By Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir.
These days, Public libraries teem with CSS students as the exam is approaching with the passage of each moment. Students do their utmost to ace the exam. I myself an aspirant to CSS, I interact with my CSS fellows most frequently.
While basking in the sun, during midday in one of the public libraries in Islamabad, I broached the topic in using English words into simple, concise sentences with Baby Ibrahim and Sadam(not the ex-Iraqi president but my genial fellow). After some time when I inquired, they giggled at the idea and suggested it’s time we worked on paragraph writing. The productive debate ensued which culminated in full-fledged article.
According to S.S Wazir, 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.
Paragraph writing remains one of the most important parts of writing. The paragraph serves as a container for each of the ideas of an essay or other piece of writing. Paragraphs are versatile and can take many forms that strengthen your writing, provide variety for readers, and help readers to organize the ideas you present.
Topic Sentences in Paragraphs
A topic sentence gives the main idea of a paragraph. It usually occurs as the first or last sentence of the paragraph. Some paragraphs will not have a topic sentence, if the main point is obvious. Others might place the topic sentence slightly differently. Occasionally, as in this paragraph, the topic sentence might begin the paragraph but be restated in a different way at the end. That is to say, most writers put the topic sentence of a paragraph at the beginning or the end or both.
A topic sentence is a sentence, sometimes at the beginning of a paragraph, that states or suggests the main idea (or topic) of a paragraph. Not all paragraphs begin with topic sentences. In some, the topic sentence appears in the middle or at the end. In others, the topic sentence is implied or absent altogether.
Topic Sentence: Crime in poverty-stricken areas occurs as a result of a systemic discrimination.
The topic is “crime in poverty stricken areas” and the controlling idea is “systemic discrimination.”
Topic Sentence: Teen pregnancy may be prevented by improved education.
The topic is “teen pregnancy may be prevented” and the controlling idea is “improved education.”
What to put in a paragraph
Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must first decide on an argument and a working thesis statement. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your thesis and the information in each paragraph. The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with the germination of a seed of ideas; this “germination process” is better known as brainstorming.
Every paragraph in a paper should be:
- Unified: All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph).
- Clearly related to the thesis: The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper.
- Coherent: The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development.
- Well-developed: Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea.
Types of Paragraphs
Most writing has an introductory paragraph or an introduction of a few paragraphs, and a conclusion of a few paragraphs or concluding paragraph. The introduction and conclusion are, of course, supported by body paragraphs. The typical body paragraph develops, supports, or elaborates a given topic sentence. Most paragraph structures longer than 1-2 sentences have common elements.
For example, expository paragraphs have three important elements common to most paragraphs: flow, or unity (a clear connection to the rest of the essay and placed in a sensible way among the other paragraphs; development (detailed, specific support or elaboration of the main idea); and coherence (each sentence clearly relates to the previous and next sentence in an understandable and sensible manner). Persuasive paragraphs focus on developing a strong argument that would convince someone who disagrees with the writer’s position.
Narrative paragraphs have similar features of flow (or unity) and coherence. However, the development might be more related to the action or events narrated in the paragraph than to supporting an argument. Coherence in a narrative paragraph usually comes from the chronological order of the “story” or narrative.
Similarly, a descriptive paragraph might find its development through giving a series of sensory details or of abstract ideas that describe an object (or concept or theory), rather than through support. These two types of paragraph – narrative and descriptive – differ only slightly in these respects from expository paragraphs, but the differences are still important.
With some attention to flow, development, and coherence in your paragraphs, you will soon be writing powerfully.
SOME USEFUL TRANSITIONS
To show addition:
Again, and, also, besides, equally important, first (second, etc.), further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, moreover, next, too
To give examples:
for example, for instance, in fact, specifically, that is, to illustrate.
Also, in the same manner, likewise, similarly.
Although, and yet, at the same time, but, despite, even though, however, in contrast, in spite of, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, though, yet.
To summarize or conclude:
All in all, in conclusion, in other words, in short, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to sum up
To show time:
after, afterward, as, as long as, as soon as, at last, before, during, earlier, finally, formerly, immediately, later, meanwhile, next, since, shortly, subsequently, then, thereafter, until, when, while
To show place or direction:
above, below, beyond, close, elsewhere, farther on, here, nearby, opposite, to the left (north, etc.)
To indicate logical relationship:
accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for this reason, hence, if, otherwise, since, so, then, therefore, thus
I hope the readers will find it helpful and productive in improving their creative writing skills. I firmly advise students to make practice on daily basis by writing one paragraph daily. The time is not far away when you will feel major difference in your previous and current approach towards writing given the fact you do it regularly.
Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir is a freelance writer, human rights activist, aspirant to CSS and having specialization in English Literature and Linguistics from NUML, Islamabad.