Rules for Good Paragraph Writing in Essays

author By Mary Boies

Getting essay and research paper paragraph structure wrong could be a reason you are swimming in a sea of poor grades. Knowing the basics of good paragraph writing can solve your issue. You will learn how to write great paragraphs in a short while, even if you are a beginner.

Rules for writing good paragraphs in essays

This beginner and expert-friendly guide will teach you the 14 rules for structuring paragraphs in essays, research papers, term papers, and any academic paper. If you follow all these rules, you should be able to write faultless paragraphs throughout your essays. This will help your professors to understand your work more and grade you better.

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a collection of sentences written to present and support a single claim or argument.

In college essay writing, paragraphs have to be written in a certain way to present arguments logically and coherently. In other words, some rules must be followed when writing essay paragraphs.

Failure to follow these rules will reduce your likelihood of getting high grades. This is because it will make your writing difficult to understand.

Discover the rules you need to follow to write perfect paragraphs in the section below. Paragraphs will make your writing easy to understand and give your professors an easy time grading your essays.

Elements of a Paragraph

A typical paragraph structure comprises five sentences: a topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. However, to write a perfect paragraph, you need to dig deeper and understand the critical components of a great paragraph.

Ideally, when you constantly get feedback that your paragraphs are subpar, disorganized, and do not make sense, you can revamp your paragraphs by including these four essential components of a paragraph. These essential elements include completeness, coherence, unity, and order. We will briefly look at each so that you have an idea of what we are talking about.

1. Unity

Notably, every paragraph must contain a single controlling idea expressed in the topic sentence, which is the first sentence of any paragraph. Now, a paragraph is integrated into this topic sentence. This means that the supporting sentences should provide details, discussion, explanations, and evidence that support the topic sentence and show how it is linked to the thesis statement. To craft a great topic sentence, consider the points and the overall claim you want to make, and then decide on what point drives the rest of the ideas and write it as your main topic sentence.

2. Order

In paragraph writing, order refers to the organization of the supporting sentences. You can take a chronological, thematic, point-by-point, order of importance, superior to inferior, stronger to weaker, or other logical organization patterns depending on the type of essay you are writing. Nevertheless, having a definite and predictable sense of organization in the paragraphs allows the readers to flow with the ideas without confusion.

3. Coherence

When writing sentences within paragraphs, you must connect them to one another so that they all work as a synergy, which is defined as coherence. Coherence refers to the quality of organization and writing that makes your sentences and paragraphs understandable. You can easily achieve coherence by using transition or linking words. These words bridge ideas in the sentences comprising a paragraph. Some of the transition words you can use include those showing logic, conclusion, spatial relationships, and order. Besides, when crafting a paragraph, ensure that you use consistent tenses and that your point of view is also consistent.

4. Completeness

Finally, a good paragraph demonstrates completeness. Completeness in a paragraph is achieved when the paragraph is well-developed. This means that it focuses on a single idea, has a peculiar topic sentence, has supporting sentences that are logically arranged to achieve some good flow, and meets the 14 rules of paragraph writing we are about to discuss. Utmost, a paragraph is complete when it has three supporting sentences, a topic sentence, and a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence closes the paragraph, reinforces the topic sentence in a manner that links to the thesis statement, and transitions it to the next.

14 Major Rules for Structuring Paragraphs in Essays

Writing a good paragraph takes time, practice, and some learning. When you achieve mastery in writing great paragraphs, you can write on any topic and convince your professor that you deserve nothing less than the best grade. However, good paragraph writing is only achievable when some rules are strictly followed. Below are some factors to consider if you want to develop good paragraphs:

1. You must have a topic sentence and a concluding sentence

You must have a topic sentence and a concluding sentence in every paragraph of your essay. A proper paragraph has three elements ? a topic sentence, a body, and a concluding sentence. A paragraph missing any of these elements is not a good paragraph.

A topic sentence is a sentence that introduces the topic/idea to be discussed in the paragraph. It should always be the first sentence in a paragraph.

There must be a concluding sentence at the end of every proper paragraph (after the body sentences). As its name suggests, a concluding sentence concludes or ends a paragraph. For a concluding sentence to be effective, it must somehow link back to the topic sentence and rephrase it.

Example of a topic sentence: There are many benefits to playing basketball.

Example of a concluding sentence: Since playing basketball improves cardiovascular health, physical fitness, and mental concentration, it is a sport that many children should be encouraged to take.

As you can see, the topic sentence mentioned the benefits of playing basketball, and the concluding sentence linked back to it by mentioning the benefits.

