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Hassan II University- Mohammedia

Faculty of Letters & Human Sciences

                                                                Department of English

English Studies

Paragraph Writing

Prof. Msaddek Mohammed


Section 1: Sentence Structure

I- Sentences:

Sentences are a group of words used for expressing ideas, views and conceptualizations. A sentence contains at least one subject (a noun or a phrase) and a verb. It expresses a complete idea. The verb expresses the action of the sentence, and the subject tells who or what completed the action.

II- Typologies of sentences:

 a-Simple Sentence: (Subject + Predicate)


The earth moves round the sun

Young people and adults enjoyed watching movies. Students completed and turned in their homework.

The films entertained and thrilled audiences everywhere.

b-   Compound Sentence:

Two complete sentences joined by a comma + coordinate conjunction (and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet)


He participated in the national games, and she fought the general election. He worked hard, but he failed the examination.

He studied English, for he wanted to travel around the world.

c-   Complex Sentences:

One complete sentence (also known as an independent or main clause + one subordinate (or dependent) clause.


After he finished his academic studies, he applied for the job.

  • Independent clause: He applied for the job
  • Dependent clause: After he finished his academic studies. (This sentence cannot stand on its own)

Although citizens protested the smoking ban, the press failed to cover the story.

  • Independent clause: the press failed to cover the story
  • Dependent clause: Although citizens protested the smoking ban. (This sentence cannot stand on its own)

If you help me now, I will help you later.

  • Independent clause: I will help you later.
  • Dependent clause: If you help me now (This sentence cannot stand on its own)
    • Clause: a group of words that contain a subject and a verb
    • Independent clause: a clause that expresses a complete thought. It is also called a sentence.
    • Dependent clause: a clause that does not express a complete thought. Thus, it must be connected to an independent clause.

Coordinating Conjunctions:

A coordinating conjunction is a conjunction that links two words, phrases, clauses, or sentences that are grammatically equivalent.

1- For (reason) I went to bed early yesterday, for I was tired. 2- And (addition) My sister and I went shopping last week. 3- Nor ( and not) I will neither drink nor dance.

4- But (contrast) This room is old but comfortable. 5- Or (options) Do you play the piano or the violin?

6- Yet (outcome) He likes to play tennis, yet his favourite sport is football. 7- So (result) I was very tired, so I went to bed early yesterday.

Subordinating Conjunctions:

Subordinating Conjunctions are parts of speech that join dependent clauses to independent clauses. They are also referred to as subordinators or subordinate conjunctions.

Examples: After, before, although, as, because, if, in order that, once, provided that, since, rather than, so that, unless, when, until, whenever, whether, while, why, wherever, whereas…….

Conjunctive Adverbs:

Conjunctive Adverbs are parts of speech that are used to connect one clause to another. They are also use to show sequence, contrast, cause and effect, etc. They are words that connect two sentences together, making a new sentence.

Examples: Moreover, in addition, additionally, besides, consequently, as a result, finally, subsequently, further, furthermore, however, in contrast, indeed, likewise, hence, in fact, instead, meanwhile, nonetheless, nevertheless, on the other hand; similarly, that is, therefore, otherwise…

Examples of Conjunctive Adverbs in Sentences

  • You must do your homework; otherwise, you might get a bad grade.
  • I won’t be attending the show; therefore, I have an extra ticket for anyone that can use it.
  • You are my friend; nonetheless, I feel like you are taking advantage of me.
  • We were supposed to go dancing after dinner; however, we went home instead.
  • Amy practiced the piano; meanwhile, her brother practiced the violin.
  • Marion needed to be home early; hence, she left work at 3 p.m.

Section 2: Punctuation

Good punctuation is crucial for successful academic writing. Many students use little punctuation in their essays beyond commas and full stops. But to be restricted to just two forms of punctuation mark, when writing your essay, is like building a house using only a hammer and a saw: you can do it; but not very well.

By learning to use more, or all, of the available forms of punctuation you will be able to communicate and express your ideas, and arguments, more clearly.

