Stephanie Bradberry is an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. Her academic career includes teaching, tutoring, writing and editing.
If an essay were considered in terms of a sandwich, the top and bottom pieces of bread would be the introduction and conclusion. The actual contents of the sandwich—meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc.—would be the body paragraphs. Just like you would not want your sandwich filled with cheap meat and flavorless products, a teacher does not want paragraphs lacking in substance. Writing a perfect paragraph every time, for any subject, can be quick and easy if you can fill in five predetermined sentences with your own information.
You Need a Main Idea
Before we can move ahead to make the perfect paragraph, we first have to come up with a main idea to link this paragraph to. A main idea—also known as a controlling idea, thesis or enthymeme—simply tells the reader what your main argument is. The most basic main idea includes:
1) What the subject is
2) Your opinion about the subject
Let’s say my teacher wanted me to write about a food that I liked. My main idea/thesis could be: “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best.” (Yes, there is a theme about sandwiches developing here). The subject is “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” and the argument/opinion is “they are the best.” Now that the thesis is established, the perfect paragraph will make much more sense as it is composed.
Basic Parts of a Paragraph
A basic paragraph has five standard components/sentences. These parts are:
1) A topic sentence,
2) A concrete detail: example or specific detail,
3) Two sentences of commentary and/or analysis, and
4) A concluding sentence
A topic sentence states what the paragraph will be about. This prepares your reader for what is to come. The concrete detail is an example, quote or paraphrase that supports your point. This information can be from personal experience, a book, or another source. Commentary and analysis explain the importance of the concrete detail. This information helps prove and relate back to your thesis. This is usually when someone would say, “So what?” Tell the reader why this information important? The concluding sentence serves two purposes:
1) To sum up what the paragraph was about
2) Provide a smooth transition into next paragraph.
An Annotated Example Using Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Now, let’s see these parts put into action. Remember, the thesis for the paper is “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best.” My topic sentence will be: One reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best is because they are easy to make. Next, I need an example to support my topic sentence and thesis: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich only requires bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Now, commentary and analysis are needed: Virtually any kind of bread can be used that is on hand, and the same is true for the peanut butter and jelly. With a quick smear of peanut butter and jelly on bread, the sandwich is complete. The only thing left is the concluding sentence: The ease with which a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be made is not the only reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best. Now the paragraph is complete.
Same Example Without the Commentary
One reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best is because they are easy to make. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich only requires bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Virtually any kind of bread can be used that is on hand, and the same is true for the peanut butter and jelly. With a quick smear of peanut butter and jelly on bread, the sandwich is complete. The ease with which a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be made is not the only reason peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best.
So Easy a Child Can Do It
I have used this same formula, also called the chunk method, starting with elementary students. If composing a whole paragraph about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was this easy, certainly you can write a perfect paragraph about anything. The best part is this paragraph outline can effortlessly be expanded to include more examples and commentary for papers that require more depth.
My Other Advice Articles for School
About the Author
Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education and high school English teacher. She is the founder and owner of Stephanie J. Bradberry, LLC and former owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2011 Stephanie Bradberry
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on May 19, 2014:
Thank you so much for the complements. I really appreciate the feedback and sincerity. This really makes me miss being in the classroom. But feedback like yours keeps the inspiration going. I am so glad that my information and example(s) helped :)
Gruver3@yahoo.com on May 19, 2014:
I was scrolling through some places trying to help my son to better understand writing skill. There you were. Looked this over applied it and he wrote his essay with some help. We home- school and he has a great teacher but! I just wanted to say, "Thank You."
This information has really helped my home so very much.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on May 02, 2013:
Hello Teresa Schultz,
Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I felt like you for a long time. No one ever really said, "Here is how you write a traditional paragraph." But then one of the last years of undergrad my trainer for tutoring broke it down. It changed my life from just hoping and getting A's to knowing what I was doing and why.
I am glad you found this helpful and can pass this on to your sons.
Teresa Schultz from East London, in South Africa on May 02, 2013:
I've either forgotten what I was taught in high school English class, or haven't seen it broken down like this - interesting! When I try to give my teenage sons some writing tips, I generally just tell them not to write such long paragraphs (looks like they could have split it into two or three paragraphs) and that when the "idea" changes, they should start a new paragraph (or when they start writing about something else, or a new part of their story or article.)
