How to Write a Support Paragraph
A support paragraph is a group of sentences that work together to explain, illustrate, or provide evidence for a single supporting assertion (topic sentence). Several support paragraphs usually work together to explain the main idea of a story, an essay, or a section of a business or technical report. The best way to keep an essay focused on its main idea is to make sure your supporting assertions are clear and your paragraphing is strong.
A strong support paragraph has
1. A topic sentence (assertion , support point) that is clearly related to the main idea of the whole essay.
2. A clear relationship to the main idea of the essay through signal words and paragraph transitions.
A paragraph may relate directly to the main idea of the essay, or it may relate to the paragraph that comes just before it (or both). We show both kinds of relationships by means of transition words and phrases. These may include
3. A combination of general and specific detail.
General detail consists of
Specific detail consists of
"Once" examples can be either short (several sentences) or extended anecdotes (several paragraphs).
4. A clear relationship between one sentence and the next. This relationship is established through sentence transitions.
In the bank failure example, the first sentence relates to the previous sentence through the cause and effect transition “as a result.” The second sentence relates to the first through the echoing of the related words “failed” and “failures.” It also expresses a cause and effect relationship through its subject and verb “the news. . .sent. . . .”
In the porcupine example above, the second sentence relates to the first in two ways:
In the third sentence, “on another occasion” signals a new example that supports the general statement that my cousin liked to play jokes on us.
Here are the examples from the previous section. These are useful models of the relationship between general and specific details.
Example 1: It was a beautiful day (abstraction). White clouds towered above the mountains, and the air was brisk and cold. The trees outside my office stirred in the wind, and a flock of crows rode the air currents up past my window, over the building and down past the windows on the other side (sensory detail).
Example 2: As a result, (cause and effect transition from previous sentence or paragraph), two major savings and loan institutions, XXXX Bank and YYYY Bank failed (fact). The news of these failures (echo word) sent the stock market plunging 220 points in the first two hours of trading (fact). It was an economic disaster (abstraction).
Example 3: My father often read to me after dinner ("always" detail). On my fourth birthday, he began reading me a real, adult book, the first volume of Kipling’s Jungle Books ("once" detail). By the end of the first story, I was hooked. I felt that I, too, had joined Mother Wolf's cubs and become a member of the wolf pack. I also wanted desperately to read this book myself, so that I could read the stories again and again ("once" detail).
Example 4: My cousin liked to play jokes on us ("always" detail). That night (time phrase), after we were all asleep, he shoved a dead porcupine into the crawl space under the bathroom. Several days later (time phrase) we began to notice a peculiar smell ("once detail"). Another time (time phrase), he pretended to be lost when we were out riding together ("once detail). (This whole example is an anecdote.)
To evaluate a support paragraph, ask
Good professional writers often write strong paragraphs that do not follow this advice. And these paragraphs are often more effective than those that do follow it. The ability to deviate from the standard patterns in creative ways is the mark of a writer who has practiced his or her craft for many years, listening to feedback from readers and other writers and revising, revising, revising.