Theology and Spirituality Course

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(Note:  Only the Unannotated Version is Given in the Online Version Below)

 Meet the Paragraph
Dr. Brian Campbell


     Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of effective writing.  Master the paragraph and you will master writing.  Keep things simple.  Each paragraph should contain only one main idea or topic.  If you begin a new topic, you should begin a new paragraph.  Below is an example of a “basic” paragraph.

      “A paragraph can be a thing of beauty, especially if it adheres to some simple rules.  To begin with, each paragraph should start with a sentence that serves to introduce the general topic under consideration, or that states any claim or assertion.  Next, the paragraph should contain one or two sentences (sometimes more) that offer support to any “argument” being made, or that provide examples or illustrations relevant to the topic.  Finally, the paragraph should end with a “concluding” sentence, or a sentence that transitions the reader to the next paragraph.”

      Transitions are extremely important, because each subsequent paragraph must link/connect to the previous paragraph.  As mentioned above, the transition can be placed at the end of the previous paragraph; alternatively, transitions can be placed at the beginning of the subsequent paragraph.  Fortunately, the English language has many different phrases/expressions that can be used to transition between paragraphs.

      For example, I have just connected the previous paragraph to the current one with the transitional expression, “For example.”  Many other types of transitions are available that can be used at the beginning of a paragraph; the majority of these “paragraph head” transitions are prepositional phrases or adverbial phrases.  Additional examples of transitional phrases are provided in the Research Paper Template: Illustrated.

      If you utilize transitions effectively, your paragraphs should flow together like water running down the side of a mountain.  Everything will be tied together and make sense.  The reader will not get lost, and he/she will be carried by the force of your argument/exposition to your final destination—the summary or conclusion.  As you progress on your “journey,” you should be aware of certain hazards and pitfalls.

     Most importantly, make a concerted effort to avoid grammatical and syntactical errors, as well as spelling and punctuation errors.  If you make errors in the “mechanics” of writing, the reader is likely to “get lost,” and give up trying to follow what you are trying to communicate.  In addition, avoid long and complicated sentences that are difficult to understand.  Do not try to sound erudite or sophisticated; you can attempt that later on when you have more experience. 

In the final analysis, writing effectively starts with constructing clear and mechanically correct paragraphs.  Then, after developing a sound paragraph, the next step in the process is to link paragraphs together in a logical fashion that leads the reader to a predetermined endpoint or conclusion.  When you accomplish all this—voila!—you are now on the road to becoming a professional writer.