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The Basics of a Paragraph

Updated on June 15, 2010
Photo by graur razvan ionut
Photo by graur razvan ionut

Research, sources, pre-writing, conclusions, introductions, citations. Ugh! Why does writing a simple essay seem so hard?

It's not hard. It's easy to write an essay. It's hard to write an excellent essay, and knowing the basics will help. Basics like techniques for brainstorming, MLA citation, types of sources, and paragraph structure. 

The paragraph, an essential component of any manuscript, is many times overlooked. Fully developing the paragraph allows an author to more effectively communicate with their readers by organizing the author's content and establishing flow. Building better and better paragraphs begins with understanding the basic structure of a paragraph. Once the structure is understood, an author can experiment with new and creative methods for future paragraphs.

Basic Components of a Paragraph

  • Topic Sentence

Typically, the topic sentence is the first sentence; it lets the reader know the contents of the paragraph. 

  • Transition Sentence

These are golden. Knowing how to utilize transition sentences adds polish to your paragraphs and the manuscript. A trick: combine the transition sentence from the previous paragraph with the topic sentence of the next paragraph to create a smooth flow from one paragraph to another.

  • Supporting Sentences

Without supporting sentences, the paragraph would be tiny and not say much at all. A topic sentence needs supporting sentences to inform or entertain the reader. A paragraph with a topic sentence and transition sentences would be a boring paragraph and say nothing to the reader. The important thing to remember about supporting sentences is that they should always be directly connected to the topic sentence. If a sentence in your paragraph has nothing to do with the topic sentence then it needs to be eliminated. Insuring that your supporting sentences relate to the topic sentence keeps your paragraphs focused and conveys your message much clearer to the reader.

Photo by m_bartosch
Photo by m_bartosch

The Sandwhich Technique

I've used this technique in many academic essays. It's very simple. Stack your three types of sentences to get the desired effect. For an academic essay, a paragraph may be stacked in the following way.

1. First paragraph

Topic Sentence/ Transition Sentence


Supportive Sentences


supportive Sentences


Transition Sentence to the second paragraph


2. Second Paragraph

Transition Sentence from first paragraph/ Transition Sentence


Supportive Sentences


Supportive Sentences


Transition Sentence to third paragraph

With creative writing, this technique may not be desirable; however it is effective for academic papers.

Thank You Reader!

Understanding the basic structure of a paragraph allows the author to concentrate on content and other writing considerations. Remember that the topic sentence announces the topic of the paragraph; supporting sentences relate to the topic through details, examples and descriptions; and transition sentences establish flow from one paragraph to another. Thank you for your time and good luck in your writing journey.



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