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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsEffective organisation of ideas in a paragraph is essential for clear communication. Each paragraph should have a paragraph leader, which provides information on the main focus and direction of the paragraph, and sentences which support or develop the ideas in the paragraph leader. The last sentence in the paragraph, or the concluding sentence, may summarise the paragraph, or provide a link with the following paragraph. So, here is a paragraph from an essay on education. The paragraph leader includes the topic, and the controlling main idea. In this paragraph the topic is clearly internet use in education, and the controlling main idea is the advantages of this use.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 secondsIn academic writing, it is not enough to simply state an idea; you need to support this idea in various ways. Here we expect the rest of the paragraph to give more detail about the two advantages referred to in the paragraph leader. The supporting sentences develop the main controlling idea in the paragraph leader, for example by giving reasons, examples, facts or statistics. So here, the two advantages are explained in more detail and an example is provided, to support the second advantage. The first advantage is cost-saving, and this is explained in more detail ie the course can be re-used, cutting down on cost, and fewer teachers are needed.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 secondsThe paragraph then moves on to the second advantage, convenience, explaining this convenience in terms of flexibility over, time, place and pace of study. An example is then given to illustrate the point. The Concluding sentence signals the end of paragraph and leaves the reader with something important to remember. In this paragraph, the concluding sentence summarises the two advantages referred to earlier in the paragraph. In other cases, the concluding sentence may provide a link with the following paragraph, and in some cases there may be no identifiable concluding sentence, that is to say that the last sentence in the paragraph is one of the supporting sentences.

Elements of a paragraph

Paragraphs consist of three key elements: the paragraph leader, supporting sentences and concluding sentence. In this video Jonathan identifies and explores the purpose of each element, and explains how to combine them to help you organise and communicate your ideas effectively.

Take a few minutes to watch this video and familiarise yourself with the concepts. Then, in the next Step you can test your understanding when you’ll be asked to identify the paragraph leader, supporting sentences and concluding sentence within the example provided.

If you like you, can download and read the paragraph that is analysed in the video.

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This video is from the free online course:

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

University of Reading