Paragraphs

How to write well-formed paragraphs.

Words use punctuation to become sentences. Sentences are used to construct paragraphs, the subject of this chapter. Finally, as far as this book need be concerned, paragraphs are used to produce dialog. Of course, beyond these basic constructs come scenes, chapters, novellas and novels or emails, blog posts and books if you lean toward non-fiction. But those topics will be deferred until later in the series.

My point is that it’s time to discuss the next major construct that you need to know inside and out to be a proficient writer.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t fully understand what a paragraph was until I took bonehead (a class for students who were behind) English in junior college. In bonehead English, we spent the first third of the class writing sentences. The second third, we wrote paragraphs, and the final third, we wrote three paragraph essays. Through this semester-length class, I learned how to write sentences and paragraphs very well. As you will now…

This is my chapter on paragraphs. Be ready to feel challenged as I challenge your writing to take form. At the same time, revel in the fact that your writing is finally getting closer to what you’d originally envisioned.

And now, the paragraph…

What is a Paragraph?

As we’ve already learned, a paragraph separator is typically implemented using a newline followed by five spaces of indent or a blank line. But what’s a paragraph? A paragraph delimits a shift from one thought to another. Consider this paragraph and the following as examples.

If I were to begin discussing the moon and its distinguishing elements, I would do so via a new paragraph, as I’ve done in this instance. I would then support the topic sentence of my paragraph with additional sentences of information.

When I first began reading, I thought that paragraphs were arbitrary breaks in large walls of text inserted to relieve eye strain. In a sense, I was correct. If I do find myself writing a solid wall of text, I soon implement ways to break that text into smaller paragraphs. Still, the decisions I use to break up large bodies of text are far from arbitrary.

Paragraphs are composed of one or more topic sentences along with supporting information. For example, a paragraph may be composed of an argument followed by supporting details. The paragraph may be fully composed of narrative describing a character or scene. Dialog imposes further requirements upon the use of paragraphs.

Paragraphs should seldom be composed of a single sentence except for emphasis or when writing dialog.

One of the things you may find yourself doing as a result of reading this book is slowing your reading and analyzing the way the writer constructs their sentences and paragraphs. Their punctuation and word use. How they handle dialog. This is a good thing that I encourage you to continue. That said, some authors you’ll find yourself skimming for the story while others you’ll slow down to savor every word. Analyze what you read as your read it and how it affects you!

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