Good writing practices – Developing your ideas

A few weeks ago I published a post emphasising that when communicating an opinion, request or objective you should do so in the first sentence of a paragraph. In this post I am going to demonstrate how to develop that initial idea and expand on it throughout the rest of the paragraph.

Paragraph structure offers a map for your ideas, it helps the reader understand your reasons and there are some simple considerations you should be making before hitting that ‘send’ key.

Expanding your first sentence

As previously stated the central idea for a paragraph should be written in the first sentence. It is not considered professional to make your reader guess what the paragraph is going to be about so be explicit. The second part of the paragraph (the body) should then develop and expand on the central idea you do this by:

  • Explaining more fully what you mean, want or think.
  • Giving examples, details, statistics or evidence.
  • Contrasting and comparing ideas.
  • Writing a step-by-step description, detailing what you mean.

Use Pronouns

By using demonstrative pronouns such as it, they, and this you will keep your reader focused on the ideas expressed in the first sentence of the paragraph. Just remember that when using pronouns in this way the pronoun must be clearly linked to a noun.

Paragraph Length

A personal pet hate of mine is an overly long paragraph, it hurts my eyes and my head trying to visually organise large chunks of writing. Perhaps this comes from my experience of studying typography at Sheffield Hallam University or perhaps I am perhaps just too lazy to concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time.

I once read ‘one sentence; one idea‘ and although this would not work in some cases, academic writing for example, when writing short business emails or memos it’s a pretty good suggestion

Linking Words, Transition Words and Phrases

By using linking/transition words and phrases (words or phrases that connect one idea to the next)  you will add powerful tools for connecting your ideas together. Be careful. Some vocabulary, such as despite/in spite of, require certain grammar structures so don’t just throw in a bunch of words hoping it will make you sound professional because it may have the direct opposite effect.

Below I’ve listed some examples of linking and transition vocabulary for you to use:

Time: until – after a while – at length – meantime – simultaneously

‘He can come back to work when he’s feeling better, but in the meantime he should be resting as much as possible.’

Sequenceagain – additionally – furthermore – ordinal numbers (First, secondly, thirdly)

‘It was also a highly desirable political end. Furthermore, it gave the English a door into France’

Example: also – for example – in other words – in addition – moreover – for instance

‘…take Canada, for instance’

Contrast: but – instead – although – nevertheless – despite – nonetheless

‘Despite having all the necessary qualifications, they didn’t offer me the job.’

Cause and Effect: because – as a result – consequently – hence – to this end

They grew up in the Sudan; hence their interest in Nubian art.’

Conclusion: thus – therefore – finally – accordingly – as a result – in any event

‘Payment was received two weeks after it was due; therefore, you will be charged a late fee.’

There are many more examples that could be used when demonstrating all the various ways we can use linking and transition vocabulary. Fixed phrases and expressions are also great because they are universally known thus easy to understand.

In the coming weeks I hope, depending on my schedule, to demonstrate more specific examples of how to use your vocabulary to detail, develop, compare/contrast, and finally combine your ideas into more coherent and professional writing.

I welcome your questions, ideas and thoughts so please leave a comment or send me a personal message if there is any way I can help.

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