Organizing Paragraphs

In addition to having good topic sentences, paragraphs must have a clear and logical organization. There are many ways to organize paragraphs.  The most common patterns are the following: classification, chronological sequence, evidence and illustration, contrast and comparison, and cause and effect.

As the writer, you should ensure that the structure or organization of the paragraph is clear to the reader and appropriate for the type of document you are working on. Sometimes, knowing how a paragraph is organized can serve this purpose. Have a look at the following paragraphs. Note how connecting words and phrases, which are highlighted, reinforce the paragraph’s organizing principle.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does give an indication of the variety of paragraphs that you can compose.

1. Classification

Break down your main message into smaller categories.

Show: the topic sentence only the complete paragraph

There are two problems in applying this approach.                                                        

2. Chronological

After the topic sentence, begin with what happened first and take it from there. The topic sentence can be used to limit the chronological scope of the paragraph.

Show: the topic sentence only the complete paragraph

Uganda’s economic fortunes have varied considerably over the past 40 years according to its political situation.

3. Evidence and Illustration

Support your topic sentence with examples.

Show: the topic sentence only the complete paragraph

Evidence gathered in the field presents an uneven picture of collaboration and cooperation.

4. Contrast and Comparison

Demonstrate similarities or differences between two or more people or things.

Show: the topic sentence only the complete paragraph

Previously, program beneficiaries were chosen by funders; now the process is improved because beneficiaries are chosen in consultation with the community.

5. Cause and Effect

Make a statement and then show what the effects of that statement would be. The reader can expect to see the results or predictions related to the initial statement.

Show: the topic sentence only the complete paragraph

Because of the recent escalation of energy costs—now the highest in the last ten years—concern has emerged about whether developing countries can sustain high rates of growth.