CoverObjectivesParagraphsShapeOrganizationParagraph TypesIntroduction to EssaysShapeOrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsExample EssayThe Writing ProcessPrewritingWritingRevisingNarrative EssaysExample Essay #1PrewritingWritingRevisingExample Essay #2Descriptive EssaysExample Essay #1PrewritingWritingRevisingExample Essay #2Classification EssaysExample Essay #1PrewritingWritingRevisingExample Essay #2Refining WritingDevelopmentUnityCohesionNuts and BoltsAudienceWord FormsPunctuation & CapitalizationGrammarVocabularySummariesWriting for the TOEFLIntegrated Writing TaskIndependent Writing TaskGlossaryTeachers' GuideTeacher NotesActivity IdeasAnswer KeyParagraphs AKIntroduction to Essays AKThe Writing Process AKNarrative Essays AKDescriptive Essays AKClassification Essays AKRefining Writing AKSummaries AKWriting for the TOEFL AK

Paragraph Types

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Paragraph Types

Although each paragraph is organized in a similar way (topic, supporting, and concluding sentences), there are different types of paragraphs. Each paragraph type has different fea- tures and styles of prompts.

Descriptive Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a descriptive paragraph is to create a vivid mental picture of a subject. A descriptive paragraph uses clear and specific adjectives to talk about the characteristics or qualities of the subject (ingredients of a dish, personality traits of a person, traditions of a holiday, etc.).

Example: Descriptive Paragraph

Kolaches are very popular for breakfast in Texas. A kolache is a small, round dinner roll made with white bread and a variety of fillings. The fillings give the flavor to a kolache. Some kolaches are spicy because they are filled with spicy ingredients like peppers. Other kolaches are sweet because they are filled with fruit fillings like strawberries. Many kolaches are filled with savory foods like seasoned eggs or meat. This delicious breakfast food is a great way to start your day!

Example: Descriptive Prompts

  • Describe a person you know. What is the person like? What are some of his or her characteristics?
  • Describe your favorite or least favorite meal. Be sure to tell how the food tastes, smells and looks.
  • Describe a famous place. What does it look like? What feelings does the place inspire in you?

Comparison Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a comparison paragraph is to show how two subjects are similar or different. A comparison paragraph is a type of descriptive paragraph. It is unique because there are two subjects that are being described in comparison to each other.

Example: Comparison Paragraph

Spring and Fall are very different seasons. Although the average temperature during both seasons is often very similar, the beginning and ending temperatures are very different. Spring starts out cold and ends with warmer temperatures. Fall starts out warm and slowly gets colder. Another difference is that in Spring, everything is coming to life. In the Fall, many plants go dormant in preparation for winter. Even though there are some similarities between spring and fall, they have some important differences.

Example: Comparison Prompts

  • Write about the similarities between high school and college in your country.
  • Describe the advantages and disadvantages of having a cell phone.
  • Explain the differences between being single and being married.

Cause-Effect Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a cause/effect paragraph is to explain the relationship between an action and its result. Cause/effect paragraphs show this relationship in different ways. For example, some cause/effect paragraphs may show the benefits of doing something (e.g., benefits of studying English in the U.S.), the problems caused by a certain action (e.g., what leads to miscommunication), or the reasons for doing something (e.g., why peo- ple start their own business).

Example: Cause-Effect Paragraph

Exercising during the day has great benefits in our lives. When we exercise, our bodies have more energy, and it is easier for our brains to focus. Exercise also  helps our bodies to sleep well at night, which makes the rest of the day better. Another benefit of exercise is that we keep our bodies in good shape. It is easier for us to participate in physical activities because our bodies are healthy and strong. Exercise is a great way to improve your life.

Example: Cause-Effect Prompts

  • Explain the benefits of improving your fluency.
  • Write about the causes of car accidents.
  • Tell about the effects of eating too much sugar.

Definition Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a definition paragraph is to define or explain a term or idea (e.g., what is body language?). The paragraph may list examples (e.g., smiling, folding your arms, making eye contact, etc.) or non-examples (e.g., sneezing, sign language, shivering, etc.). It may describe behaviors, characteristics, or responsibilities.

Example: Definition Paragraph

When people have courage, they do things that are usually challenging or scary. Courage is a unique quality that not everyone has. When we refer to someone as courageous, it is because we think the person will do something difficult no matter how scared they may be. For example, police officers, firemen and soldiers are often considered very courageous people. People who avoid new or scary situations are not very courageous people. Therefore, courage is essential because very few things in life are easy to do and we need to be brave enough to do them anyway.

