Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 702
We’ve all been there. You have an essay due in the next couple of days, but you don’t know how to get started. You might even feel a severe case of writer’s block coming on. There’s no need to panic, however, as long as you follow our 10-step process for acing the building block of your essay—the paragraph.
1) Brainstorm and freewrite. Before you can begin to create a paragraph, you need to have a very strong sense of what you will write about as a whole. Brainstorm all ideas, facts, concepts, myths, quotes, and any other associations that pop into your head when you think of your topic. Your freewriting could be structured into complete sentences or could simply be a bulleted list or a string of words or phrases. The most important thing is to get it all down!
2) Create a topic sentence. Now that you’ve jotted down all your initial thoughts and observations, try to find a main, general point that governs most of what you have written. This point should be formulated into a topic sentence, a general sentence that provides a very broad, sneak peek into the specifics of your paragraph. Remember, your sentence must allude to the details that will follow but must not give them away.
3) Organize your supporting details. Now that you have a topic sentence, look over your freewriting again and decide which details best support your topic sentence. You want to pick your strongest points and be sure not to stray from the general idea. A good rule of thumb is to have three to five specific points. Start with a strong point, sandwich in your adequate points, and end with another memorable detail.
4) Develop effective and varied transitions. You have all the major building blocks for your paragraph; now you have to get from one point to another artfully and effectively. Try to vary how you move from one idea to another. Sometimes sequential ordering (first, next) works best, while other times you may want to find relationships (similarly, together with) or consequences (as a result, consequently) between your ideas.
5) Consider your audience. Who will be reading your paragraph? It might just be your teacher who is already quite versed in the topic. However, it may be a peer with no previous background but who really wants new information. Depending on who reads your paragraph, you will need to adapt its style to educate and reach your audience.
6) Strive for sentence variety. Your points will hold more interest and pack punch if you vary your sentences. Go beyond length and consider mixing simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Start a sentence with a prepositional phrase or a dependent clause. Why not begin with a description and inspire your audience to read on to discover who or what it is?
7) Formulate a clincher or concluding sentence. Leave your reader with a lasting impression and some additional insight into your topic by putting a great deal of thought into your last sentence. Don’t make your final impression a bland summary. Instead, accentuate your strongest point.
8) Double-check for extraneous details. Now that your paragraph is organized, look over all your supporting details and be sure that you are not off-topic with any of your points. If you absolutely cannot live without a certain detail, revise your topic sentence so that it fits. Otherwise, you will distract the reader from the purpose established in your topic sentence if you include irrelevant information.
9) Create a rough draft. The time has come to write your paragraph. You have thought of everything, so just get it down without worrying too much about revising and editing. Writer’s block often occurs because you are hung up on punctuation and finding the perfect word.
10) Revise and edit. Now that you have a solid framework, you can tweak and perfect the paragraph to your heart’s content. Start with checking your word choice and sentence structure and end with correcting mechanical errors. Finally, rewrite your paragraph. Now all you need to do to write that dreaded essay is to repeat these steps for each paragraph you need. Your essay will materialize before you know it!
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