Many pupils or students would like to know how to write a good essay in English. There are hundreds of rules you need to follow, and hundreds of hours you must spend mastering the skill. But one thing is certain. If you want to write perfect essays, you should start from writing perfect paragraphs. What are paragraphs? What should they contain?
What Is a Paragraph?
A paragraph is a collection of sentences that develop a single idea. The number of sentences in a paragraph depends on how complex a particular idea is. However, most paragraphs contain between two and ten sentences. Below you will find an example of a paragraph which evolves around the concept expressed by the sentence put in bold: What makes travelling worthwhile is getting to know other people.
This kind of sentence, which summarises the main thought of a piece of writing is called its topic sentence and it is usually found at the very beginning of a paragraph.
Where Can We Find Paragraphs?
A paragraph can be an independent form of writing. For instance, it could constitute an answer to the exam question:
Discuss the importance of physical exercise in a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, paragraphs also form part of longer texts, for example, academic essays, which are
handed in as assignments at universities or colleges, and are meant to be readand assessed by teachers. Our exemplary paragraph quoted below could be included in an essay discussing, for instance, the advantages of travelling. Generally speaking, paragraphs are found in rather formal kinds of texts that also include scientific books or press articles, and they must fulfil a number of specific requirements that we will discuss below.
What Should Each Paragraph Contain?
Each paragraph must necessarily contain the topic sentence, such as the one in bold in our example below. This sentence summarises or conveys the main idea of the whole paragraph. The topic sentenceis followed by a number of supporting sentences whose aim is to develop the principal thought expressed by the topic sentence. Supporting sentences give facts (e. g. statistics), examples or reasons illustrating the point in question. Our exemplary paragraph gives two reasons why travelling leads to broadening our knowledge
about other people: i) we can meet interesting locals on the way and ii) get to know our travelling companions better, too. Finally, most paragraphs contain a concluding sentence, which marks the end of the paragraph and repeats the most important information to be remembered by the reader. In the model paragraph, the concluding sentence is: So, we can see that travelling is valuable because we learn things both about the new people we meet and the people we went with. It shows thereader briefly what they have learned by
reading it. Other common expressions that introduce concluding sentences are, for instance: In conclusion, In summary, Inshort, In brief, Thus, These examples show that, So, we can see that, etc. Concluding sentences may sometimes be skipped in multi-paragraph forms of writing.
What Makes a Good Paragraph?
When you practise writing paragraphs pay special attention to their two principal characteristics. First of all, remember that one paragraph should be devoted to
a single concept and not several distinct ideas. For instance, the example paragraph concentrates on only one positive aspect of travelling, namely, getting to know other people. It does not tell the reader that making journeys broadens our horizons in general, or that it helps us to recharge our batteries. To develop these points, we would need separate paragraphs. This feature of a good paragraph is referred to as unity. Another crucial characteristic of successful paragraphs is their coherence. Coherent writing has a logical and transparent structure. The relationship between particular sentences is signalled by means of appropriate linking expressions. In the ‘travel’ paragraph below the following phrases guide the reader through the text and make it more coherent: therefore, for instance, what is more, for this reason, so, we can see that. In conclusion, creating comprehensiveand coherent paragraphs is a skill worth mastering. It is the first step to successfully create academic essays of various types, for example, opinion essays, argumentative essays, essays describing people or places, or even different kinds of formal letters. Even if you don’t need to produce those academic texts, dividing any longer piece of writing into paragraphs will make it better structured, more informative and easier to follow for potential readers.