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What do teachers want to see in a paragraph?
If you’re a student, your teacher or tutor may ask you to write a paragraph without telling you just how long he or she expects it to be. In general, educators like to see a paragraph consisting of at least 5 sentences. Start with a sentence that expresses an idea. Use the next 3 sentences for providing information that supports that idea, and use the final sentence to draw a conclusion.
Why do teachers expect longer paragraphs? Obviously, they want to see that you have acquired knowledge and can think critically. That’s quite difficult to demonstrate with a single sentence! Teachers will sometimes set a rule that all paragraphs should be a certain length, but it’s important to remember that specific paragraph lengths aren’t a prerequisite for acceptable writing.
When do you use shorter paragraphs?
Open just about any book, and you’ll find plenty of short paragraphs. If direct speech is used, there’ll be a new paragraph every time a new speaker starts to talk. News writers also like using short paragraphs. They have to present information in a succinct way and hold the reader’s attention.
Commercial writers know that most people don’t want to read 1,000 words of closely-spaced text in order to see what they are writing about, so they also like to keep sentences and paragraphs short. They’ll even use lots of sub-headers so you can see what each paragraph is about before you read it.
How do I know when to start a new paragraph?
Every time you begin to discuss a new thought that contributes to the overarching theme of your work, you can start a new paragraph. A paragraph will usually consist of a collection of sentences that, when considered as a group, have something in common. As soon as you move on to the next idea, you can begin a new paragraph.
Luckily, you don’t have to agonise about it too much, because as I’ve pointed out, there are no specific rules.
Tips for writing strong paragraphs
It’s best to begin a paragraph with a sentence that defines the topic that will be discussed. Try to keep it fairly simple. If you include too many ideas in your opening sentence, you run the risk of getting tangled in an overly complex and incoherent paragraph. Every sentence in a paragraph should support the first, “topic sentence.” When you begin discussing a new or related topic, start a new paragraph.
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