Example: Definition Prompts

  • Choose an emotion, such as happiness or anger. How does the dictionary define this emotion? Is it a good emotion or a bad emotion? Who usually feels this emotion and why?
  • Write a paragraph describing the word "legend." What is it?
  • What is a folk dance? Define the idea and give examples (and non-examples if possible).

Classification Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a classification paragraph is to divide a topic into specific groups or categories. For example, a classification paragraph could be about types of books, kinds of restaurants, or styles of dance. It identifies the different categories within a topic (e.g., fiction and nonfiction books) and briefly describes specific characteristics for each category within the general topic. A classification paragraph is a specific type of descriptive paragraph.

Example: Classification Paragraph

Two of the most popular types of movies are action adventure movies and romantic comedies. An action adventure movie is exciting and has a story that focuses on a hero that has to do something difficult or dangerous. Some action adventure movies are about superheroes, while others tell stories based on real experiences from history. Romantic comedy movies are another type of movie. These movies tell a story about love and introduce us to interesting characters. These movies make the problems in a relationship look funny instead of dramatic. Both action adventure and romantic comedy movies are popular because they are entertaining and interesting for the audience.

Example: Classification Prompts

  • Classify different types of students.
  • Describe different types of social media apps.
  • Classify different kinds of cars.

Process Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a process paragraph is to explain the actions that are necessary to complete a specific process. Sometimes these actions are linear (e.g., how to get a driver's license) and sometimes these actions are not necessarily done in a specific order (e.g., how to manage stress).

Example: Process Paragraph

It's easy to get a good grade if you follow some basic steps. First, before you go to class, you need to do all of the assigned homework. Good preparation will help you to understand the teachers more easily, ask good questions, and keep up with the lessons. Second, arrive to class a few minutes early. Doing this will make sure you don't miss important instructions or announcements at the beginning of class. You will also feel more prepared. Next, always participate actively throughout the lesson. You should write important things in a notebook like new phrases or vocabulary words. Finally, at the end of the class, you should write down any homework assignments you will complete for the next class. If you follow these steps in all of your courses, you will get the good grades that you deserve.

Example: Process Prompts

  • Write about something easy to cook. What things do you need to make it? What are the steps to make it?
  • Write about what you need to do to get a driver's license.
  • Explain the steps of how to shop online.

Opinion Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of an opinion paragraph is to give the writer’s opinion about a topic. It states the opinion and provides facts to support it. An opinion paragraph is usually about an issue that has two sides (e.g., human cloning or students using cellphones in class) and usually tries to persuade the reader to agree with the writer.

Example: Opinion Paragraph

The current minimum age requirement in many places to get a driver's license is 16 or 17. However, the minimum age should be increased to 21. Being able to drive is a huge responsibility which many teenagers don't take seriously. Many teens that are 16 or 17 are not mature enough to drive. They think driving is fun and want to show off to their friends, when they should care more about safety. They become easily distracted listening to music, talking to friends, or texting. Driving is a luxury that holds great responsibility because with one distraction a lot of harm can be done. That is why I believe the age limit should be increased to 21. In turn, it will provide safer roads because there are more mature drivers.

Example: Opinion Prompts

  • Which is more difficult to learn: English or your native language? What parts of the language do you find hard?
  • Should students be required to purchase a personal computer when they enter university?
  • Do you think professional athletes receive too much money? Why or why not?

Narrative Paragraphs

Features

The purpose of a narrative paragraph is to tell a story or a part of a story. A narrative paragraph includes a description of the story's setting, characters, and events so that readers can create a mental picture of the story.

Example: Narrative Paragraph

The first time I visited Arches National Park was with my brother on a holiday weekend. We decided to go on a little vacation because we did not have a lot of homework. When we got to the park, we drove around to see all of the incredible rocks. The rocks were red and orange. We hiked and saw so many interesting places. I was surprised by how unusual the area was. I told my brother it looked like we were on Mars instead of Earth! I will never forget the first time I visited Arches National Park. 

Example: Narrative Prompts

  • Write about something very scary that you experienced. What happened? What was it? How did you feel?
  • Tell about your favorite childhood memory. Why was it so memorable?
  • Describe an event that had an influence on you. What happened? Why was it so important for you? How did you change?