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Paragraph Structure

To support, prove or develop a topic sentence, a paragraph should have several supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence to summarize the material in the paragraph, to offer a solution to the stated problem, etc.


3.6. Look at the following paragraphs and identify the topic sentence (TS) and the supporting sentences (SS) and the concluding sentences (CS):


A. In times gone by, lions lived in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. () Humans killed hundreds of lions either out of fear or for sport. () When areas were cleared to make towns and villages, lions and other animals were killed in large numbers. () Now there are no lions left in the Middle East or Northern Africa. () Lions can be found in Asia and the Eastern part of Central Africa. () They are mostly found in zoos or national parks. ()


B. In these modern times we live a fast-paced life. () We speed on highways that never end, take jet planes to travel faster. () Fast food restaurants save us time. () Our machines are working faster than ever, and we can enjoy more leisure time. () Then, in our leisure time, we grumble because things move too slowly. ()


There should be no irrelevant information in a paragraph; if there is, then the paragraph is badly written, because the meaning link between the topic sentence and other sentences will be lost.

3.7. Look at the following paragraph. Is there any irrelevant information? Underline the irrelevant sentences, if any, in the paragraph.


Our dog Buster is a sprightly, mischievous Spitz. The first thing he did when he was brought home from the breeder’s farm was to chew up my rubber slipper. The breeder lives on a farm in the outskirts of the city. She was a teacher once, but now she has taken up breeding dogs. Next he ‘read’ my father’s newspaper thoroughly – a shredding machine couldn’t have done a better job. Then he chased our neighbor’s poor little kitten all around the garden, yapping furiously. He had a big grin on his face, but we were exhausted.

3.8. What is wrong with the following paragraph?


I love swimming in the sea at Kovalam. Kovalam is in Kerala, which is a state in South India. Kerala is the only state which has reached the target of 100% literacy.

Hint: What is the topic sentence?

3.9. Identify the irrelevant sentences in the following paragraphs:


A. The general population often resists innovations, whether practical or aesthetic. When the early experiments in the field of aviation began their work, there were many who said, ‘If God had wanted man to fly, He would have given him wings.’ The Wright brothers made the first powered flights in a heavier-than-air craft in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. ‘Even today there are many who strongly object to modern art and music as being nothing more than ‘splashes of paint and honking horns.’ The painter Picasso’s well-known masterpiece The Three Musicians is done primarily in blues and browns.



B. Editorials differ from other kinds of news stories. In most regular news stories, it is assumed that no personal opinions are being represented. Newspaper writers are supposed to present the facts of each story in a straightforward, unbiased fashion. ‘Statistics reveal that over 61 million newspapers are sold ever day in this country. The purpose of the editorial page, of course, is to allow the editors to give their personal opinions. Here is where they tell readers what they think about an issue – who is at fault, who has done a good job, or how a situation could be improved. It is no wonder, then, that Thomas Jefferson once remarked that he could more easily accept newspapers without government than government without newspapers.



The Concluding Sentence at the end of a paragraph usually uses one or more of the following techniques:

1) summarizes the material in the paragraph

2) offers a solution to the problem stated in the paragraph

3) predicts a situation that will result or occur from the statements made in the paragraph

4) states a conclusion to information given in the paragraph.

3.10. Read the paragraphs below to identify the concluding sentences and concluding techniques used:


The English Novel of the 20th Century

As compared to the novel of the Victorian period, which had social themes, the novel of the twentieth century has more personal, individual themes. But at the same time as the novel examines the problems of the individual, it also becomes an examination of the whole world. England is no longer the main scene – many writers use the wider world, outside England, as their setting. Often England is seen in contrast with the other countries described. Writers also begin to use different points of view, rather than seeing the world through only one character’s eyes. The many points of view, the range of settings, and quick moves from scene to scene all become part of modern writing. So did a psychological approach. The stream of consciousness technique, named after the American psychologist William James, became an important part of novelists’ techniques in the early twentieth century. Thus, the English novel of the 20th century has demonstrated new approaches in a number of aspects adding its share to the development of world literature.



3.11. Now you write a five-sentence paragraph on your own. You might begin it like this:


I like to spend my summer vacations in ……………………….

A good paragraph must have UNITY (that is to have only one idea), ORDER (the logical sequence of thought, coherence), and it should be fully DEVELOPED (an idea expressed in the topic sentence should not be abandoned half-way through).


3.12. There are two different ideas in the following paragraph, and therefore, there must be two paragraphs. Read the passage and use L to indicate where a new paragraph should begin. Also underline the topic sentence of each paragraph.


