Writing a (Body) paragraph Created by Yang Ying
Example of a paragraph The biggest change in job-hunting these days is the use of the Internet. A job seeker can reply to a “Help Wanted” notice on a company’s Website. This person can also post his or her resume (page with information about education and work experience) on one – or many – of the online job boards. If a company is interested, the person still has to take the next step the old-fashioned way – actually go to the job interview and perhaps take a skills test. However, even this might soon change. In the near future, companies will be able to give the person a skills test and check his or her background (job history and education) online. But what about the interview? Companies will soon be able to interview the person by video link, so people can interview for jobs in other cities – or even other countries – without leaving home. Clearly, job hunting is not what it used to be.
Components in a Paragraph • Topic sentence • Support • Concluding sentence (optional)
Topic sentence • What is a topic sentence? The main idea sentence The most general and most important sentence of the paragraph • What does a topic sentence contain? the topic: what the paragraph is about the controlling idea: the writer’s attitude or idea about the topic • Why is a topic sentence important?
Examples of Topic sentences • The recent improvement in the American economy can be seen in the revival of the housing industries. • One way to cope with stress is to engage yourself in new activities. • After a large star cools and collapses, a black hole is formed in space.
Criteria for a Good Topic Sentence Shows an opinion rather than a fact • You can get a McDonald’s Cheeseburger for only S$2. (This is a fact) • One factor that contributes to the success of McDonald’s is low price.
Criteria for a Good Topic Sentence Indicates the focus of the body paragraph • Dogs are better than cats. (Too broad) • Dogs make better pets than cats. • Better: Dogs make better pets than cats because of their well-known quality of loyalty to their owners.
Criteria for a Good Topic Sentence Gives one main idea • Successful entrepreneurs are passionate and resourceful. (Two ideas) • Successful entrepreneurs are passionate. • Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful.
Criteria for a Good Topic Sentence States the writer’s opinion in an objective way • I think smoking causes cancer. (“I think”/ “I like” is difficult to develop) • Smoking should be banned because it is hazardous to human health.
Practice • Identify the topic and controlling ideas in the following topic sentences 1) Parents can help their children be successful in school by encouraging them. 2) The Internet is a very useful tool for college students. 3) Using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. 4) Watching TV is a good way to learn spoken English.
Using support • The importance of using support • Types of support • Personal experiences • Examples • Facts & details • Research results • Quotations • Numbers and figures
Paragraph Example Going to college can be expensive. Everyone knows that tuition and room and board can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 per term, but there are other expenses that make going to college even more expensive. For instance, books typically cost between $200 and $400 each term. Supplies, too, are not cheap, for as any student knows, paper, notebooks, writing utensils, and the many other supplies needed usually cost more at the college bookstore than at a local discount department store. For instance, a package of notepaper costing $1 at a discount store might cost $2 at a college bookstore. In addition, there are all kinds of special fees tacked onto the bill at registration time. A student might have to pay a $30 insurance fee, a $15 activity fee, a $10 fee to the student government association, and anywhere from $20 to $100 for parking. If a student decides to add or drop a course after registration, this is yet another fee. The fees never seem to end. Taken from: Ruetten, M.K. (2003). Developing Composition Skills: Rhetoric and Grammar (2nd Ed.)Thomson & Heinle.
Paragraph Example The Internet is a very useful tool for college students. For example, students can learn about different cultures. They can have a friend in China and compare cultures using email. As a result, they can understand and appreciate other cultures better. If they have a math problem, they can easily find a tutor or help on the Internet. Students who want to learn a different language can find websites where they can listen to tapes to simulate a teacher. If they have to do a research paper on a specific topic, all they have to do is go to the Internet and they will find the information instantly. The Internet is useful to college students in many ways. Adapted from Ruetten, M.K. (2003). Developing Composition Skills: Rhetoric and Grammar (2nd Ed.)Thomson & Heinle.
Practice • Write two-three sentences of possible support for each of the following topic sentences: 1) Parents can help their children be successful in school by encouraging them. 2) The most obvious reason to recycle waste is to save resources. 3) Using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. 4) Watching TV is a good way to learn spoken English.
Reference answers • Parents can help their children be successful in school by encouraging them. Support: Parents can encourage them to study by buying them story books with pictures… Parents can encourage children to study efficiently by rewarding them when they get an “A”… Parents can … by asking their children to teach them what they have learned.
Reference answers (2) The most obvious reason to recycle waste is to save resources. Support: a. save trees by collecting and recycling old paper b. save aluminum, a limited mineral resource from the earth by recycling aluminum cans
Reference answers • (3) Using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. Support: a. Drivers with one hand on the wheel may not be able to control it. b. Drivers may not hear sounds of other vehicles immediately c. Drivers may not react quickly in an emergency when attention is distracted
Reference answers • (4) Watching TV is a good way to learn spoken English. Support: a. News use current vocabulary and show pictures b. Soap operas and talk shows include conversations c. TV shows and commercials often show speakers’ faces up close.
The Concluding sentence (1) T: The biggest change in job-hunting these days is the use of the Internet. C: Clearly, job hunting is not what it used to be. (2) T: Going to college can be expensive. C: The fees never seem to end. (3) T: The Internet is a very useful tool for college students. C: The Internet is useful to college students in many ways.
Some common problems • Topic sentence is not written or not effectively written. • Support is not concrete, just restatements of the same idea • Support is only partly relevant or not relevant at all • Too many ideas are covered in a paragraph. • Concluding sentence is on a new point not mentioned in the support.
References • Adapted from: Rooks, G. M. (1999). Paragraph power: communicating ideas through paragraphs. Ruetten, M.K. (2003). Developing Composition Skills: Rhetoric and Grammar (2nd Ed.)Thomson & Heinle. Course notes from ES1000 & ES5000
E-learning The following links contain more explanations for paragraph writing and examples of paragraphs: • http://www2.actden.com/Writ_Den/Tips/paragrap/index.htm • http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/fwalters/para.html • http://howtowriteaparagraph.com/