Today’s lesson is about the paragraph. It’s a writing lesson, and I want to show people what a paragraph is and how to construct one, what to do, what not to do so you can write very clear, very tight paragraphs. This is especially important for IELTS, TOEFL, SAT students but everybody has to follow the exact same rules. Now before I even begin, I must say that I’m talking mostly about academic writing or even business writing. Creative writing like novels or short stories, anything fiction, you can do anything you want. Only always remember: somebody has to read what you wrote so it has to be clear. But academic essays, for example, certain rules you have to follow; you have to be very careful about them. So let’s begin.
In terms of like the actual way a paragraph looks: you have to indent or skip a line. So let me just make sure you understand what an indent is. This is an indent, the first line a little bit pushed in or you can make sure you skip a line between paragraphs. But don’t do both. If you skip a line, don’t indent. Okay? That’s the main thing.
Now, that’s in terms of the way it looks. In terms of content — and this, I can’t stress this enough — very, very, very important: one central idea in one paragraph. Okay? I’ve seen many people, I’ve seen many essays where you start a paragraph talking about one thing, and then you go off on a tangent and talk about something completely unrelated. So for example: if you start a paragraph and you’re talking about apples, continue to talk about apples. If you go to oranges, that’s maybe okay because you’re still talking about fruit. But if you start with apples, go to oranges, go to bananas, and then end up with monkeys in space there’s a bit of a problem; the reader has no idea what you’re talking about. One paragraph, one central idea.
Now, make sure that you tell the reader what this central idea is. This is your thesis statement. Okay? It’s a very general sentence. All it does is introduce the topic of the paragraph, nothing else. All the details comes after. So speaking of details, we’ll talk about details in detail, but all other ideas, all the other sentences, all your sentences with the details must directly relate back to the main idea. So let’s say here is your thesis statement; very general, every sentence after must relate back to that thesis statement. Okay? You can’t go off to another idea. Everything must support this, must talk about the same topic. Very important. Okay?
How long should your paragraph be? Technically, a paragraph could be one sentence, but in an academic essay that rarely happens. But it could be any length you want, as long as you’re still on that one topic, as long as you still have things to write and things to say about that topic, say it. If you have four sentences, fine; if you have 10 sentences, also okay. Again, for IELTS, TOEFL, SAT students: four, five sentences should be your limit. You can’t be too long because you don’t have time and you’re going to start making mistakes.
So now, the details. Very important to have lots of details. Why is this topic important to your overall idea of your essay? Not only tell me what is the topic, what is the thesis statement of the paragraph, make sure you explain to me why this is important to the general idea of the essay. Give me your reasons. Now, why is it important? And then reasons, why you think what you’re saying supports this idea. Examples, always use examples because giving me the reasons is okay; examples make me see exactly what you’re trying to say. Very easy for me to understand what you’re trying to say.
Now, in terms of flow, in terms of the way the reader can approach the paragraph, you have to have bridges. What is, what do bridges mean? Basically, when you have one idea in this sentence, you must connect it to the next sentence, you must connect it to the next sentence. Every sentence must have a link to the next sentence. This creates flow, makes it much easier to read and understand, and it keeps you on the one topic.
Now, key terms. If you’re talking about something specific and you have to use a key term, use it as many times as you need to. Otherwise, avoid repetition. Try not to use the same word more than once in one paragraph. Okay? For example: if you’re using the word “moreover” in the paragraph, don’t use it, don’t use “moreover” again — use “in addition to”, use “furthermore”, “another”, etc. Try to avoid using one word more than once, especially in the same paragraph.