-Using a capital letter to begin the first word in a sentence.

Examples: My roommate is from the South. Children are playing football.

-Using a period (.) at the end of sentences.

Examples: Gloria wants to be a nurse after she finishes high school. The coach asked James why he was late for practice.

-Using a question mark (?) at the end of an interrogative sentence.

Examples: What languages do you speak? What were your favorite subjects in school?

-Using an exclamation mark (!) at the end of an exclamatory sentence.

Examples: What a lovely bouquet of flowers! What a happy ending!

Full stop ( . )

Full stops have three distinct uses:

  1. To mark the end of a sentence
  • The cat is completely black.
  • To indicate abbreviated words a full stop indicates an abbreviation, unless first and last letters of the word are shown.
  • The teacher will be Mr John Smith (B. Sci.).
  • To punctuate numbers and dates
  • All assignments should be submitted by 6. 6. 04.

Colon ( : )

A colon can be used:

  1. To indicate that a list, quotation or summary is about to follow;
  • Buy these things: a packet of peanuts, two loaves of bread and a kilogram of steak.
    • Writing the assignment is not easy: to begin with you have to do a lot of research.
  • To separate an initial sentence/clause from a second clause, list, phrase or quotation that supports the first in a particular way.
  • The television set, as the icon of the information age, represents the realisation of a dream for humankind: that knowledge and experience can be transmitted and shared across the boundaries of time and space.

Semicolon ( ; )

A semicolon:

  1. Separates two complete sentences that are, however, closely linked.
  • To err is human; to forgive, divine.
    • Don’t go near the lions; they could bite you.

The semicolon can be replaced by a full stop, but the direct link between the two parts is lost.

  • Serves as a second level of punctuation in a series of words or phrases which already have commas making some internal divisions.
  • Only one paper, the Canberra Times, managed a regular daily edition on a Sunday; even there, Saturday`s offered a better read.
    • She came out of the house, which had a long drive, and saw the police officer at the end of the path; but instead of continuing towards him, she hid until he left.

Comma ( , )

Commas have a vital role to play in longer sentences, separating information into readable units.

  1. A single comma ensures correct reading of a sentence which starts with a longish introductory element.
  • When Australia celebrated its sesquicentenary in 1938, there was a little of the confidence or enthusiasm of the centennial celebrations of 1888.
  • Pairs of commas help in the middle of a sentence to set off any string of words which is either a parenthesis, or in contrast, to whatever went before.
  • Yet in representing ourselves to ourselves, as film and television do, these media are constantly introducing and reinforcing the assumptions.
  • A set of commas is a means of separating items in a list.
  • The details required are name, date of birth, address and telephone number.
  • Sometimes a comma is needed between the last two items to ensure clarity.
  • The details required are name, date of birth, address and telephone number.

Question mark ( ? )

A question mark is used at the end of a sentence which is a question.

  • Have the students completed the exam?

Apostrophe ( ‘ )

There are two uses for the apostrophe:

  1. Contractions – A contraction is a shortened version of a word. An apostrophe is used to show that something has been left out, and where it has been left out.
  • don’t (do not)
    • It’ll (It will)
    • she’ll (she will)
  • Possessives – An apostrophe is used to indicate ownership/possession with nouns. To show ownership by a single individual, insert the apostrophe between the noun and the ‘s’. To show ownership by more than one individual, use the apostrophe at the end of the word.
  • the dog’s tail (belonging to a single dog)
    • the women’s magazines
    • boys’ football boots (belonging to more than one boy)
  • Einstein’s theory of relativity
    • Avagradro’s number

Hyphen (-)

When used correctly, a hyphen links two or more words, that normally would not be placed together, in order that they work as one idea and these are called compound nouns.

  • Stonier’s post-industrial economy is a service economy.
    • There are four types of information-related machines.

Dashes ( — )

Hyphens should not be confused with dashes. Dashes re like brackets; they enclose extra information. A colon and semicolon would work just as well in the example opposite. Dashes are rarely used in academic writing.

