How to Write a Good Paragraph:

A Step-by-Step Guide

Writing well composed academic paragraphs can be tricky. The following is a guide on how to draft, expand, refine, and explain your ideas so that you write clear, well-developed paragraphs and discussion posts:


Step 1: Decide the Topic of Your Paragraph

Before you can begin writing, you need to know what you are writing about. First, look at the writing prompt or assignment topic. As you look at the prompt, note any key terms or repeated phrases because you will want to use those words in your response. Then ask yourself:

After looking at the prompt and doing some additional reading and research, you should better understand your topic and what you need to discuss.


Step 2: Develop a Topic Sentence

Before writing a paragraph, it is important to think first about the topic and then what you want to say about the topic. Most often, the topic is easy, but the question then turns to what you want to say about the topic. This concept is sometimes called the controlling idea

Strong paragraphs are typically about one main idea or topic, which is often explicitly stated in a topic sentence. Good topic sentences should always contain both (1) a topic and (2) a controlling idea.

The topic – The main subject matter or idea covered in the paragraph.

The controlling idea – This idea focuses the topic by providing direction to the composition.

Read the following topic sentences. They all contain a topic (in orange) and a controlling idea (in purple). When your paragraphs contain a clearly stated topic sentence such as one of the following, your reader will know what to expect and, therefore, understand your ideas better.

Examples of topic sentences:


Step 3: Demonstrate Your Point

After stating your topic sentence, you need to provide information to prove, illustrate, clarify, and/or exemplify your point.

Ask yourself:

Here is a list of the kinds of information you can add to your paragraph:

Sometimes, adding transitional or introductory phrases like: for example, for instance, first, second, or last can help guide the reader. Also, make sure you are citing your sources appropriately.


Step 4: Give Your Paragraph Meaning

After you have given the reader enough information to see and understand your point, you need to explain why this information is relevant, meaningful, or interesting.

Ask yourself:


Step 5: Conclude

After illustrating your point with relevant information, add a concluding sentence. Concluding sentences link one paragraph to the next and provide another device for helping you ensure your paragraph is unified. While not all paragraphs include a concluding sentence, you should always consider whether one is appropriate. Concluding sentences have two crucial roles in paragraph writing:

First, they draw together the information you have presented to elaborate your controlling idea by:

Second, they often link the current paragraph to the following paragraph. They may anticipate the topic sentence of the next paragraph by:


Step 6: Look Over and Proofread

The last step in good paragraph writing is proofreading and revision. Before you submit your writing, look over your work at least one more time. Try reading your paragraph out loud to make sure it makes sense. Also, ask yourself these questions:


View additional proofreading tips and editing strategies.



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