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Paragraphing

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Paragraphing

Why do people slice pizzas into pieces? Well, if they don’t do this then the pizza would be too big for them to hold and eat. Without slices, they might bite off more than they can chew. Similarly, writers cut their writing up into smaller pieces so that it is more digestible for their readers. This process is called paragraphing.

Paragraphing, Pizza slice, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Slice up your text with paragraphs

Paragraphing Meaning

Here's a quick definition.

Paragraphing is the act of breaking writing into sections called paragraphs.

Paragraphing is a critical step of the writing process. Writers divide their writing into paragraphs in all types of writing, including academic essays, short stories, and novels.

A paragraph is a short section of writing focused on one main idea.

Importance of Paragraphing

Paragraphing is important because breaking writing into small sections helps writers stay organized when conveying their thoughts. Paragraphing is also important because it helps readers follow the logical development of a writer’s ideas.

For instance, imagine reading an essay without paragraphs in it. The text would be one long piece without any breaks, and it may be confusing and hard to understand how the writer's ideas connect to one another.

Giant blocks of text can make it easy to miss the writer’s main point.

Paragraphing Types

There are three main types of paragraphs. Each type requires writers to visually format their paragraphs a bit differently.

Blocked Paragraphing

Blocked paragraphing is when every line of a paragraph starts at the same place—the left margin of the page. There are blank lines between each paragraph to differentiate them. Blocked paragraphing is commonly seen in business letters. For instance, this paragraph is an example of blocked paragraphing.

Blocked paragraphing is modern and used in social media, web writing, and business contexts!

Indented Paragraphing

Also called semi-blocked paragraphing, indented paragraphing is when a writer indents the first line of each new paragraph. To create the indent, writers can hit the space bar several times, use the tab button, or use the indentation feature on their writing software. Indented paragraphing is a common type of paragraphing for students who write academic essays. For instance, the following depicts indented paragraphing:

Paragraphing, indented paragraphing example, StudySmarterFig. 2 - An intended paragraph

Hanging Paragraphing

Hanging paragraphing is when the first line of text starts from the left margin but the lines underneath it are indented, like in the following example:

Paragraphing, hanging paragraphing example, StudySmarterFig. 3 - A hanging paragraph

Paragraphing Rules

While the topic of each paragraph is up to a writer, there are several important general rules for paragraphing.

Paragraphing, Rule Book, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Follow the rules!

Introduction and Conclusions

Introductory and concluding paragraphs are important types of paragraphs that bookend many forms of academic writing. Understanding how to craft an introduction and a conclusion is an important part of learning how to use paragraphing to ensure effective writing.

Introductions

The first paragraph of an academic essay is called the introduction. The introduction should engage the reader by hooking their attention. Methods for hooking the reader include opening the essay with the following:

  • A short, striking quote

  • A significant statistic

  • A relevant, impactful anecdote

After hooking readers’ attention, the writer should introduce the main point in their body paragraph. This often includes adding some context about the topic, such as why it is important, and then stating the thesis statement.

Conclusions

A conclusion is the last paragraph of an essay. It wraps up the main points for the reader and does not introduce any new information. Writers should do all of the following things when crafting a conclusion:

  • Restate their thesis statement or main point with new phrasing
  • Summarize the supporting points from their body paragraphs
  • Sum up the overall significance of the paper

Stay on Topic

Each time a writer introduces a new idea, they should start a new paragraph. This gives readers a bit of a break between ideas and helps them understand the main points of each idea without getting confused or distracted by unrelated information.

Watch the Length

Paragraphs tend to be about four to five sentences. In an academic essay, they might be a bit longer, but it is crucial that the sentences relate to the paragraph's main ideas.

Use Topic Sentences

In academic essays, writers must start their paragraphs with topic sentences.

A topic sentence is one sentence that opens a paragraph to introduce the main point of that paragraph.

Including topic sentences make it easy for readers to understand the organization of a writer’s argument. They tell the reader what point they will make in the paragraph and what the next central point of their paper is.

Topic sentences are particularly important when crafting an argumentative essay because readers can look at each one and understand the main points of the writer's argument.

When writing an academic paper writers should strive to include transitions at the start of new paragraphs. A transition is a word or phrase that helps depict the relationship between two ideas. Writers use transitions within paragraphs too, but putting them at the start of a new paragraph is effective at connecting ideas in support of a thesis. For instance, paragraphs that start with the transition “On the other hand...” shows the reader that the upcoming paragraph will be about the opposite of what the previous paragraph was about. The following are some other appropriate transitions to use between paragraphs:

  • First,
  • Second,
  • In contrast,
  • On the contrary,
  • Similarly,
  • Finally,
  • In conclusion,
  • To summarize,

Examples of Paragraphing

Imagine a writer who wants to write a persuasive essay in which they try to convince the reader that eating a vegetarian diet is important for addressing climate change. The writer might use paragraphing to split the paper into the following paragraphs:

Introduction

This is where the writer will introduce the topic, explain why it is important, and state the thesis. For instance, this writer might introduce a statistic about the harm that eating meat does to the environment, and then state a thesis that outlines the supporting points of the argument like this: "People should eat a vegetarian diet because it helps reduce fossil fuel emissions, conserves water, and encourages sustainable living."

