11. Classification Paragraphs

Classification Paragraphs

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

The word classification comes from the word class—meaning a group of things that all have one important element in common. From this word we have the verb to classify, which means “to gather into categories, segments, methods, types, or kinds according to a single basic principle of division”. Based on this meaning, classification is defined as a logical way of thinking that enables us to organize a large number of ideas or items, their use and/or function into categories (groups). By means of classification, large amounts of materials will be more manageable and easier to understand or analyze. For instance, sciences are classified into two main groups: natural and social; and each of the groups are further classified into some subgroups. Another example is that to make a book easier to find, librarian classify books based on certain system.

A classification paragraph is the one used to clearly define something and place it in a group according to a specific basis or rule so that it only fits in one group. In other words, a classification paragraph items are grouped into categories grouped according to shared characteristics. In general, information could be classified into more than one category, but a classification paragraph must stick to a basis of classification. In the paragraph, the topic sentence comprises of two parts: the topic and the basis of classification. This classification basis constitutes the controlling idea; it controls how the writer approaches the subject. Look at the following simple but interesting and popular example.

There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best sellers–unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns wood-pulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books–a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.) The third has a few books or many–every one of them dogeared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled from front to back. (This man owns books.)”

(From: Adler, “How to Mark a Book.” The Saturday Review of Literature, July 6, 1941).

Different person may classify book owners into different numbers of group based on different basis or criteria. In the paragraph above, Adler classifies book owners (the topic) into three groups. This classification is acceptable it is based the criterion of whether the persons read the books they own or not (controlling idea). In the following example, the writer classifies paraphrases based on their uses.

Paraphrasing is used for different purposes. Some paraphrases will be designated to support already existing evidence. Others will reinforce argumentation against evidence. Still others will help to develop existing arguments and provide back-up for any conclusion drawn in the course of writing. Depending on the function, paraphrases will be introduced in accordance with their unique context. Quotations require yet another approach. They are not self-expressive because every quotation can signify a number of different things in various contexts. It is both the introduction and the commentary that follows it which decides about its context and the ultimate meaning of a given citation in an essay. Paraphrasing quotations – changing the original words or sense is not allowed.

(From: http://daria-przybyla.suite101.com/example-of-a-classification-paragraph)

To produce good classification paragraphs, the following step-by-step approach suggested by Scarry & Scarry (2011: 489-490) is worth applying.

  1. After you have selected a topic, decide on the basis for your classification.
  2. Determine the categories for your classification. Give each category an identifying title or name. Be as creative as possible. You may want to take a humorous tone. Remember, no item should belong in more than one group, and your classification should be complete.
  3. Write your topic sentence. Use one of the terms (such as group or type) that signal a classification.
  4. Write at least one or two sentences for each group, remembering that each group should be given approximately equal space and importance.
  5. Write a concluding statement. If you have not already indicated a useful purpose for the classification, do so in the conclusion.
  6. On a separate piece of paper or on the computer, copy your sentences into standard paragraph form. Before printing, read the paragraph again to check for any changes that may be needed.
  7. Do a final reading once you have printed the paragraph to check for any errors or omissions.

To achieve coherence in classification paragraphs, the following transitional words and phrases are important to use.

  • can be divided
  • can be classified
  • can be categorized
  • the first/second/third kind/type,
  • the first/second third category
  • the last category

To see how these expressions are used look at the following sample paragraphs.

Rock Music

There are three different types of rock music, alternative rock, classic rock, and hard rock, also known as metal. Alternative rock features a steady bass drum laying down the beat, with easy flowing guitar riffs over the top. The bass line is toned town, and the lyrics are sung with intensity an authority. Depending on the song, the guitars can either be acoustic guitars or electric guitars. Classic rock combines a steady driving bass drum sound, with high snare overtones, steady and often repeating guitar riffs, and an intensive bass line. The guitars are more often than not all electric guitars, and distortion is rarely used. The lyrics are sung with style and enthusiasm. Hard rock, or metal, features a hard rolling bass drum with an abundant amount of cymbal work. This style of rock uses several electric guitars with heavy distortion to bring a very intense sound. A hard, intense, driving bass line rounds out the style. The lyrics aren’t really sung so much as screamed. It doesn’t matter what your preference is, each different style of rock music is unique on its own.

 (from: http://english120.pbworks.com/w/page/)

Daters Beware

Men can be categorized by the way they treat women while dating into three groups: a social addict, a content lover, or a keeper. The first type, a social addict, is the type of man who is constantly late and everything is on his time. Social addicts are particularly self absorbed. For your birthday this type of dater will give you a gift such as a necklace, so that everybody can notice it. When it comes down to emotions and feelings, a social addict will say whatever he assume you want to hear at any given moment. The second type of dater, a content lover, is a guy who will come and go as he pleases. These men just seem to be in attendance but not involved. When he is with you, he will not open up and share his thoughts. A content lover will forget your birthday all together. Lastly there is the keeper who will not keep you waiting; in fact, he always plans ahead and involves you in the decision making. To them, your birthday is tremendously important. They will give you time for your friends and family; in addition, they always make unique plans for the two of you later that evening. Unlike the other types of daters, the keeper will attempt to be 100% in touch with their feelings towards you and are willing to talk about them. Men’s dating styles differ; nonetheless, it all comes down to what behavior you are in the mood for.