  1. Although often used in pairs, dashes can also be used singularly.
  • To the three divisions of the economy—agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries—Jones has added a fourth.
  • Although often used in pairs, dashes can also be used singularly.
  • Have an orange—or would you prefer a banana?
    • While the importance of sport to Pay TV is clear, the opposite perspective is less certain—the importance of Pay TV to sport.

Parentheses ( )

  1. Parentheses are brackets used to include extra or nonessential material in sentences. Parentheses should be used sparingly and always appear in pairs.
  • It was unusual to see Paul awake so early (as he often studied late into the night) and Jane greeted him with amazement.
  • In citation systems like Harvard, parentheses are used to include in-text references.
  • Larsen and Greene (1989) studied the effects of pollution in three major cities.
    • « Australia is a settler society » (Hudson & Bolton 1997, p. 9).

Exclamation mark ( ! )

An exclamation mark is used at the end of a sentence and indicates surprise, anger, or alarm. Exclamation marks should be used very sparingly and are not often used in academic writing.

  • The police stormed in and arrested her!
    • How disgraceful!

Ellipsis ( … )

An ellipsis consists of three full stops. It indicates that material has been left out of a quotation. When quoting, it is sometimes necessary to leave out words or lines for reasons of relevance or length. Using an ellipsis makes any omissions known to your reader.

Section 3: Paragraph Structure

What is a paragraph?

A paragraph is a group of sentences about a single topic. Paragraphs can include many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process, narrate a series of events, compare or contrast two or more things, classify items into categories, or describe causes and effects.

In academic writing, a   paragraph   is   often   between   five   and   ten   sentences   long, but it can be longer or shorter, depending on the topic. The first sentence of a paragraph is usually indented (moved in) a few spaces.

Paragraph Organization

A paragraph consists of three basic parts: The topic sentence/ the supporting sentences/ the concluding sentence.

  1. The Topic Sentence: It is the most important part of your paragraph; it tells the reader the general idea of your paragraph. The topic sentence helps to provide a “general summary” for your paragraph. A reader should encounter the topic sentence and have a general idea of what the paragraph will continue to discuss.
  2. The Supporting Sentences: They support, explain and illustrate the topic sentence. In other words, these sentences provide examples, explanation, information and opinion to support the main idea of the paragraph. Therefore, all supporting sentences should help the reader to understand the topic.
  3. The Concluding Sentence: It is the last sentence in the paragraph. It is often similar to the topic sentence and reminds the reader of the topic and focus of the paragraph, but it should contain different words, if possible. It restates the topic sentence.

Ø A good paragraph has:

  • a topic sentence stating the main point of the paragraph,
  • supporting sentences with details and specific examples as proof of your point,
  • logical, coherent thoughts that are developed in order from one sentence to the next, and
  • a concluding idea that wraps up the point of the paragraph
    • A good topic sentence:

·informs the reader of the subject that will be discussed in the paragraph,

  • asserts the writer’s point of view or attitude,

·intrigues the reader to continue reading,

  • creates a sense of action, and

·is not vague, too narrow or too broad.

Section 4: Narrative Paragraph

  1. Definition:

A narrative paragraph tells a story or depicts real or imagined events. It often describes an event from the writer’s life. It should make use of descriptive language and expressions for allowing the reader to feel that he or she is witnessing the event. The content of the narrative paragraph is related to your own personal experience or an event that happened to someone else.

Characteristics of a Narrative Paragraph:

  • A narrative paragraph usually includes a beginning, middle, and an end, but the story does not have to be told in chronological order.
    • It tells a story/ or an event.
    • It gives background information in the opening sentence/ sentences.
    • It includes vivid, descriptive language.
    • It should have a clear purpose.

B. The Structure of a Narrative Paragraph:

A Narrative paragraph should include a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. The topic sentence tells the reader what the story is about. It should provide background information about the story. The supporting sentences provide the details of the narrative/ story (sequence of events). They include sensory details as well as the author’s/ writer’s feelings and attitudes. As to the concluding sentence, it wraps up the story/ narrative. It is the last sentence in a paragraph. It can include a comment about the importance of the experience or it may include the writer’s overall impression of the event/story.

