Once you have structured your ideas into an outline of sections and sub-sections, the next level of writing to consider is the paragraph. The sectioning of text into paragraphs gives the reader information that cannot be included in the words themselves.
The writer should utilize the paragraph to focus the reader’s attention on a specific line of thought. That thought is often expressed as a topic sentence, coming at the beginning of the paragraph. This means that, as much as possible you should seek to organize your thoughts into a natural sequence in order to walk the reader through discrete but connected phases of the discussion. When you have fully developed the thought in one phase and a new idea or consideration is on the horizon, a new paragraph is appropriate. Such a progression of natural paragraph breaks is an essential step toward achieving clarity in writing.
Paragraphs that are too long
While wordiness and repetition can occur in any piece of writing, a frequent cause of a rambling paragraph is lack of focus. Check to see if you have included information that is interesting but not relevant to the main point.
Another cause of long paragraphs is trying to say too much at once. The problem may be remedied by analyzing the paragraph sentence by sentence and identifying the point where your perspective on the topic shifts slightly. That will be a natural place to begin a new paragraph.
Some discussions are necessarily complex and drawn out, and a single thought might take a page or more to develop. Sometimes paragraphs may be allowed to stretch to considerable lengths, but a paragraph that is too long can exhaust the reader and give the feeling that there is no mental break in sight. In such a case, it is permissible to divide the discourse into multiple paragraphs even without a shift in perspective, particularly if the break can be made at a point of natural rhetorical or conceptual pause.
Paragraphs that are too short
Sometimes a writer ends up with several ideas that are expressed as one or two-sentence paragraphs. The effect is a choppy and disjointed arrangement that can leave the reader disoriented and lacking a sense of the unity of the writer’s thought. Usually this problem occurs when the writer has not really thought through his ideas.
In such cases, the writer should develop the paragraph by asking how do I know this is true? Is there inductive evidence or deductive reasoning that will help make the point here? . In other instances, the writer may simply not have organized these thoughts well enough to present them in an orderly format to the reader.
If this occurs, the writer usually needs to identify common ideas among various smaller paragraphs and combine these ideas in a single, well-written cohesive paragraph that supports a topic sentence.
Other "Crafting Your Paper" topics:
The Body of Your Paper: Overview
Writing Your Introduction
Writing Your Conclusion
Becoming A Better Writer Home