(from: http://english120.pbworks.com/w/page/)

Types of Friends

Friends can be classified according to their honesty, loyalty, the type that fits you into their schedule, or the type that finds time for you when they need something. An honest friend tells you the truth even if it’s not always what you want to hear. In the long run, that honest friend may have saved you from embarrassment or possibly rejection. They give you constructive criticism overall. The loyal friend is the type of friend that will be there for you through the thick and the thin. They don’t care how good or bad you may look one day; they are sensitive to your feelings, they respect you and the other people in your life, and most of all they will never let you down when times are hard. They may be what you call a best friend. The third group, the person that fits you into their schedule, is the type of person that is always on the go. They barely have time for themselves let alone another person. More than likely they will not be there for you when you need them most, because they are so wrapped up in their busy, hectic life. Then you have the self-absorbent type of “friend” that finds time for you only when they need something. This type of person isn’t what you would call a friend. This person may always be extremely nice to you because they know that if are nice to you then they will more than likely get what they want. They will call you every once in awhile when it is almost time for them to use that person again. It may be for a ride to work, home, or they just want somebody to hangout with because they have no other friends. If the person that is being used is smart they will eventually realize that they are getting used and will stop being there for that person.

(from: http://english120.pbworks.com/w/page/)

10. Paragraphs of Definition

Paragraphs of Definition

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia


To define the term ‘definition’ is quite hard because it requires the definitions of definition. The word ‘definition’ comes from the verb to ‘define’, which means “to state the meaning of a word or to describe the basic qualities of something”. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, definition simply means “an explanation of the meaning of a word or phrase, especially in a dictionary”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “a statement expressing the essential nature of something” or “the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol” (http://www.merriam-webster.com), while Word Reference defines it as “an exact description of the nature, scope, or meaning of something” (http://www.wordreference.com). Based on the above definitions, definition can be defined as an explanation of the meaning of a word or term. A good definition avoids confusion or misunderstanding, because it conveys the clear and precise meaning of a term, and thus helps you to understand what other people exactly mean.

A definition can be formal or informal. The definitions provided in dictionaries are examples of formal definition, which generally include three elements: (1) a term, i.e. the word being defined; (2) class, which refers to the (big) group to which the term belongs; and (3) differentiating features, or the word or phrase that makes it different with the others from the same class. For example, in “Scientific writing is a form of writing that is based on actual and relevant studies” the term is “scientific writing”, the class is “writing”, and the differentiating features is “that is based on actual and relevant studies”. To take another example, in “Science is the field of study which attempts to describe and understand the nature of the universe in whole or part” the term is “science”, the class is “field of study”, and the differentiating features“ is “which attempts to describe and understand the nature of the universe in whole or part”.

Informal definitions express the meaning of a term partially or incompletely. They are frequently based on the writers’ experience so that they are not universal. The three common informal definitions are operational definitions, synonyms, and connotations. Operational Definitions give the meaning of an abstract word for one particular time and place. This is also called as an agreed-upon criterion. For instances, “An excellent score is when you get not less than 90 in the test.” This formulation is valid in the institution, but in other educational institutions, an excellent score might need just 86 or 95. In a certain culture, “Love is the feeling of someone when he or she likes and does nice things for you and with you”, whereas in other culture “Love means readiness to sacrifice everything for those being loved.”

Informal definitions could also be formed by using synonyms, or words that mean the same as another word. There are three ways to put the synonyms into a sentence in order to make a definition. First, by putting it into parenthesis, such as, “An individual’s intelligence (or mental capacity) is measured by using intelligent quotient (IQ) test”, “intelligence” is defined by providing its synonym, i.e., “mental capacity” in of. The synonyms could also be placed in a sentence by using dashes or an appositive, such as in “People’s main labors in life—learning, earning, and yearning—are also their major reasons for living” and “The altitude, or height above sea level, of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is over 12,000 feet.”

Last but not least, informal definitions could also be formed through denotation and connotation. Denotation is the literal or exact dictionary meaning of the word. Connotation, on the other hand, involves all the associations related to the word. By combining both, for instance, one may write a definition like this “That politician is a snake (He a cunning, treacherous, and insidious politician).

Writing a Definition Paragraph

The definitions discussed so far are formed in single sentences. They are just brief definitions. However, definitions can be extended into a paragraph called “definition paragraph”. A definition paragraph is essentially a definition sentence which has been expanded into a paragraph by adding special meanings, description, narration and/or other kinds of paragraph development in order to clarify the term being defined. Such paragraph usually begins with a definition sentence which is used as the topic sentence. Each category in the definition is expanded into major supporting sentences, and major supporting sentences could be supported by minor supporting sentences.

