It’s important to properly structure your thoughts when writing a good paragraph. Practice constructing solid paragraphs with these paragraph writing topics.
Paragraphs are the building blocks of all prose writing, and learning to create well-structured and effective paragraphs is one of the most crucial writing skills. Many of us learned the correct format for paragraph writing as high school students, but if you haven’t been in English class for a few years, a refresher and some practice will sharpen your skills.
One helpful way to understand paragraph structure is to analyze a paragraph from a book, essay, or novel. Study how it is put together and what makes it successful. Also, learn to identify the four basic types of paragraphs in your reading, then practice creating them with these writing prompts.
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- What Are the Types of Paragraphs?
- Descriptive Paragraphs
- Descriptive Paragraph Writing Topics
- Narrative Paragraphs
- Narrative Paragraph Writing Topics
- Expository Paragraphs
- Expository Paragraphs In Formal Essays
- Expository Paragraph Writing Topics
- Persuasive Paragraphs
- Persuasive Paragraph Writing Topics
What Are the Types of Paragraphs?
There are four main kinds of paragraphs: descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive. Each has its own purpose and structure, and learning to recognize those elements will allow you to recreate them in your writing.
The primary purpose of a descriptive paragraph is to show the reader what a person, place, or moment is like. Successful descriptive paragraphs are full of imagery – details that appeal to the five senses. This imagery creates a vivid picture so the reader can step into the moment and experience it along with the characters.
Charles Dickens was a master of descriptive paragraphs. Perhaps it was because the word often paid him for his serial stories, but his work was well known for its long, detailed, descriptive passages, like this one from David Copperfield:
“I came into the valley, as the evening sun was shining on the remote heights of snow, that closed it in, like eternal clouds. The bases of the mountains forming the gorge in which the little village lay, were richly green; and high above this gentler vegetation, grew forests of dark fir, cleaving the wintry snow-drift, wedge-like, and stemming the avalanche. Above these, were range upon range of craggy steeps, grey rock, bright ice, and smooth verdure-specks of pasture, all gradually blending with the crowning snow. Dotted here and there on the mountain’s-side, each tiny dot a home, were lonely wooden cottages, so dwarfed by the towering heights that they appeared too small for toys.” Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Here, Dickens has described the scene starting from the bottom and working upwards. In this way, the reader can experience the moment from the character’s point of view. Try your hand at creating descriptive paragraphs using the following prompts. Practice describing a person, setting, or event just as your narrator sees it. Show your reader what you feel, touch, taste, and hear in the moment.
Descriptive Paragraph Writing Topics
- The view from my bedroom window- because you see this view every day, you know it intimately. You know how the view changes with the seasons and how it has evolved. Use lots of descriptive language to allow your reader to see what you see.
- My most interesting family member- We all have that one unforgettable aunt or a grandpa who can make us laugh so hard our cheeks hurt. Introduce your reader to that person by describing their physical characteristics and how they move, sound, and make you feel.
- My favorite meal – Describing food is a great way to practice descriptive writing because it appeals to all of your senses. Give your reader a bite of your favorite meal by showing them how it looks, tastes, smells, sounds, and feels in your mouth.
- My best friend in elementary school – Recalling childhood memories is another good way to practice your descriptive paragraph skills. Close your eyes, go back to a day with your best buddy, and then write about the experience.
- The scariest place I’ve ever been – Moments that are attached to strong emotions like fear are ideal subjects for practicing descriptive writing. Think of a time when you were frightened, and describe as many aspects of the event as you can. Make your reader feel what you felt in that moment.
Narrative paragraphs appear in novels, screenplays, and personal essays and are closely related to descriptive paragraphs. They are meant to tell a story, and their structure generally follows the chronology of the events. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Author and humorist David Sedaris is highly regarded for his ability to weave brief but compelling stories from his real-life experiences. His expert use of narrative paragraphs allows him to move the action forward and keep the reader engaged. Take a look at this excerpt from his essay Us and Them:
“I knew that it was just a matter of time before she came into my room and started collecting the candy herself, grabbing indiscriminately, with no regard to my rating system. Had I been thinking straight, I would have hidden the most valuable items in my dresser drawer, but instead, panicked by the thought of her hand on my doorknob, I tore off the wrappers and began cramming the candy bars into my mouth, desperately, like someone in a contest. Most were miniature, which made them easier to accommodate, but still there was only so much room, and it was hard to chew and fit more in at the same time. The headache began immediately, and I chalked it up to tension.” David Sedaris, Us and Them
In this paragraph, readers not only follow the action step by step but through it, we also learn how he felt in the moment. By using words like “grabbing,” “indiscriminately,” and “cramming,” we understand that he was acting hastily out of fear. Use the following prompts to practice writing paragraphs describing an event chronologically and express the event’s emotion through careful word choice.
Narrative Paragraph Writing Topics
- My most memorable summer vacation – The beach, the mountains, or your first sleep-away camp- describe the one summer you’ll never forget.
- The best birthday party ever – Maybe it was the cake, a gift you still hold dear, or the people you spent it with that made this particular birthday stand out. Use lots of descriptive details to tell your reader about a cherished birthday memory.
- My first day at a new school or job – First days are always a heady mixture of excitement and terror. Use your writing to show your reader how the day started, how you got through it, and how you felt about it when it was done.
- A time that I had to make a difficult decision – Describe the dilemma for your reader. What made it difficult? How did you finally decide? How did you feel about your decision afterward?
- A moment when I overcame a fear – We’ve all experienced a time when we’ve had to gather all the courage we could muster and forge ahead. Show your reader what that fear felt like, what pushed you through it, and how it felt to have accomplished your goal.
