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TIP 1: Focus Each Paragraph on a Single Main Topic

Think of each paragraph as a unit of thought. Focus it on a single main topic, and clearly convey that topic to the reader.

  • In general, each paragraph should have one main point to make, or should be focused on the same general topic.
  • The topic should be articulated at the beginning of the paragraph. Never make the reader wait further than the second sentence to learn the topic of a paragraph.
  • If you paragraph is longer than 10 lines, consider subdividing it.
  • To avoid overly long or complex paragraphs, it is okay to use several linked paragraphs to build a single argument, but articulate the linkages.

Read the following paragraph and decide what its topic is. How far into the paragraph do you have to wait to identify the topic?

Comment:

Few readers will be willing to wait so long to understand what is going on in a paragraph. Rickettsial encephalitis is not mentioned until the next to the last sentence. The real problem here is the order of the sentences, which brings us to our second tip for writing good paragraphs.