Now is the time to recall the planning strategies we introduced in Chapter 6.  You may well have developed these to suit your own particular style of working.  Whichever strategy you use, the purpose of planning is to group ideas together and then sub-divide the groups into more manageable chunks, breaking down the task.


You can go on sub-dividing the topics until you feel you cannot go any further.  When you get to this point, you are probably at paragraph level.


Diagram of essay plan


Here you can see that the writer has broken her topic 3 down into two sub-topics: My difficulties and Things I am good at.  One of those is subdivided into three divisions: Reading, Writing and Organising myself.  The Writing sub-division is broken down further, we have included just one of these topics: Spelling.


The writer feels this has been broken down enough so she decides to call the paragraph 'Spelling'.  She uses her notes to start writing. The headings help her to write the first sentence:

'My major difficulty with writing is spelling.'

The heading also helps her to keep to the subject of the paragraph.  When she has said all she wants to about spelling, she ends the paragraph and goes on to the next.


That first sentence is her 'pointer sentence'.  It tells her reader what the paragraph is all about.  The reader can then decide whether to read it or skip it!  So the pointer sentence is good for the person writing and it's good for the reader too.


If your paragraph is getting too long, ask yourself if you can sub-divide the topic. There is no prescribed length for paragraphs, but a rule of thumb is:

A paragraph should be longer than one sentence and

no longer than one third of an A4 page.

Think about how you feel when you are reading a page of text.  It's good on the eye to have text broken into paragraphs and it means you can:

·        take a short breather at the end to reflect on the content,

·        go over it to check your understanding

Well, as a reader, if you like paragraphs and find them helpful, then so will those who read your work. So do it for them.


However, the breaks must be natural.  Don't just cut a paragraph in two because it's too long!  Look for a natural change in focus.


Another useful tip that improves the structure and style of your writing is for the last sentence of each paragraph to:

         either summarise the paragraph


         lead on to the next one


So, in conclusion, paragraphs need:

·        one central theme or idea

·        to start with a pointer sentence answering the question, what is this paragraph all about?

·        everything in it to relate to the theme of the paragraph

·        to finish with a concluding sentence that:

                                                                        i.       summarises or sums up the paragraph


                                                                      ii.       leads to the next one


This visual representation may help you to remember the structure of a paragraph:



What is this paragraph all about?






All of these must relate to the theme of the paragraph


Summary or trailer for next paragraph



Now's the time to think about the introduction and conclusion.

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