2. Each Paragraph Bears a Single Main Idea

As is often the case, students begin paragraphs by talking about one thing and end with something different, which is why most students end up writing boring essays and papers. To avoid being a victim, ensure that each paragraph only focuses on a single main idea that builds on the thesis statement you declared in the introduction paragraph. Understand what underpins the paragraph and make it the main agenda of the topic sentence. You should then support it using evidence, explanations, and examples. If, when editing, you identify some sentences that are irrelevant to the main idea, transfer them to the relevant paragraph or delete them altogether. Paragraphs with a single idea are easy to read and have a natural flow.

3. Must be at least four sentences long

Generally, when you are writing essay paragraphs, the shorter, the better. However, your paragraphs should never be too short. The minimum number of sentences you should have per essay paragraph is four sentences, including one topic sentence, two or three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

This is because five sentences are enough for you to have a topic sentence, a conclusion sentence, and three-body sentences in between. So never write a paragraph that is less than four sentences long.

The sweet spot in terms of length for essay paragraphs is between four and seven sentences. Paragraphs less than four sentences long are too short, and paragraphs over seven sentences long are too long.

4. Have at most seven sentences long

You must make sure your paragraphs do not exceed seven sentences. This is because eight sentences in a paragraph are too many sentences. By restricting your paragraphs to seven sentences, you will achieve three things.

First, you will show your professor you can organize your thoughts. In other words, you will show your professor that you can cut out all the unnecessary information and leave only the most important information in each paragraph.

Second, you will make your essay a breeze to read and understand. When writing an essay, your mission is to make sure your professor understands what you are saying quickly. This is to make it easier for your professor to read and grade your work. And you can achieve this by making sure your paragraphs are not too long.

Lastly, you will make your professor?s work easy. When your professor sees short paragraphs, they will be happy to read your essay because they will subconsciously know it will be easy to understand. Making your professor happy to read your essay will undoubtedly help you get extra marks.

5. Conclusion and intro are approximately 10% each

It is vital to ensure that the introduction and conclusion elements of your paragraph are no more than 10 percent each. This is because while these elements are important, what your professor wants to see in each paragraph in the body. This is because the body element or part contains the supporting information, evidence, data, or examples.

So, if each paragraph in your essay will be roughly 200 words long, you should restrict the intro and the conclusion to 20 words each. The rest of the paragraph, approximately 160 words, should go to the body of your paragraph. The body of each paragraph should contain sentences that support the main idea or argument in the intro or topic sentence.

So, every time you are writing a paragraph in an essay, you should try to keep the intro and the conclusion as brief as reasonably possible.

6. Left align your paragraphs

You should always left-align your paragraphs as a college student. You will probably never be requested to justify paragraphs by a college professor. Justifying paragraphs in your essay will create large blocks of text that never look appealing to professors. Large blocks of text almost always look challenging to read.

So, whenever you are writing an essay, you should left align your paragraphs to create white spaces throughout your essay. These white spaces will make your text easier to scan, skim, read, and comprehend. This is because they will allow vertical reading. And this is important because most professors mark essays by vertical reading.

You should also never right align or center-align your paragraphs. Because right aligning or center aligning your paragraphs is not what your professors expect, you will most likely lose marks for choosing either of these formats.

7. Always include examples

A strong paragraph is one that is filled with examples in the body sentences after the topic sentence. By giving examples in each paragraph, you will be showing your professor that you have done comprehensive research on the topic and on each point. In addition, you will be demonstrating that you genuinely understand the claim you are making in each paragraph.

Adding examples to your paragraphs is also a way to make your essay stand out. When professors give out an essay assignment, they usually end up with essays that look similar. So, to make your essay look different, you should use examples to personalize your work.

For example, suppose your topic sentence focuses on the positive effect of nuclear science in the energy sector. In that case, you can mention how nuclear power provides clean and safe energy to industrialized countries and then give examples.

8. Cite your paragraphs

You should always cite the paragraphs in your essay. When your professor gives you an assignment, the goal is usually to make you do further research on the topic to learn more. This is why they expect to see your essay dotted with credible sources throughout, even when they do not ask for them in the instructions.

So, make sure you put at least one source in each paragraph. And whenever you can, you should put between two to three different sources per paragraph. This will show your professor you have researched and read widely on the topic they gave you and ensure you get a good score for citation.

You should make sure every source you add throughout your essay is a quality source. Examples of quality sources include books, journals, academic papers, government websites, organization websites, and so on. On the other hand, avoid citing information from unreliable sources such as blogs, random websites, and social media posts. These are not considered quality sources, and you will probably lose marks if you use them widely in your essay.

One more thing worth mentioning about citing your paragraphs is that while professors expect citations throughout the body paragraphs of your essays, they do not expect citations in the introduction and conclusion paragraphs. Therefore, you should particularly avoid adding a citation in your conclusion paragraph because it would mean you are adding new information, and no new information is expected in the conclusion paragraph.