To write a definition paragraph, the following tips are recommended.

  1. Write one topic sentence that mentions the element that you will define, and be sure to provide three key defining words or phrases.
  2. In about one sentence, explain your first defining word/phrase by telling why this word/phrase defines your subject.
  3. Provide one to two sentences that give a specific example of your first defining word/phrase.
  4. Starting with a transitional phrase, explain your second defining word in about one sentence just like you did for your first defining word/phrase.
  5. Write one to two sentences that give an illustrative example of your second defining word/phrase.
  6. Explain your third defining key word/phrase the same way that you explained your first and second defining key word/phrase.
  7. End your paragraph with one closing sentence.
(From: http://factoidz.com/how-to-write-one-fully-developed-and-wellorganized-definition-paragraph-eslbasic-skills/)

Common Terms used for Definition

  • (The term) … is defined as …
  • (The term) … is understood to be …
  • (The term) … signifies …
  • (The term) … means that …
  • (The term) … denotes …
  • (The term) … suggests …
  • (The term) … connotes …
  • (The term) … is …

Look how these tips are applied in the following definition paragraph samples

Definition Paragraph Developed by Special Meanings

In every society, social norms define a variety of relationships among people, and some of these relationships are socially recognized as family or kinship ties. A family is a socially defined set of relationships between at least two people who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. We can think of a family as including several possible relationships, the most common being between husband and wife, between parents and children, and between people who are related to each other by birth (siblings, for example) or by marriage (a woman and her mother-in-law, perhaps). Family relationships are often defi ned by custom, such as the relationship between an infant and godparents, or by law, such as the adoption of a child.

(From: Scarry & Scarry, 2011: 476)

Definition Paragraph Developed by Examples

For me, the word love means trust, friendship, and unselfishness. First of all, love means trust because when you trust someone, you can talk to him/her about anything. For example, I trust my girlfriend 100%.  It is because I trust her that I know I can tell her anything, and that is why I love her.  Furthermore, I believe that love means friendship because the people who you spend time with are your friends, and if you do not love them, then why would you hang out with them?  To illustrate, I love my two best friends because they are like brothers to me.  We are always laughing and protecting each other.  Finally, love means unselfishness because when you love someone and they love you back, there should always be sharing.  For instance, my next-door neighbor’s wife never shares anything with her husband, such as food, drinks, possessions, etc.  I sure do not see a whole lot of love there.  For me, love means the above three things.

(From: http://factoidz.com/how-to-write-one-fully-developed-and-wellorganized-definition-paragraph-eslbasic-skills/)

Definition Paragraph Developed by Descriptions

Anger is having a feeling of hatred toward someone or something. It is one of our basic emotions and can be most dangerous if it is not carefully controlled. A person can become angry when he cannot fulfill some basic need or desire that is important to him. For example, a child may become angry when he cannot play outside with his friends. An adult may become angry when he does not receive a raise in pay that he expected. Mentally, anger can interfere with our thoughts, making it difficult to think clearly. Physically, it may cause violent reactions in the muscles and in the nervous system. This causes an angry person to flush and tremble and to show other signs of disturbance. A person can be dangerous if he is in an angry mood because he can develop feelings of hostility and hatred toward another person, which can then often turn violent.

(From: http://www.sinclair.edu/centers/tlc/pub/handouts_worksheets/)

9. Paragraphs of Cause-Effect

Paragraphs of Cause-Effect

 Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia



“Cause” basically means the source of something or the reasons why or for something. “Effect” is simply the result or outcome. Therefore “cause and effect” is the causal relationship between two or more actions or two events. In reality, a cause precedes the effect, but in  a statement either the cause or effect can precede the other. Look at the following statements:

  1. The accumulation of greenhouse gases has caused global climate change.
  2. I couldn’t boot my computer because the battery was dead.
  3. Since cell motorcycless have come down so much in price, everyone can have one.

In sentence (1), “the accumulation of greenhouse gases” is the cause or reason, while ”the global climate change” is the result. In sentence (2) the result, i.e. “I couldn’t boot my computer” precedes the cause—“the battery was dead”. In sentence (3), “motorcycles have come down so much in price” is the cause, whereas “everyone can have one” is the result.

As a method of development in writing, cause-and-effect is the search for the relationship between two or more actions or events, one or some of which we conclude is the reason for the other action(s) or event(s).

Transitions Commonly Used in Cause and Effect

In the writings that examine a causal relationship, one or more of the following transitions are commonly used. Study the terms and make yourself familiar with them.