C.    TASKS:

Task 1: Read this narrative paragraph and answer the questions:

My Department Store Nightmare

I will never forget the first time I got lost in New York City. I was traveling with parents during summer vacation. We were in an incredibly large department store, and I was so excited to see such a huge place. Suddenly, I turned around to ask my mother something, but she was gone! I began crying and screaming very loudly. A salesclerk came up to me and asked if I was OK. She got on the public address system and notified the customers that a little boy with blue jeans and a red cap was lost. Two minutes later, my mother and father came running toward me. We all cried and hugged each other. This story took place over twenty years ago, but every time that I see a department store, I am remindedof that terrified little boy.


1- Identify the topic sentence and the concluding sentence of the paragraph above. 2- Where does the story take place?

3- What is the writer’s purpose for writing this paragraph? 4- What is the middle of the story?

a- He screamed and cried/        b- He got separated from his parents.

5- What is the end of the story?

a- His parents found him        b- The size of the store excited him.

Task 2: Write a paragraph on each of the following topics:

  1. Write a paragraph telling about a terrifying event that you witnessed.
  2. Write a paragraph about the toughest decision that you have made in your life.

Section 5: Descriptive Paragraph

  1. Definition:

A descriptive paragraph provides a vivid illustration/description of people, places, events, situations, thoughts, and feelings. It presents descriptive details and information for enabling the reader to visualize the included elements. This can be executed by making use of pertinent adjectives, active verbs and prepositions. The proper use of adjectives can inform the readers about how things look, feel, taste, sound, or smell.

B. The Structure of a Descriptive Paragraph:

A descriptive paragraph should include a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence.

The topic sentence should introduce the person, the place, the object, or the event that the writer will describe. It may incorporate the writer’s viewpoint/ opinion/ feeling the item that is to be described.

For the supporting sentences, they provide some rich background information about the person, place or object by offering descriptive details. They also include the writers’ feelings, attitudes, views, and emotions with regard to the described item. The supporting sentences help the reader see, touch, feel, taste the described item more clearly.

The concluding sentence is the last sentence in a paragraph. It restates the idea set forth in the topic sentence by using different terms/ words. It sums up the whole paragraph. It serves the purpose of letting the reader know that the paragraph is coming to a close. However, it should not include new information/ ideas.

C.    Descriptive Paragraphs

Task : Read these paragraphs and answer the questions:

Paragraph 1:

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls, a popular destination for thousands of visitors each year, is a beautiful place. When you stand at the edge and look down at the 188 feet of white waterfalls, you feel amazed at the power of nature. The tree-lined river that leads into the falls is fast- moving, pouring over the edge of the falls arid crashing to the bottom in a loud roar. If you want to experience the falls close up, go for a boat ride. You will come near enough to look up at the roaring streams of water flowing over the edge and feel the cool mist that rises as the water hits the rocks below. Seeing Niagara Falls is an unforgettable experience!

Paragraph 2:


Although I have read about hundreds of famous people, one of the most interesting people in this group is Mahatma Gandhi of India. Gandhi was a great man who helped India win independence from Great Britain. He is most known for his peaceful methods during this important struggle, and his actions began other movements for equal rights all over the world. Gandhi was born in 1869. This great hero’s real name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, but people know him simply as Mahatma Gandhi. The title ‘Mahatma’ means ‘Great Soul’ and was given to him in 1914 because he did so many good things for so many people. Unfortunately, Gandhi’s life ended in 1948 when he was killed by a shooter. In fact, Gandhi is one of the most renowned people in the world.


1- Identify the topic sentence and the concluding sentence of the paragraphs above. 2- Identify the major and minor supporting sentences in the paragraphs.

3- Is the concluding sentence of each paragraph relevant to the topic sentence? Explain.

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