A paragraph is a group of sentences that all pertain to the same core concept or topic. A topic phrase, unity, coherence, and proper development are the four key qualities of effective paragraphs. Each of these qualities is addressed in more detail below.
The first thing to understand about a paragraph outline is that it is not meant to be read as a list. It does not specify each sentence in turn; instead it identifies the main idea of each section and then describes how subsequent sentences relate to this idea. The second thing to understand about a paragraph outline is that it does not describe every sentence in the text. Rather, it focuses on major themes that run through the work like a thread. These threads can be physical objects (such as chains) or abstract concepts (such as goals). By identifying important threads in the text, the outline helps readers see the connection between sections and promotes cohesion within the work as a whole.
Here is an example of a paragraph outline from George Orwell's 1984:
MARX ARRIVES IN OCEANIA - CRITICAL ECONOMIC SITUATION - NEW POLITICAL SYSTEM IS INSTALLED
Marx arrives in Oceania at a crucial moment when the economic situation is very bad. Under the new political system anyone who argues for change becomes an enemy of the state.
A good paragraph has three key parts: a subject sentence, a body, and a conclusion sentence. A subject sentence is frequently the first sentence in a paragraph. It states the main idea or topic of the paragraph. A body consists of one or more sentences that support or explain the subject sentence. It can be as long as you like. A conclusion sentence usually repeats some part of the subject and provides a summary of the information in the paragraph. It can also be the first sentence of the next paragraph.
These are the three main parts of a paragraph. There are other elements that help define a good paragraph, such as adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives describe qualities of people, places, and things. They often begin with a capital letter and end with a noun (e.g., "beautiful woman"). Adverbs indicate how, when, and where something happens. They often start with a verb (e.g., "quickly") and end with a noun (e.g., "quickly run").
In addition to these two types of words, paragraphs usually contain several other elements including quotations, questions, problems, suggestions, facts, and stories. A quotation is a word or phrase that is taken directly from a text source. A question starts with a question mark. Problems are statements or claims that need proof.
A paragraph is made up of three parts: a theme sentence, supporting sentences, and a conclusion sentence. 1. The topic or emphasis of the paragraph is conveyed in the topic phrase (which is generally the initial sentence). This sentence sets the stage for what will follow and often includes information about time, place, and manner. 2. The supporting sentences provide evidence that help explain or illustrate the topic sentence. They do this by describing aspects of the topic not mentioned in the topic sentence or by giving examples. 3. The conclusion sentence wraps up the paragraph by restating the topic sentence or providing a summary of what has been said so far.
4. Paragraphs are usually followed by blank lines (i.e., lines containing only spaces) or punctuation marks. A full stop (period) goes at the end of a sentence and signals the reader to pause and consider the comment left by that sentence. An exclamation mark calls attention to a statement which contains information not readily apparent from just reading the topic sentence; it gives readers reason to go further into the essay. A question mark asks readers to think about something mentioned but not explained earlier in the essay. An opening bracket ("[" and ""]") indicates that what follows is an explanation or example used to support or clarify the topic sentence. A closing bracket ("") signals that what precedes it is now being returned to for further discussion or consideration.
An successful paragraph should always include the following four elements: unity, coherence, a topic sentence, and enough development. A paragraph must focus primarily on a single topic, issue, or argument that is being explored in order to preserve a feeling of unity. Each element of the paragraph must contribute to this overall effect.
Paragraphs are the basic building block of prose. In simple terms, a paragraph is a group of sentences that relate to the same topic or idea. Although there is no strict definition of a paragraph, most writers agree that it contains at least three sentences and that each new subject introduced by a quotation mark, illustration, or question mark starts a new paragraph. Some editors add a line space after each quotation mark or question mark to indicate that these words start a new paragraph.
The purpose of using paragraphs is two-fold: first, they provide a structure within which to arrange information; second, they can help guide the reader through an article or book by signaling the end of one topic and the beginning of another. While some topics may require only a few sentences to describe them, others may need several paragraphs without repeating any content but focusing on different aspects of the topic—for example, explaining how something works with diagrams or examples, or discussing different perspectives on an issue.
When writing an essay, article, or book chapter, you will usually need to use a variety of paragraph styles.