1. Common transitions for cause:

  • because
  • since
  • the reason . . . is that
  • caused by
  • results from
  • because of + noun phrase
  • due to + noun phrase

2. Common transitions for effect

  • accordingly
  • so
  • thus
  • as a result
  • resulted in
  • therefore
  • consequently
  • for this reason
  • for this reason

Three Varieties of Cause and Effect Paragraphs

Cause and effect paragraphs could be written in one of these three types. First, the paragraph that focuses on causes, i.e. the one which describes what happens and why it happens. Second, the paragraph that focuses on effects, i.e., the one which explains reasons and consequences of an idea or event. Finally, chain of causes and effects, i.e. the paragraph that shows how an action or event becomes the cause of another action or event, and this result becomes the cause of another result, and so on. To see the differences among these three paragraphs, look at the following examples. The first paragraph focuses on causes, the second focuses on effects, and the last is a chain of causes and effects.

Growing numbers of well-to-do Americans are making the decision to move to more rural parts of the country. From their point of view, it is impossible to walk the streets of a big city at night without fear of being raped, mugged, or murdered. They claim, too, that city is poisonous, more lethal than cigarette smoke, thanks to the ever-increasing traffic congestion. In addition, they complain that the food, filled with chemical additives used to preserve the appearance of freshness, grows worse with every passing day. Last but not least, fugitives from city life claim that the pace of urban living exhausts them, leaving them without the energy to enjoy the entertainment a large city supposedly offers.

The emotion of fear sets off many changes in your body. When you become frightened, you breathe more deeply, giving your muscles more oxygen and greater energy. Your hearts beats more powerfully so that your blood circulates faster, carrying oxygen to all parts of your body. Your stomach and intestines no longer contract and all digestive action stops. No saliva flows in your mouth and your throat becomes dry. Your face becomes pale and the tiny blood vessels shrink under the skin so that less blood would flow if you were cut. The blood can clot faster so that there would be less bleeding from a wound. The pupils of your eyes enlarge, admitting more light during the emergency. You might be able to perform great feats of strength in this condition.

There are more old people in the world today because of an increase in medical services. Today, more people can get medical services from doctors and nurses in hospitals and clinics. As a result, fewer people get fatal disease such as yellow fever, malaria, cholera, and typhoid. This decrease in fatal diseases causes a decrease in the number of people who die from these diseases. Because of this decrease in number of deaths, people can live longer today. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of old people living in the world today.

8. Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast

Paragraph of Comparison and Contrast

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

In our daily life, we often try to make ideas clearer by relating them to one another. This could be seen in the following daily activities. Before deciding which university to attend, people read college catalogs, find information or talk to other people. To understand the nature of language learning easily, it is sometimes compared to the process of learning to swim. To see the competitive advantages of a new cell phone, its features could be contrasted to the older ones we have been familiar with. Before giving their votes in a general election, intelligent people always contrast the qualities of the candidates. Based on these activities it is clear that relationship comparison and contrast are two analysis methods used by people in daily lives. By means of comparison, people examine how two or more things are similar; by means of contrast people looks at how two or more things are different. In other words, comparison is used when we focus on similarities, and contrast when we focus on differences.

Look at the following example, in which the writer contrasts the potential capabilities of girls and boys.

Differences between the potential of girls’ and boys’ could be observed since their childhood. Female infants speak sooner, have larger vocabularies, and rarely demonstrate speech defects. (Stuttering, for instance, occurs almost exclusively among boys.) Girls exceed boys in language abilities, and this early linguistic bias often prevails throughout life. Girls read sooner, learn foreign languages more easily, and, as a result, are more likely to enter occupations involving language mastery. Boys, in contrast, show an early visual superiority. They are also clumsier, performing poorly at something like arranging a row of beads, but excel at other activities calling on total body coordination. Their attentional mechanisms are also different. A boy will react to an inanimate object as quickly as he will to a person. A male baby will often ignore the mother and babble to a blinking light, fixate on a geometric figure, and at a later point, manipulate it and attempt to take it apart. (From: Scarry & Scarry, 2011: 433)

In the following example, the writer compares the atmosphere of the earth to a window.

The atmosphere of Earth acts like any window in serving two very important functions: to let light in and to permit us to look out and to guard Earth from dangerous or uncomfortable things. A normal glazed window lets us keep our house warm by keeping out cold air. In such a way, the Earth’s atmospheric window helps to keep our planet to a comfortable temperature by holding back radiated heat and protecting us from dangerous levels of ultraviolet light. Just like a window which prevents rain, dirt, and unwelcome insects and animals from coming in, scientists have discovered that space is full of a great many very dangerous things against which our atmosphere guards us. (Adapted from: Brandon & Brandon, 2011: 289).

Approaches to Ordering Material

The first paragraph sample above is a contrastive paragraph, that is, a paragraph which discusses the differences between potential capabilities of girls and boys. Notice how the ideas in this paragraph are organized. The writer starts with the topic sentence. After that, he presents only the first subtopic (potential capabilities of girls) and their specific details. Finally, he focuses on the second subtopic (potential capabilities of boys) and their supporting specific details. Such way of ordering materials, in which a subtopic and its supporting details are presented fully before dealing with another subtopic and its supporting details is called the block method.

