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Master Writing Fundamentals

Often, I tell writers, "If you master writing at the paragraph level, you will master writing." Why....because a paragraph is simply a mini-document that has a introduction, body and conclusion.

So, we're returning to the basics of writing a good body paragraph today. When you draft a document, seek to write body paragraphs that have a clear topic sentence as well as ample supporting and detailing sentences that support the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. When revising your documents, review all of body paragraph in the document to ensure you have supported and developed each topic sentence effectively (and written a clear topic sentence that expresses a main idea).

Below is an explanation of the elements of a strong body paragraph with an example.

Body Paragraph Organization

o Topic Sentence

Expresses the main idea of a paragraph

o Supporting Sentence

Sub-points that further explain and/or develop the main idea

Aim for 1 - 3 supporting sentences per paragraph

o Detailing Sentence

Concrete examples, research, case studies, etc. that prove your supports

Aim for 1 -3 detailing sentences for every supporting sentence

o Concluding Sentence

Brings paragraph to closure; also often transitions to the next paragraph

Transition Sentence – connects ideas that precede and follow, clearly showing their relationship (can be a separate sentence at the end of the paragraph)

Sample Body Paragraph

Controversy and irony surround slavery and the “culture of honor.” (Topic) One controversy about slavery exists among historians. (support #1) Some historians contend that slavery was the direct cause of the Civil War. (detail) Others believe slavery created the larger issue of state rights, which prompted the war. (detail) Still others believe that economics was the driving force of the historic war dividing the North and South. (detail) Whether slavery directly or indirectly caused the Civil War, the irony of its existence is that its reputation as one of the South’s most strange, unusual cultural institutions has had a lasting effect on the culture of the South. (support #2) Slavery has defined Southern history, shaped Southern society and distinguished Southern values, politics, attitudes and race relations from Northern ones. (detail) While innumerable historians, sociologists, filmmakers, psychologists, authors and scholars have made slavery the subject of their work, this study explores another cultural institution that originated in early Southern history. (conclusion) Like slavery, this other institution has proven to be an enduring and powerful force in Southern society; however, this institution is not as well-known or widely recognized as slavery. (transition)

If you master writing a strong body paragraph one at a time, you will have a cohesively written document that is sufficiently supported and developed with research. Even shorter, quantitative focused research adheres to this principle. Often, a formula is the topic sentence and the explanation of the formula is the supporting and detailing sentences.

Never stray from the writing fundamental of writing a strong body paragraph!

Until next week, happy writing!!! Dr. V Writing Coach-Editor-Speaker Author of I'm Not a Writer...I am Just in Graduate School (order your copy at

Available in hard copy and on Kindle

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