Why should each paragraph make a point?
In an essay, a paragraph is not just a careless group of sentences about a common topic; a thoughtfully constructed paragraph builds upon the foundation laid by the essay’s thesis and works in harmony with the other paragraphs. Each paragraph should serve a specific purpose related to the thesis—to explain a relevant idea, provide background information, argue a supporting point, or offer a counterargument. A paragraph that does not serve any of these purposes may be unnecessary.
Why might the reader have difficulty recognizing the point of a paragraph?
- The paragraph contains unnecessary information or fluff: When page number or word count requirements are not met, it may be tempting to add unnecessary fluff or filler. This type of rambling distracts the reader from the focus or purpose of the essay and weakens the logical flow of the argument. To avoid filler paragraphs, include only relevant information that meaningfully supports the thesis.
- The paragraph restates information that has already been discussed: Examine the paragraph’s theme to ensure that it does not repeat a point that has already been discussed. If redundancy is an issue, include only the paragraph that makes the point with clarity and concision. The most relevant material from two similar paragraphs may also be combined to reduce redundancy.
- The paragraph’s content does not clearly support the paper’s thesis: While the connection between a paragraph and the thesis may be clear to the writer, readers may not be able to find the link. The point of the paragraph and its relationship to the thesis should be clearly implied or directly stated. If the paragraph is discussing a sub-point or an idea that is more subtly related to the thesis, make the relationship clear.
- The paragraph contains several unrelated ideas: Each paragraph should have a unifying theme; when unrelated ideas are strung together, the point of the paragraph can become blurred. For the sake of cohesiveness, choose the idea that is most relevant to the paper’s purpose and carry that idea throughout the paragraph.
Questions to consider:
- What makes this paragraph necessary?
- How is this discussion essential to understanding the argument?
- What is the intended point of this paragraph?
- How does this discussion relate to the thesis?
- Does this paragraph contain unrelated ideas?
- If this paragraph were removed from the essay, how would it affect the clarity and/or strength of the argument?