Introduction to Chapter 10
In this chapter, you will learn about structuring paragraphs in a clear and logical way. These skills will enable you to look at ways that your own writing can be improved.
10.1 Paragraph Structure
Watch this video to get an overview of paragraph structure:
10.2 The Topic Sentence
Paragraphs contain three main parts: a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.
A topic sentence contains the topic and an opinion, or controlling idea. It is often, but not always, the first sentence of the paragraph. Paragraphs that begin with the topic sentence move from the general to the specific. They open with a general statement about a subject (and then discuss specific examples).
10.3 Supporting Sentences
If you think of a paragraph as a hamburger, the supporting sentences are the meat inside the bun. They make up the body of the paragraph by explaining, proving, or enhancing the controlling idea in the topic sentence. Most paragraphs contain at least three to six supporting sentences. However, a paragraph may contain any number of sentences, depending on the topic, audience, and purpose for writing.
The type of supporting sentence you choose will depend on what you are writing and why you are writing. For example, if you are attempting to persuade your audience to take a particular position you should rely on facts, statistics, and concrete examples, rather than personal opinions. Read the following example:
To find information for your supporting sentences, you might consider using one of the following sources:
- Your experiences
- Reference book
10.4 Concluding Sentences
An effective concluding sentence draws together all the ideas you have raised in your paragraph. It reminds readers of the main point—the topic sentence—without restating it in exactly the same words. Using the hamburger example, the top bun (the topic sentence) and the bottom bun (the concluding sentence) are very similar. They frame the “meat” or body of the paragraph. Compare the topic sentence and concluding sentence from the previous example:
Topic sentence: There are numerous advantages to owning a hybrid car.
Concluding sentence: Given the low running costs and environmental benefits of owning a hybrid car, it is likely that many more people will follow Alex’s example in the near future.
Notice the use of the synonyms advantages and benefits. The concluding sentence reiterates the idea that owning a hybrid is advantageous without using the exact same words. It also summarizes two examples of the advantages covered in the supporting sentences: low running costs and environmental benefits.
You should avoid introducing any new ideas into your concluding sentence. A conclusion is intended to provide the reader with a sense of completion. Introducing a subject that is not covered in the paragraph may confuse the reader and weaken your writing.
Licenses and Attributions
- Introduction to Chapter 10 was authored by: Pamela Herrington-Moriarty. License: CC BY-NC 4.0
CC Licensed Content, Shared Previously:
- Sections Introduction to Chapter 10 and section 10.1 – 10.4 were adapted from “Paragraph structure” by University of Leicester licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike; and The Saylor Foundation. (2013), Writing for success licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License; and “Paragraph Structure” by Otago Polytechnic
- “Paragraph Structure” by Smrt English