I think the only thing in your hub that I can really relate to is where you say there should be a smooth transition into the next paragraph. I do try and teach my children that.
A well-written hub, and nicely explained topic; well done!
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on February 20, 2013:
Hi rasta1. It is so true. I admit I often have trouble with the KISS principle. But I have gotten better over the years.
Marvin Parke from Jamaica on February 19, 2013:
As my English teacher would say, stick to basics, keep it as simple as possible.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on October 28, 2012:
Thanks, isenhower33. I figured I would pick something that is pretty common to everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Bobby Isenhower from Crothersville, IN on October 28, 2012:
Great job, I like sandwhiches lol :) Good hub :)
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on October 23, 2012:
I guess this sort of writing can be considered a hobby for me. But it is really more of a passion. When I was trying to decide which way my educational career should go while in undergrad, I realized I would be most helpful as an English teacher. The reason was I personally knew how to write a paper but never knew why one paper might be better than another and my feedback was inconsistent. Then I learned The Formula in undergrad and was upset it took that long for someone to tell me one existed for the type of writing we are required to do so often. So I just pass along the information to anyone who is willing to hear! But for some reason my students don't care to hear it from me for the most part, but their friends do. Go figure :)
nightmarejessie54321 on October 23, 2012:
i love the way you wrote this piece. is this some sort of hobby? anyways keep up the good work because that will make me happy, and i'm really not just speaking for myself here, there are a lot of websites that don't really explain anything and it makes me go insane in the mem brain.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on August 29, 2012:
Well thank you. I'm glad you found this helpful :)
awesome on August 28, 2012:
I think this is great
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on July 16, 2012:
Milli, I think being a teacher and life-long student that I am intent on making things as transparent as possible with students in terms of expectations, while still allowing them to learn on their own about creating personal style and a writing voice. But I think many educators just assume someone really taught their current class of students how to write and just jump right in hoping for the best. But of course there are the students who have been taught and simply do not want to use the information to their advantage.
Milli Thornton on July 14, 2012:
Crazy. You'd think that, since teachers really want this from their students, they would demystify it upfront. I guess it took a Hubber to see the need for this. :~)
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on July 14, 2012:
I wish I had this too, but that's why I wrote it to share with everyone. I found writing the perfect paragraph mysterious. But no one broke it down until college, and even then it was a course in how to tutor students.
Milli Thornton on July 14, 2012:
Great explanation and examples. If I'd had this Hub to guide me during high school, I might have seen essays as my friend, rather than a grueling exercise in trying to guess what the teacher wanted to read.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on June 27, 2012:
Playing around with wording (diction) is a staple in writing. I knew plenty of people in college who were almost too fixated in trying to get the "right" word in their essays. While paying attention to word choice and sentence structure (syntax) are important, I don't think it is worth losing hair over...literally (I knew people who really stressed themselves out).
I hope these tips are useful in the future for you. Thanks for stopping by!
Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on June 27, 2012:
Thanks StephanieBCrosby, of late i have found i spend a lot of time re-constructing my wording when writing. Am sure your tips will really help. Voted up and shared.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on March 28, 2012:
Writing paragraphs or the article?
michelle on March 26, 2012:
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on June 21, 2011:
BlueDinosaur (love the name by the way), thank you so much for writing so nicely about my hub. While I give this same information to students, they tend to ignore it, but if they follow it their grades in my course and their other courses soar. I find most of my analogies lean towards food, the hungrier I am the most complex the analogy.
BlueDinosaur from Denver, CO on June 21, 2011:
Well done, Stephanie. I think more people should stop and think before they put pen to paper (or pixels to screen, as it would be), and your guidance would be a perfect place for them to start. And I, too, love PB&J. Great hub.
Stephanie Bradberry (author) from New Jersey on May 26, 2011:
Thanks ColibriPhoto. I will have some hubs coming just for you about easy introductions and conclusions. I can't say how soon though.
ColibriPhoto from Quito, Ecuador on May 26, 2011:
Nice article Stephanie,You defined it very well. I find the closing paragraph to be the hardest, the opening paragraph second. The body is the easy part, like making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.