Introduction

Welcome to this episode of English Plus Podcast, where we’ll be discussing the art of crafting powerful paragraphs. Whether you’re a student looking to improve your essay writing, a professional seeking to enhance your communication skills, or simply someone who wants to express themselves more effectively in writing, this episode is for you.

Episode Audio

Interactive Transcript

Episode 756 Ask Danny | Write Better Paragraphs

Text Transcript

Danny:

This is your host, Danny and this is English Plus Podcast.

Today, we’re starting a new type of episode in English Plus Podcast. We will have these episodes every other week and they’re called Ask Danny. You can send me your suggestions to talk about anything you want to learn more about and I will answer your suggestions in a full episode if your question requires it, or if the answer is not long enough to make an entire episode based on it, I will definitely answer your questions by email. So, to have your questions features on English Plus Podcast, and more importantly to have the things you need explained on the podcast, send your questions or suggestions to [email protected]

Today, I’m going to answer a simple, but very important question sent to me by Joanna from Sao Paolo. She asked how she could improve her paragraphs, and I believe this is a very important skill needed not only for English learners but for everybody, so today we’ll learn how to write better paragraphs. So, we should all be thankful to Joanna’s question as today’s episode is based on it.

Welcome to today’s episode of English Plus Podcast, where we’ll be discussing the art of crafting powerful paragraphs. Whether you’re a student looking to improve your essay writing, a professional seeking to enhance your communication skills, or simply someone who wants to express themselves more effectively in writing, this episode is for you.

But we need your help to keep producing quality content like this. If you enjoy listening to English Plus, please take a moment to rate and review us on your preferred podcast platform. And don’t forget to share the podcast with your friends, family, and colleagues who might benefit from our discussions. With your support, we can continue to bring you valuable insights and practical tips on language learning and beyond. So, without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic and learn how to write better paragraphs!

Ben:

Excellent. Now let’s start by defining what a paragraph is and what the main components of a paragraph are.

Danny:

Sure! A paragraph is a self-contained unit of writing that consists of one or more sentences related to a single main idea or topic. In general, paragraphs serve to break up long blocks of text and help to organize ideas and information in a way that is easy for the reader to understand.

When it comes to the main components of a paragraph, there are typically three key elements that you should consider:

Topic sentence: This is the first sentence of the paragraph, and it introduces the main idea or topic that the paragraph will be discussing.

Supporting sentences: These sentences provide additional information, examples, or evidence to support the topic sentence.

Concluding sentence: This is the final sentence of the paragraph, and it summarizes the main point or provides a transition to the next paragraph.

By including all of these elements in your paragraph, you can ensure that your writing is clear, organized, and effective in conveying your ideas to your readers.

Ben:

How are paragraphs different from essays?

Danny:

Paragraphs and essays are both important components of effective writing, but they serve different purposes and have different structures.

As we discussed earlier, a paragraph is a self-contained unit of writing that focuses on a single idea or topic. Typically, a paragraph consists of a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. The main purpose of a paragraph is to provide detail and support for a specific point within a larger piece of writing, such as an essay.

On the other hand, an essay is a longer piece of writing that presents an argument or position on a particular topic. An essay typically consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction provides an overview of the topic and the thesis statement, which is the main argument that the essay will be making. The body paragraphs each focus on a specific point that supports the thesis, and the conclusion summarizes the main points and restates the thesis in a new way.

So, while paragraphs are important building blocks within an essay, an essay as a whole has a more complex structure and is designed to provide a more comprehensive and cohesive argument or discussion of a topic.

Ben:

Alright then, let’s move back to the focus of our episode today and talk about the first and maybe most important part of any paragraph — the topic sentence. Why is the topic sentence so important in a paragraph?

Danny:

The topic sentence is indeed one of the most important parts of a paragraph. It serves as a roadmap for the reader, guiding them on what to expect from the paragraph and helping them to understand the main idea or topic that will be discussed.

Here are some key reasons why the topic sentence is so important in a paragraph:

It grabs the reader’s attention: The topic sentence should be interesting and engaging, encouraging the reader to keep reading.

It provides focus and direction: The topic sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is about and what they can expect to learn from it.

It helps to organize the paragraph: By stating the main idea upfront, the topic sentence can help the writer to structure their thoughts and ideas in a logical way.

It supports the thesis statement: In an essay, the topic sentence of each paragraph should support the thesis statement, which is the main argument of the essay.

It helps with coherence and cohesion: A well-written topic sentence can help to connect the paragraph to the previous one and provide a smooth transition to the next one, which helps to maintain the overall flow and coherence of the writing.

