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Structuring Paragraphs and Sentences: Tips and Tricks

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  • 0:01 Writing Structure
  • 0:49 Body Paragraphs
  • 5:12 How to Assess
  • 6:37 Lesson Summary
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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.

Once you've developed an outline, it's time to begin drafting your essay. This lesson will walk you through the steps of putting together a body paragraph and show you how to ensure that your paragraphs are unified, coherent and well-developed.

Writing Structure

Once you've done some prewriting, developed your thesis statement and put together an outline, you're finally ready to write your actual academic essay. Sure, you've put in a decent amount of work already without actually having any paragraphs to show for it, but your writing process should go much more quickly now that you've laid the groundwork.

A good place to start your writing is with the first body paragraph of your essay, which will actually be the second paragraph of your paper. Your introduction will be the first paragraph, but many writers prefer to write that after having written the body of the paper, because at that point, a writer has a better sense of exactly what he or she will be introducing.

You'll track your outline pretty closely as you put together each body paragraph, which will consist of a topic sentence, supporting points and details and a concluding sentence that creates a good bridge to the next paragraph.

Body Paragraphs

With each body paragraph, you'll want to accomplish a few key things. First, each paragraph should be unified, meaning that all sentences in the paragraph stick to the main point of the paragraph. The topic sentence, which we drafted in the outlining stage, will serve as our reminder of what that main point is. Remember that a topic sentence is the sentence that expresses the main idea of a body paragraph or group of related body paragraphs.

Additionally, each body paragraph should be coherent. That means that sentences should be presented in a logical order so that your reader can clearly follow your points. Finally, each paragraph should be developed, meaning that each point should be supported and explained with details and examples. We'll use these principles of unity, coherence and development as we write our first body paragraph of our essay.

Our essay will respond to our writing prompt:

Some states have made certain types of cell phone use illegal for drivers while they are operating motor vehicles. Some of these bans apply only to texting, and some bans apply to all handheld cell phone use. Some people argue that all cell phone use by drivers is dangerous and that all use by drivers should therefore be banned. Should your state completely ban all cell phone use for drivers while they are operating motor vehicles? Write a persuasive essay in which you present your argument. Be sure to provide a clear thesis and examples in your essay.

We already sketched out much of our outline for our essay. Here's what a more complete outline for this topic might look like:

Thesis: My state should completely ban all cell phone use for drivers while they are operating motor vehicles because such a ban would reduce distractions and save lives.

I. A complete ban on all cell phone use for drivers would reduce distracted driving.

A. Even brief attention paid to a cell phone means that a driver isn't watching the road.

1. Picking up a cell phone, finding a contact number and placing a call all require a driver's attention and would prevent him or her from paying close attention to the road.

2. Research has shown that people are not able to pay full attention to more than one thing at a time. This means that distracted driving is a real danger.

B. Many drivers admit to cell phone use while driving, as well as to the fact that they've taken their eyes off the road for up to a few seconds at a time to use their phones.

II. The complete cell phone ban should be put in place in our state because reduced distractions would mean fewer accidents, and this would save lives.

A. Evidence shows that a significant number of traffic accidents, some of which are deadly, are caused by distracted drivers.

B. Many of the distracted drivers who cause accidents do so while using their cell phones.

III. Making calls can be just as distracting as texting.

A. Some may argue that texting is the real danger because it's more involved than simply talking on a cell phone.

B. However, anyone who has taken a second while driving to place a call, queue up a song in a play list, or check email on a smartphone knows that any cell phone use while driving is dangerous.

IV. A ban on all cell phone use for drivers would send a message that no distractions are acceptable for drivers.

A. If our state were to ban only texting, as opposed to cell phone use, we'd be sending a message that other cell phone use is perfectly safe for drivers.

B. This is a particularly bad message to send to young people, who may think that as long as they're not sending or receiving texts, it is not a problem to divert one's attention from the road to one's cell phone.

Note that we have four major sections in our outline, one for each body paragraph. Let's think about how we would convert the first major section of our outline into our first body paragraph for our essay.

The major idea for this section - a complete ban on all cell phone use for drivers would reduce distracted driving - will serve as the topic sentence for our first body paragraph. We can follow that with our sub-point that even brief attention paid to a cell phone means that a driver isn't watching the road.

We've included a few details in our outline, the first of which states that picking up a cell phone, finding a contact number and placing a call all require a driver's attention and would prevent him or her from paying close attention to the road. We've followed that in our outline by stating that research has shown that people are not able to pay full attention to more than one thing at a time. This means that distracted driving is a real danger.

Both of these details will be good to include in our paragraph, but our second detail may require just a bit more development. We might write this additional sentence: One study has shown that many traffic accidents have occurred in the few seconds in which drivers have diverted their attention to their cell phones while driving (Smith 22). Note that we would have to cite any actual borrowed information that we use in our paper.

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