How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How to Structure an Argument in Your Essay

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:06 How to Structure…
  • 0:54 Make Your Paragraphs Clear
  • 2:31 Capture Your Reader's Interest
  • 4:01 Maximize Impact
  • 6:23 Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

Amy has taught college and law school writing courses and has a master's degree in English and a law degree.

When structuring a paragraph, you shouldn't just go throwing together a few sentences. The sentences that make up a paragraph should all flow together and represent the same topic to make up a strong paragraph. This video explains how to put together your sentences and paragraphs to maximize their impact.

How to Structure Paragraphs in an Essay

Do you watch the Super Bowl every year? If so, are you one of those fans who stays glued to the TV screen for the entire length of the game, hanging on to every play? Or do you have the game on in the background, kind of keeping up with what's going on while you do your laundry? Maybe your significant other watches it, and you don't understand football at all. It seems to go on forever, and you really just want to catch the commercials.

Your degree of interest in the big game every year probably depends on how well you understand how football is played, how exciting you find the sport and how much patience you have for following something that can get a bit complicated.

The basic principles of holding a viewer's interest apply to readers, too. When you write an essay, you want your ideas to be easily understood and your points to be interesting. You want to maximize the impact of your paragraphs on your reader.

Make Your Paragraphs Clear

You'll never catch me watching the Super Bowl for the simple fact that I don't understand how football is played, so watching the game for hours would be really, really boring. If I had even a basic sense of the rules of the sport, I'd probably find the big event at least a little bit interesting.

You may have had the experience of reading something that you didn't understand - maybe a technical instruction manual or the textbook for a subject that went over your head - and you no doubt found that experience frustrating and mind-numbingly boring. Something as seemingly straightforward as a student essay can come across badly to the reader, too, if the paragraphs are not structured to be clear and easily understood. There are two major fixes for this:

  1. Be sure that your body paragraphs feature a topic sentence near the start of the paragraph that conveys its main idea.
  2. Work on ensuring that each of your body paragraphs is coherent. In other words, each paragraph should be clear and logical with sentences that flow together well.

A good, clear topic sentence not only helps you keep each body paragraph unified and focused, but it also, quite simply, alerts your reader to what you'll be talking about and potentially eliminates a lot of confusion. A reader who gets halfway through the paragraph and is still wondering what you're getting at is a reader you've lost.

Your second quick fix for ensuring clarity and eliminating reader confusion is working on coherence in your essay paragraphs. Again, to achieve coherence, you'll need to structure your sentences in a logical way so that your points are made clearly. So, you might relate a brief story in chronological order - being sure not to backtrack and add details that you forgot to mention earlier - or you might deduce a point by first stating a general principle and then proceed to prove that principle by offering supportive facts and details.

Capture Your Reader's Interest

Think about the experience of a football fan who watches his or her favorite team execute complicated plays and break specific records with just the right line-up of players. Compare that with the experience of somebody who's watching a bunch of interchangeable guys run around for four hours doing...something.

You've no doubt read boring essays in your life, and maybe some of them were written by you. A key to making your essay interesting and effective is to ensure that it's fully developed. An essay is well-developed when it includes sufficient and appropriate supporting details and examples. A paper with paragraphs that aren't well-developed is, simply put, vague and boring.

Let's say that you're writing a paper arguing that your city should make it illegal for drivers to use cell phones while behind the wheel. Your major persuasive points might be that cell phone use is clearly a distracting behavior and that distracted drivers cause a high number of car accidents. If you keep your points overly broad and general, without getting into specific examples, your paper will suffer from lack of thorough development. Not only will your reader wind up bored, but your instructor will deduct points because you haven't supported your arguments.

So, to capture your reader's interest - and ratchet up your grade - you'll need to get specific. You could develop your body paragraphs by providing statistics of accident rates in other cities with cell phone bans for drivers before and after the laws were put in place. You could also make an emotional appeal to your reader by briefly relating the story of a family that has been affected by an accident caused by texting and driving. By doing this, you'll engage your reader and provide evidence to support your argument.

Maximize Impact

So, in order for your essay to be clear and easily understood, you'll include a topic sentence near the start of each body paragraph, and you'll use a clear and logical order for your supporting sentences. In order to fully develop your paragraph and capture your reader's interest, you'll include plenty of supporting details and examples.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account