Overall, the topic sentence is a critical part of any paragraph, and it is essential to get it right in order to make your writing clear, organized, and effective.

Ben:

So, what should we consider when we want to create a good and strong topic sentence?

Danny:

Great question! Here are some key things to consider when creating a good and strong topic sentence for your paragraph:

Clarity: The topic sentence should clearly and concisely state the main idea or topic of the paragraph. It should be easy to understand and not leave the reader guessing about what the paragraph will be discussing.

Specificity: The topic sentence should be specific enough to give the reader a clear sense of what the paragraph will be focusing on. Avoid vague or general statements that don’t provide enough detail.

Relevance: The topic sentence should be relevant to the larger context of the essay or writing piece. It should connect to the main thesis or argument and contribute to the overall flow of the writing.

Engagement: The topic sentence should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. Use language and phrasing that is interesting and compelling.

Unity: The topic sentence should reflect the overall unity of the paragraph. All the sentences within the paragraph should relate to the main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence.

By keeping these things in mind when creating a topic sentence, you can ensure that your paragraph has a clear, strong, and effective opening that sets the stage for the rest of the writing.

Ben:

Let’s dive in a little deeper here and tell our listeners about some good examples of topic sentences and talk about why they are good and strong.

Danny:

Sure! Here are a few examples of good and strong topic sentences, along with an explanation of why they work well:

“The prevalence of smartphones has led to a rise in social media addiction among young people.”

This topic sentence is clear, specific, and relevant to the larger context of the essay. It clearly states the main idea of the paragraph (the connection between smartphones and social media addiction) and ties into the larger argument or thesis of the essay.

“The benefits of regular exercise go far beyond just physical health.”

This topic sentence is engaging and interesting, and it offers a clear focus for the rest of the paragraph. It also touches on a potentially unexpected point about the importance of exercise, which may encourage the reader to keep reading.

“One of the most significant challenges of working from home is the blurring of work and personal boundaries.”

This topic sentence is specific and relevant, addressing a key issue that many people have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides a clear focus for the paragraph and offers a potential solution or direction for the rest of the writing.

“Despite the common perception that technology is making us more isolated, social media can actually help to build strong connections and foster community.”

This topic sentence is interesting and challenging, as it takes a potentially counterintuitive stance on the role of technology in modern society. It sets up an argument that will need to be supported with evidence and examples, making it a strong and engaging opening for the paragraph.

Overall, these examples demonstrate the importance of clarity, specificity, relevance, engagement, and unity in crafting a good and strong topic sentence for your paragraph. By considering these factors when writing your own topic sentences, you can create a clear and effective opening for your writing.

Ben:

Very interesting indeed. Now how about we show our listeners some bad examples of topic sentences and discuss why they are bad?

Danny:

Certainly, let’s take a look at some bad examples of topic sentences and discuss why they are ineffective:

“In this paragraph, I will discuss the benefits of exercise.”

This topic sentence is ineffective because it is vague, overly general, and doesn’t provide a clear focus for the rest of the paragraph. It also wastes valuable space by stating the obvious, rather than diving straight into the main point.

“Many people believe that exercise is important.”

This topic sentence is weak because it is vague and doesn’t offer a clear focus or direction for the paragraph. It also relies on a generalization or assumption, rather than presenting specific evidence or examples.

“In conclusion, exercise is good for your health.”

This topic sentence is ineffective because it is too late in the writing to introduce a new idea or topic. It also doesn’t provide any new information or insight, and is unnecessary in a short paragraph where the concluding sentence can serve as the conclusion.

“Exercise is good for you, and there are many reasons for this.”

This topic sentence is weak because it is too broad and doesn’t offer a clear focus for the paragraph. It also doesn’t provide any specific reasons or evidence to support the claim, leaving the reader unsure of what to expect from the rest of the writing.

Overall, these examples demonstrate the importance of being clear, specific, and engaging when crafting a topic sentence. Avoid vague or overly general statements, and make sure your topic sentence provides a clear focus for the rest of the paragraph. By doing so, you can create an effective opening that grabs the reader’s attention and guides them through your writing.

Ben:

Let’s take it a step further and look at some bad examples of topic sentences, criticize them and make them better and stronger.

Danny:

Sure, let’s do that! Here are some bad examples of topic sentences, along with potential ways to improve and strengthen them:

Bad: “People have different opinions about social media.”

This topic sentence is weak because it is overly general and doesn’t provide a clear focus or direction for the paragraph. To make it stronger, you could revise it to something like: “The impact of social media on society is a subject of ongoing debate, with some arguing that it has brought people closer together, while others contend that it has led to increased isolation and loneliness.”

