Skip to main contentSkip to main navigationSkip to footer content

Paragraph Guidelines

A paragraph is a collection of related sentences about a single topic. Learning to write good paragraphs will help you to organize your ideas clearly, and present them to your reader in a way that is easy to follow and understand.

Paragraphs Should:

Be focused on only ONE main idea

You can have one idea and several supporting points or bits of evidence within a single paragraph, as long as they relate to the overall topic – but if you begin to transition into a new idea, it belongs in a new paragraph.

Start with a topic sentence

A topic sentence tells your reader about the main idea you will discuss in that paragraph. Good topic sentences will also show the reader how this idea relates to the thesis of your essay.

Include three or more sentences

Three is the minimum number of sentences required to create a complete paragraph. Strongly written paragraphs will often have five or more sentences, all of which develop the main idea in some way.

Be proportional to your paper

Short paragraphs are often better for short papers, while longer paragraphs are necessary for longer assignments.


You should start a new paragraph when:

You begin a new idea or point

New ideas should always start in new paragraphs. If you have an extended idea that spans multiple paragraphs, each new point within that idea should have its own paragraph.

You want to contrast information or ideas

Separate paragraphs can serve to contrast sides in a debate, points in an argument, or any other difference.

When you are ending your introduction or starting your conclusion

Your introductory and concluding material should always be in a new paragraph. Many introductions and conclusions have multiple paragraphs depending on their content, length, and the writer's purpose.