Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The development of effective paragraphing entails four basic rules. I’ve covered these in previous posts, but they are important enough to bear repeating before we move on to other subjects in the next post.
First, unify the paragraph by developing a topic sentence which encompasses its central thought and introduces the paragraph. A good topic sentence goes hand-in-glove with a descriptive paragraph heading. Together, they are the key to locking the reader into your writing. A descriptive topic sentence establishes a basic context for the reader before the details are provided and gives the reader the incentive to read on.
A topic sentence should include only one principal subject and express but one thought. It should tell the reader what the paragraph is about. Let the topic sentence embrace the controlling thought and the rest of the paragraph expand this thought. Work on tightening a rambling paragraph by developing a good topic sentence and then building the paragraph around it.
A busy reader will often skim your topic sentences to get an overall understanding of your writing. Well written topic sentences will make the reader’s task that much easier.
For example, if you were writing about a tip that might help others groove their golf swing, a good topic sentence (or, as here, sentences) might read as follows:
The sweetest swing you ever saw once belonged to Slammin’ Sammy Snead; today it arguably belongs to Freddie Couples; now, it can belong to you. Here’s why. [Next, describe your tip].
Or, if you were writing about a new health product, you could start off like this:
For thousands of years ancient healers have believed that forces exist within the human body which can direct and control the course of any life.
Second, arrange sentences to provide coherence in the paragraph. The sequence of expression should be orderly and arranged by time or importance to make the progress of thought easy to follow. Strive for connection between sentences using repetition of key words, reference words, and parallel structure.
Third, use words of transition. Transition words are usually found at the beginning of the next paragraph to help introduce a new thought. They serve to provide a stepping stone to ease the progression from one paragraph to another. Words such as also, further, and in addition, are typically used for this purpose. In this fashion, paragraphs may be linked together into the entire writing.
Fourth, keep paragraph length relatively short to reduce dense text. Short paragraphs create more white space, are more inviting, and are thus easier to read and understand. Paragraphs may vary in length from fifty to three hundred words, depending on content, but the shorter the better. If necessary, break up a long paragraph into two shorter ones.
Even though content determines paragraph length, take steps to highlight paragraph content when necessary. These include use of bullet points and dashes to make it easier to scan listed information, as follows:
Before : Our company sells only naturally developed products. They contain no preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind. Use of them will increase mental alertness, stabilize metabolism, reduce fatigue, and enhance your body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.
After: Our company’s products provide these benefits –
- No preservatives, artificial colors, or fillers of any kind;
- Increase mental alertness;
- Stabilize metabolism;
- Reduce fatigue; and
- Enhance your body’s ability to stave off disease through its immune system.
Upcoming posts will cover guidelines and techniques for writing your first draft.
Copyright 2012. Arnold G, Regardie. All rights reserved.