The paragraph may be defined as a group of sentences that are closely

related in thought and which serve one common purpose. Not only do they

preserve the sequence of the different parts into which a composition is

divided, but they give a certain spice to the matter like raisins in a

plum pudding. A solid page of printed matter is distasteful to the reader;

it taxes the eye and tends towards the weariness of monotony, but when it

is broken up into sections it loses much of its heaviness and the

consequent lightness gives it charm, as it were, to capture the reader.

Paragraphs are like stepping-stones on the bed of a shallow river, which

enable the foot passenger to skip with ease from one to the other until

he gets across; but if the stones are placed too far apart in attempting

to span the distance one is liable to miss the mark and fall in the water

and flounder about until he is again able to get a foothold. 'Tis the

same with written language, the reader by means of paragraphs can easily

pass from one portion of connected thought to another and keep up his

interest in the subject until he gets to the end.

Throughout the paragraph there must be some connection in regard to the

matter under consideration,--a sentence dependency. For instance, in the

same paragraph we must not speak of a house on fire and a runaway horse

unless there is some connection between the two. We must not write


"The fire raged with fierce intensity, consuming the greater part of the

large building in a short time." "The horse took fright and wildly dashed

down the street scattering pedestrians in all directions." These two

sentences have no connection and therefore should occupy separate and

distinct places. But when we say--"The fire raged with fierce intensity

consuming the greater part of the large building in a short time and the

horse taking fright at the flames dashed wildly down the street scattering

pedestrians in all directions,"--there is a natural sequence, viz., the

horse taking fright as a consequence of the flames and hence the two

expressions are combined in one paragraph.

As in the case of words in sentences, the most important places in a

paragraph are the beginning and the end. Accordingly the first sentence

and the last should by virtue of their structure and nervous force,

compel the reader's attention. It is usually advisable to make the first

sentence short; the last sentence may be long or short, but in either

case should be forcible. The object of the first sentence is to state a

point clearly; the last sentence should enforce it.

It is a custom of good writers to make the conclusion of the paragraph a

restatement or counterpart or application of the opening.

In most cases a paragraph may be regarded as the elaboration of the

principal sentence. The leading thought or idea can be taken as a nucleus

and around it constructed the different parts of the paragraph. Anyone

can make a context for every simple sentence by asking himself questions

in reference to the sentence. Thus--"The foreman gave the order"--

suggests at once several questions; "What was the order?" "to whom did he

give it?" "why did he give it?" "what was the result?" etc. These

questions when answered will depend upon the leading one and be an

elaboration of it into a complete paragraph.

If we examine any good paragraph we shall find it made up of a number of

items, each of which helps to illustrate, confirm or enforce the general

thought or purpose of the paragraph. Also the transition from each item

to the next is easy, natural and obvious; the items seem to come of

themselves. If, on the other hand, we detect in a paragraph one or more

items which have no direct bearing, or if we are unable to proceed

readily from item to item, especially if we are obliged to rearrange the

items before we can perceive their full significance, then we are

justified in pronouncing the paragraph construction faulty.

No specific rules can be given as to the construction of paragraphs. The

best advice is,--Study closely the paragraph structure of the best

writers, for it is only through imitation, conscious or unconscious of

the best models, that one can master the art.

The best paragraphist in the English language for the essay is Macaulay,

the best model to follow for the oratorical style is Edmund Burke and for

description and narration probably the greatest master of paragraph is

the American Goldsmith, Washington Irving.

A paragraph is indicated in print by what is known as the indentation of

the line, that is, by commencing it a space from the left margin.

THE HEADING THE PARTS OF SPEECH facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail