Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Writing a Strong Essay Body

Have you ever had one of those bad dreams in which everything is fuzzy, nothing makes sense and random people and things pop up for no discernible reason? For example, maybe you dream that you’re trying to get to your math test, but the directions are really vague and you can’t figure out where you’re going or where to turn to get to the right place. Suddenly, you’re being chased through the woods by the checkout guy from the grocery store, and then you’re saved by your third grade math teacher, who insists that you look at photos from her trip to Mexico.

We often wake up from dreams like that that don’t make sense, asking what they meant and where all of those random ideas came from. Unfortunately, some teachers ask those same questions when they read student essays that aren’t well developed, unified or coherent. In this lesson, we’ll discuss how you can develop your argument and write coherent and unified body paragraphs so that your essay score won’t be a nightmare.

Developing Body Paragraphs

Generally speaking, if something isn’t well-developed, it means that it’s missing something. It’s not as complete as it could be, like a fuzzy picture that wasn’t developed all the way. With the body of an essay – in other words, the middle paragraphs that don’t include the introduction and conclusion – it’s important to think about paragraph development.

In your writing, the key to developing your body paragraphs is to use supporting details and examples as you discuss your main points. In other words, you need to be specific in your explanations of your points so that you’re not feeding your reader vague, fuzzy ideas, but rather, clear, well-supported points.

For example, let’s say that you’re writing an essay arguing that endangered animals should be protected from trophy hunting. It would be easy to scribble down a few sentences making really broad points in one of your body paragraphs like:

  • Endangered animals will become extinct soon because of hunting.
  • International laws would help control trophy hunting.
  • Trophy hunting is a cruel hobby for wealthy people.

These points may be good basic ideas, but to develop your paragraph effectively, you would need to include specific examples and details. So, rather than packing one body paragraph with several broad, vague ideas, you could use each of our three earlier ideas as the main idea in three separate body paragraphs and develop each of those paragraphs fully with specific details and examples.

In order to write a well-developed body paragraph on the topic of our first idea – Endangered animals will become extinct soon because of hunting – first research how trophy hunting has impacted endangered animal populations. By increasing your knowledge on the subject and gathering relevant factual details, you will be able to balance your paragraph with a strong argument supported by evidence from cited credible sources. Rather than winging it based on personal feelings, gather the information you need to make a strong argument. The idea is to balance the paragraph with your commentary and cited evidence. Having commentary without evidence or mostly evidence with no argumentative statements is an unbalanced paragraph.

Achieving Unity in Body Paragraphs

We know that the word unity has to do with things being joined together, and that meaning applies to essay writing, too. For a body paragraph to be unified, all of the sentences in that paragraph should stick to the main idea expressed in the topic sentence. Just like a couple won’t be very happy or successful if each of them has very different ideas about the nature of the relationship, your body paragraphs won’t succeed if they feature a lot of ideas that don’t go together.

To achieve unity, you want to avoid any random, off-point ideas. Even an idea that seems to be sort of connected to the main idea of your body paragraph may be taking you off track if it doesn’t directly support or relate to your topic sentence. For example, if you’re writing a body paragraph with the main idea that international laws would help control trophy hunting, then each of your sentences in that paragraph must support that main idea. So, you can explain that people pay to hunt endangered animals for the thrill of the kill and for taking a trophy home and that no international laws exist that consistently protect endangered species across the globe. However, your body paragraph won’t be unified – and you’ll lose points – if you mention that wealthy hunters exploit lower-socioeconomic developing countries by using their wealth to get what they want. Sure, this last point is sort of related to our main idea, in a roundabout way. We’re still talking about the issue of trophy hunting, but it’s too big of a stretch, and prevents you from fully developing the paragraph with focused statements and evidence dealing with international laws. The concept of exploitation by wealthy trophy hunters should have its own paragraph with its own argument and evidence.

Achieving Coherence in Body Paragraphs

You may wake up some mornings knowing that until you get some caffeine into your system, you’ll be walking around in a foggy cloud of confusion. After that first cup of coffee, things may finally start making sense. Your essay body paragraphs need to make sense, too. To achieve coherence, a paragraph should be clear and logical, with sentences that flow together well.

So if you have sentences that don’t seem to be in the right order, or your body paragraph lacks transitional sentences so that the reader can’t see how the ideas relate to one another, your paragraph will lack coherence. Also, your teacher will want to throw his chair through a window after struggling to decipher the meaning of your paragraph.

For example, if you’re writing a body paragraph on the main idea that international laws would help control trophy hunting, you’ll want to present your supporting ideas in a logical, clear way in order to achieve coherence. You might first introduce a variety of countries where trophy hunters are allowed to pay to kill endangered animals. This would show that it is a global issue and not one limited to one specific country and therefore is not regulated. Include examples of Americans or other hunters who travel across borders to hunt and kill animals for a photo and a trophy souvenir. Then, make your argument that the lack of consistent international laws creates loopholes that allow such hunting and risks the extinction of several animal species.

Presenting information in a logical order creates coherence. In order to make your argument about the need for international laws, you must first present the problem with evidence that proves it exists and is indeed a real, current problem. By identifying where and how trophy hunting takes place and its threat to endangered animals, you are then able to provide your reader with the reason the problem exists and offer a solution.

The same coherence is necessary when organizing your essay. Let’s go back to the main ideas:

  • Endangered animals will become extinct soon because of hunting.
  • International laws would help control trophy hunting.
  • Trophy hunting is a cruel hobby for wealthy people.

The logical presentation would be to identify the problem with bullet one. Then expand on why and how the problem exists with bullet 3. Follow that with a paragraph that narrows to the need for international laws, (bullet 2) which also ends your essay with a solution.

Lesson Summary

Some essays come across like waking nightmares for the teachers who read them. But you can keep the body paragraphs in your essay from being a horrifying mess by keeping three basic principles in mind.

  1. You should write well-developed body paragraphs that use supporting details and examples.
  2. Strive for unified body paragraphs in which all of the sentences in each paragraph stick to the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.
  3. You should present coherent body paragraphs that feature clear, logical sentences that flow together well. You can also ensure coherence by using transitional sentences between your points and ordering your points in ways that make sense. Use chronological order when you relate a story, and don’t back up and start adding details at one point in a paragraph when you should have included them earlier.

By producing well-crafted body paragraphs in your essays, you’ll help preserve your readers’ sanity and earn high scores.

Join the conversation