Focus those paragraphs

by Marie Sherman

            Any form of academic writing contains many different ideas broken up into different parts called paragraphs. These paragraphs should be structured in a way that helps the reader follow the author’s argument. But how can you ensure that your paragraphs do this?

Well, I’d like share with you a little secret called paragraph unification.

            Paragraph unification is a fancy way of saying that you need to determine what you want your paragraph to say; that way, you can focus your paragraph around a central idea. Typically, this central idea is made clear in the first sentence of a paragraph. This beginning sentence is known as the “topic sentence” and will set the tone for where you intend to go with the rest of the paragraph.

            Once you’ve got your central idea and topic sentence, you’re ready to finish off the rest of your paragraph. Make sure that all of your following sentences move your main idea forward. Be aware of how they elaborate on this idea and connect to each other. Then you can finish your paragraph with a statement that concludes what you’ve stated over the course of your previous sentences, or find a way to connect your final sentence to what you’re going to say in the paragraphs to come.

            That brings me to my next point. Once you’ve got all unified paragraphs, you want to be sure they are structured in a way that moves your argument forward and brings all your ideas together. Ask yourself, What am I trying to say in this paragraph? How does that idea connect to my previous one? Are these ideas placed in the order that makes the most sense?

            Once you have identified the point of each paragraph, you’re able to identify the overall structure of your paper. A trick I often use is to write the main idea of each of my paragraphs in the margin of my papers! Then I can look at how I have arranged my paragraphs and make sure they have been placed in the most logical order.

Creating unified paragraphs makes your writing much clearer and allows your reader to understand the order of your ideas. So find your focus and write on!


Marie Sherman is a sophomore at Principia College studying education and global studies. When not writing, she is probably running around campus or dancing!

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