Paragraphs help make your text readable by organizing your text. But what exactly is a paragraph? It’s a collection of related sentences dealing with a single topic.
The rule of thumb is one idea per paragraph. You might start with a statement and then provide some supporting evidence. To make sure your sentences belong, when you’re looking at the sentences in your paragraphs ask the question: Do these sentences relate to the overall topic of the paragraph?
Watch out for the flow of the paragraph. Use transition words to join the sentences together and to make it clear to your reader just how each sentence relates to the next. This is particularly important in long paragraphs.
Perhaps the most important sentence in each paragraph is your topic sentence. This is the sentence that tells your reader what you are dealing with in the paragraph. Not all paragraphs have topic sentences, and sometimes they may be in the middle, or at the end, of a paragraph. But if you want to make things easy for your reader, then I suggest you put the topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.
To illustrate how useful this can be let me tell you a little story. Some years ago I attended a speed reading course. If you don’t know about these courses, they teach a variety of techniques to help you quickly find your way through articles, books, magazines, reports and the like. On this course the trainer told me, “When you are reading a well-written book, if you just read the first sentence of every paragraph, you will read the most important information.”
Now, of course this doesn’t mean that the rest of the information isn’t important. But it’s a good shortcut when you’re in a hurry.
So when you’re writing, think about how much material your readers are reading, and make life easy for them. Organise your ideas and write good paragraphs.
Your readers will thank you.