The Function of a Paragraph

Essays and other written texts are divided into paragraphs as a means of helping readers to follow a plot or the flow of an argument. Usually, it is best if paragraphs are not overly long (as a rule, over three-quarters of a page is possibly too much) or overly short (e.g., a sentence or two is probably not sufficiently informative). It makes sense to begin a new paragraph when presenting a new point or idea that contrasts with a previous one, or to discuss a separate but related point or idea.    

As well as presenting clear and individual thoughts, each paragraph should have a specific reason for being there. There are a few questions you should ask of yourself: “What do I want to say in this particular paragraph?” “How should I try to express it?” “Am I trying to expand a previous idea?” “Is my aim to qualify an earlier statement?” “Is this point one I am restating or using to support another one?” “Do I want to compare, contrast or describe something?” 

The following are a few suggestions on how to plan the purpose of a paragraph, but this is not an exhaustive list!  

To state something is about making some claim or assertion.

To restate something is to reword a previously made claim or assertion to modify, emphasize or clarify it.  

To support something is about offering evidence to back up or substantiate a claim or assertion.

To concur is to agree with someone else’s claims or assertions.

To qualify something is about restricting what a previously made claim or assertion means.  

To concede is to acknowledge the existence of a viewpoint, perspective or fact that questions the claims or assertions of another person.

To negate something is to offer evidence or reasoning to show a claim or assertion is untrue.

To expand is to elaborate or clarify a previously made claim or assertion.

To analyze is to break down a claim or assertion into its component parts with the aim of evaluating or clarifying it.

To define is to explain what words that were previously used or will be used mean.

To describe means to list or name the features of a concept or thing so that readers can understand it better or imagine it more clearly.

To exemplify is to provide an illustration of what a previously made statement means or to provide a solid example to give credibility to a point.

To compare and contrast is to examine objects side-by-side in order to evaluate them, clarify their specific features, or to note their likenesses and differences.

To narrate is to relate a story that describes one or more events.

To synthesize is to combine information from different paragraphs into one coherent entity, which often involves presenting the subject matter from a different perspective.

To evaluate is to judge something that was previously demonstrated or discussed.

To transition is to provide links that move the reader smoothly from one part of a text or argument to the next.

To summarize is to restate the main idea(s), arguments, or previously discussed points of a text.