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Paragraphs: the basics

A paragraph is not just something that appears when a string of sentences seems to be getting too long, and you decide to hit the return key! (Yes, I’ve done this!) A good paragraph needs careful construction. Ideally, a paragraph has the following characteristics:

  • Contains a group of related ideas conveyed in sentences (each sentence is an individual idea)
  • Sentences are in a logical order: most important to least important, earliest to latest …
  • Sentences flow from one to the next (see below)
  • Introduced by a ‘topic’ sentence
  • Concluded with a ‘wrapping up’ sentence.

Paragraphs: flow from one sentence to the next

In the following paragraph, you will see a topic sentence followed by a series of related ideas in a logical sequence. The sentences are all constructed in a similar way, which makes them seem monotonous. The sentences seem ‘jerky’ and do not flow nicely from one to the next. Further, the paragraph lacks a good ‘wrapping up’ sentence:

The impact of screen time on psychological health is controversial. Smartphone use in younger people has consistently increased in recent years. Controversy always arises around the appropriate use of new disruptive technology. The arguments often collapse into scaremongering claims. We remain influenced by correlational findings. The confusion continues. We need to critically appraise current research. We need to identify the key questions. We need to determine what research is needed to answer these questions.

Compare with this edited version:

The impact of screen time on psychological health is controversial. In recent years, smartphone use in younger people has consistently increased. Controversy always arises around the appropriate use of new disruptive technology. However, the arguments often collapse into scaremongering claims, and we remain influenced by correlational findings. Consequently, the confusion continues. To progress, we need to critically appraise current research, identify the key questions and determine what research is needed to answer these questions.

The following techniques have been used to improve the impact and flow of the paragraph:

  • The beginning of some (but not all) sentences has been changed to add linking words and phrases (see table below).
  • Some short sentences (containing related ideas) have been joined together, without making the resulting sentences too long.
  • A more memorable, concluding (wrapping up) sentence has been constructed from the last three sentences using ‘parallel construction’.  Parallel construction is when a list is presented in which each element of the list is written with the same grammatical construction. So … ‘appraise … identify … determine …’ are all verbs in the present tense.

Examples of connecting / linking words and phrases

Linking method

Examples

Circumstance

 

Sequence

Also… Moreover… First… Second… In addition… Next… Finally…

Restatement

That is… To put it another way… To reiterate… In other words…

For example / pause

For example… For instance… such as… like… Similarly… Likewise…

Reason

Because… Since…

Consequence

Therefore… So… Thus… Hence…Consequently… Accordingly…

Denied consequence

Nevertheless… However… In Contrast… Conversely… Alternatively…

Concession

Although… In spite of… Despite… Notwithstanding… While…

Similarity

Similarly… In a similar way… As with… Like… Likewise…

Addition

Further… Furthermore… In addition… Also…

Conclusion

In conclusion… To conclude…

Summary

In brief… To summarise… In summary…

Other linking methods

 

Verb infinitive

To progess… To determine… To improve…

Adverbial phrase

In recent years.. With confidence… Without exception…

Adverb

Recently… Immediately… Controversially…

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