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Writing Great Paragraphs

In our writing great sentences (art of writing a sentence) lesson, we show how to use descriptive words in a sentence to be able to visualize the idea that you are writing. This works great for individual sentences, but in a paragraph, multiple long, descriptive sentences become difficult to read in they are all one after another. It's best to complement long sentences with short ones (or complement short sentences with long ones!)

To illustrate the idea, we'll use the same topic sentence as the sentences lesson: watching a sunrise coming up over mountains while drinking hot chocolate.

Before we get started, we should explain the basics of a paragraph.

Paragraph Basics
We're not going to get into a deep discussion on how long a "real" paragraph should be, what each sentence should do, and the rest of the textbook topics of paragraphs. You can read that in the book you likely already have. Instead, we'll tell you what a good paragraph should actually have:

  • A topic sentence. This is the first sentence of your paragraph. The rest of your paragraph should be related in some way to the first sentence.
  • Supporting sentences. Every sentence after the first one should be related to the first sentence, by providing details, more descriptions, actions, or anything else that may be related.
  • The summary sentence. This isn't quite just repeating everything you just said but in a nice, simple format, but it is close. You don't want to introduce any new, profound information in the last sentence - but you do want to bring the paragraph to a close. There are a couple ways of doing this. (1) You can use a summary statement to restate the major point of the paragraph and give it a slighly different twist to it, or (2) You can wrap up the current paragraph by leading it into the next paragraph. This is called foreshadowing, and it's contrary to some beliefs, it's not reserved for only the end of a chapter of a book leading to the next chapter.
  • That's it! The three things above will have you creating great paragraphs in no time at all.

    Making Our Paragraph
    Let's get started, using a sentence from the sentences lesson:

    While gulping down the last of the hot chocolate, we watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping snow capped mountains with its golden rays. It was going to be a long day, as we had just used the last of our water to make the hot chocolate...

    The first sentence introduces several topics - the last of the hot chocolate was gone, it is in the morning (sun rise), and they're in the mountains. The next sentence actually adds more information to the first sentence, and draws more interest; nobody wants to be without water. Let's see how we can keep this paragraph going (and keeping interest in reading it.)

    While gulping down the last of the hot chocolate, we watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping snow capped mountains with its golden rays. It was going to be a long day, as we had just used the last of our water to make the hot chocolate. We had six miles to hike without any water, and we were sure to be thirsty. But at least we were alive.

    We have established (a) we're out of water, (b) we had a long hike, and (c) the situation could be worse.

    While gulping down the last of the hot chocolate, we watched the firey orange sun rising, enveloping snow capped mountains with its golden rays. It was going to be a long day, as we had just used the last of our water to make the hot chocolate. We had six miles to hike without any water, and we were sure to be thirsty. But at least we were alive. As the sun continued to engulf our campsite with a flood of much-needed warmth, we repacked the only backpack that we still had.

    We continue describing the situation, and continue explaining that something had happened. This helps to keep the reader interested and wanting to continue. There are many ways this paragraph could be completed, but instead, let's take a look at another example. We'll make this example more along the lines of what you may see in a classroom setting.

    Topic Sentence: We were almost ready to go on our hiking trip.
    Supporting Sentences: Greg had been excited about the trip and already had his backpack fully packed days ago. Marsha and I were still packing ours, double checking to make sure we had all the proper gear. After everything was packed, we loaded it into Greg's truck and started the drive to the trailhead.
    Summary Sentence (1): After days of planning, our hiking trip was finally a reality.
    Summary Sentence (2): It wasn't until hours later, as we arrived at the trailhead that we realized that we had forgotten our maps.

    Summary Sentence 1 does a wrap-up of the paragraph, and is fine in its own merit. However, Summary Sentence 2 can lead into the next paragraph, talking about the forgotten maps. And it also wraps up the first sentence, since being almost ready for a hiking trip, and arriving at the trailhead are still related. Either Summary Sentence would work fine and are correct.

    As you can see, writing can be (and is) fun because you can create and express ideas in any way you can possibly imagine...and by putting in one sentence somewhere in a paragraph, you can quickly draw the reader deeper into the world you have created for them. Give it a try!

    Need to cover a couple more topics before writing the next Best Seller? Find another Writing Topic in the Writing Lesson Center!

     

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