Practical English Usage
English grammar and vocabulary exercises
The smallest unit of prose composition is the paragraph. A paragraph may be defined as a group of sentences relating to a single topic, or developing a central idea.
A paragraph may be long or short - sometimes as long as a page or more, and sometimes as short as a sentence or two. But students are advised to avoid these extremes and to see that a paragraph is just as long or as short as is necessary for the development of the particular point it deals with. Variation in the length of paragraphs is necessary and desirable. A short paragraph after a long one will afford variety and relief to the eye as well as to the mind.
Some useful tips
Unity of thought
Just as a sentence deals with one thought, a paragraph should deal with only one central idea.
The unity of thought cannot be achieved unless there is a logical order in which the idea is allowed to develop.
To achieve the effect of unbroken continuity of thought, certain conjunctions and words are found useful. Hence, so, therefore, but, or, and, then etc are some of the words which, if rightly used, will connect sentences up and make the paragraph a well-knit organic whole. If ideas have to be contrasted or alternatives presented, expressions like on the other hand, on the contrary, nevertheless, but, still, yet will be useful.
Read the paragraph given below. It is taken from ‘What is Courage’ by Sir William Slim.
The first sentence is the key sentence in the paragraph. It introduces the central topic – distinction between physical and moral courage. The contrast is elaborated in the body of the paragraph. Note the use of but and on the other hand, and the repetition of the words physical and moral in order to make the contrast vivid. The last sentence rounds off the paragraph by asserting the superiority of moral courage over physical courage.
This is another important characteristic of a good paragraph. The sentence patterns used in the paragraph must be varied. There should be long and short sentences, simple and complex, direct and involved, straight forward and inverted.
Read the short paragraph given below.
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