The other method for ordering material in a paragraph of comparison or contrast is known as the point-by-point method. In this approach, the writer compares or contrasts point 1 of subtopic 1 to point 1 of subtopic 2. Then he compares or contrasts point 2 of subtopic 1 to point 2 of subtopic 2.  He proceeds until he has covered all the points. This method is used in the second paragraph sample above. The writer begins with the topic sentence. Then he shows how the atmosphere, like a glazed window, lets light in, permits us to look out and guards Earth from dangerous or uncomfortable things. After that he explains that the atmosphere guards Earth against many very dangerous things from the space, like a window prevents rain, dirt, and unwelcome insects and animals from coming in to the house.

Visually, the outline of the point-by-point method and the block method could be compared as follow.

The Point by Point Method

Topic Sentence: Comparison or Contrast between X and Y

A. Sub-topic 1: First Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 1 of Y

B. Sub-topic 2: Second Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 2 of X
  2. point 2 of Y

C. Sub-topic 3: Second Comparison or Contrast

  1. point 3 of X
  2. point 3 of Y

The Block Method

Topic: Comparison or Contrast between X and Y

A. Features of X

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 2 of X
  3. point 3 of X

B. Features of Y

  1. point 1 of X
  2. point 2 of X
  3. point 3 of X

Some writers believe that the block method works best for short paragraph, whereas the point-by-point method is often used in longer pieces of writing in which many points of comparison are made. This method helps the reader keep the comparison or contrast carefully in mind at each point.

The skill to use the two methods for ordering materials above is very essential to achieve coherence in a paragraph of comparison and contrast. Another thing that greatly contributes to comparison and contrast coherence is the careful use of transitions. The following transitions are useful to keep in mind when writing a comparison or contrast paragraph.

Transitions Commonly Used in Comparison:

  • in the same way
  • in a similar way
  • and, also, in addition
  • as well as
  • both, neither
  • each of
  • just as…so
  • similar to
  • similarly
  • like
  • moreover
  • too
  • the same

Transitions Commonly Used in contrast:

  • although
  • whereas
  • but
  • however
  • conversely
  • on the other hand
  • on the contrary
  • in contrast
  • while
  • yet
  • unlike
  • different from
  • in contrast with
  • as opposed to

The following are two other sample paragraphs. As you read, pay attention to the approach used for ordering materials and the transitional words employed in each of them.

Both Superman and Batman are heroes, but only one is truly a superhero, and taking into account their upbringing, motives, and criminal targets, that is Batman. Upbringing was not gentle for either. Superman came from Krypton, a planet that was about to self-destruct. His parents sent him as a baby on a spaceship to Earth. There he would be adopted by an ordinary farm family. His adoptive parents named him Clark Kent and reared him well. In the same generation, far away in Gotham, Bruce Wayne, the future Batman, was born to a contented, wealthy family. Tragically, his parents were killed in his presence during a mugging. He inherited the family wealth and was raised by his kindly butler. Those very different backgrounds provided Superman and Batman with powerful but different motives for fighting crime. Superman was programmed in his space capsule to know about the forces of good and evil on Earth and to fight the bad people. Unlike Superman, Batman learned from experience. Both have gone on to fight many bad people, but each one has a special enemy. For Superman, it is Lex Luthor, who has studied Superman and knows all about him, even his outstanding weakness—the mineral Kryptonite. For Batman, it is the Joker, who, as a wicked teenager, was the mugger-murderer of his parents. Many spectacular battles have ensued for both crime fighters, and one has reached the top in his profession. Superman offers overwhelming physical strength against crime, but Batman displays cunning and base passion. As he strikes fear in the hearts of the wicked, he’s not just winning; he is getting even. Most people would cheer Superman on. However, they would identify more with Batman, and he is the superhero. (From: Brandon & Brandon, 2011: 282-283).

Like the early feminist movement, which grew out of the campaign to end slavery, the present day women’s movement has been inspired and influenced by the black liberation struggle. The situation of women and blacks is similar in many ways. Just as blacks live in a world defined by whites, women live in a world defined by males. (The generic term of human being is “man”; “woman” means wife of man.”) To be female or black is to be peculiar; whiteness and maleness are the norm. Newspapers do not have “men’s pages,” nor would anyone think of discussing the “man problem”. Racial and sexual stereotypes also resemble each other: women, like blacks, are said to be childish, incapable of abstract reasoning, innately submissive, biologically suited for menial tasks, emotional, close to nature. (From: McQuade and Atwan, 1980: 216-217)


Brandon, Lee & Brandon. Kelly. 2011. Paragraphs and Essays with Integrated Readings (11th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Scarry, Sandra & Scarry, John. 2011. The Writer’s Workplace with Readings: Building College Writing Skills (7th ed.) Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

McQuade, Donald and Atwan, Robert. 1980. Thinking in Writing. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

7. Process Paragraph

Process Paragraph

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

A process paragraph is a series of steps that explain how something happens or how to make something. It can explain anything from the way to enrich vocabulary to overcoming insomnia to the procedure of operating a machine. It may also give tips for improving pronunciation or for answering a telephone call. Because such explanations must be clear, the process paragraph must be written in chronological order, and it must include a topic sentence that clearly states the paragraph’s purpose. It must also include transition words and phrases such as “first,” “next,” “finally,” that connect each of the steps.

