Paragraph structure


Lovely cows exchanging tokens of affection by Thierry Bertrand, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Paragraphs are the meat of your writing and if they are not properly structured, the reader can miss your point. In fact you may not even be making a point if your paragraph is not properly structured. Instead you might just be listing information.

If you can understand how paragraphs should be structured, you can spot problems in your own and correct them yourself before your draft goes out to your supervisor. This will save you heaps of time, because your supervisor will understand your line of argument and be able to give you meaningful feedback on it. Otherwise it can be frustrating, because your supervisor may look at several drafts before they finally tell you something significant about the content–possibly even that it needs major change!

Patrick Dunleavy describes the elements of a paragraph as “topic, body, tokens, wrap”. The discussion of tokens and how they can go wrong is something I have not come across before and worth a look.

He describes 6 common paragraph faults and why they cause the problems they do.

  1. Starting with a backward link.
  2. Beginning by throat clearing.
  3. Starting with someone else’s name.
  4. Stopping abruptly.
  5. Paragraphs too long.
  6. Paragraphs too short.

Check out Patrick’s full blog post here.

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