There was a time in history when this land we now call Britain was not an island. It was joined to the rest of Europe, and hills and forests once stood where the North Sea and the English Channel are today. Then, owing to some great earthquakes, much of the land sank, the sea rushed in and only high parts remained above the surface of the water. How do we know this? Fishermen trawling in the North Sea and the English Channel have found in their nets the bones of pre-historic animals that must have been roaming about on what was once dry land. Sabre-toothed tigers, mammoths and other creatures that have disappeared long ago could not have been paddling about in canoes, could they?


3.13. Put the following sentences in the correct order to make a coherent paragraph. Sentence (b) is the first sentence.


(a) Others feared that, one day, he might accept the crown of Rome which had been offered him.

(b) On March 15th, in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated on the steps of the Capitol in Rome.

(c) Some were jealous of his outstanding success as a general.

(d) A number of reach and famous Roman senators had plotted his downfall.

(e) So his ‘friends’, Brutus, Cassius and Casca with others thrust their daggers into the great leader.

(f) Then they dipped their daggers in his blood and held them up for all to see.


3.14. What is wrong with the following paragraph?


There are three reasons why I am not admitting my child to that school. In the first place, the school is far away from where we live. Yes, the school does have a bus, but can you imagine a child of 5 having to spend nearly an hour to reach school? That’s the time it takes for the bus, with a lot of pick-up points on the way. I definitely will not send my child to that school.


3.14. Write a short paragraph according to the specifications given below:


TOPIC SENTENCE: there are both advantages and disadvantages of owing a digital TV.

SUPPORTING SENTENCES: two advantages and two disadvantages.

CONCLUDING SENTENCE: Explain why you do or do not like owing a digital TV.


Types of Paragraphs


Descriptive Paragraph

Description is the art of translating perception into words. When you write a descriptive paragraph, you try to reproduce in words what you see, hear or experience. The aim of a descriptive paragraph is to be as accurate and effective as possible.


3.15. Study the descriptive paragraph about a garden. Is it effective? In what way?


David Moss lived with his family in the last house in Jubilee Row. The house was like all the others, but their garden was something quite out of the ordinary; it ran straight back for the first twenty yards, like all other gardens; then, when the others stopped, this took a sudden turn to the right and, in another minute, it reached an unexpected destination. When the other gardens ended in a hedge, a fence or a stretch of wire-netting, the Moss’s garden was brought to a stop only by the softly flowing waters of the River Say.


3.16. Now write a one-paragraph description of a place you know or like very much.


Descriptions can be of events, processes, objects or people, too. However, while describing persons, we tend to choose details that we feel reflect the personality of the individual:

My grandmother had always been short and fat and slightly bent. Her face was a criss-cross of wrinkles running from everywhere to everywhere…her silver locks were scattered untidily over her pale, puckered face, and her lips constantly moved in audible prayer.


3.17. Write a paragraph describing a friend or relative.

3.18. How do you describe an apple? Write it.

3.19. Describe the process of making an international telephone call.

3.20. Write more samples of descriptive paragraphs: describe a person, a thing, a place, and a process.



Narrative paragraph

Narrative paragraphs describe what happened – chains of events, actions, etc.


Car Accident

It is this mad craze for speed that is responsible for many car accidents. Only last month, I witnessed what might have been a fatal accident on the Moscow highway. I was motoring down from Minsk, and I was near Logoisk, when I came upon the wreckage of two cars on the road. The smash had been caused by a car taking a sharp curve at 80 kmph and crashing into a maxi-taxi coming up. Happily, no one was killed, but many were badly injured, and the two cars were total write-offs. To drive fast down a twisting road is to court disaster.


Reflective paragraph

Reflective paragraphs deal with ideas and opinions. In other words, they are concerned with our brain, thinking and other cognitive aspects. Most reflective paragraphs try to justify or persuade.

3.21. Read the following reflective paragraph about Mercy. Which is the topic sentence?


To forgive an injury is often considered to be a sign of weakness; it is really a sign of strength. It is easy to allow oneself to be carried away by resentment and hate into an act of vengeance; but it takes a strong character to restrain these natural passions. The man who forgives an injury proves himself to be the superior of the man who has wronged him, and puts the wrong-doer to shame. Forgiveness may even turn a foe into a friend. So mercy is the noblest form of revenge.


Commentary: this paragraph is about what the writer thinks about mercy. The supporting sentences are used to strengthen the idea that mercy is not weakness. Notice how the writer has first presented the common view and then introduced his own view. Also notice how he achieves an impact by placing the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph.


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