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How to Write a Strong Essay Body

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Bonn

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

Learn how to write a strong essay body by understanding what makes an essay confusing and recognizing how to organize an essay logically. Explore how to write an essay that has unity and coherence while staying on point. Updated: 04/11/2023

Writing a Strong Essay Body

Have you ever had one of those bad dreams in which everything is fuzzy, nothing makes sense and random people and things pop up for no discernible reason? For example, maybe you dream that you're trying to get to your math test, but the directions are really vague and you can't figure out where you're going or where to turn to get to the right place. Suddenly, you're being chased through the woods by the checkout guy from the grocery store, and then you're saved by your third grade math teacher, who insists that you look at photos from her trip to Mexico.

We often wake up from dreams like that that don't make sense, asking what they meant and where all of those random ideas came from. Unfortunately, some teachers ask those same questions when they read student essays that aren't well developed, unified or coherent. In this lesson, we'll discuss how you can develop your argument and write coherent and unified body paragraphs so that your essay score won't be a nightmare.

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  • 0:05 Writing a Strong Essay Body
  • 0:54 Developing Body Paragraphs
  • 2:40 Achieving Unity in…
  • 4:13 Achieving Coherence in…
  • 6:04 Lesson Summary
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Developing Body Paragraphs

Generally speaking, if something isn't well-developed, it means that it's missing something. It's not as complete as it could be, like a fuzzy picture that wasn't developed all the way. With the body of an essay - in other words, the middle paragraphs that don't include the introduction and conclusion - it's important to think about paragraph development.

In your writing, the key to developing your body paragraphs is to use supporting details and examples as you discuss your main points. In other words, you need to be specific in your explanations of your points so that you're not feeding your reader vague, fuzzy ideas, but rather, clear, well-supported points.

For example, let's say that you're writing an essay arguing that endangered animals should be protected from trophy hunting. It would be easy to scribble down a few sentences making really broad points in one of your body paragraphs like:

  • Endangered animals will become extinct soon because of hunting.
  • International laws would help control trophy hunting.
  • Trophy hunting is a cruel hobby for wealthy people.

These points may be good basic ideas, but to develop your paragraph effectively, you would need to include specific examples and details. So, rather than packing one body paragraph with several broad, vague ideas, you could use each of our three earlier ideas as the main idea in three separate body paragraphs and develop each of those paragraphs fully with specific details and examples.

In order to write a well-developed body paragraph on the topic of our first idea - Endangered animals will become extinct soon because of hunting - first research how trophy hunting has impacted endangered animal populations. By increasing your knowledge on the subject and gathering relevant factual details, you will be able to balance your paragraph with a strong argument supported by evidence from cited credible sources. Rather than winging it based on personal feelings, gather the information you need to make a strong argument. The idea is to balance the paragraph with your commentary and cited evidence. Having commentary without evidence or mostly evidence with no argumentative statements is an unbalanced paragraph.

Achieving Unity in Body Paragraphs

We know that the word unity has to do with things being joined together, and that meaning applies to essay writing, too. For a body paragraph to be unified, all of the sentences in that paragraph should stick to the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. Just like a couple won't be very happy or successful if each of them has very different ideas about the nature of the relationship, your body paragraphs won't succeed if they feature a lot of ideas that don't go together.

To achieve unity, you want to avoid any random, off-point ideas. Even an idea that seems to be sort of connected to the main idea of your body paragraph may be taking you off track if it doesn't directly support or relate to your topic sentence. For example, if you're writing a body paragraph with the main idea that international laws would help control trophy hunting, then each of your sentences in that paragraph must support that main idea. So, you can explain that people pay to hunt endangered animals for the thrill of the kill and for taking a trophy home and that no international laws exist that consistently protect endangered species across the globe. However, your body paragraph won't be unified - and you'll lose points - if you mention that wealthy hunters exploit lower-socioeconomic developing countries by using their wealth to get what they want. Sure, this last point is sort of related to our main idea, in a roundabout way. We're still talking about the issue of trophy hunting, but it's too big of a stretch, and prevents you from fully developing the paragraph with focused statements and evidence dealing with international laws. The concept of exploitation by wealthy trophy hunters should have its own paragraph with its own argument and evidence.

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