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Presentation over Composition in English
A paragraph is a group of related sentences that discuss one (and usually only one) main idea. A paragraph can be as short as one sentence or as long as ten sentences. The number of sentences is unimportant; however, the paragraph should be long enough to develop the main idea clearly. A paragraph may stand by itself. In academic writing, you often write a paragraph to answer a test question such as the following: “Define management by objective, and give one example of it from the reading you have done for this class.” A paragraph may also be one part of a longer piece of writing such as an essay or a book. We mark a paragraph by indenting the first word about a half-inch (five spaces on a typewriter or computer) from the left margin (like the case of this paragraph).
The three parts of a paragraph
All paragraphs have a topic sentence and supporting sentences, and some paragraphs also have a concluding sentence. The topic sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. It not only names the topic of the paragraph, but it also limits the topic to one specific area that can be discussed completely in the space of a single paragraph. The part of the topic sentence that announces the specific area to be discussed is called the controlling idea. Notice how the topic sentence of the following model states both the topic and the controlling idea:
Supporting sentences develop the topic sentence. That is, they explain or prove the topic sentence by giving more information about it. Following are some of the supporting sentences that explain the topic sentence about gold:
- First of all, gold has a lustrous beauty that is resistant to corrosion.
- For example, a Macedonian coin remains as untarnished today as the day it was made 25 centuries ago.
- Another important characteristic of gold is its usefulness to industry and science.
- The most recent use of gold is in astronauts’ suits
The concluding sentence signals the end of the paragraph and leaves the reader with important points to remember:
In conclusion, gold is treasured not only for its beauty but also for its utility.
Concluding sentences are customary for stand-alone paragraphs. However, paragraphs that are parts of a longer piece of writing usually do not need concluding sentences.
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