Paragraphs & Topic Sentences
A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.
Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.
A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.
Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.
Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.
Introduction: the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.
Body: follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.
Conclusion: the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.
The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.
SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put, on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or, if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY.
George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”
In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.
Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.
A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.
Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.
Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.
Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.
Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.
I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular.
Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”
SOME USEFUL TRANSITIONS
(modified from Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference)
- To show addition:
- again, and, also, besides, equally important, first (second, etc.), further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, moreover, next, too
- To give examples:
- for example, for instance, in fact, specifically, that is, to illustrate
- To compare:
- also, in the same manner, likewise, similarly
- To contrast:
- although, and yet, at the same time, but, despite, even though, however, in contrast, in spite of, nevertheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, still, though, yet
- To summarize or conclude:
- all in all, in conclusion, in other words, in short, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to sum up
- To show time:
- after, afterward, as, as long as, as soon as, at last, before, during, earlier, finally, formerly, immediately, later, meanwhile, next, since, shortly, subsequently, then, thereafter, until, when, while
- To show place or direction:
- above, below, beyond, close, elsewhere, farther on, here, nearby, opposite, to the left (north, etc.)
- To indicate logical relationship:
- accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for this reason, hence, if, otherwise, since, so, then, therefore, thus
Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Have you ever wondered what exactly X amount of words looks like on a page? A screen?
We’ve all been there.
As professionals, we decide to assign our students X amount of words. Then we stop and think after we type the syllabus, “well, how many pages is that exactly?”
As students, we read the assignment. The teacher wants X amount of words. Great. Well, how many pages is that? How many paragraphs?
What’s even more difficult is if we have to figure out the differences the amount of words creates when typed as compared to being written by hand. At least modern times are different and we don’t have to write X amount of words if we choose not to. Instead, we can get someone else to assist us by writing the paper for us.
Either way, we will still want to know what to look for as for as page and paragraph counts are concerned.
So, how many pages is 500 words? How many paragraphs? Do handwritten word counts take up fewer or more pages when written by hand as opposed to being typed?
What about 1,000 words? 2,000? 5,000?
We are going to explore all of those answers right here in this post.
Let’s begin first with that one thing many of us struggle to master in second grade then usually no longer use after eighth – handwriting.
Figure Before We Learned to Type
Handwriting differs from typed interface. Therefore, the number of pages and paragraph counts will differ for this as opposed to typing. Since most of the situations requiring word counts will use typing instead of handwriting, we will only cover handwriting briefly. Then we will focus the remainder of our post on typing.
Nonetheless, a full breakdown of this topic would be incomplete without exploring this aspect of it as well.
In addition to handwriting differing from typing, it also differs from individual to individual. The difference is vast and could have a huge impact on the results of how many pages and how many paragraphs result for X amount of written words.
Someone with tiny handwriting could double the average number of words on a single page. Another person with huge handwriting could require two pages to fulfill the same word count as what an average writer would fulfill using one page alone.
Therefore, we will be more specific when we get to the typing aspect. But for handwriting, we can generalize and come to some workable conclusions.
For that purpose, we will say the page and paragraph counts that follow are for average size handwrites. We will define average as those who capitalize letters from the top to the bottom of a single line and write lower case letters from the bottom to the middle of the line (or dotted line in most grade school workbooks.)
Average Handwriting Size
It is safe to estimate that one handwritten page is about 250 words. This is the average page size for average handwriting size. Obviously, bigger handwriting can drop as low as 100 words or so whereas smaller writing can get up to about 350 words per page.
To find out how many handwritten pages X number of words is, we use 250 per page as our baseline.
Therefore, if we want to know, “How many pages is 500 words handwritten?” We use 250 as the standard and determine that 500 handwritten words is 2 pages of material.
But more importantly, we will want to focus on typed papers since the majority of assignments will be typed.
To begin, we need to establish (as with handwriting) what we mean by average.
Since the typical formatting requirements indicate 12pt. Times New Roman font (or something similar) we will use that as the guidelines for this post.
Average Size Typing Font
Obviously, if we write in 50pt. font or 8pt. font, the results would differ. But we will use 12pt. Times New Roman as our standard for this post.
Also, it is most common for assignments to be double spaced. This will make a difference in the page counts. For the purpose of this post, we will use double spaced paragraph style as our standard.
So, let’s begin.
The most basic question that will form the foundation for all our other questions is, How Many Pages Is 250 Words? This is the baseline.
To answer this correctly, we must first establish a standard. It is a good idea to set 12pt. Times New Romans double spaced font as the standard since that is customary for most writing assignments.
The result of 250 words using this baseline standard of 12pt. Times New Roman font would be one page in length.
Someone may also want to know how many pages is 300 words. That would end up being one full page and 1/5 of an additional page.
If another student or professional needed to know how many pages is 400 words, the answer would be about a page and a half.
