Paragraph Development How to write well-organized paragraphs By Jennifer Martin
Our job as writers . . . • To make a clear point. • To back up our point with specific details.
What is a paragraph? A paragraph is a group of related sentences with a single focus (a main point). A well-written paragraph will include a general sentence that expresses the writer’s main point – this is referred to as a topic sentence. To support the topic sentence, the writer will include several major supporting detailsand then minor supporting detailsthat better explain the major supporting details. A writer will connect his/her supporting details with transitionsto help give his/her paragraph coherence. Paragraphs can range in length. In this class, you should strive to write paragraphs no shorter than ten sentences in length.
Typical Paragraph Organization I. Topic sentence II. First major supporting detail • Minor supporting detail • Minor supporting detail III. Second major supporting detail • Minor supporting detail • Minor supporting detail IV. Third major supporting detail • Minor supporting detail • Minor supporting detail V. Concluding sentence
Sample Paragraph Topic Sentence First Major Detail Parents can take several steps to discourage TV watching and encourage reading. For one thing, have only one television set, and place it in the family room. Then, if your child wants privacy, he or she will have to go elsewhere, away from the TV. Secondly, connect reading with eating. Put a bookcase rather than a television in the kitchen, and make sure it is filled with comics, magazines, local newspapers, and so on. Explain that all snacks have to be eaten in the kitchen. Given the fact that most kids can only go a short time without putting food in their mouths, your kids should get a lot of reading done while they’re snacking. Last of all, don’t even dream of putting a television set in a child’s bedroom. You want your kids to fall asleep over books, not glued to a flickering screen. Source: John Langan (2008) Ten Steps to Improving College Reading Skills Second Major Detail Third Major Detail Concluding Sentence
Step 1: Generate Ideas • Know your topic . . . really well. • Know what point you want to make about your topic. (This will become your topic sentence.) • Keep in mind your purpose for writing and who your audience is. • Think of ways to support your point. • Reading about your topic,freewriting, and list making are all good techniques for generating ideas. • Create an outline or a map to organize your ideas.
Step 1: Generating IdeasLet’s practice . . . Let’s say our topic is childhood obesity. There are a lot of questions we have to consider before we can begin drafting our paragraph: • What general point do I want to make about childhood obesity? • What is my purpose for writing this paragraph? • Who is my audience? That is, who will be reading my paragraph? • What details (evidence) do I have to support my point?
Step 1: Generating Ideas Let’s practice . . . LIST-MAKING: high obesity rates in children . . . affects them socially . . . bullying . . . low self-esteem . . . may have long-term health effects . . . diabetes, heart disease . . . obese children may not live as long . . . • What general point do I want to make about childhood obesity? Childhood obesity is a serious problem in America. • What is my purpose for writing this paragraph? To inform my readers of the reasons why childhood obesity is such a big problem. • Who is my audience? That is, who will be reading my paragraph? My professor, classmates, friends, maybe parents. • What details (evidence) do I have to support my point? The ideas I generate from list-making.
Step 2: Organizing IdeasLet’s practice . . . Main idea Major supporting details Minor supporting details
Step 3: Writing a first draft (the rough draft) I can now use the map I created to help me draft my paragraph. Essentially, my map (or outline) is the skeleton of my paragraph.
Step 3: Drafting (Writing the rough draft) Approximate Sentence order 1. 2. 5. 8. 3. 6. 9. 4. 7. 10. 11. Concluding sentence
Step 3: Drafting(writing the rough draft) Start by drafting the topic sentence + = Childhood obesity + it’s a serious problem = Childhood obesity is a serious problem. Childhood obesity is currently a serious problem in America with dire consequences. List phrases: several reasons . . . various factors . . . a number of effects . . . TOPIC MY MAIN POINT TOPIC SENTENCE
Step 3: Drafting(writing the rough draft) After we draft our topic sentence, we want to use transition words to connect our major supporting details. Addition words are especially helpful transitions when we are listing details to support our topic sentence: one, first (of all), for one thing, to begin with, another, also, second, in addition, next, moreover, last of all, finally Childhood obesity is currently a serious problem in America with dire consequences. For one thing, the number of children who are considered overweight or obese has dramatically risen in recent years. In fact, the Center for Disease Control has reported that the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the last twenty years and now a whopping one-out-of-every-three children is considered overweight or obese. Moreover, obese children can face an increased amount of social problems, such as bullying and . . . . Last of all, childhood obesity can lead to long-term health problems . . .
Step 3: Drafting(writing the rough draft) Things to remember when drafting . . . • STAY FOCUSED ON YOUR TOPIC SENTENCE • STAY ORGANIZED (refer to your outline or map) • PROVIDE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT EACH DETAIL
Step 4: Revising What is revising? Revising is making decisions about how you want to improve your writing. When you revise, you’re picking places where your writing could be more clear, more interesting, more informative and more convincing. The “ARRR” Method of Revising • ADDING: What else does my reader need to know? Did I provide enough evidence to support my point? • REARRANGING: Are the details I provided in the most logical and effective order? Is my essay coherent—does it flow in a logical pattern? • REMOVING: Did I include any extra details or unnecessary bits of information? • REPLACING: What words or details could be replaced by clearer or stronger expressions?
Step 5: Proofreading& Editing • PROOFREAD! It is often helpful to read your writing backwards (that is, last sentence first) in order to catch any mistakes. • Also, try reading your writing out loud – does it sound clear? • Your point will be lost if your writing is full of spelling, grammar and mechanical errors.
Paragraph DevelopmentLet’s Review Step 1: Decide on our point and generate supporting details Step 2: Organize our ideas Step 3: Draft our topic sentence; draft our supporting sentences —use transitions to connect our details Step 4: Reconsider our writing—what could be changed to improve it? Step 5: Find and fix any mistakes in spelling, grammar, and mechanics
Writing Assignment #1 • Based on the reading in your textbook, “Credit Card Smarts: Taking Charge of Your Cards” (pp. 77-79) • Write a paragraph (10 sentences) in response to Option 1. or 2. on page 81. • Option 1. Write a paragraph summarizing the pros and cons of carrying and using a credit card. • Option 2. Describe your own experiences with credit cards. Have they been positive, negative, or both? How? • For either option, you want to write from the first-person point-of-view. That is, you can freely use the first-person pronouns “I” and “me.” • You will use the five-step writing process to write a clear and error-free paragraph.
Organizing your paragraph Topic sentence Major supporting details Minor supporting details