Once you have a solid outline, writing your paper becomes much simpler. Instead of having to wrack your brain for ideas, you simply write the paragraphs indicated by your outline. Since you’ve already thought through the best organization for your argument and made sure to include all the necessary components, you can proceed with confidence knowing that your paper will be well-organized.
Here are some tips for writing good paragraphs:
Begin with a Topic Sentence
Each paragraph needs to start with a topic sentence that includes an introduction, a transition, or a combination of the two. The topic sentence is, in essence, a one-sentence summary of the point of the paragraph. The first sentence of a paragraph always has to help a reader move smoothly from the last paragraph. Sometimes two paragraphs are close enough in content that a transition can be implied without actually using transition words. Other times, specific transitions are needed. When no transition is used, an introductory sentence is needed so the reader knows what is going on. If a transition sentence is used, it is logical to follow it with an introductory sentence or to have one joint sentence.
Here are some examples:
- A transition sentence: Canned goods are not the only delicious foods available at a farmers’ market.
- An introductory sentence: Farmers’ markets feature a wide variety of fresh produce.
- A transition/introductory combination sentence: Along with canned goods, farmers’ markets also feature whatever produce is fresh that week.
Stick to One Main Idea Per Paragraph
By definition, all sentences in the paragraph should relate to one main idea. The main idea should be clear and obvious to readers and is typically presented within the topic sentence. If another main idea comes up as you are drafting a paragraph, it is time to go back to your outline to see where that idea fits in. If in revising a draft you notice that a paragraph has wandered into another main idea, you should consider splitting it into two paragraphs. The topic sentence is often the first sentence in a paragraph, but it does not have to be located there.
Supporting the Topic Sentence
The other sentences in the paragraph should present details that clarify and support the topic sentence. Together, all the sentences within the paragraph should flow smoothly so that readers can easily grasp its meaning.
When you choose sentences and ideas to support the topic sentence, keep in mind that paragraphs should not be overly long or overly short. A half page of double-spaced text is a nice average length for a paragraph. At a minimum, unless you are aiming for a dramatic effect, a paragraph should include at least three sentences. Although there is really no maximum size for a paragraph, keep in mind that lengthy paragraphs create confusion and reading difficulty. For this reason, try to keep all paragraphs to no more than one double-spaced page (or approximately 250 words).
Don’t Forget to Wrap it Up!
Each paragraph needs a final sentence that lets the reader know that the idea is finished and it is time to move onto a new paragraph and a new idea. A common way to close a paragraph is to reiterate the purpose of the paragraph in a way that shows the purpose has been met.