How to Write Strong Paragraphs
Tips and ideas on writing strong paragraphs
1. Less means more. Often, students who are just beginning to master the art of writing, and writing academic texts, in particular, cannot avoid doing the same kind of mistake – intuitively they think that more content means better grades, therefore they tend to write too long paragraphs. The biggest problem with long paragraphs is that readers quickly lose focus and get tired. This is especially true when several conflicting ideas are packed into a single paragraph. Thus, when learning to write strong paragraphs, one should aim to make brief paragraphs and place a maximum of one idea or fact into a single paragraph.
2. The structure is the key. A strong paragraph follows the same structural logic as an essay: it has the beginning, the middle part (the main body), and the conclusion. Let’s talk about each of the building blocks of a strong paragraph separately:
a) The beginning – the topic sentence. Think of the topic sentence as a thesis statement in your essay. It is the key idea, fact, assumption, or suggestion, which sets the tone for and defines your entire paragraph. Aim to write the topic sentence as early as possible, ideally as the very first sentence of your paragraph. Make it clear and brief, just as you do with the paragraph itself. If you need to mention several topic sentences in your essay, try to place each one of them into a separate paragraph. Also, an important recommendation is to directly link your topic sentence to the topic or thesis statement of your essay.
b) The backbone – the supporting sentences. Approximately the middle part of your paragraph should be devoted to supporting sentences – the ones that pinpoint your topic sentence. Supporting sentences explain, specify, justify, argue, and prove. Whatever your topic sentence is, the supporting sentence should convince your readers of your point of view, as well as explain and justify your position. Ideally, there should be several supporting sentences, which must be linked to each other and follow the same storyline (logic).
c) The finale – the conclusion. The very last sentence of a strong paragraph should summarize and conclude its entire contents. The best practice is to make the conclusion crisp and easy to understand. Often, it is required to make a smooth transition to the next paragraph, in which case the conclusive sentence should be your transition sentence.
3) Make a new paragraph if you have something to add. Often, students tend to talk too much in classes – the tactic that is frequently rewarded by professors. The underlying assumption is that if one talks too much, they must know more than others. This is a big mistake, which often gets extrapolated to written academic texts. Inexperienced students write long texts and tend to never finish a paragraph. The golden rule of a strong academic text is to separate content by using white space in a smart way. Instead of stockpiling everything into a single paragraph, students should make several independent paragraphs. It is always better to have 5-7 brief and crisp paragraphs, each devoted to a single thought, than to have 1-2 huge pieces of text separated by a single white space.
4) Use connecting words or transition words. Transition words and phrases are useful not only as building blocks for an academic text as a whole, but also as a sort of glue for patching separate sentences within a paragraph together. One should avoid repeating the same kind of transition word in a single paragraph or an entire text. Knowing and feeling when to use transition words will help you to make strong paragraphs. Examples of transition words and phrases include: “therefore”, “hence”, “thus”, “nevertheless”, “meanwhile”, “as a matter of fact”, “to make a long story short”, “in the end”, etc.
5) Consistency makes perfect. Many would agree that reading a badly formatted text significantly damages the overall impression and assessment of an academic paper. This is also so true for when we format paragraphs. Aim to use a unified font and line spacing throughout your paragraphs. The same refers to the spacing between paragraphs themselves. It is never a bad idea to check the entire paper for consistency of its paragraphs once the first draft is ready. To do this, select all text in your document and see if it contains the same font size and style throughout. Bullet points and structural lists are also part of this rule.