300 Days of Better Writing

November 30, 2010

How to Start a Paragraph

Once you have determined the one idea for the paragraph, you need to write about that idea in a way that the reader will understand

  1. what the idea is, and
  2. how that idea connects to the document as a whole.

You do this by establishing context.

Context is information that tells the reader why you are writing about the idea, the situation in which the idea is relevant, or how the new idea connects to the idea you discussed in the previous paragraph.

Take a look at the first paragraph above (“Once you have determined . . .”). Although that paragraph is short, it begins by establishing the context. It provides information about the person for whom the idea is relevant (you), when the idea is relevant (once you have determined the one idea for the paragraph), and the situation in which the idea is relevant (paragraph writing).

Context may or may not address the same issues that the sample paragraph addresses (i.e., who, what, when). Context does, however, provide the reader with sufficient information to understand how or why the idea is relevant.

Examine your paragraphs and ask yourself, “Have I provided the context for the idea of the paragraph? Will the reader know what topic will be discussed in this paragraph?”

This is the strategy for day 69 in 300 Days of Better Writing, now available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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