(from the Greek paragraphos
, "to write beside
" or "written beside
") is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing
dealing with a particular point or idea
. The start of a paragraph is indicated by beginning on a new line. Sometimes the first line is indented; sometimes it is indented without beginning a new line. At various times the beginning of a paragraph has been indicated by the pilcrow
A paragraph typically consists of a unifying main point, thought, or idea accompanied by supporting details. The non-fiction paragraph usually begins with the general and moves towards the more specific so as to advance an argument or point of view. Each paragraph builds on what came before and lays the ground for what comes next. Paragraphs generally range three to seven sentences all combined in a single paragraphed statement. In prose fiction
and literary writing
paragraph structure is more abstract, depending on the writer's technique and the action of the narrative. Facts and parts of the narrative are ordered to achieve poignancy and support rhetorical devices. A paragraph in prose fiction can start with a single detail and enlarge the picture with successive details, for example; but it is just as common for the point of a prose paragraph to occur in the middle or the end. A paragraph can be as short as one word or run the length of multiple pages, and may consist of one or many sentences. When dialogue is being quoted in fiction, a new paragraph is used each time the person being quoted changed.
The general American practice is to indicate new paragraphs by indenting the first line (three to five spaces), with blank lines between paragraphs, while business writing uses blank lines and no indent (these are sometimes known as "block paragraphs"
). For educational papers indents and no blank lines are preferred. Most published books use a device to separate certain paragraphs further when there is a change of scene or time. This extra space, especially when co-occurring at a page break, may contain an asterisk
, three asterisks, a special stylistic dingbat
, or a special symbol known as an asterism
A hanging paragraph or hanging indent is a paragraph in which the first line of a paragraph is not indented, but the rest is.
In literature, a detail is a small piece of information within a paragraph. A detail usually exists to support or explain a main idea. In the following excerpt from Dr. Samuel Johnson's Lives of the English Poets, the first sentence is the main idea, that Joseph Addison is a skilled "describer of life and manners". The succeeding sentences are details that support and explain the main idea in a specific way. :As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never "o'ersteps the modesty of nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
Begin with a topic sentence,
-states main point for this paragraph
Give details, reasons, and examples to support your topic,
End with a closing sentence.
-Restate main point for this paragraph
Paragraphs in HTML
, the p
element marks a block of text as a paragraph - the opening tag
marks the beginning of a paragraph, and the closing tag
marks the end of a paragraph. The end tag is optional for legacy HTML
, as the browser
automatically starts another paragraph at the next
tag, or the next block element.