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The Essentials of Writing

The Hamilton College Style Sheet

Essentials of English Usage

Unity ("u")

A paragraph should express one idea either implicitly or explicitly and omit all irrelevant material.

The paragraph is the main unit of thought in prose.  Each paragraph should have one main idea, although there may sometimes be subordinate ideas within it.  If you believe that two ideas are related to one another closely enough to be in the same paragraph, you must make their relationship clear to your readers. If you cannot make the relationship clear, or if you are in doubt about the relationship yourself, you probably need to divide the paragraph.

Often, though not always, the best means of unifying an expository paragraph is to use a topic sentence that states its main idea. The other sentences in the paragraph elaborate, justify, or explain this topic sentence.

To write organized, unified paragraphs, you must use your eye as well as your sense of logic. If your paragraphs are too long, they may daunt your readers (this is particularly important in print journalism). On the other hand, a page containing many short paragraphs seems jumpy.