, but the ending of each paragraph should briefly summarize the information that was provided before moving on.
- Know when to start a new paragraph. A paragraph break is necessary when starting a new topic, introducing a new speaker, contrasting other POVs or ideas, or providing white space to give readers a pause from a longer paragraph. For example, in a novel, you may start a new paragraph when bringing in a new character, or specify when a different character is speaking, which can help the reader separate action text from dialogue more readily. Paragraph breaks can control the pacing of your writing, and generate particular feelings or moods for your reader. While there is no set amount of sentences required per paragraph, in some instances, a single paragraph may consist of a single sentence, but it is acceptable as long as it supports your central idea, and doesn’t overwhelm your audience with too much information.
- Use transition words. Transition words help tie together separate paragraphs, connecting them to form a coherent idea. Phrases like “in addition” or “moreover” can help readers track your ideas and understand how they relate to each other, making for a smoother, more pleasant reading experience. This is especially useful for essay writers and bloggers, who often focus on a singular idea at a time to share with their audience.
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