- The funniest thing that ever happened to me – When telling funny stories, timing is crucial, so they are a great way to hone your narrative writing skills.
An expository paragraph explains or instructs the audience about a particular topic or provides a step-by-step procedure for a task. This type of paragraph may require research and cited examples, or it may be based on the writer’s knowledge. You can write expository paragraphs in different ways, but the main types are:
- Problem and Solution Essays – These essays use paragraphs to describe a potential solution to a known problem. Examples might include parenting articles that offer suggestions for solving common childhood issues like frequent colds or waking up at night.
- Process Essays -The paragraphs in these essays describe the steps to complete a task, such as changing a tire or making a cup of coffee. They use the imperative voice and transition words between steps.
- Cause and Effect Essays – In this type of essay, the paragraphs describe the causal relationship between two things. A cause-and-effect essay might explain the adult behavior of children traumatized by war, for example, or explore the spending habits of people who lived through the Great Depression.
- Classification Essays – Classification essay paragraphs will sort ideas or objects into categories and give examples of each – desirable neighborhoods, for example, or ideal places to honeymoon.
- Definition Essays – A definition essay’s paragraphs give a detailed explanation of a topic. This might be as straightforward as describing the essential characteristics of a house, or the essay might answer a more conceptual question like, “What is art?”
- Compare and Contrast Essays – The purpose of compare and contrast essay paragraphs is to describe the differences and similarities between two things – ideas, objects, people, places, etc. For instance, you might write a compare-and-contrast essay in which the paragraphs compare the life of a teenager in colonial times to that of a 21st-century teen.
Expository Paragraphs In Formal Essays
In an expository essay, the first paragraph will be an introduction that includes a thesis statement. The thesis is a sentence that briefly explains the topic and the key ideas that will be addressed. For instance, if the essay prompt asks the writer to explain the importance of friendship, the thesis might say: “Strong friendships are a crucial part of child development because they foster interpersonal skills and build empathy.”
Subsequent paragraphs would then explain how having friends allows children to practice their interpersonal skills and learn to be empathetic toward others. Those paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that describes the main idea, supporting evidence or examples that prove this idea, and a concluding sentence that restates the primary thought. It might look something like this:
Children develop their ability to interact appropriately with others by learning from their experiences with friends. When one child takes a toy away from another child, the offended young person may cry, lash out in anger, or no longer want to play. From this experience, the first child learns that their actions have consequences that affect their relationships. At this moment, the child can be taught to apologize, share, and comfort others – skills that will be essential to future interactions with others. A young person who has had ample time to develop and foster friendships is one who will become adept at interpersonal relationships.
Expository Paragraph Writing Topics
Practice creating expository paragraphs that include a topic sentence, main idea, and concluding sentence with these essay topics. Use transition words or phrases to link your paragraphs together.
- How to make the perfect sandwich – Describing the process of performing a simple task is a great way to practice expository writing. If you don’t like sandwiches, write about how to brush your teeth or how to email your boss. Writing about any task that you perform regularly will sharpen your writing skills.
- Ways to relieve stress – Lists of ways to solve a common problem are popular forms of expository essays. You can also write about your favorite ways to spend a weekend or clever ways to save money on groceries.
- What you thought being an adult/teen would be like vs. what it is actually like – Compare and contrast paragraphs have a built-in chronology, so they are a great way to learn expository writing.
- What is true love? – This is a definition essay, so brainstorm the key characteristics of true love and explain each in a paragraph with its own topic sentence.
- The qualities of a leader – Organize this as a classification essay. Each paragraph will begin with a topic sentence that describes one quality. Follow each topic sentence with supporting sentences that give a real-world example of someone with that characteristic.
Like expository paragraphs, persuasive paragraphs are generally part of a larger essay or speech. They aim to convince the reader to adopt a certain viewpoint on a given issue. They often require research for facts and examples that support the writer’s position. As with expository essays, persuasive essays should contain an introduction, a thesis statement, and a conclusion that restates the main idea and presents the audience with a call to action.
Persuasive essay body paragraphs begin with a topic sentence that states a claim. The claim is followed by evidence that supports the argument. Supporting sentences may include a direct quote or statistic or examples paraphrased from their original source. Paraphrasing examples will help keep your persuasive paragraphs concise. Consider this example:
Beyond caring for one’s family, having wealth also means having the opportunity to effect real change in the world. In 1996 billionaire Ted Turner pledged to give the United Nations 1 billion dollars. In doing so, he has had a dramatic impact on countless lives. A relatively small portion of Turner’s donation funded 12 million mosquito nets for areas plagued by malaria. In record time, the number of deaths related to the disease dropped by more than half. Because of his wealth, the world is a better place.
Persuasive Paragraph Writing Topics
- Teenagers should be required to complete community service – Persuasive essay prompts are often phrased as “should” statements. Approach them by asking yourself about the potential benefits and consequences of creating such a rule.
- Friends are more important than family – Prompts that ask you to choose between two options are a great way to exercise your persuasive writing skills. The key is to choose one side and defend it well.
- Video games are educational – Tackle essay prompts that ask you to prove the value of something by first brainstorming the pros and cons. Then choose the side you can best support with solid evidence.
- It is sometimes acceptable to cheat – “Sometimes,” “all,” and “never” statements are common forms of persuasive essay prompts. Take an unexpected approach by finding exceptions to generally accepted rules.
- All speech is free speech – As with the last topic, exercise your ability to brainstorm good examples by trying to argue about the less popular side. Are there times when people should not be allowed to voice their opinions?
If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!
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