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By Mubarak Abdessalami

What is a paragraph?

            It is a group of sentences that introduces, presents and develops one main idea about the topic. And it can be divided into three major parts.

  1. The Topic Sentence
    • It is normally the first sentence of the paragraph.
    • It conveys the overall point of the paragraph.
    • It helps the writer focus on the idea written about.
    • It helps the reader know about what the paragraph is all about.

  2. The Supporting Details
    • They are sentences used to support the main idea stated in the topic sentence.
    • They give more information about the main idea through examples.
    • They say in details what the topic sentence says in general.
    • They should be clear evidence that what the topic sentence says is trustworthy.
    • They should be strong convincing points on which the topic sentence can rely upon.

  3. The Concluding Sentence
    • It is a reflection of the main idea pronounced in the topic sentence.
    • It sums up what the topic sentence and the supporting details talk about.
    • It is the closing sentence that reminds the readers of what they have to value.
    • It is compulsory for the completion of the paragraph unity.
    • It eventually indicates the end of a paragraph.
    • It prepares the reader for a smooth transition to the next paragraph if there is one.

How to write your paragraph

Paragraph writing consists of many necessary elements to be taken into consideration before, while and after writing.
  1. BEFORE WRITING:
    • In this stage it is important to specify the topic you are intending to tackle.
    • Take a sheet of paper and just start jotting down notes that have tight connection with your topic.
    • In this stage, mistakes and word-order are to be overlooked momentarily.
    • After you gathered the data necessary for your topic the next step is to be taken.

  2. WHILE WRITING:

    • Topic Sentence
    Choose a topic sentence for your paragraph that states the main idea of your topic.
                The topic sentence is a statement that generally introduces the topic and thus it is often referred to as: the opening statement. Keep in mind that the readers will greatly rely on what it says so as they can decide if the paragraph is worth reading or not. It gives them a broad view of what you are writing about because the topic sentence is meant to state the main idea of the paragraph. It helps readers save time as it tells them what the reset of the paragraph is all about. If they are interested in the topic, they will continue reading; if not; the topic sentence has given them guiding clues that help them be selective in their reading. I mean that the topic sentence in each paragraph is the short cut that helps the readers economize the amount of time and effort when they are skimming for gist or scanning for specific information. Thatís why your topic sentence should be a sort of clincher, that is - a tempting statement that catches the readersí attentions and entice them to carry on with the reading of the paragraph. The students are the most meant by this because their corrector should intelligently be dragged into liking and enjoying reading the paragraph because this topic sentence controls the entire paragraph. It helps the student focus on the main idea and not drift away from it. If it is well put, it easily helps the students narrow their supporting details, which will follow, into more specific and subject related examples because the supporting details are there to reinforce the topic sentence and to do that effectively they should each include at least one example.

    • Supporting Details
                These are sentences that support the topic sentence. They give information that reinforces the main idea stated in the topic sentence. So there should at least be three supporting details because one or two make the paragraph less convincing and not worth the effort done to build it. Thus the students are strongly advised to provide at least three strong details which can support the main idea. The students can use all the writing techniques necessary to make the paragraph sustainable and eligible: descriptions, definitions, examples, elaboration and exploration. If any of the supporting details doesnít correlate with the main idea or does not support it, it will break the unity of the paragraph.

    • Concluding Sentence
    This is the last sentence of your paragraph and it should reflect what you have talked about in your paragraph and it should echo the topic sentence in a way or another.

  3. AFTER WRITING:       
    Reviewing
                This final step can be called the editing step. This is a very crucial stage of your work process as you should review what you have done and make sure the paragraph is eligible, technically speaking. Among the things that this stage is about are:

    • Coherence and cohesion of the content
    • The stability of the form
    • The linking words
    • Grammar, spelling and punctuation.
    • Clear handwriting.

