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Composition: Developing Effective Paragraphs

A paragraph is a series of sentences related to a single topic. That may sound simple enough, but finding the right topic, building sentences with good details, and connecting those details clearly can sometimes be a challenge. Here we will practice various strategies for developing well-organized paragraphs that keep readers interested and informed.

400 Writing Topics
Coming up with a good topic can be one of the hardest parts of composing a paragraph or essay. These 400 topic suggestions should make that job a little easier.

40 Writing Topics: Description
Descriptive writing calls for close attention to details. To help you get started, here are 40 topic suggestions for a descriptive paragraph or essay.

How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph
In this project, you will practice organizing specific details into an effective descriptive paragraph.

Five Model Descriptive Paragraphs
These five descriptive paragraphs (three of them by students, two by professional authors) respond to the guidelines in the project "How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph."

Model Place Descriptions: Four Descriptive Paragraphs
These four descriptive paragraphs respond to the guidelines in the project "How to Write a Place Description." As you read each paragraph, notice how place signals help to promote cohesion, guiding the reader clearly from one detail to the next.

Five Model Paragraphs Developed With Examples
In each of these five paragraphs, the author uses specific examples to support the general observation in the opening topic sentence.

Revision Exercise: Practice in Revising a Place Description
In this exercise, we consider ways of revising a paragraph that was drafted in response to the guidelines in "How to Write a Place Description."

Revising a Place Description: Practice in Developing a Descriptive Paragraph
This draft paragraph could be improved through careful focusing and the addition of more specific details. After carefully reading the description, respond to the revision questions and compare your answers to those on the next page.

Composing a Character Sketch
This descriptive paragraph--a student's sketch of his school principal--served as the model for the exercise "Sentence Combining With Basic Modifiers."

Discovery Strategy: Probing Your Topic
One way to generate details for a descriptive paragraph is to probe your topic, which means to answer specific questions about it. This discovery strategy should help you to create a long list of precise descriptive details.

Draft a Descriptive Paragraph
Once you have settled on a topic for your descriptive paragraph and collected some details, you're ready to assemble those details in a rough draft. Here's a basic model you can follow when organizing a descriptive paragraph.

Practice in Supporting a Topic Sentence With Specific Details
A topic sentence contains the main idea upon which a paragraph is developed. What follows a topic sentence are a number of supporting sentences that develop the main idea with specific details.

Exercise in Revising Descriptive Sentences
This revision exercise will give you practice in writing with specific descriptive details.

Practice in Composing Topic Sentences
This exercise will give you practice in expressing a main idea in a topic sentence that attracts the interest of your readers.

Practice in Identifying Points of View
This exercise will give you practice in identifying different points of view in 10 passages from our collection of Classic British and American Essays and Speeches.

Practice in Organizing the Descriptive Paragraph
This exercise will give you practice in organizing a descriptive paragraph.

Exercise in Composing a Formal Job Description
After reading this informal description of the job of parcel post clerk, complete the simple outline that follows it. Then use the information in your outline to draft a more formal and objective description of the same job.

Exercise in Organizing a Formal Job Description
This exercise will give you practice in effectively organizing an informative paragraph--specifically, an objective report on the duties and skills required of a professional body snatcher.

50 Writing Topics: Narration
These 50 topic suggestions may remind you of a particular incident that you can relate in a clearly organized narrative essay.

Freewriting to Discover a Topic for a Narrative Essay
Freewriting is a kind of nonstop writing without rules. Your purpose in freewriting is to capture on paper or on screen some of the thoughts that are flying about in your head. Here's how one student used freewriting to discover a topic for a narrative essay.

Writing a Narrative Paragraph: Freewriting and Drafting
By showing how one student turned an exercise in freewriting into a coherent draft, this article will help you compose your own narrative paragraph.

Making the Grade: Evaluating a Narrative Paragraph
The purpose of narrative writing is to show readers what happened at a particular time and place. Read this example of a narrative paragraph and then respond to the questions that follow it.

Paragraph Unity
Unity is the quality of sticking to one idea from start to finish, with every sentence in a paragraph contributing to the central purpose and main idea of that paragraph.

Coherence Strategies: A List of Transitional Words and Phrases in English
Transitional words and phrases show the direction of our thought as we move from one sentence to the next. Here you'll find a list of the most common transitional expressions.

Exercise in Identifying Transitional Expressions
In this exercise, you will practice identifying transitional words and phrases in short passages.

Cohesion Exercise: Building & Connecting Sentences
This sentence-building exercise offers practice in applying the principles introduced in Cohesion Strategies: Transitional Words and Phrases.

Coherence Strategies: Revising Paragraphs with Transitional Words
These two revision exercises provide opportunities to apply the techniques introduced in Cohesion Strategies: Transitional Words and Phrases.

Cohesion Strategies: Repeating Key Words and Structures
Repeating key words and sentence structures can be an effective way of achieving cohesion in paragraphs.

The Bogeyman: A Paragraph Developed With Reasons
College writing assignments often call on students to explain why something happened or happens. In this sample paragraph--"Why Do We Threaten Children With the Bogeyman?"--a student develops her explanation with clearly connected reasons.

Sample Example Paragraph: Junk Food Junkie
This paragraph is effectively developed with specific examples. "Junk Food Junkie" is also a well-organized paragraph, but it lacks a satisfactory concluding sentence.

Sample Example Paragraph: Confessions of a Slob
The following paragraph is effectively developed with specific examples. "Confessions of a Slob" is also well organized, but it's missing a satisfactory concluding sentence.

Practice in Making a Simple Outline for a Cause & Effect Paragraph
Here we'll practice making a simple outline: a list of the key points in a paragraph or essay. This basic outline can help us revise a composition by showing at a glance if we need to add, remove, change, or rearrange any supporting details.

Revision Checklist for a Descriptive Paragraph
Once you have completed a draft of your descriptive paragraph, you can use the following checklist to guide your revision.

Evaluating an Informal Job Description
This exercise will help you identify some of the characteristics of personal, informal writing.

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