One of the building blocks of all writing is knowing how to write a paragraph.
Successful writers have mastered this skill. They have even reached the point of being able to ignore the standard paragraph altogether.
If you are not a writing master, stick with this basic system as you build your skills.
"The sky was sooty from the explosion. The people of the city were angry. The authorities did not control the situation. The car manufacturing plant ignored repeated safety warnings."
Why is this example bad?
Every sentence starts out the same and has the same basic structure.
This makes reading boring.
Test it for yourself. Write five sentences with the same beginning word and the same number of words.
Then read them back to yourself. Notice how hard it is to keep your attention focused on the repetitive writing.
You aren't writing lines here. Your goal is to inform and entertain.
There is no point to the paragraph.
Does the car plant have anything to do with the explosion? We don't know. Why were the people angry? Was it because of the explosion? The authorities? The car plant?
A good paragraph is clear. From start to finish, you get its point.
This sentence tells the point of your paragraph.
In our example above, the final sentence would make a good topic sentence.
These sentences revolve around your topic sentence, giving more information about the situation at the plant, for instance. Make sure you vary your sentence length. And start each sentence differently.
For example, if we were using the car plant sentence as our topic:
"Over the past year, OSHA issued warnings about storage of flammable materials at the plant."
"Employees complained, but the authorities did nothing."
You'll notice that the sentences begin differently and are different lengths. This is key for keeping reader interest.
This is the only fixed sentence in the paragraph. What that means is that it is always at the end.
However, the other sentences can be in whatever order best serves the topic.
In fact, you want to switch up the order. It makes the reading more interesting.
"Although in hindsight it was inevitable, no one expected the explosion yesterday morning at the car manufacturing plant. The authorities at the plant had ignored repeated safety warnings. OSHA's records show five separate warnings issued in the past year about the storage of flammable materials. Each of these was disregarded. Yesterday, that disregard cost three people their lives. Now, a sooty sky looms over the town as the assurance of large financial settlements looms over the car manufacturer."
Once you have mastered the basic paragraph, you are free to bend these rules.
In some cases a paragraph is made up of a single sentence. Others can be ten sentences or more.
But don't rush yourself. Practice. Use the rules to write a paragraph until you can bring it to life through imagery, sentence length and word choice.
Then move on to rule bending.
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