Various educators teach rules governing the length of paragraphs. They may say that a paragraph should be 100 to 200 words long, or be no more than five or six sentences. But a good paragraph should not be measured in characters, words, or sentences. The true measure of your paragraphs should be ideas. Your childhood teacher did not wrong you when they taught you that there should be three, or four, or five sentences in a paragraph. It is important to understand, however, that the aim in teaching this was not to impart a hard-and-fast rule of grammar, drawn from an authoritative-but-dusty book. The true aim of this strategy was to teach you that your ideas must be well supported to be persuasive and effective. You can see from this example how a topic is introduced, supported, and then brought to its natural conclusion. Yet, not all writing is academic, and once you have learned the concept behind good paragraph construction—which is really the art of focused writing in disguise—you should know that there are times when paragraph “rules” can, and should, be broken.
In order to write a good paragraph, students need to understand the four essential elements of paragraph writing and how each element contributes to the whole. The four elements essential to good paragraph writing are: unity, order, coherence, and completeness. This example shows how one student approached the writing prompt “What is your favorite day of the week and why?” The original draft has some interesting ideas but overall, the paragraph wanders. It includes both relevant and irrelevant details and lacks the coherent focus required for a successful paragraph. The topic sentence restates the prompt but does not unify the paragraph. The writer includes several irrelevant details. The unifying idea in this paragraph is that the writer likes Sunday because it gives him/her a chance to be with his/her dad. However, the idea is buried in this draft.
Writing paragraphs takes practice, but what should students write about? Good paragraph writing prompts allow students to write about what they know and like, so their focus can be on the writing process and using the four essential elements. Coherence is the quality that makes your writing understandable. Sentences within a paragraph need to connect to each other and work together as a whole. One of the best ways to achieve coherency is to use transition words. These words create bridges from one sentence to the next. Order refers to the way you organize your supporting sentences. Whether you choose chronological order, order of importance, or another logical presentation of detail, a solid paragraph always has a definite organization. In a well-ordered paragraph, the reader follows along easily, aided by the pattern you’ve established. Order helps the reader grasp your meaning and avoid confusion.
No lines are longer than 80 characters, TYVM. Other specified properties aren't being scored automatically at this time so this is not necessarily good news...