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Paragraph Unity

Like sentences, readable paragraphs are unified and coherent. A paragraph is a group of sentences all focused on one idea.

Stick to the Topic

In academic writing, each paragraph has a topic sentence that states the idea for that paragraph.

You might find this style too formal for your online writing, but you should at least know what topic you are covering in each paragraph and make that topic clear to your readers.

Since short paragraphs are best in online writing, it is crucial that you stick to one topic per paragraph.

Is That a Topic?

How do you know if you’re sticking to the topic or heading off on a tangent? Once you’ve chosen your paragraph topic, make sure that each sentence in that paragraph supports the topic.

If your sentences are helping your topic, you’re doing well. If you have a sentence that seems more important than the topic (the topic is supporting the sentence), though, it should probably become a separate paragraph.

I say “probably” because, as with all matters of style, you must use your discretion.

Remain Coherent

It’s not enough to have unified ideas. You must also present your ideas coherently, i.e. in an order that makes sense.

As an example, look what happens if I jumble up the sentences in the “Stick to the Topic” paragraph (above):

“You might find this style too formal for your online writing, but you should at least know what topic you are covering in each paragraph, and make that topic clear to your readers. In academic writing, each paragraph has a topic sentence that states the idea for that paragraph. Since short paragraphs are best in online writing, it is crucial that you stick to one topic per paragraph.”

From the beginning, the reader is confused. What is “this style”? Is this paragraph about online or academic writing?

The writer is obviously talking about topic sentences, but it’s not clear what she’s trying to say about them.

For a coherent paragraph, consider how you want your ideas to flow.

  • Chronologically?
  • By comparing and contrasting?
  • Providing a definition?

Also check how each sentence relates to the sentences immediately before and after it. Do they make sense in that order or should they be moved?

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