Bad: “Exercising is good for you.”

This topic sentence is weak because it is too broad and doesn’t provide a clear focus for the paragraph. To make it stronger, you could revise it to something like: “Regular exercise has been shown to have a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving cognitive function, and boosting mood.”

Bad: “In this paragraph, I will talk about the history of the internet.”

This topic sentence is ineffective because it wastes valuable space and doesn’t provide a clear focus or direction for the paragraph. To make it stronger, you could revise it to something like: “The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, work, and live our lives, and understanding its history can provide valuable insights into how it has evolved and shaped modern society.”

Bad: “I will discuss why I love hiking in this paragraph.”

This topic sentence is weak because it is too personal and doesn’t provide a clear focus or direction for the paragraph. To make it stronger, you could revise it to something like: “Hiking is a popular outdoor activity that offers a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health, reducing stress, and enhancing mood.”

Overall, these examples demonstrate the importance of being clear, specific, and engaging when crafting a topic sentence. By avoiding overly broad or personal statements and providing a clear focus for the rest of the paragraph, you can create a strong and effective opening that engages the reader and guides them through your writing.

Ben:

Excellent. I hope our listeners now know exactly what to do when they write topic sentences for their own paragraphs. So, now that we have written good topic sentences, the next step is to support these good topic sentences with supporting sentences. What should we consider when we create our supporting sentences?

Danny:

Supporting sentences are just as important as the topic sentence, as they provide the details, evidence, and examples that support the main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence. When creating supporting sentences, here are some key things to consider:

Relevance: Supporting sentences should be relevant to the topic sentence and provide further detail or explanation on the main idea expressed.

Unity: Supporting sentences should be unified and consistent, all supporting the same main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence.

Coherence: Supporting sentences should be organized and flow logically, helping to connect the ideas presented in the paragraph.

Specificity: Supporting sentences should be specific and provide detailed information, examples, or evidence that support the main idea expressed.

Variety: Supporting sentences should be varied in terms of their structure and content, to keep the reader engaged and interested.

By keeping these things in mind when creating supporting sentences, you can ensure that your paragraph is clear, effective, and compelling, and that the reader has a complete and comprehensive understanding of the topic or main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Ben:

So, let’s take one of the good topic sentence examples we talked about earlier and let’s try and come up with some good supporting sentences for it.

Danny:

Sure, let’s take the example topic sentence: “The prevalence of smartphones has led to a rise in social media addiction among young people.” Here are some potential supporting sentences that could be used to support this main idea:

According to recent studies, the average American teenager spends over 7 hours a day on their smartphone, with a significant portion of that time spent on social media apps.

Social media platforms are specifically designed to be addictive, using features like notifications and “likes” to keep users engaged and coming back for more.

Excessive smartphone use has been linked to a range of negative effects on mental health, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Some experts have suggested that the rise in social media addiction among young people is linked to a decline in face-to-face social interactions and an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation.

While it is possible to use social media in a healthy and productive way, it is important to be mindful of the risks and to take steps to manage smartphone use in order to avoid addiction and negative effects on mental health.

These supporting sentences offer specific details, examples, and evidence to support the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. They also provide a clear and cohesive argument that helps the reader to understand the topic in more depth. By including a variety of supporting sentences that address different aspects of the main idea or topic, you can create a comprehensive and effective paragraph that leaves a strong impression on the reader.

Ben:

Very well, and what are some bad or irrelevant supporting sentences for this topic sentence? Let’s give some examples of irrelevant, bad or weak supporting sentences and explain why we shouldn’t use them in our paragraph.

Danny:

Sure, here are some examples of bad or irrelevant supporting sentences that would not be effective in supporting the main idea expressed in the topic sentence:

Irrelevant: “Smartphones come in a variety of colors and sizes.”

This supporting sentence is irrelevant to the topic sentence, as it doesn’t provide any relevant information about social media addiction or the impact of smartphones on young people.

Bad: “Social media can be used for a variety of purposes, such as sharing photos and keeping in touch with friends.”

This supporting sentence is too broad and doesn’t provide specific evidence or detail to support the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. While it is true that social media can be used for a variety of purposes, this sentence doesn’t provide any relevant information about addiction or the impact of smartphones on young people.

Weak: “Some people believe that social media addiction is not a real problem.”

This supporting sentence is weak because it doesn’t provide any specific evidence or detail to support the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. While it may be true that some people believe social media addiction is not a real problem, this sentence doesn’t provide any relevant information about the impact of smartphones on young people or the rise of social media addiction.