There are two kinds of process paragraphs: directional and informational. A directional process paragraph explains the directions to perform a task. It provides the reader a set of instructions or a step-by-step guidance. The following is an example of a directional process paragraph:

How to Make a Good Cup of Tea

Making a good cup of tea is exquisitely simple. First, the teapot is heated by filling it with water that has just come to a boil. This water is then discarded, and one teaspoon of loose tea per cup is placed in the teapot (the exact amount may vary according to taste). Fresh water that has just come to a boil is poured into the pot. A good calculation is six ounces of water for each cup of tea. The tea must now steep for three to five minutes; then it is poured through a strainer into a cup or mug. A pound of loose tea will yield about two hundred cups of brewed tea. Using a tea bag eliminates the strainer, but it is still best to make the tea in a teapot so that the water stays sufficiently hot. The typical restaurant service—a cup of hot water with the tea bag on the side—will not produce the best cup of tea because the water is never hot enough when it reaches the table and because the tea should not be dunked in the water; the water should be poured over the tea. Although tea in a pot often becomes too strong, that problem can be dealt with very easily by adding more boiling water. (From: Scarry S. and Scary J., 2011: 422)

An informational process paragraph explains how something works or how something worked in the past. Its purpose is purely to provide information. Such writing could be found easily in history books. For instance, if you described how General Diponegoro planned his battle strategy, this would be informational process writing. The following example explains the developmental phases of the use of literature in the second or foreign language teaching. In the paragraph, the transitional words that signal the steps or stages of the process have been italicized.

 The Use of Literary works in Second/Foreign Language Teaching

The use of literary works in the second/foreign language curriculum varies greatly depending on the method dominating the practice. First, literary works were notable sources of material when the Grammar Translation Method dominated until the end of the 19th century. But they were absent from the curriculum until 1970s when the Grammar Translation Method was successively replaced by Structuralism Approach, Direct Method, Audio-lingual Method, Community Language Learning, Suggestopedia, the Silent Way, Total Physical Response, and the Natural Approach because these methods tend to regard a second and foreign language teaching as a matter of linguistics. They emphasize more on structures and vocabulary. Then literary works became even more divorced from language teaching with the advent of the communicative approach which focuses on the teaching of “usable, practical” contents for enabling students to communicate orally. In this period the second and foreign language classrooms were dominated by dialogues. However, the situation changed quite radically since the 1980s when literature has found its way back into the teaching of second and foreign language though not in the way it was used with the Grammar Translation Method. Afterward, literature undergoes an extensive reconsideration within the language teaching profession.

To write a good process paragraph, you should pay attention to three important things. First, make sure that the steps in the process are complete. Following a procedure whose steps are incomplete will fail to produce the expected result. Second, present the steps in the right sequence. For example, if you are describing the process of cleaning an electric mixer, it is important to point out that you must first unplug the appliance before you remove the blades. A person could lose a finger if this part of the process were missing. Improperly written instructions have caused serious injuries and even death. (Scarry S. & Scary J., 2011: 415). Finally, use correct transitional words to indicate the sequence of the process you are writing. the followings are transitions commonly used in process analysis.

the first step

in the beginning

first of all

to begin with

to start with

the second step


while you are . . .

as you are . . .


after you have . . .



the last step

the final step


at last


Scarry, Sandra & Scarry, John. 2011. The Writer’s Workplace with Readings: Building College Writing Skills (7th ed.) Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

6. Descriptive Paragraphs

Descriptive Paragraphs

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

Descriptive paragraphs are often used to describe what a place or an object person looks like, or what a person looks and acts like. Therefore, a good descriptive paragraph provides the reader with an accurate mental picture of the topic of the paragraph whether it is a person, a place or an object.

Read the following paragraphs and pay attention to the numerous descriptive words employed in it.

Jack Collins

Jack Collins is the most amazing person I have ever met. He came to my school and talked about his difficult life in prison.   He was in prison for 15 years. He made a lot of mistakes when he was young, but now he has changed his life. He saw a lot of violence in prison, so he uses his experience to help secondary school students. Jack is tall and strong. He also looks a little scary because he has some spider tattoos. The thing I remember most is his sensitive personality. He really wants to help young people. I’ve never met anyone like Jack before. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)

Dominant Impression

To write an effective description, it is not enough to give random pieces of information about the particular object, place, or person, you are describing. You descriptions should create the sense of a dominant or overall impression in your reader. You can achieve this by making each individual sentence you write a part of a picture you would like to show to your reader. For example, when you describe Lake Toba, the dominant impression you want to create could be its beauty or its tranquility. When you describe a person, you might want to present the impression of a diligent, hardworking person. It is a good idea to integrate the dominant impression into the topic sentence. This will help you focus as you write and will leave no doubt in the reader’s mind as to the direction of your thinking. This impression must be supported by all supporting sentences.

