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Transcript of Writing Paragraphs
Clear & Concise Writing
Discussing too many ideas in one paragraph confuses
the reader and doesn't give you an opportunity to
fully explore any one thought
One paragraph =
One main point
Before she began training for the Olympic games
Tonya spent 15 years in the food service industry. She was the head chef at a well-known Cajun restaurant in New York City.
As a child, Tonya always knew she wanted to be a professional athlete.
In high school, she earned mostly average grades,
but she excelled at track and field.
Math was her most difficult subject, and she became discouraged with school when a teacher told her she wasn't cut out for college.
Training for the Olympics was a dream come true."
The problem: This paragraph discusses
three separate main ideas:
1) Tonya trained as an Olympic athlete
2) Tonya had a long career as a chef
3) Tonya didn't do well academically in
high school but excelled
as an athlete
The Solution: Follow the "One Paragraph = One Main Idea" rule and draft a separate
paragraph for each main idea
A paragraph should begin with a sentence that tells
readers what to expect as they read on and
states the main point.
Begin with a Topic Sentence
"Tonya went to school to become a chef after high school. She did this because she worked at a restaurant and felt she knew the industry pretty well. She worked as a chef in a Cajun restaurant for 15 years. She was successful in this career and could have kept doing it. Her recipes were featured in a cookbook once, and people from all over came to her restaurant. She was a
talented chef, but she didn't love it."
Problem: Without a topic sentence, the
reader doesn't know what the main point is.
Is it that she was a good chef?
Is it why she became a chef?
Is it that she didn't love it?
Is it that she did it for 15 years?
* What are we supposed to get
out of this paragraph? *
Solution: Begin the paragraph
with a topic sentence that
summarizes the main point.
"Tonya even surprised herself when she decided to train for the Olympics, because she had already sunk 15 years into a successful career as a chef.
After high school, she went to school to become a chef. She did this because she worked at a restaurant and felt she knew the industry pretty well. She worked as a chef in a Cajun restaurant for 15 years. She was successful in this career and could have kept doing it. Her recipes were featured in a cookbook once, and people from all over came to her restaurant. She was a talented chef, but she didn't love it."
Body Paragraph 1: Tonya's high school experience
Body Paragraph 2: Tonya's career as a chef
Body Paragraph 3: Tonya training for
Sentences that do not contribute to the point you make in your topic sentence should be deleted or moved to another paragraph
Focus on the Main Point
"Tonya even surprised herself when she decided to train for the Olympics, because she had already sunk 15 years into a successful career as a chef. After high school, she went to school to become a chef. She did this because she worked at a restaurant and felt she knew the industry pretty well. She worked as a chef in a Cajun restaurant for 15 years. She was successful in this career and could have kept doing it. Her recipes were featured in a cookbook once, and people from all over came to her restaurant. She was a talented chef, but she didn't love it."
Problem: This sentence does not
contribute to the main idea of
"She did this because she worked at
a restaurant and felt she
knew the industry pretty
Solution: Either pull that sentence
out of the essay entirely, or start a
new paragraph that will talk about
why Tonya became a chef.
"Tonya decided to become a chef for the same reason many people choose their careers: It was familiar. When she graduated high school, Tonya found work in serving tables at a local diner. It was an easy decision for her to try and advance in her restaurant job by going to school to become a chef. But Tonya, like so many young people, quickly found that the easy career decision is not always the most fulfilling."
A short paragraph usually means you don't have enough ideas to fully develop your point. But be careful. A long paragraph full of redundant (repeated) ideas means the same thing.
Develop your point fully
"As a child, Tonya always knew she wanted to be a professional athlete. She loved doing sports. She would always be playing
sports after school. Her dream was to grow up and become an athlete."
The Problem: The only idea in this
paragraph is that as a child, Tonya
loved sports and wanted to be an
athlete. Every sentence that follows
the topic sentence essentially
restates the main idea.
Solution: Fully develop your idea with
evidence. Tell a story about when she
was young and playing sports, give a
quote from a family member about
how she always loved it, or compare
her to someone else.
"As a child, Tonya always knew she wanted to be a professional athlete. Some children fluctuate between possible careers, wanting to be a teacher one day and a doctor another. But Tonya was never like that. She knew from the age of 5 that she wanted to be an athlete. Once, when she was just a kindergarten student, she was watching a tennis match on TV with her family. She turned to her dad and said, "I want to do sports when I get big." From that day on, she never missed an afternoon at the park, playing anything from touch football to soccer to field hockey. There was no doubt in anyone's mind: Tonya would be in the Olympics some day.
But what if I don't have enough
ideas to fill a whole paragraph
If you can't develop your idea
fully, it is not an idea that
should be in your essay.
No more FTSO writing!!
(For The Sake Of)
Sometimes, you need more than one paragraph to fully develop an idea. Write a paragraph that is longer than about 200 words and you may lose the reader. Re-read long paragraphs to "feel out" where a logical paragraph break might take place.
Know when to start a new
Your reader shouldn't have to search your essay
to find the introduction or conclusion!
To mark the introduction and conclusion
If you are fully exploring a new idea and therefore
need a new topic sentence,
it's time for a new paragraph
Whenever you introduce
a new idea
If you have written an important sentence that you really want the reader to notice, make it the last line of a paragraph
or the first line of a new one.
To emphasize a point
If you are about to make a point that shows contrast
("On the other hand," "Conversely," "However," "Alternatively"),
start a new paragraph
To show contrast (difference)
Sometimes, it's a judgment call. If a paragraph just looks too
long to you, it probably is. Try to find the spot in the
paragraph that makes the most sense as a paragraph break.
To break up a lot
To provide readers
with a needed pause
Readers need a chance to
breathe in order to
Critical reader says: Holy Ideas, Batman! This paragraph discusses:
Tonya's food service career
Tonya's high school academics
Tonya's track & field career
Smart writer says, "How should I organize these paragraphs? In this case, it might make more sense to go in chronological order..."
Critical reader says: "This paragraph may be well organized, but what's the point? How does this fit into the greater point of the essay?"
Smart writer says: "I bring up Tonya's career as a chef because it's interesting that she gave it up even though she was good at it. Maybe that's what my topic sentence should say."
Critical reader says, "I can't put my finger on it, but this paragraph just feels... a little bit all over the place."
Smart writer says, "I think my reader needs to know more about why she went for the wrong career first. It will help us understand her better and learn from her experience!"
Critical reader says: "Wow. That was really short. I have so many questions. And I'm bored."
Smart writer says: I remember reading a story about Tanya's childhood that really made
me smile. Maybe I should include that."
When constructing paragraphs, remember...
* One paragraph = one main idea
* Begin with a topic sentence
* Focus on the main point
* Develop your point fully, or
don't develop it at all
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Where Should the Break Go?
Where Should the Break Go?
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Where Should the Break Go?
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Where Should the Break Go?
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Where Should the Break Go?
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Where Should the Break Go?