Originating from the ancient Greek term paragraphe meaning ‘marked passage’, a paragraph is a group of sentences that introduces, presents, develops and winds up one main idea on a topic. The idea in a paragraph should be one and the different types of structural devices should help it come out clearly. Paragraph writing, as with all other language skills, can be used for functional and creative purposes.

Parts of a Paragraph 

In a broad way, a paragraph can be divided into three major parts. 

    • topic sentence / introducer 
    • supporting details / developer 
    • the concluding sentence / terminator 

The first sentence introduces the central idea of the passage. It is, therefore, the topic sentence or the introducer in the passage. The purpose of the topic sentence is to emphasize the main idea of the passage. It is not generally suggested or practised to keep the topic sentence hidden under the debris of other details. The topic sentence provides the core idea(s) that run throughout the paragraph like an underlying thread. It guides the readers and let them know what it is all about. 

It performs two major functions.

    • Structural -it describes the shape of the argument
    • Interpretive -it offers the conclusion or reaction or feeling

The structural topic sentence guides the readers to anticipate and move with the rest of the paragraph. Using structural topic sentences will help one to follow the argument easily as long as the ideas are linked together. An interpretive topic sentence, on the other hand, allows the writer to freely express his or her interpretation of the data and makes an effort to convince the reader at the same time.

Since both structural and interpretive topic sentences introduce the main idea or the central argument of the passage, they both are known as introducers. Coming usually at the beginning of the passage, introducers serve as a signpost to the central idea of the entire passage. 

The sentences that aim at fulfilling the promise made by the introducers are called developers. Just as the function of introducers is to introduce and emphatically place the central idea in a passage, the job of developers is to substantiate, augment and authenticate the claims made by the introducers.

The third category of sentences is known as terminators. The purpose of terminators in a paragraph is to wind up the discussion in a manner, that is fulfilling and satisfies the reader in a psychological way. Though coming at the end of a paragraph, the importance of terminators in a paragraph can never be underestimated. They leave on the reader the final impression about the crux of the entire paragraph. 

Types of Paragraph 

Depending on the purpose and style, paragraphs are of various type. 

Narrative 

A narrative paragraph deals with a main event, adventure, scene or incident. It is usually written in chronological order. A narrative paragraph aims at emotional involvement on the part of the reader. A good way to structure a narrative paragraph is to write an arresting topic sentence, outline the course of events and then come up with a fascinating conclusion. The use of dialogue will make the narration more vivid to the readers. The conversation can be made realistic by using fragments, slang, interjections and other common speech patterns.

Descriptive

A descriptive paragraph reveals a subject through vivid and carefully selected details. The purpose of descriptive writing is sensory -to make the reader see, feel and hear the person, place or thing being described. Show me, don’t tell me is the motto of descriptive writing. Descriptive paragraphs are interesting in the sense that they charge your imagination. Descriptions may be objective or subjective depending on the writer’s approach to the theme.

Persuasive

A persuasive paragraph aims to bring the reader around to the writer’s point of view. The components of a persuasive paragraph are the topic sentence that puts forward your idea, the elaboration and validation of the same in supporting sentences and a concluding sentence that reinforces your opinion.

Expository

An expository paragraph basically gives information. It seeks to explain, illuminate or expose. It elaborates on a theme, proves a theory or demonstrates how something happens. This process is also known as exemplification. An expository paragraph is more analytically structured than the other types of paragraphs. Linking words such as first, second, then and finally are common in expository writing.

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Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature for 14 years now. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges coming under this directorate and is now posted at the Department of English, H.H. The Maharaja’s Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of the lecture notes that she prepared by referring various sources, for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.

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