Paragraph Styles from The New Strategy of Style

by Winston Weathers and Otis Winchester

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 This is a handout I never gave my students during my English days because it shows twenty-seven different types of paragraphs, and I only wanted them to focus on the best type of paragraph—topic sentence first, supporting sentences second, and clincher sentence last, which is style five below.  Once it is mastered, the rest come easier and provide variety.  We used styles 23-26 as creative writing formats.

1.  Topic-sentence-first paragraph- It identifies a subject and says something specific about it.  The topic sentence is reasonably short and straightforward.  Subsequent sentences are more elaborate while explaining and supporting it.

2.  The title-sentence-first paragraph- This paragraph names the subject of the paragraph without saying something specific about it.  While often found in descriptive or narrative writing, it is also used in expository writing for introductory, transitional, and summary paragraphs as an occasional alternative.

3.  Topic-sentence-last paragraph-  This is a specific details first, generalization (topic sentence) last pattern that is very useful in persuasive writing.

4.  The internal-topic sentence paragraph-  When preliminary explanation is needed and further elaboration desired, placing the t.s. in mid-paragraph is an option.  It is seldom used because it tends to emphasize the t.s. as well as obscure it.

5.  The reiterated-topic sentence paragraph-  After stating the t.s. in the first sentence of a long paragraph, you may wish to restate it elsewhere in the paragraph.  It’s very effective at the end of a paragraph.

6.  The dual-topic-sentence paragraph-  A paragraph may present two closely related ideas that can be naturally presented together.  One t.s. is stated early, one is stated late, ant the ideas in between naturally progress from one t.s. to the next.

7.  The implied-topic-sentence paragraph-  This form has no topic sentence you can point to, but it is written so well that the reader can state the t.s. after reading the paragraph.  It is often used in descriptive and narrative writing, and, like the title-sentence-first paragraph, it serves well as a summary or transitional paragraph in an essay or research paper.

8.  The single-sentence paragraph-  A one-sentence paragraph is the exception to the usual five or six sentence paragraph.  It does well as a transitional paragraph, or to summarize or emphasize a point.  

9.  The abbreviated paragraph-  This form consists of  two-three sentences which, and like other forms presented, serves as an introduction, transition, or summary.  However, what might appear to be an abbreviated paragraph is sometimes just an underdeveloped one written by a writer who was unable or unwilling to expand an idea.  Use this type sparingly.

10.  The extended paragraph-  An exceptionally long paragraph can be used when the material isn't complex requiring more manageable paragraph length.  It can be used for emphasis in exposition, but is more likely found in narration.

11.  The paragraph of narrative details-  Use this in exposition when discussing a historical occurrence or some kind of process.  Choose a sequence- earlier to later, past to present, or past to future, or their reverse.

12.  The paragraph of descriptive details- Use this paragraph when describing an object or scene.  Give the details in a logical way:  top to bottom, left to right, large to small, and so on.

13.  The paragraph of examples and illustrations-  In order to prove or explain a t.s., give specific examples and details to make it more valid, pertinent, and vivid.

14.  The paragraph of comparisons or analogies-  Both types illuminate their subject by showing its similarity to something else.  If the ideas are from the same plane of experience, its a comparison.  If the ideas or things are very different, its is an analogy.  You may wish to compare the ideas point-by-point by alternating between them or an a block pattern by showing all the details of first one item and then the other.

15.  The paragraph of contrasts-  This involves pointing out the ways two objects or ideas are different.  Use a point-by-point or block format.

16.  The paragraph of causes and consequences-  This paragraph has one of  three formats:  it lists a cause and shows the consequences; lists a consequence and shows the causes or contains both as a series of events, each event being both the consequence of tone that precedes and the cause of the one that follows ( a domino effect).

17.  The paragraph of restatements-  When you have a topic about which you wish to be absolutely clear and emphatic, repeat the topic in a variety of sentences, not going into great detail.

18.  The paragraph of denials and negations-  Explain the topic by telling what it is not as a means of indicating precisely what its is.  Target misconceptions about your topic.  Include a conventional, positive explanation.

19.  The series paragraph-  In descriptive or narrative paragraphs, you wish for an overall effect of quantity and abundance when presenting details, events, people, etc.  Do this by including a series of some type in most every sentence.  If the length of the series evolves from long to short, it indicates increasing order and meaningfulness.  The inverse is true.

20.  The antithesis paragraph-  An antithesis is a sentence that has balanced elements in apposition to each other.  For example, "the highest ideals may evolve into the lowest crimes."  By incorporating an antithesis im most every sentence, a contrast is stressed.

21.  The question paragraph-  A collection of rhetorical questions transforms what might be a drab paragraph into a stylistic one that forces the reader to reach, hopefully, the same conclusion that you did.

22.  The circular paragraph-  This involves beginning and ending a paragraph with the same sentence, and especially valuable way to present descriptions as it acts as a sort of frame.  

23.  The patterned paragraph (increasing sentence length)-  By beginning with a short sentence and increasing the length of each succeeding sentence by adding more phrases to change sentence rhythms, you create a paragraph that becomes more substantial with each sentence.  

 (When using this type or any patterned paragraph, make the pattern fit the topic where possible.  For example, if you were describing a person's rise to fame, a short-to-long sentence pattern would fit.  If describing that person's fall into obscurity, a long-to-short sentence pattern would work.)

24.  The patterned paragraph (decreasing length)  This pattern has its own unique effect.  It can connote feeling of restriction, isolation, deprivation, etc.  If speculating on your future in a paragraph with sentences that get smaller, your chances could mirror their length.

25.  The patterned paragraph (short-long-short)

26.  The patterned paragraph (long-short-long)-  These paragraphs should fit their subject when used.  The first could be used to describe a person's life with the majority of successes coming in the middle of life/paragraph.  The second could describe the before and after hibernation activities of a bear.

27.  The patterned paragraph (statement and questions)-  By establishing a definite pattern of questions and statements, a paragraph achieves a definite style.

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