For anyone needing to figure out how many pages is 500 words, we would simply double the baseline. In other words, if we ask, “how many pages is 500 words typed?” we again use 250 per page as our foundation and conclude that 500 double spaced typed words is two pages of content.
Since this is a common word count requirement, you can look at the image below of this 500 word paragraph sample to get a visual.
500 Word Visual Sample
Perhaps, however, an assignment is longer that 500 words and you will want to know how many pages is 600 words. That would end up being two full pages and a little less than half of a third page.
If the assignment is a bit longer, and it is necessary to figure out how many pages is 700 words, the answer would be two full pages and a little more than half of a third page.
Under some circumstances, a student or professional may need to calculate how many pages is 800 words. In that case, the result would be three full pages and 1/5 of another page.
If, however, the assignment required one to know how many pages is 1000 words, the best way to figure this out would be to multiple the baseline of 250 words by four. The result would be four full pages of text.
But some papers are longer than that. Sometimes it is necessary to know how many pages is 1500 words. In that case, the answer would be six full pages.
If the assignment is bigger, it may require one figure out how many pages is 2000 words. The result for those requirements would be eight full pages of content.
Some papers, however, are more than double that size. A few assignments even get up to 5000 words in length. If you need to know how many pages is 5000 words, the answer is 20 complete typed pages of text.
Paragraphs are unique and will differ greatly depending on the writer, the subject, and the context. However, it is possible to estimate the average paragraph to be about 150 words.
With that as our baseline, let’s explore a few different options together.
Perhaps you have a paper that will require you to write 250 words. Now, you need to know how many paragraphs is 250 words. This is a little more difficult to pinpoint accurately, but we can estimate 250 words to be about two paragraphs in length.
Maybe your assignment is longer though and you will need to know how many paragraphs Is 400 words? A good calculation for that number of words would be about three paragraphs.
Since 500 words is a common requirement for many papers, let’s explore that next. If you have a 500-word assignment due and need to figure out how many paragraphs Is 500 Words, you can estimate that to be three and ½ paragraphs.
What if your paper is 600 words? If that’s the case, and you need to know how many paragraphs Is 600 words you can easily get a pretty close estimate by assuming you will need four paragraphs of text to comply with that specification.
In the event that you need to find out how many paragraphs Is 800 Words, you can assume that to be about five and ½ paragraphs.
Sometimes, you may wonder how many paragraphs Is 1000 Words? A paper of that length would be almost (but typically not quite) seven paragraphs. Perhaps 6 and ¾ of another paragraph to be precise.
That’s a pretty close breakdown of what you will need to look for when you have to complete an assignment with a set word count.
4. How Long It Will Take
Once you figure out how many paragraphs X amount of words will be along with how many pages you will need to write, the next thing to factor in is how long it is going to take to write that number of words.
As is the case with the paragraphs, the answer to this question is going to differ depending on the writer, the subject, skills, etc. A combination of all these things will actually make every writing assignment different for every individual.
And someone who writes 100 words in 3 minutes on one topic may need 10 minutes to write 100 words on a different subject.
As a general rule of thumb, however, it is safe to estimate about 30 minutes of writing per 500 words on a topic the writer is already familiar with. This usually isn’t done in less time but could easily take longer depending on the circumstances.
And if the topic is unknown, and even worse – technical, the 500-word assignment could easily turn into a 2-hour project.
The other aspect to factor into timing is the editing process. 500 words may easily be written in 30 minutes, but the average writer should budge 1/3 of the time it takes to write for the editing process.
In other words, 30 minutes of writing usually requires at least 10 minutes of editing. An hour of writing requires at least 20. Etc.
That is for experienced, professional writers with editing software on their computers.
Someone writing for an assignment who doesn’t write daily can average equal time writing and editing. In other words, a 500-word assignment on a topic they know would be two full pages of text divided among three and ½ paragraphs. It would take about 30 minutes to write and 30 minutes to edit. Assuming the student has the ability to write well.
These estimates, however, could easily double for someone writing about a topic (s)he is unfamiliar with and/or if the person has a natural aversion to writing in general. The same 500-word assignment in this case could be one hour of writing then one hour of editing.
Again, it mostly depends on a variety of factors – all of which will contribute greatly to the amount of time it will take any individual to write X amount of words.
5. How to Get Assistance
Figuring out how many pages X number of words and/or how many paragraphs you will have to write to comply with guidelines and specifications can be complicated. Especially if the assignment is handwritten.
But this post should help to fill in the answers and guide us in the right direction.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are professional services available to help you get your paper written and here’s how to get them written FAST.
You can use the help of these professionals to have your paper written for you and delivered according to the specified guidelines (including the right number of pages and paragraphs.) You can even rely on them for your coursework and/or any other types of assignments you have to complete and turn in.
Trying to figure out exactly how many pages and paragraphs a set number of words will require is enough to make any student feel overwhelmed.
The good news is that it’s a modern era and the days of counting your own pages and paragraphs are outdated and long gone.
Why waste your time trying to figure it all out when papers like these can be written for you?