Paragraph writing is an art that must be learnt by foreign language learners with care and caution. “A paragraph is a unit of discourse developing a single idea.
It consists of a group or series of sentences closely related to one another and to the thought expressed by the whole group or series Devoted, like the sentence, to the development of one topic, a good paragraph is also, like a good essay, a complete treatment in itself.” (Fred Newton Scott and Joseph Villiers Denny) Thus we can say that a paragraph contains a main idea expressed in the topic sentence with additional sentences providing supporting details.
A paragraph may be studied as a structural part of an essay; or it may be Isolated from the rest of the essay and be studied by itself. Here we study isolated paragraphs as units. A large class of subjects admit of adequate treatment in single paragraphs; for example, incidents, brief descriptions, short comments of current events, and discussions of single phases of political and social questions. The writing of single paragraphs has become a standard
pattern of language learning classes. As a unit of discourse paragraphs are using by the following characteristics!
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1. Unity :
The most important of the general laws of paragraph writing is unity, which requires that the units composing the paragraph be intimately connected with one another in thought and purpose. The fundamental idea of paragraph is oneness of aim and end in all of its parts. Unity is violated, therefore, when any sentence is admitted as a part, which does not clearly contribute its share of meaning towards the object for which the paragraph is written. The most common violation of unity is including matter in one paragraph which should either be taken out or made a separate paragraph by itself or be dropped altogether.
2. Selection :
Of the multitude of things that may be said on a given subject, what shall be chose for mention in the paragraph? In the first place, the points selected should be those that will best serve the purpose in writing and will give force and distinction to its main idea. In the second place, the points selected should be those that will be best adapted to the particular audience addressed. On the first part of the rule, it should be said that a few points will usually serve than many. What to omit is always an important question in narrative and descriptive paragraphs. The effort to make a narrative or description complete even to the smallest details may render the account obscure. It is not the number of items cited, but their significance that counts.
3. Proportion :
The law of proportion requires, first, that enough be said to exhibit fully the purpose and idea of the paragraph. Paragraphs therefore, will differ in length according to the importance and scope of the ideas they represent. No arbitrary rules can be given as to the proper length of paragraphs.
Observing the custom of our best writers, we may safely say that it is not well to extend a single paragraph beyond 300 words. On the other hand Prof. Earle says, “The term paragraph can hardly be applied to anything short of three sentences.” The law requires, secondly, that the detail which make up the paragraph be treated and amplified in proportion to their respective importance to the main idea and purpose of the paragraph Subordinate ideas and subsidiary details should be kept subordinate and subsidiary. Thirdly, over simplification and too extensive illustration of simple statement admitted by everyone are violations of the law of proportion.
4. Sequence :
The law of sequence or method requires that sentences be presented in the order in which will best bring out the thought. In narration paragraphs the order of events in time is usually the best; in descriptions the order of objects in space or according to their prominence. In expository argumentative paragraphs, climax or that ordering of sentences while proceeds from the least to the most forcible and importance, will sometime prove to be the best method. But, usually the thought of each paragraph ag develops will dictate the natural sequence of the sentences. A good sequent of sentences would result in the literary virtue which is called coherence. Close attention to the words of connection and subordination and to the adjustment of each sentence to the one preceding it will do much in security this valuable quality.
5. Variety :
The law of variety requires that as much diversity as is consistent with the purpose of the paragraph be introduced. Variety will appear in length of sentences, in their structure, in phraseology, in the ordering of details, and in the method of building of different paragraphs. Variety in the length of different paragraphs as well as in their structure is also desirable.
6. The Topic :
Students are required to give adequate treatment to a subject in the paragraph. What can we mean by “adequate treatment ?” This means not all that might be said on a subject but enough for the purpose in hand, whatever that may chance to be. Adequate treatment is therefore, treatment sufficiently complete for carrying out the writer’s purpose.
Every paragraph should have a clearly defined idea to the development of which every sentence contributes. The idea must not be too broad for brief treatment; but this is easily managed since any idea may be narrowed by imposing upon it successive conditions and limitations of time, space and point of view etc. An illustration of this limiting is provided here. Suppose a paragraph has to be written on the general subject, “The Study of English.” This subject can be further limited to a single point of view: “Uses of English Study.” It can be still limited in terms of place, “Uses of English Study to Indian Students.” It can be limited further as to time, “Uses of English Study to Indian Students studying Engineering.” So the general subject might be an idea that is almost limitless but it can be narrowed down by our choice and need.
7. Topic Statement :
The theme of the paragraph si generally expressed definitely and unmistakably in one of the sentences, called topic statement. This is the outward sign and announcement of the paragraph’s unity. The topic statement is generally most effective when short and striking, It is often found to be, however, not a whole sentence in itself, but only part of a sentence, what precedes being obviously preparatory to its more forceful presentation. Sometimes the topic statement need not be expressed definitely. In such a paragraph the topic is implied in all that is said. The test of a good paragraph of this kind is the possibility of phrasing the main idea which it contains in a single sentence.
Whether expressed or therefore the topic statement should exist as a working theme in the mind hile constructing each sentence, and the bearing of each sentence on the paragraph-theme should be distinct and clear.Many paragraphs require a formal statement of the theme. This is usually true when the paragraph consists of a principle that is proved by particular examples, or when a general idea is expounded by argument, or when a formal proposition is treated. In such cases the theme is announced in the opening sentence. Sometimes, to emphasize the leading idea the topic is stated both at the beginning and at the end of a paragraph. When the thought is sufficiently Important to justify such emphasis, this practice is commendable, for the repetition of the subject at the close completes the circuit of the thought and gives the appearance of finished roundness to the whole idea.
This plan is specially commendable in spoken paragraphs, the repetition, in this case, being a notification to the hearer that the discussion of the point in hand is finished. In special cases, the details of a paragraph precede the statement of subject; the proofs may be presented before the proposition is stated. This plan will usually be found expedient when the thought is not likely to be well received or when it is an unwelcome truth.
8.Development of Paragraph Theme:
After the initial statement of the theme has been made the writer goes on with its development. There are many ways in which the germ-idea can be developed :
(a). Development by particulars and details.
(b). Development by definitive statements which repeat, restrict or enlarge the idea and may take the form of contrasts, positive or negative.
(c). Development by comparison and illustration.
(d). Development by specific instances.
(e). Development by presenting reasons.
(f). Development by applying a principle.
(g). Development by stating causes and effects.
Any sentence which performs one of these functions may claim a place in the paragraph any sentence which does neither of these things may well be excluded.
Thus, we can say that writing well constructed paragraphs is the corner stone of good English written style. Paragraphs should contain sentences the convey ideas concisely and directly without any circumlocution or round about way. But, as far as possible, subjects for paragraphs must be choose from the range and experiences of the pupils whose ability they seek to judge.