Monday, 2 December 2019

Writing paragraphs

Azariadis (2011, p. 6)
When we are creating argument, the key tool we use for this is a paragraph. We often don't tend to think about a paragraph having a structure, but these frameworks are powerful. There are a number of different ways to structure paragraphs, but in this post, I will explore the "standard" approach.

Paragraphs should contain at least three sentences. They should be written with a lead-in, topic sentence, followed by a number of detail sentences with each explaining detail of - and linking the elements of - the topic sentence. Each paragraph then ends with either a concluding sentence, or with a bridging sentence which takes the reader to the next paragraph. Diagrammatically this looks like the image accompanying this post.

A paragraph should not be only one sentence long: all you can do in a single sentence is to introduce the argument yet to come... and then nothing happens! As an old lecturer used to say, "You're not a journalist: a one sentence paragraph is a heading" (ha ha, that made me laugh: little did he know, my first ambition was to be a journalist!).

On the other hand, neither should a paragraph drone on for too long, as the reader needs to be able to "take a breath" before starting on the next idea. As we are writing, we need to consider the amount that our average reader will be able to absorb in that "breath". There is a fine line between bite-size, digestible paragraphs for the reader, and textual overload where each paragraph must be attempted multiple times.

We want the utmost clarity in communication, with the most nuance, for the least effort on the part of the reader.

So tricky.


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