 My Mother’s Kitchen

My Mother’s Kitchen is not big but it is warm and comfortable. My mother cooks a lot and it smells spicy and sweet. Sometimes she taught my brother and me how to cook. We liked learning new things, working together and making delicious foods. Now I live far away, but I often think of my mother’s kitchen. (From: Paragraph Writing by Zemach, D.E. and Islam C.)

Sensory Images

In order to make vivid descriptions, good writers use sensory images, or details that relate to our five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sentences that make the reader sees an object, hears a sound, touches a surface, smells an odor, or tastes a flavor are very effective in descriptive writing. Such sentence help the reader to pay more attention to what the writer is saying, and thus help them to remember the details of what he has read. For example, if you came across the word book in a sentence, you might or might not pay attention to it. However, if the writer describes that it is an old, brown, and thick book which is made of ‘lontar’ leaves and creaking when it is opened, to a higher extent you will not forget it. You will keep the book in your mind because the writer uses sensory images.


Bali is probably the most famous island in Indonesia. Also known as the Land of gods, it blends spectacular sheer natural beauty of looming volcanoes, beautiful beaches, lush terraced rice fields that exude peace and serenity, and warm and friendly people. Visitors will be amazed by its dramatic dances, colorful ceremonies, amazing arts and crafts, luxurious beach resorts, and exciting night life.  This exotic island also offers world class surfing and diving, and exhilarating treks in the wild. Everywhere intricately carved temples provides inspirational spirituality. For decades this miraculous island has amazed millions of local and international visitors. Why don’t you come and experience it?

Spatial Order

In a descriptive writing, supporting details should be arranged according to spatial order so that the items are shown in much the same way as a camera might move across a scene. The items could be ordered from left to right, from outside to inside, from top to bottom, from nearby to farther away, or even around in a circle. In order to give the greatest impact to a certain image, it is put at the last place.

In the following paragraph, observe how the writer moves clearly from a description of the head of the clown (in sentences two, three, and four), to the body (sentences five, six, seven, and eight), to the unicycle underneath (sentence nine). Notice also how the concluding sentence helps to tie the paragraph together by emphasizing the personal value of this gift.

A Friendly Clown

On one corner of my dresser sits a smiling toy clown on a tiny unicycle–a gift I received last Christmas from a close friend. The clown’s short yellow hair, made of yarn, covers its ears but is parted above the eyes. The blue eyes are outlined in black with thin, dark lashes flowing from the brows. It has cherry-red cheeks, nose, and lips, and its broad grin disappears into the wide, white ruffle around its neck. The clown wears a fluffy, two-tone nylon costume. The left side of the outfit is light blue, and the right side is red. The two colors merge in a dark line that runs down the center of the small outfit. Surrounding its ankles and disguising its long black shoes are big pink bows. The white spokes on the wheels of the unicycle gather in the center and expand to the black tire so that the wheel somewhat resembles the inner half of a grapefruit. The clown and unicycle together stand about a foot high. As a cherished gift from my good friend Tran, this colorful figure greets me with a smile every time I enter my room.

(from: http://grammar.about.com/od/developingparagraphs/a/samdescpars.htm)


Apache was the name given to the Indian tribes who inhabited the southwestern part of the United States and parts of northern Mexico. They were excellent hunters and raiders who had little trouble to protect their band. In the past, each Apache band was led by its own chief, who was chosen by a tribal council. Most important decisions were made by the council, and all the Apache council members had to agree before an action could be taken. An Apache chief was more like a tribal chairman than a president. Most of his job was mediating between other Apaches. Probably the most famous Apache chief is Geronimo,  who led a series of rebellions.

5. Narrative Paragraph

Narrative Paragraph

Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia


A narrative paragraph is a group of sentences that tells a story; it tells about a series of events or actions. These events are arranged in time sequence with a definite beginning, middle and end. They may be organized in a chronological order (in respect to the order in which the events happened) or by using flashbacks and retrospection.  Be they are chronologically arranged or not, the stories in narrative paragraphs are used to illustrate or demonstrate a point, i.e. to make us laugh (to entertain), or to make us understand something, or to change our attitudes (to instruct).  As a consequence, developing a strong topic sentence is important. Look at the narrative paragraph which tells about the writer’s routine below (the topic sentence is italicized).

Sunday is the most rewarding day for me because it is the only day when my family and I can do what we like together. Every Sunday morning I get up at six. My two sons I go jogging around our neighborhood. At about seven we come home and have breakfast together. At nine we go to church and come home at about twelve. After having lunch, at about two we often go to the countryside for a nice walk, or visit a relative, or go shopping. We often get home at about eight and have a small dinner. After dinner, my sons prepare the school equipments they need in the following days. Then we usually watch a film on TV and then go to bed at about ten. Before falling asleep, I often expect that the next Sunday comes soon.

