How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay

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by Staff Writers

Updated March 4, 2022

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How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay

Paragraphing is an essential key to successful academic writing. A writer's organizing decisions control the reader's (i.e., your professor's) attention by raising or decreasing engagement with the subject. Writing an effective paragraph includes determining what goes into each paragraph and how your paragraphs and ideas relate to one another.

The first paragraph in any academic essay is the introduction, and the last is the conclusion, both of which are critical to crafting a compelling essay. But what is a body paragraph? The body paragraphs — all the paragraphs that come between the intro and conclusion — comprise the bulk of the essay and together form the student's primary argument.

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In this article, we look at the function of a body paragraph and provide guidance on how to write a good body paragraph for any college essay.

What Is the Purpose of a Body Paragraph?

Body paragraphs play an indispensable role in proving the essay's thesis, which is presented in the introduction. As a sequence, body paragraphs provide a path from the introduction — which forecasts the structure of the essay's content — to the conclusion, which summarizes the arguments and looks at how final insights may apply in different contexts. Each body paragraph must therefore relate logically to the one immediately before and after it.

If you can eliminate a paragraph without losing crucial information that supports your thesis claim, then that paragraph is a divergence from this path and should be edited so that it fits with the rest of your essay and contains necessary evidence, context, and/or details.

Each body paragraph must relate logically to the one immediately before and after it, and must also focus on a single topic or idea.

Each paragraph must also focus on a single topic or idea. If the topic is complex or has multiple parts, consider whether each would benefit from its own paragraph.

People tend to absorb information in short increments, and readers usually time mental breaks at paragraph ends. This stop is also where they pause to consider content or write notes. As such, you should avoid lengthy paragraphs.

Finally, most academic style conventions frown upon one-sentence paragraphs. Similar to how body paragraphs can be too long and messy, one-sentence paragraphs can feel far too short and underdeveloped. Following the six steps below will allow you to avoid this style trap.

6 Steps for Writing an Effective Body Paragraph

There are six main steps to crafting a compelling body paragraph. Some steps are essential in every paragraph and must appear in a fixed location, e.g., as the first sentence. Writers have more flexibility with other steps, which can be delayed or reordered (more on this later).

Break Down Complex Topic Sentences

A topic sentence with too many parts will force you to write a lot of support. But as you already know, readers typically find long paragraphs more difficult to absorb. The solution is to break down complicated topic sentences into two or more smaller ideas, and then devote a separate paragraph for each.

Move the Transition to the Following Paragraph

Though a body paragraph should always begin with a topic sentence and end with proof of your objective — sometimes with a direct connection to the essay's thesis — you don't need to include the transition in that paragraph; instead, you may insert it right before the topic sentence of the next paragraph.

For example, if a body paragraph is already incredibly long, you might want to avoid adding a transition at the end.

Be Concise

Your body paragraphs should be no longer than half to three-quarters of a double-spaced page with 1-inch margins in Times New Roman 12-point font. A little longer is sometimes acceptable, but you should generally avoid writing paragraphs that fill or exceed one page.

Shift Around Some of the Paragraph Steps Above

The steps above are a general guide, but you may change the order of them (to an extent). For instance, if your topic sentence is fairly complicated, you might need to unpack it into several parts, with each needing its own evidence and analysis.

You could also swap steps 3 and 4 by starting with your analysis and then providing evidence. Even better, consider alternating between giving evidence and providing analysis.

The idea here is that using more than one design for your paragraphs usually makes the essay more engaging. Remember that monotony can make a reader quickly lose interest, so feel free to change it up.

Don't Repeat the Same Information Between Paragraphs

If similar evidence or analysis works well for other paragraphs too, you need to help the reader make these connections. You can do this by incorporating signal phrases like "As the following paragraph also indicates" and "As already stated."

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