Irrelevant: “Smartphone technology is constantly evolving, with new models and features being released each year.”

This supporting sentence is irrelevant to the topic sentence, as it doesn’t provide any relevant information about social media addiction or the impact of smartphones on young people.

Overall, these examples demonstrate the importance of selecting supporting sentences that are relevant, specific, and focused on the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. By avoiding irrelevant, broad, or weak supporting sentences, you can create a strong and effective paragraph that provides a comprehensive and compelling argument to the reader.

Ben:

Very well, so after we brainstorm some good supporting sentences, enhance or get rid of the irrelevant or bad ones, how should we go about putting the sentences together to create a coherent paragraph?

Danny:

Once you have a good topic sentence and a set of relevant and specific supporting sentences, the next step is to organize them into a coherent paragraph. Here are some key steps to follow:

Order your supporting sentences: Think about the most logical way to order your supporting sentences. Consider the flow of information and ideas, and the relationship between the sentences. It can be helpful to start with the most general or introductory sentence and then move on to more specific or detailed supporting sentences.

Use transitions: Use transitional words or phrases to help connect your supporting sentences and create a smooth and logical flow between them. Some examples of transitional words and phrases include “furthermore,” “in addition,” “however,” and “on the other hand.”

Check for coherence and unity: Once you have put your supporting sentences together, read through the paragraph to check for coherence and unity. Make sure that all the sentences are relevant to the main idea expressed in the topic sentence, and that they flow logically and smoothly from one to the next.

Revise as necessary: If you notice any gaps or inconsistencies in your paragraph, revise your supporting sentences as necessary. Make sure that the paragraph provides a clear, comprehensive, and compelling argument that supports the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

By following these steps, you can create a coherent and effective paragraph that engages the reader and supports the main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence.

Ben:

Now, let’s do that for the paragraph we’ve been working on. We came up with a good topic sentence, good supporting sentences, now let’s put everything together and add a concluding sentence.

Danny:

Sure, let’s put everything together to create a paragraph based on the topic sentence “The prevalence of smartphones has led to a rise in social media addiction among young people.” Here’s one example of how this paragraph could be organized:

Smartphones have become ubiquitous in today’s society, with young people in particular spending a significant amount of time on their devices. According to recent studies, the average American teenager spends over 7 hours a day on their smartphone, with a significant portion of that time spent on social media apps. Social media platforms are specifically designed to be addictive, using features like notifications and “likes” to keep users engaged and coming back for more. This excessive smartphone use has been linked to a range of negative effects on mental health, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Some experts have suggested that the rise in social media addiction among young people is linked to a decline in face-to-face social interactions and an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation. While it is possible to use social media in a healthy and productive way, it is important to be mindful of the risks and to take steps to manage smartphone use in order to avoid addiction and negative effects on mental health.

In this paragraph, the topic sentence is followed by several supporting sentences that provide specific evidence and detail to support the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. The paragraph begins with a general statement about the prevalence of smartphones in society, and then moves on to more specific supporting sentences that address the impact of smartphone use on social media addiction, mental health, and social interaction. The paragraph ends with a concluding sentence that summarizes the main points and emphasizes the importance of being mindful of the risks associated with excessive smartphone use.

This is just one example of how you could organize a paragraph based on a topic sentence and supporting sentences. The key is to use logical organization, clear and specific supporting sentences, and a strong concluding sentence that emphasizes the main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence.

Ben:

You didn’t use a lot of transitional words in the paragraph, is that ok to do, or should we always try to add transitional words?

Danny:

Using transitional words and phrases can be helpful to create a smooth and coherent flow in your writing, but it’s not necessary to use them in every sentence or even in every paragraph. When using transitional words and phrases, it’s important to use them appropriately and to avoid overusing them, which can make your writing sound forced or artificial.

In the example paragraph we created, some of the sentences are connected using transitional words and phrases, such as “according to,” “specifically designed to,” and “some experts have suggested.” These transitional words and phrases help to connect the sentences and create a smooth flow of information.

However, not every sentence needs a transitional word or phrase. In some cases, the ideas may flow naturally from one sentence to the next, without the need for additional connectors. In these cases, it’s best to avoid using transitional words and phrases just for the sake of it, and to let the ideas speak for themselves.

So, to answer your question, it’s not necessary to use transitional words in every sentence or paragraph, but it can be helpful to use them appropriately and to ensure that your writing flows smoothly and coherently.

Ben:

That’s a very important point because I can see a lot of paragraphs with tons of transitional words and they do make the paragraph sound robotic and artificial. So, let’s finally talk about the concluding sentence. How important is it to include it in our paragraph and what should we consider when we do that?