    Apart from these essentials, other factors are to be mulled over:

    1. Your main idea should be expressed in the topic sentence in a full, clear declarative sentence.
    2. Your topic sentence should in no way be a purpose statement such as:

      • The purpose of this paragraph is Ö
      • I will prove in this paragraph Ö
      • In this paragraph, I will tell Ö
      • Show but donít tell.

    3. Donít repeat yourself now then thinking that you are reinforcing your point.
    4. Donít use complex or far fetched terms that may puzzle the corrector.
    5. Donít use long winding sentences. Keep simple.
    6. Instead of giving definitions, itís better to explain and give examples.
    7. Your supporting details shouldnít be too excessive.
    8. Try not to be redundant or out of point. Stick to your topic.
    9. Never introduce or present new ideas.
    10. Irrelevant supporting details should immediately be discarded.

                Finally, you can transform your concluding sentence into a thought provoking statement that the reader may find appealing.

    Practice

                Imagine you are asked to write a paragraph about ASPIRIN, which of the following topic sentences you would prefer to open your paragraph with:

    1. Aspirin is a pain killer drug, but it has side-effects.
    2. Aspirin can be a fatal poison.
    3. Aspirin is used to calm down headaches but it attacks the stomach.

    • If you take the first one, you are not really successful in your choice because this one is not brainstorming enough for the readers. It doesnít motivate them to continue reading your paragraph for thereís nothing inspiring about it.
    • Now if you choose the second one, to my mind, the reader will want to discover in what way Aspirin is a killing poison. This topic sentence is more powerful, provoking, exciting, inviting and motivating one.
    • Like the first, the third topic sentence doesnít predict any significant information. All is said in it. It doesnít trigger the readersí curiosity to know more.

                The style employed in initiating your topic is the most important of all. It bears the most important part of the work. If the topic sentence is a failure, the whole paragraph will collapse no matter what excellent supporting details you provided.

                As you know there are many ways -or say styles- to say the same thing. However, authors are said to be writers because they can write it the right way. They make use of the most appropriate and the most suitable styles to write something the other people know about but they cannot express it the same way. Their styles make them different. Once the style is eloquent, attractive and full of adequate language tools, the readers look like reading the product with pleasure. The student is not expected to be a ďwriterĒ but should at least follow the same path to make his or her writing worth reading.


    SAMPLE PARAGRAPH:

                Now I am inviting you to read what a student has written about ASPIRIN and see if she has respected the layout and the steps and finally if you like her paragraph:

                Aspirin can be a fatal poison. People are used to taking aspirin whenever they feel pain. It is true that aspirin is an efficacious pain-killer for example in headache cases. However, aspirin is like any other medicine can be dangerously harmful. Any unregulated use of it may result into the damage to the lining of the stomach, prolonged bleeding time, nausea, vomiting, ulcers, liver damage, and hepatitis. It is scientifically proven that excessive use of aspirin turns it into a toxin. Its toxic effects are Kidney Damage, severe metabolic derangements, respiratory and central nervous system effects, strokes, fatal hemorrhages of the brain, intestines & lungs and eventually death. Thus, the careful and regulated use of aspirin is most advisable so as not to turn into a deadly poison.
          

    Recapitulation
                Try, as hard as you can, to make your paragraph unusual, in the positive sense of the word. Never launch your paragraph with an idea people already know. They won't be willing to read along. However, if you throw at them a provoking Topic Sentence, the reader would accept the challenge and gets impatient to know what you want to say. If the reader is faced with a topic sentence such as,
    • Aspirin is a medicine.
    • Aspirin has a lot of side effects.
    • Aspirin can cure headaches.

    The reader won't be enthusiastic as to go on reading your paragraph. If, on the contrary, your paragraph starts like this for instance,

    • Aspirin can prevent heart attacks.

    The reader, I guess, would be fervent to know in what way this is possible. What you have to do, then, is to prove your topic sentence valid and scientifically proven by giving sustainable and convincing supporting details. You may prefer to quote a Doctor so as to make your statement reliable and authentic.

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