All writing is a march of paragraphs,each of which provides a clear step forward in the progress of the piece.~Charles Euchner [ 1]
What is a paragraph?
Does the first sentence clearly signal the Topic of the paragraph? In the example above, the use of a simple sentence structure [ 3] (subject, verb, object) helps to ensure that the reader can’t miss the main idea. In paragraphs that develop sophisticated ideas, simple sentences for the Topic and the Wrap can improve clarity.
Do the Body sentences all develop the main idea, or are some a distraction? Is there a logical pattern to their organization? Pattern is a rhetorical strategy that makes a paragraph more convincing. In the example above, the organizing pattern is one of broadening scope, from the writer’s time and space to their peer group and their institution. Parallel structure [ 4] is also used to cluster the body sentences elaborating situational issues: ‘They write … They lack … They work … And they inhabit …’.
Are the Token sentences placed strategically? Not all paragraphs have Token sentences, because not all Body sentences require a Token. In the example above, for instance, there are four Body sentences followed by one supporting Token sentence. There is no rule about the number or positioning of Tokens; however, Dunleavy warns that they are ‘inherently digressive’ and therefore require careful signposting to maintain coherence, particularly when a series of Tokens is used [ 2]. They may also be a good site for editing when you wish to tighten the argument: ask yourself if all your Tokens are necessary, and delete those that are superfluous or tangential.
Is there a Wrap sentence? Many paragraphs simply end, without concluding. A good Wrap sentence should not just repeat the Topic sentence, or the paragraph risks feeling that it has not developed meaningfully. In the example above, the Wrap introduces the implications of situational writing issues for faculty development, thus pointing forward to the next paragraph which will elaborate relevant faculty development approaches. Wrap sentences can also be written to elaborate a Topic that was introduced simply. This can help to ensure that, in hindsight, the reader understands the paragraph as developing rather than meandering.