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Main Body

Writing the Paragraph

Paragraph Structure

There are several parts to an expository paragraph. Whether the writer is only writing one paragraph or several to create an essay, the structure is the same.

  • The Topic Sentence/Main Idea Sentence – The topic sentence is the sentence that contains the main idea in the paragraph. It is the most abstract, meaning it can be explained, shown, or proven.
  • Major supporting sentences – Major supporting sentences directly support the topic sentence. Consequently, they are more specific than the topic sentence. These must be introduced with transitional words or phrases to clue the reader in that these are directly supporting the topic sentence. In your papers, you must have at least three major supporting sentences.
  • Minor supporting sentences – Minor supporting sentences directly explain the major supporting sentences and will contain the most specific and concrete details in the paper. In your papers, you must have at least two minor supporting ideas for each major support.
  • A concluding sentence – The concluding sentence summarizes or ends the paragraph. Without it, the reader is left hanging. Think of losing the signal on your cell phone in mid-conversation. That is what a paper is like without its conclusion.
  • Transitional words and phrases – These words and phrases are vital, for they help the paper flow when it is read. These tell the reader which ideas are major and which are minor.

Transitional Words and Phrases

Transitional words and phrases tie ideas together by showing how pieces of information are linked in terms of location, time, or logic. Using these words and phrases help with the flow when the paper is being read, improving communication.

Transitions that Introduce Major Supporting Details

Certain words and phrases often introduce major details. They are called “addition words” because they show that an idea is one of a series – the author is adding one or more ideas to another.

First, first of all, in addition, final, one, also, next, finally, second, another, moreover, furthermore, then, last of all, third

Transitions that Introduce Minor Supporting Details

Minor details do not introduce new points but are intended to make major details more clear. They usually follow a major detail and make it clearer, often by illustrating or explaining it. In such cases, the minor details may be introduced by example words. Here are some common example words:

For instance



Such as

For example

Please note that the boldfaced transitions cannot begin sentences.


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Writing for College Introduction to College Writing with Grammar Skills Review by Cheryl McCormick, Sue Hank, and Ninna Roth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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