Skip to contentSkip to Main Site NavigationSkip to Site Left NavigationSkip to Site Utility NavigationSkip to Site SearchSkip to FooterDownload Adobe Reader
English 098 impact banner
Instructional Resources
Home » People » Karl Sherlock » English 098 » Instructional Resources » info | Paragraphing

Paragraphing: An Overview


A paragraph is a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic. To be as effective as possible, a paragraph should contain each of the following: Unity, Coherence, A Topic Sentence, and Adequate Development. As you will see, all of these traits overlap. Using and adapting them to your individual purposes will help you construct effective paragraphs.


Coherency is the trait that makes the paragraph easily understandable to a reader. You can help create coherence in your paragraphs by creating logical bridges and verbal bridges (i.e., transitions).

Logical Bridges:

  • The same idea of a topic is carried over from sentence to sentence
  • Successive sentences can be constructed in parallel form

Verbal Bridges:

  • Key words can be repeated in several sentences
  • Synonymous words can be repeated in several sentences
  • Pronouns can refer to nouns in previous sentences
  • Transition words can be used to link ideas from different sentences


A topic assertion is a set of one or more sentence that indicates in a general way what idea or thesis the paragraph is going to deal with. Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph. (This is a good general rule for less experienced writers, although it is not the only way to do it).


The topic (which is introduced by the topic sentence) should be discussed fully and adequately. Again, this varies from paragraph to paragraph, depending on the author's purpose, but writers should beware of paragraphs that only have two or three sentences. It's a pretty good bet that the paragraph is not fully developed if it is that short. Some methods to make sure your paragraph is well-developed by one of three kinds of support:


Rely on what other credible people

    • say is factual
    • offer as valuable opinion, or
    • suggest what ought to be done

Expert Opinion
Quote experts and scholars to corroborate or challenge opinion


To cite and interpret data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)

To segregate ideas or topics into categories that can be analyzed in closer detail

Exemplification (Illustration)
To use a pattern of examples and a longer illustration, followed by interpretation

To offer a chronology of an event or a procedure (time segments)

To evaluate causes and reasons; examine effects and consequences

To compare or contrast traits and arguments between two or more related subjects

Use of concrete details of one subject to clarify or suggest the abstract details of another unrelated subject; draw a metaphorical comparison

Use of rhetorical devices based in logic (deductive and inductive reasoning) in order to convince others to take a position


Describe the topic with sensory detail and figurative language to convey a mood or an attitude

Use an anecdote or story to illustrate a point

Define terms in the paragraph to reflect values or agendas

Interpretive Analysis
Analyze the topic to convey a perspective, a philosophy or an impression

Persuasion Use
rhetorical devices based in emotion and character in order to convince others to take a position

Last Updated: 01/16/2016


Karl J Sherlock
English / Creative Writing
Office Hours: M/W 6-7pm T/Th 3:30-5pm 52-558A (inside, corner office)
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District