Danny:

The concluding sentence is an important part of a paragraph, as it provides a final thought or summary that helps to tie together the main idea or topic expressed in the paragraph. When creating a concluding sentence, here are some key things to consider:

Restate the main idea: The concluding sentence should restate the main idea or topic expressed in the topic sentence, using different words or phrasing to emphasize the point.

Summarize the supporting sentences: The concluding sentence should summarize the key supporting sentences presented in the paragraph, highlighting the most important information and insights.

Provide a final thought: The concluding sentence should provide a final thought or insight that helps to wrap up the paragraph and provide a sense of closure to the reader.

Use clear and concise language: The concluding sentence should be clear and concise, using language that is easy to understand and that emphasizes the main point.

By following these guidelines, you can create a concluding sentence that reinforces the main idea or topic expressed in the paragraph and provides a final thought or insight that leaves a strong impression on the reader.

Ben:

Alright then, so how about paragraph types? We will not dive deep into that in this episode, but let’s give our listeners a taste of what we may talk about next time. Not all paragraphs are the same; we have different types of paragraphs. Can you tell us about the main types of paragraphs that we commonly need to write?

Danny:

Sure! There are several different types of paragraphs that we commonly write, each with its own purpose and structure. Here are some of the most common types:

Narrative Paragraph: This type of paragraph tells a story or recounts an event, often in chronological order. Narrative paragraphs typically include sensory details, dialogue, and descriptive language to bring the story to life.

Descriptive Paragraph: This type of paragraph uses sensory details and descriptive language to create a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing. The goal is to help the reader visualize the subject and create a sense of atmosphere or mood.

Expository Paragraph: This type of paragraph provides information, explanation, or analysis of a topic or concept. The goal is to present the facts and provide a clear understanding of the topic.

Persuasive Paragraph: This type of paragraph is used to convince the reader to take a certain action or adopt a certain point of view. Persuasive paragraphs typically use evidence, facts, and emotional appeals to make their argument.

Compare/Contrast Paragraph: This type of paragraph compares and contrasts two or more things, providing similarities and differences. The goal is to help the reader understand the similarities and differences between the subjects.

Cause/Effect Paragraph: This type of paragraph explains the relationship between a cause and its effect. The goal is to help the reader understand how one event or situation leads to another.

By understanding the different types of paragraphs and their structures, you can better organize and communicate your ideas effectively in your writing.

Ben:

We will definitely talk in more detail about each of these types in our upcoming writing episodes, but let’s wrap up our topic for today. Let’s give our listeners a summary of what we talked about in the form of a list of dos and don’ts to help them remember the key points they need to remember when they want to write better paragraphs.

Danny:

Sure, here is a summary of the dos and don’ts for writing effective paragraphs:

DOs:

Start with a strong topic sentence that clearly expresses the main idea or topic of the paragraph.

Use specific, relevant, and varied supporting sentences that provide evidence, examples, and details to support the main idea.

Organize your supporting sentences in a logical order and use transitional words or phrases to create a smooth and coherent flow.

Include a concluding sentence that restates the main idea and provides a final thought or insight.

Use clear and concise language that is easy to understand and engages the reader.

DON’Ts:

Use irrelevant or weak supporting sentences that don’t support the main idea.

Use overly broad or general statements that don’t provide specific evidence or detail.

Overuse transitional words and phrases, which can make your writing sound robotic or artificial.

Use unclear or confusing language that makes it difficult for the reader to understand your point.

Forget to revise and edit your writing for clarity, coherence, and organization.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can create effective and engaging paragraphs that communicate your ideas clearly and effectively.

Ben:

Perfect! I really hope our listeners benefit from the information we provided in this episode and we will definitely talk more about writing in the episodes to come. We will cover different types of academic and creative writing. I hope you enjoyed talking about paragraphs today as much as I did.

Danny:

I certainly did enjoy discussing paragraphs with you, and I look forward to exploring other aspects of writing in future episodes. And to our listeners everywhere, thank you for tuning in to this episode of English Plus Podcast. Today we discussed how to write better paragraphs, covering the key components and techniques for creating effective and engaging paragraphs. Whether you’re a student or a professional, having strong writing skills is essential for communicating your ideas clearly and effectively.

We hope you found this episode informative and useful, and we encourage you to put these tips into practice in your own writing. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform. And don’t forget to share the podcast with your friends and colleagues who may find it helpful as well.

Join us next time for another exciting episode. Until then, keep practicing and stay tuned to English Plus Podcast.

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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan

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Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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