Thursday, September 3, 2009

Academic Essay 3 - Importance of Body Development and Transitions

An essential component of an essay is its body paragraphs. Without them, you have a great opinion that falls gracelessly to the ground because it lacks support.

Body paragraphs (and truly every paragraph in an essay) should be unified, coherent, and well developed.

When a paragraph is unified, every sentence in that paragraph supports the essay's thesis.

When a paragraph is coherent, every sentence in that paragraph is presented logically and is arranged in a way that provides strong transitional flow, and again, supports the thesis and overall development of the essay.

When a paragraph is well-developed, evidence and details are provided as concrete, visual proof that supports your thesis.

To have a strong body paragraph that is unified, coherent, and well-developed, you must do four things:
  1. Write a topic sentence that illustrates the paragraph’s (or paragraphs') purpose.
  2. Supply concrete and specific details and examples to explain generalities and support your essay's thesis.
  3. Close the paragraph in a way that restates the topic sentence and ties the paragraph back to the essay's thesis.
  4. Have transitions that make for smooth reading within a paragraph as well as between paragraphs.

Topic Sentence
The topic sentence is typically the first sentence in a paragraph, and it introduces the paragraph's main idea. Topic sentences are, essentially, “mini-theses.” The thesis tells the reader what the essay's main purpose is, and a topic sentence tells the reader what each body section's purpose is.

Supporting Sentences
Supporting sentences come after the topic sentence and make up the body of the paragraph. Supporting sentences give details and evidence that develop and support the topic sentence. Facts, details, and examples are ways to add support to a paragraph.

Closing Sentence
The last sentence of a paragraph (or set of paragraphs - a body section) should summarize the main idea of your paragraph. You want to make sure not to copy/paste your topic sentence as your closing sentence.

By doing the above three, creating a topic sentence, supporting the topic sentence with details, and adding a closing sentence, you will have a self-contained paragraph (or body section).

To supply movement within paragraphs and between paragraphs, you must use transitions. Without transitions, an essay is jarring to read and may cause confusion to your reader.

Below is a list of transitions and connectors that are often used to achieve a smooth read for a reader. These words, depending on the type of essay you are writing, can indicate order, chronology, degrees of emphasis, spatial order, and more.


Addition: again, also, even more important, finally, first, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place, in the second place, last, likewise, next second, third, too.

Alternative: and then, besides, moreover, nor, or.

Cause/Effect: accordingly, as a result, because, consequently, for, hence, so, then, therefore, thereupon, thus.

Comparison: in like manner, likewise, similarly.

Contrast: although this may be true, and yet, at the same time, but, conversely, even so, however, in contrast, nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the other hand, or, otherwise, still, yet.

Exemplification: for example, for instance, in the case of, to see, to show, to understand.

Intensification: in fact, indeed, to tell the truth.

Place: adjacent to, beyond, here, nearby, next to, on the opposite side, opposite to.

Purpose: for that reason, for this purpose, in order to, to this end, with this object.

Repetition: as has been noted, as I have said, in other words, that is, to be sure.

Summary: in any event, in brief, in short, in sum, on the whole, to sum up.

Time: after a few days, afterward, at length, in the meantime, in the past, later, meanwhile, now, soon, then, while.

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services and online programs at CLG Entertainment. Shon has her own sexy little story, Saying No to the Big O, that was published last year: check it out!


  1. Ahh, this brings back the college years. Especially liked the transitions/connectors list. Used to have to teach a mini-version of this for my Public Speaking classes. Thanks for the lesson and the reminder.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Shon! It's good to see your red pencil again!

  3. Great reminders! Something to keep in mind no matter what you write :D
    Terisa Wilcox

  4. Thanks. Somehow having words to describe what you're trying to do makes it much easier to think about doing it.

  5. Brilliant! Where was this post three years ago when I was just starting my degree? Ha ha.

    I LOVE topic sentences. Is that strange? The concept is just so simple, so logical, yet so very effective.

  6. Gosh, I wish I'd had this in high school and college. What a great reference. I hope some students are checking this out.

    Thanks Shon.

  7. Thanks for the comments, :-) Sophie, I'm a big fan of topic sentences myself, LOL

    The cool moment occurs when students know these things internally and stop writing TO these components and start writing great essays full of style and verve that just so happen to embody these things.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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