Individual sentences express complete thoughts, and individual paragraphs support main ideas. The development of paragraphs flows naturally to the development of arguments to support a central idea.
All the sentences in a paragraph support one main idea. Suppose a journalist were writing an article about a city meeting. She may choose to start the article “The City Council held a meeting at City Hall on February 2 at 7 PM to take recommendations for the location of the new building for the Boys and Girls Club.” The chairman of the local Boys and Girls Club would like it in the same area in Smallville, while the owner of property in Gotham City wants the new building built on their land. However, a student writing an essay for their government class might use the same meeting information, but slant it in a different way. “The City Council holds regular meetings every two weeks to ensure public input on issues important to the community. Last month, they held public meetings to discuss funding for the new library. The most recent meeting was to discuss the location of the new Boys and Girls Club building. The proposed agenda for their next meeting will continue discussion of its funding.”
Relating Main Ideas to Central Themes
The central theme of an article or a nonfiction essay is often called a “thesis statement.” The newspaper article has the central theme recommendations for possible locations. For example, the chairman of the Smallville Boys and Girls Club wants it in the existing location. The property owner in Gotham City wants it built on their property. Another sentence might discuss the proposal by the chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce to build the Boys and Girls Club near the ball fields at the edge of town. In contrast, the government paper has the central theme of different types of City Council meetings in the community. The City Council held one meeting to discuss public input into library funding, one to discuss the location of the Boys and Girls Club building, and one to discuss how the new building will be funded. The main idea of each paragraph will relate back to that central theme or argument.
Narration in Paragraphs
Paragraphs can be organized as narration or description. The first paragraph of the newspaper article is an example of narration. The first sentence tells who had the meeting (the City Council and the public), where and when the meeting took place (City Hall, February 2, at 7 PM), what (the meeting), as well as why (proposals for the location of the new building). The chairperson of the Smallville Boys and Girls Club spoke first, then the landowner, then the chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce, and so on. A descriptive paragraph might tell the reasons why the chairperson of the Boys and Girls Club wants the new building at the existing location. The existing location is in a safe place, with plenty of outdoor lighting. It is easy to get to by biking, walking, or riding the bus. It is close to the middle school, but it is away from places where people live, so kids can make noise without a lot of complaints from neighbors.
Process in Paragraphs
Some paragraphs describe a step-by-step process. For example, when a building is built, first a plan is made, then the location is excavated, then the foundation is poured, and so forth. Other types of paragraphs describe classifications. One sentence can describe public meetings, another, the city newsletter, another, televised reports from each city department, and still another, legal notices in the daily paper.
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