Revision Notes for Paragraphs

1. Each paragraph should tell one story. Place secondary information in a different paragraph or delete it.

2. Each paragraph should be coherent, i.e., it should have a dominant topic and perspective. To establish a dominant topic and perspective, place the dominant actor or idea in the topic position of most sentences in the paragraph. Who the story is about should appear at the beginning of many sentences within the paragraph.

3. Each paragraph should also be cohesive, i.e., adjacent sentences should easily connect, they should flow. Cohesion or flow is achieved by:

a) placing familiar material that refers backward at the start of the sentence.

b) placing new material at the end of the sentence.

c) including all information needed to understand the connection of one sentence to the next. Gaps in information or logic will make the reader stumble.

d) avoiding repetition. Especially in a short paragraph, do not announce the paragraph's main point in the first sentence and then repeat it a few sentences later; this will make the reader feel as if he or she is going in circles rather than moving forward. You can usefully repeat the main point by being general in one part of the paragraph and specific in another.

In addition, do not provide the same information or the same kind of information in several different paragraphs - this repetition will blur each paragraph's identity.

e) providing a beginning, middle, and end. In other words, have enough closely related information so that you can move your story forward from the start to the end of the paragraph.

4. Check for coherence, flow, and gaps by reading your draft as if you were an ignorant but intelligent reader. Good writers can imagine the reader's response.

5. Check for rhythm and emphasis by reading the draft out loud.

6. Improve rhythm by varying sentence length.

7. Have something worthwhile to say. Writing and revising will help you decide what you want to say, but you are unlikely to write well if the topic bores you.