In the session on reading, you looked at paragraphs as a structural or presentation feature. When you write, you have to think about them slightly differently.
Paragraphs break up a text into chunks that are more manageable to read. Each paragraph should be about the same subject.
It can be very easy to question and then confuse yourself when thinking about paragraphs. Basically, when something changes in your writing you need a new paragraph.
Paragraphs are important because they help the reader to know that they have moved onto a new topic. A new paragraph signals to the reader that they can concentrate on the new topic, making it easier to understand. A new paragraph might be used when a new character has begun to speak. Or you may be reading about a new place or subject.
A new paragraph starts on a new line to make it stand out.
Paragraphs are usually grouped together into sections with subheadings or into chapters.
Activity 42 Paragraphs in use
Read the text in the box carefully. Try to break up the text into three paragraphs. The title of the text is ‘Knowing all about octanes’.
Here is one way of dividing it up into three paragraphs:
[Paragraph 1 is an introduction to octane numbers:]
In the UK petrol is categorised by its octane number. Standard unleaded petrol is 95RON. But some fuels have a higher level of octanes than that, and they claim to increase the performance of your car.
[Paragraph 2 then gives details of how fuel and air mix in car engines:]
Cars all have a ‘compression ratio’. This means that there is a level already set in their engines at which the fuel and air mix in the cylinder. This process causes the petrol to ignite and the car engine to receive power. If the level can be set to make the petrol ignite at a very high pressure, it will produce extra power, and the car will be capable of more speed and a higher performance.
[Paragraph 3 goes on to explains what can go wrong in car engines:]
Engine designers have to be careful, however, because all fuels have a certain point at which they will ignite under pressure. If the pressure in the cylinder gets too great, then the fuel will ignite before the spark plug is ready to fire. This will throw the engine of the car out of time and make it lose power. You will know when this is happening, because you will hear a knocking sound from the engine. Mechanics call this sound ‘pinking’.
The topic of each paragraph is different even though the overall subject of the text is the same. It is the change in topic that means that a new paragraph is needed.