Body Paragraph 1

In this paragraph, the writer should introduce their first supporting point for their argument. They might start the paragraph by saying something like this:

First, people should eat a vegetarian diet because it helps reduce the emission of toxic fossil fuels.

Body Paragraph 2

In the second body paragraph, the writer should transition from the first supporting point and introduce the next one. For example, this writer might transition from the previous body paragraph and introduce the next one like this:

Another reason people should eat a vegetarian diet is that it helps conserve the water used in producing meat.

Paragraphing. A salad and water. StudySmarter.Fig 5. - Paragraphs build an argument

Body Paragraph 3

In the last body paragraph, the writer should discuss the final supporting point for their argument. For instance, this writer might open the last paragraph like this:

Finally, people should eat a vegetarian diet because it is the most sustainable diet.

It is common for academic essays to have three body paragraphs. However, this is not a rule that is set in stone. Often, writers include additional body paragraphs, especially in long academic papers at the university level.

Conclusion

In the concluding paragraph, the writer will restate the main argument and summarize the supporting points again. Then the writer will discuss the broader implications of this argument. For instance, the conclusion might look something like this:

Everyone should transition to a vegetarian diet to help combat climate change. Eating a vegetarian diet can reduce the emission of fossil fuels, decrease the amount of wasted water, and promote more sustainable living. Making choices that help the environment is important as climate change gets increasingly worse.

Paragraphing - Key Takeaways

  • Paragraphing is the act of breaking writing into sections called paragraphs.
  • Paragraphing is important because it helps writers organize their writing and ensures an easy-to-follow argument.
  • Blocked paragraphing is when every line of a paragraph starts at the same place—the left margin of the page.
  • Indented paragraphing is when a writer indents the first line of each new paragraph.
  • Hanging paragraphing is when the first line of text starts from the left margin but the lines underneath it are indented.

Frequently Asked Questions about Paragraphing

Paragraphing is the act of breaking writing into sections called paragraphs. A paragraph is a short section of writing focused on one main idea.

When writing an argumentative essay, a writer might have an introduction paragraph, one body paragraph for each supporting point, and a conclusion paragraph.

Paragraphs have four to five sentences depending on the context. There is no exact number of sentences per paragraph.

The three types of paragraphing are blocked paragraphing, indented paragraphing, and hanging paragraphing.

To write a conclusion, writers should restate their main point and supporting points, then sum up the overall significance of their point. 

Final Paragraphing Quiz

Question

What is paragraphing? 

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Answer

Paragraphing is the act of breaking writing into sections called paragraphs.

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Question

What are the three types of paragraphing?

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Answer

Blocked, indented, and hanging

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Question

What type of paragraph is the place where a writer states their thesis?

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Answer

The introduction 

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What type of paragraph is the place where a writer summarizes their main point?

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Answer

The conclusion 

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How long should a paragraph be?

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Answer

About 4-5 sentences

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Question

When should writers start a new paragraph?

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Answer

Each time they introduce a new idea

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What goes at the beginning of a paragraph?

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Answer

A topic sentence

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What are topic sentences?

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Answer

Topic sentences are sentences that sum up the main point of the following paragraph. 

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Question

Which of the following is an example of a transition?

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Answer

Finally, 

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Question

What is hanging paragraphing?

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Answer

Hanging paragraphing is when the first line of text starts from the left margin but the lines underneath it are indented.

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It focuses on one main idea.

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Answer

A paragraph

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Without paragraphs, you would have one block of text.

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Answer

True

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Paragraphing doesn't strictly add breaks.

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Answer

False

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This is when there is a space between paragraphs and all text is left-aligned.

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Blocked paragraphing

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This is when the whole text is evenly spaced, but each paragraph starts about a half inch toward the right.

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Indented paragraphing

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This is when a paragraph begins left-aligned, but as it continues to the next line, the line starts about a half inch toward the right.

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Hanging paragraphing

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Hanging paragraphing is probably the most common style of paragraphing.

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Answer

False

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Your typed essay will probably use indented paragraphing.

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Answer

True

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Question

A paragraph can contain up to 3 major, different pieces of evidence.

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Answer

False

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Question

ALL paragraphs begin with a topic sentence.

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Answer

False

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