As good practice, spread your references in your paragraphs to make them sound scholarly. In most cases, if you have a paragraph with six sentences, place an in-text citation at the end of the third sentence and a second citation at the end of the fifth sentence. If you have five sentences, your first in-text citation should be in the second sentence and the second citation in the fourth sentence. This is one of the top secrets that top-grade students use when writing essays and research papers.

When adding citations to your paragraphs, make sure they are formatted according to the academic writing style or format you have been requested to follow (e.g., APA, MLA, or Harvard).

9. Avoid run-on sentences

You should try as much as you can to avoid run-on sentences when you are writing paragraphs. The reason why is that run-on sentences are difficult to understand. Run-on sentences are basically two or more complete sentences linked together incorrectly. The best way to avoid run-on sentences in your paragraphs is to try to write short sentences. Whenever you feel like a sentence is becoming too long, you should split it. This will make sure you are not unnecessarily joining independent clauses.

And after writing your essay, you should read through to eliminate or split the long sentences. Then, you can use writing assistance software such as Grammarly to identify run-on sentences in your essay quickly. Alternatively, you can ask as to proofread an essay for you to correct run-on sentences and other types of grammar and typing errors.

10. Use short sentences

The easiest paragraphs to read are those that are short and have plenty of short sentences. Conversely, long sentences in paragraphs make them difficult to read. And whenever your sentences are difficult to read, your professor will most likely assume that the rest of your work is also difficult to read, making you lose marks.

So, try as much as you can to write short sentences. Make sure your paragraphs are short, and your sentences are also short. This will make your work is easy to read and understand. It will also ensure you are expressing yourself clearly in each sentence. This usually creates a flow to your work, which is one of the things most professors usually look out for when grading essays.

11.   Use shorter quotes

Most university professors hate quotes. This is because many students use them to reach the word count quickly. So, if you have something to say, use your own words. Read, understand, and then write in your own words. Of course, you should also provide a citation whenever you paraphrase someone else?s idea, argument, claim, or data. This will make you look more professional and knowledgeable to your professor.

So, to avoid losing marks, you should only use quotes when absolutely necessary, and you should make sure your quotes are short. And your quotes should never be more than a sentence long. You should also never use more than five quotes in an essay unless when absolutely necessary.

Lastly, you should never begin a paragraph with a quote. This will ensure you have a topic sentence to properly introduce a claim or argument before you use the quote.

12. Each paragraph builds on the last one

For your essays to have a good flow, you should make sure each paragraph builds on the last one. In other words, you should make sure each concluding sentence in your sentence somewhat links to the next. Or each topic sentence somewhat links to the previous paragraph.

By making sure paragraphs link to each other, you will give your essay a logical flow that will make it easy to understand. And that will ensure you get the best marks for flow, logic, and coherence.

13.   Begin a new paragraph in a new line

This paragraph structuring rule is pretty straightforward, but many people do not follow it. You should make sure you begin every new paragraph in a new line to separate your paragraphs. This will make your essay easy to read and understand.

It will ensure you don?t lose marks for poor paragraph structuring. It will also make sure you discuss one key idea per paragraph, which is what 99 percent of professors expect in essay paragraphs.

14. Use adequate transitions and phrases

Transition words and phrases are important to show the relationship between sentences and between paragraphs. This showing of the relationship between sentences is vital to show logical flow clearly.

Without clearly signaling the relationship between your sentences and paragraphs, your work will be difficult to understand. So always use transition words to enhance flow in your work. Examples of transition words that you can use to signal the addition of ideas include: equally important, of equal importance, then, in addition, moreover, furthermore, further, besides, also, and similarly.

Examples of transition words you can use to signal time include: lastly, subsequently, then, ultimately, meanwhile, the next day, presently, and currently. There are also many transition words you can use to signify order, space, and examples.

15. Blend short and long sentences

It is important to blend short and long sentences to keep your reader engaged. Using short sentences throughout your paragraphs will make your work monotonous. Conversely, using long sentences throughout your paragraphs will also make your work monotonous.

So, use a mix of short and long sentences to keep your reader engaged. Use short sentences between long sentences to break them and reduce or eliminate reading difficulty when possible.

Concluding remarks

You need to follow many rules to structure your essay paragraphs properly. The ones above are the most important rules of paragraphing. Following most of them whenever you write essay paragraphs will help you get good grades on your essays. Suppose you cannot remember all the rules. In that case, you can always order a custom essay from us to get well-structured paragraphs and essays for your personal use. The good thing is that our essay writers have attained mastery in good paragraph writing. You can also use this as a checklist when editing the paragraphs in your essay. We wish you all the best as you write healthy and flowing paragraphs and are here if you need help.

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