A paragraph is a section of writing which consists of one or more sentences grouped that deal with one subject or element of the writing as a whole.
Paragraphs structure a piece of text and make it easier to read, rather than a large text with no spacing.
How are paragraphs used?
New paragraphs are started by leaving a space and going to the next line or by making an indent (text starts partway into the line).
Fiction texts often use paragraphs to show the progression of time or if the point of view has switched to another character.
Primary school texts will typically use a five-paragraph sentence structure.
- The first paragraph is the introduction.
- The second, third, and fourth paragraphs provide points and information on a topic.
- The fifth paragraph is the conclusion.
In a non-fiction text, we typically see a subheading before each paragraph, telling us what it will be about.
When to start a new paragraph?
When writing, a new paragraph should be started to show that the focus of the previous section has changed. This could be because the topic, person, place, time, or idea has changed.
For children, knowing when to start a new paragraph can be a complex idea and tricky to learn. There are rules, and then there are interpretations and exceptions. To keep things simple, we have collected a few guidelines to help you and your students understand when to start a new paragraph.
When you start a new topic: For most forms of writing, it is important to remember when you should split each subject and idea into a separate paragraph. You don’t want run-on sentences (sentences that clump together two different thoughts), so you don’t want run-on paragraphs either. For example, if you are writing a newspaper article, use the first paragraph to provide an overview of information and the next paragraph to look more deeply at a single idea.
When you change time or location: When writing fiction or creative writing with multiple times or locations, you should start a new paragraph whenever you skip forward or backward in time or move from one place to another. For example, if you are writing a story about a haunted house, your first paragraph might start outside, and the next paragraph might move into the house.
When a new character begins to speak: This rule is fairly straightforward. Each time a new character begins to communicate in writing or a story, you should start a new paragraph. There should also be only one speaker per paragraph.
How to start a paragraph?
It can be a bit tricky figuring out how to start a paragraph, but with these helpful tips, you should be able to get going with your writing without a problem.
Using transition words
Because when you’re starting a new paragraph, you’re typically switching to a new idea, using transition words can be useful to indicate this change. Before you find the right words to start a new paragraph, you have to decide what your section is about. To do this, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself about the connection between the last paragraph and the new one:
- What does the last sentence of the previous paragraph say?
- How does the previous sentence relate to the first one in the new paragraph?
After you’ve answered these, there are a few more questions to tackle about the content of your upcoming paragraph. These questions will help you find the right transition words to start a new paragraph:
- Does this new paragraph offer additional information?
- Does the opening sentence of the new paragraph offer a point of contrast?
- Is your writing sequential? I.e., does the new paragraph detail the next step in order of events?
- Does the new paragraph offer additional evidence?
- Does the new paragraph reiterate or emphasize an idea?
- Does the new paragraph begin your conclusion?
Once you have answered all the questions, you’re ready to find the right transition words to start a new paragraph!
If you’re introducing a new idea to provide contrast, you could use words and phrases like:
- On the other hand
- In comparison
- On the contrary
- In contrast
- Even though
- Different from
If you’re wondering how to start a paragraph where you’re adding or building on an idea, you could use words and phrases like:
- For example
- In addition
- As well as
- In fact
- Another reason
And if you want to introduce a new paragraph to illustrate the cause, you could use words like:
- As a result
- For the most part
- Due to
- In this situation
- For this reason
- Undoubtedly or no doubt
- For this purpose
If you are writing in sequence, here are some excellent words to start a new paragraph:
- To begin with
- In the first place
- First of all
- At first
Alternatively, if your new paragraph is the beginning of your conclusion, you could use words like:
- To conclude
- As a final point
- At last
- Last but not least
- To return to my main argument
- It is clear that
- To resume
- As previously stated
- In summary
- As I have argued
- To summarize
- Given these points
- In conclusion
- In sum
- In short
It’s important to avoid reusing the same transition words repeatedly, so make sure to vary the terms you choose. For example, opening each paragraph with the word “however” throughout an essay can sound repetitive and make it harder for the reader to follow your writing. So, take the time to think about which transition word best suits your paragraph and which conveys the idea you’re trying to get across most effectively.
Using transition words isn’t the only way to start a paragraph. For example, starting each paragraph with a topic sentence can effectively structure your writing when you’re writing an essay. The topic sentence should communicate to the reader the ideas and point you will be making in that paragraph. This helps the reader take in the ideas and information you’re expressing and helps you keep your paragraphs focused and to the point.
Have a plan!
Another useful method to help you figure out how to start a paragraph is by creating a plan for your writing before you start. Whether you’re writing a short story or an essay, having a thorough plan and a good idea of what you want to say and how you want to say is a fantastic way to structure your writing. In addition, having the goal to refer back to can stop you from losing track of what you want to write and help you better understand how each paragraph fits within your writing.
Starting with a quotation
You can also try starting paragraphs with a quotation relevant to the topic you’ll explore in the paragraph’s body. For example, you can create a strong paragraph opening by using a strong quote that supports the argument you’re trying to make or a famous quote that links well with the themes you’ll be exploring.
Similarly, if, through your research, you’ve found any interesting statistics relevant to your argument, you can use these as a way to start a paragraph. Think of how newspaper headlines often use shocking statistics to grab readers’ attention. You can use a similar technique to keep your reader engaged as you progress from one paragraph to the next.
Using a thought-provoking question to begin your paragraph is another handy technique. You can then keep your writing focused and to the point as you go on to provide an answer to the question in the main body of your paragraph.
What does a good paragraph look like?
It is often helpful to see an explanation in practice. For paragraph writing, this gives the reader a chance to see P.E.E., transition words, topic changes, and concise writing in practice.