Paragraph Writing

You can find Previous Year Argumentative Essay Topics asked in ICSE board exams.

Paragraph Writing

An essay comprises of a number of paragraphs, each dwelling on a specific idea, logically linked to the subsequent paragraphs. We, need to know WHAT IS A PARAGRAPH?

A paragraph comprises of a series of sentences, with a proper structure and unity, to communicate a specific or main idea. This main idea is expressed in the following three sections of a paragraph:

  • Beginning of a paragraph – Introduce the idea or thought.
  • Middle of a paragraph – Explain the idea.
  • End of a paragraph – Restate your points again before making a transition to the next paragraph.

Here is a paragraph taken from an essay on ‘Strategies required for an overall improvement of student performance’.

Students require more recreational time in order to better focus on lessons in class. In fact, studies have shown that students who enjoy a recess of more than 45 minutes consistently score better on tests immediately following the recess period. Clinical analysis further suggests that physical exercise greatly improves the ability to focus on academic materials. Longer periods of recess are clearly required to allow students the best possible chances of success in their studies. Clearly, physical exercise is just one of the necessary ingredients for improving student scores on standardised tests.

We see four types of sentences used to construct the above paragraph:

1. Topic sentence
A sentence that states the idea, point, or opinion. It uses a strong verb and makes a bold statement.
For example: Students require more recreational time in order to better focus on lessons in class.

NOTE: The strong verb ‘require’ which is a call to action. A weaker form of this sentence might be: I think students probably need more recreational time. This weaker form is inappropriate for a topic sentence.

A topic sentence thus unifies the content of the paragraph directing the order of the sentences.

2. Supporting sentences
Supporting sentences provide explanations, and support the topic sentence (main idea) of the paragraph.

Thus in the above example the supporting sentences are :

‘In fact, studies have shown that students who enjoy a recess of more than 45 minutes consistently score better on tests immediately following the recess period. Clinical analysis further suggests that physical exercise greatly improves the ability to focus on academic materials.’

NOTE: The supporting sentences here provide the evidence for your topic sentence. Supporting sentences that include facts, statistics and logical reasoning are more convincing than simple statement of opinion.

3. Concluding sentence
The concluding sentence restates the main idea (found in the topic sentence) and reinforces the point or opinion. The concluding sentence in the above example:

‘Longer periods of recess are clearly required to allow students the best possible chances of success in their studies.’

NOTE: Concluding sentences repeat the main idea of your paragraph in different words.

4. Transitional sentence
The transitional sentence prepares the reader for the following paragraph.
The transitional sentence in the above example:

‘Clearly, physical exercise is just one of the necessary ingredients for improving student scores on standardised tests.’

NOTE: Transitional sentences help the readers to understand the connection between the current main idea, point or opinion and the main idea of the next paragraph. In the above paragraph the phrase ‘just one of the necessary ingredients.’ prepares the reader for the next paragraph.

Essential qualities of a good paragraph
A good paragraph should have the following:

  • Unity
  • Coherence
  • Variety

UNITY
This implies that all sentences in the paragraph are logically connected to the central idea or the topic sentence. This gives unity to the entire passage. Making it easy to comprehend. This principle of unity is illustrated in the following paragraph. (The words in italics represent the topic sentence or central idea)

‘Leadership, in general, means leadership in thought as well as in action. In the long run, leaders in thought may make the greater or lasting difference to the world. But, as Woodrow Wilson once said, “Those only are leaders of men, in the general eye, who lead in action. It is at their hands that new thought gets its translation into the crude language of deeds”. Leaders in thought often invent in solitude and obscurity, leaving to later generations the tasks of imitation. Leaders in action have to be effective in their own time’

COHERENCE
This is a logical and meaningful arrangement of ideas in a paragraph, 10 effectively communicate the central idea. This arrangement can be in chronological order of their occurrence, or their importance. The sentences need to be connected with each other by

  1. Using transitional words and phrases: They help in connecting the sentences, so that they flow smoothly from one to the other making it coherent. Such transitional words are also called Linkers. They link the sense of one sentence to another. This is done by using words like notwithstanding, however, nevertheless, in addition to, consequently, finally, lastly, indeed, as a result of, in spite of, in contrast to etc. Or,
  2. Using pronouns to link one sentence to another.
    The use of transitional words and pronouns, to connect one sentence to another, ensures smooth flow, which elucidates the composition.
    The principle of coherence is well illustrated in the very next paragraph of the above composition.
An effective leader cannot be effective in isolation. He must act in response to the rhythms of his times. His genius must be adapted to the receptivity of the moment. A leader is useless without followers. ‘‘There goes the mob, ” said the French politician hearing a clamour in the streets. “I am their leader. I must follow them. ” Great leaders turn the inchoate emotions of the mob to purposes of their own’

VARIETY

A composition can be made interesting by adding variety, which motivates the reader to read on. This can be done effectively by using both short and long sentences, with appropriate words to forcefully bring out the central idea. Repetition of idea or words, make the composition monotonous and dull. This is illustrated in the subsequent paragraph of the above composition.

‘They seize the opportunities of their time. The hopes, fears, frustrations, crises and potentialities. They succeed when events have prepared the way for them, when the community is waiting to be aroused, when they can provide the clarifying and organising ideas. Leadership ignites the circuit between the individual and the mass and thereby alters history. Leaders have been responsible for the most extravagant follies and most monstrous crimes that have beset suffering humanity. They have also been instrumental in such gains as humanity has made in individual freedom, religious and racial tolerance, social justice and respect for human rights.’

In the above example you would observe the following:

  • The topic sentence or central idea (in italics) in the paragraph is logically supported by other sentences in the paragraph.
  • The specific idea of the first paragraph smoothly flows on to the next idea in the second and then the third paragraph

Thus not only sentences in a paragraph should flow smoothly, but their transition to the next paragraph should also be smooth. This elucidates the composition making it instantly appealing.

To write a good paragraph you should therefore:

  • first identify the central theme (idea) that you want to communicate
  • choose the topic sentence or the first sentence that effectively communicates the central idea.
  • arrange the other related ideas around the topic sentence logically.
  • lastly write out the paragraph following the above principles of unity, coherence and variety.