#Writivity - Basic Paragraph Structure

What is a paragraph?

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. In this handout, we will refer to this as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.


Merriam-Webster Definition of "Paragraph": A paragraph is a subdivision of a written composition that consists of one or more sentences and deals with one point or gives the words of one speaker.

Basic Paragraph Structure

Topic Sentence: 

A topic sentence is the first sentence of your paragraph. It should be the most general sentence in a paragraph and should introduce the overall idea that you want to discuss later in the paragraph. Indentation of the first word in your topic sentence is no longer needed.

Supporting Sentences: 

The topic sentence captures the main idea of the paragraph. The second part of a paragraph is the body of the paragraph, the supporting sentences. The sentences in the body of the paragraph provide details to support the topic. (c) www.studyzone.org/testprep/ela4/j/supportsentp.cfm


Supporting sentences must "support" or explain the idea expressed in the topic sentence. Details are important to help your reader understand exactly what you are writing about. It should answer the question posed by your topic sentence.


Concluding Sentence: 

The concluding sentence usually occurs at the end of a paragraph and summarizes the information presented in the paragraph. It is similar to, but not exactly the same as the topic sentence.

The next edition of the EzineArticles.com Article Writing: Paragraph and Grammar Structure Training Series will explore paragraph coherence and unity.

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