In order to write well in English, one must be able to first master the sentence (which requires a good knowledge of clauses), and then the paragraph, and next the essay or report. Between the sentence and the complete piece of writing lies the paragraph, which seems to cause a great deal of trouble to many students.
In this article, I’m going to explain paragraph structure, which is to say the internal structure of a paragraph.
What is a Paragraph?
A paragraph consists of some sentences (the number may vary, of course) focused on one idea. That idea can be hard to define as it might be very focused, or it might be a little vague, but if you start to stray from that one idea, you need to start a new paragraph. The best way to keep from being confused is to plan on paper first – if you know what idea your paragraph should present, it is easy to start and finish the paragraph.
How to Structure a Paragraph
Like an essay, a paragraph needs a beginning, middle, and end. More specifically, it needs:
- A topic sentence – a very general sentence which explains the main idea of the paragraph
- Supporting sentences – any number of sentences which provide details or examples to support or explain the main idea
- Concluding sentence – one final sentence to summarize and, possibly, further connect the topic and supporting sentences
Note that this could vary significantly. Not all sentences have a concluding sentence, for example. Still, it is a good structure to begin with. Let’s now look at the individual parts.
This sentence is usually the first in a paragraph and it will present the main idea in general or vague terms. It could be as simple as:
A lot of people enjoy classical music.
It should not contain any specific information, and rather than a definite number you might want to say words like “several” or “many.”
This is the meat of the paragraph, and it provides all the necessary detail to support the idea expressed in the topic sentence. These will include evidence, explanation, or examples. They may involve facts, figures, or other particular details. They may tell a story, connect ideas, or express degrees of importance.
An example, carrying on from the previously stated classical music topic sentence, could be:
In fact, songs classified as “classical music” were downloaded over twenty million times on Spotify last month.
You can learn more about developing topic sentences here.
In this final sentence, you need to restate the main idea without repeating any part of the paragraph. You will want to allude to or reference ideas from the supporting sentences, while paraphrasing your topic sentence.
An example, continuing from the previous ones:
It is clear, then, that classical music enjoys a high degree of popularity.
Here’s a PPT I made that goes into further detail.
If you want to read more about structure and IELTS writing, you can check out this link.