Give me a break: Paragraph writing | Bangkok Post: learning

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Give me a break: Paragraph writing

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In teaching and learning, you may have heard a few rules about paragraphs, how long they should be or how to organise them. But looking at a number of written resources, including books, magazines, newspapers, or even your own correspondence, you may have noticed these sources often break those paragraph "rules". 

There really isn't a rule about a specific number of sentences paragraphs should have. For example, you have probably seen both one-sentence paragraphs (even one-word paragraphs) and paragraphs that go on for pages. The organisation can also vary. Some paragraphs will have topic sentences, and some won't. Some will move from general information to specific, and some just the opposite.

In learning paragraph writing, the lack of clarity or specific formula might cause confusion. Perhaps the best approach to teaching paragraphs is to help students see paragraphs as blocks of text that help readers and writers chunk information together and separate it as well. Paragraphs serve as a means of organising information, both for themselves and for their readers.

While there are no specific guidelines or rules for crafting the perfect paragraph, when students first prepare to organise their information into paragraphs, some guidelines might be helpful. Try these pointers:

Create a topic sentence. The topic sentence will contain the main idea of your paragraph. The topic sentence is most often the first sentence in each paragraph, but it can also be the second or last sentence. As a beginning writer, it might be easiest to make it the first sentence.

Explain your topic sentence.

Prove your ideas are true or important with interesting, specific details.

End your paragraph with a closing sentence that refers to the main idea in the topic sentence, but don't write the exact same sentence.

Remember, paragraphs usually focus on one main idea and its related parts.

Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. You may contact Heather at heatherv@isb.ac.th .

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