Elements of a Narrative Paragraph

By analyzing the sample paragraph above, it is obvious that, similar to a story, a narrative paragraph has the elements like character(s), setting, and events (plot) which cover the goal, obstacle or conflict, climax and resolution. Since the sample paragraph above is about a personal experience of the writer, the main character in the paragraph is the writer himself. The story is set in his neighborhood at the present time. The events arranged in the story cover only activities in a day.  Although the sentences state the events in a very simple way, they are very effective to reveal the topic and main idea stated in the first sentence– Sunday is the most rewarding it is the only day when the writer can do what he and his family love to do together. Another important feature we can see in the sample paragraph above is that like other types of paragraph, this narrative paragraph consists of three parts: a topic sentence, some supporting sentences (details), and closing sentence. The topic sentence establishes the main idea, and the supporting sentences elaborate and prove the main idea.

Transitions in Narrative Paragraphs

Last but not least, the sample paragraph above also shows the use of transitions (words or phrases that help the events move smoothly from one to another and make the proper connection between those events). In the sample paragraph above, the writer uses time transitions “after”, “then”, and “before”. Some other common transitions used in narrative paragraph could be seen in the paragraph cited from Scarry S. and Scary J. (2011: 372) below. See how the six events are linked by “first”, “then”, “now”, etc (the topic sentence is italicized).

My day was a disaster. First, it had snowed during the night, which meant I had to shovel before I could leave for work. I was mad that I hadn’t gotten up earlier. Then I had trouble starting my car, and to make matters worse, my daughter wasn’t feeling well and said she didn’t think she should go to school. When I eventually did arrive at work, I was twenty minutes late. Soon I found out my assistant had forgotten to make copies of a report I needed at nine o’clock. I quickly had to make another plan. By five o’clock, I was looking forward to getting my paycheck. Foolish woman! When I went to pick it up, the office assistant told me that something had gone wrong with the computers. I would not be able to get my check until Tuesday. Disappointed, I walked down the hill to the parking lot. There I met my final defeat. In my hurry to park the car in the morning, I had left my parking lights on. Now my battery was dead. Even an optimist like me had the right to be discouraged!

Here is another interesting narrative sample.

Close-up study of the planet Mars began when rockets were developed that could send scientific instruments into space. In 1965, the first observations of Mars were done by the American spacecraft Mariner 4, which flew near the planet to collect data and take photographs. Four years later, more data and photographs were collected by Mariners 6 and 7 as they flew past the planet. Then, in 1971, Mariner 9 actually went into orbit around Mars, and during the following eleven months, sent back more than 7,000 images before contact with the spacecraft was lost. The next major step, in 1976, was the landing of two Viking crafts on two different areas of Mars’ surface. These landers were able to send hack important data about the atmosphere of the planet. (Mikulecky, B. S. and Jeffries, L.. 2007: 136).

The transitions commonly used in narrative paragraphs could be differentiated in three types. The first type is the transitions of sequence/order, such as first, second, third, next, then, and finally. The second type is the transitions of time, like after, at last, before, immediately, later, meanwhile, at the same time, since, subsequently, later, later on, and then. The third type is transitions of place/position, like above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, and there.

Dialogues in Narrative Paragraphs

Just like in storytelling, the appropriate use of dialogs can make the events in narrative paragraph more vivid to the readers. However, you need to write the dialogues very carefully in order to achieve the expected effects. Make sure your characters talk like people in actual life. Real people do not use full sentences when they speak. You have the chance to use fragments in the dialogues. To make the conversation lifelike or natural, it is necessary to use slangs, interjections and other ‘real’ speech patterns. Look at the following sample to see how dialogues can make a narrative paragraph more vivid and effective.

One day a father and his rich family took his young son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night in the farm of a very poor family. When they got back from their trip the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” The boy replied, “Very good, Dad!” The father continued, “Did you see how poor people can be?” The boy just said, “Yeah!” The father asked again, “And what did you learn?” The boy answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden; they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars; our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon. When the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. The son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are!” (Author Unknown)

Step-by-Step Approach to Writing a Narrative Paragraph

Mastering any skill, including writing, requires practices and a disciplined attitude. To help you in practicing writing narrative paragraphs, the following step-by-step approach formulated by Scarry and Scary (2011: 377) is highly recommended.

  1. Study the given topic, and then plan your topic sentence with its controlling idea.
  2. List all the events that come to your mind when you think about the story you have chosen.
  3. Choose the important events, dropping any that do not directly relate to your controlling idea.
  4. Put your list in the correct time sequence.
  5. Write one complete sentence for each of the events you have chosen from your list, adding any significant details.
  6. Write a concluding statement that gives some point to the events of the story.
  7. Copy your sentences into standard paragraph form.
  8. Always make a final check for spelling errors and other mistakes, such as omitted words.


Mikulecky, Beatrice S. and Jeffries, Linda. 2007. Advanced reading power: extensive reading, vocabulary building, comprehension skills, reading faster. New York: Pearson Education

Scarry, Sandra & Scarry, John. 2011. The Writer’s Workplace with Readings: Building College Writing Skills (7th ed.) Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning