The Function of a Paragraph
Essays and other written texts are divided into paragraphs as a means of helping readers to follow a plot or the flow of an argument. Usually, it is best if paragraphs are not overly long (as a rule, over three-quarters of a page is possibly too much) or overly short (e.g., a sentence or two is probably not sufficiently informative). It makes sense to begin a new paragraph when presenting a new point or idea that contrasts with a previous one, or to discuss a separate but related point or idea.
As well as presenting clear and individual thoughts, each paragraph should have a specific reason for being there. There are a few questions you should ask of yourself: “What do I want to say in this particular paragraph?” “How should I try to express it?” “Am I trying to expand a previous idea?” “Is my aim to qualify an earlier statement?” “Is this point one I am restating or using to support another one?” “Do I want to compare, contrast or describe something?”
The following are a few suggestions on how to plan the purpose of a paragraph
- To state something is about making some claim or assertion.
- To restate something is to reword a previously made claim or assertion to modify, emphasize or clarify it.
- To support something is about offering evidence to back up or substantiate a claim or assertion.
- To concur is to agree with someone else’s claims or assertions.
- To qualify something is about restricting what a previously made claim or assertion means.
- To concede is to acknowledge the existence of a viewpoint, perspective or fact that questions the claims or assertions of another person.
- To negate something is to offer evidence or reasoning to show a claim or assertion is untrue.
- To expand is to elaborate or clarify a previously made claim or assertion.
- To analyze is to break down a claim or assertion into its component parts with the aim of evaluating or clarifying it.
- To define is to explain what words that were previously used or will be used mean.
- To describe means to list or name the features of a concept or thing so that readers can understand it better or imagine it more clearly.
- To exemplify is to provide an illustration of what a previously made statement means or to provide a solid example to give credibility to a point.
- To compare and contrast is to examine objects side-by-side in order to evaluate them, clarify their specific features, or to note their likenesses and differences.
- To narrate is to relate a story that describes one or more events.
- To synthesize is to combine information from different paragraphs into one coherent entity, which often involves presenting the subject matter from a different perspective.
- To evaluate is to judge something that was previously demonstrated or discussed.
- To transition is to provide links that move the reader smoothly from one part of a text or argument to the next.
- To summarize is to restate the main idea(s), arguments, or previously discussed points of a text.