Easy Paragraph Styles

by eslwriter on July 29, 2010

in Learn English

The other day, I asked my students to read a newspaper story and write a summary. These are smart students who have advanced English-speaking skills.

But their writing was terrible. The grammar was okay. But, their paragraphs were bad.

They did not know how to write a paragraph.

At first I was a little shocked. Then I understood that English-speaking skills are different from writing skills. So I prepared a lesson to show them how to write a paragraph. This is what I taught them.

What is a paragraph?

A good paragraph is a group of sentences that talk about one idea. After reading the paragraph, the reader should understand your idea and why you think it is true. So, a paragraph is an idea plus facts or information.

Here is the basic structure of a paragraph, which I have discussed in other writing lessons.

  • First, the first sentence of the paragraph tells the reader your main idea.
  • Second, the next three of four sentences give the reader your reasons. Or examples. Or details.
  • Third, the last sentence is a conclusion.

RED Writing System

The middle of the paragraph provides reasons, examples or details. I call this the RED part of the paragraph. Why RED? Well, because it tells you what needs to be inside a paragraph.

  1. R – reasons
  2. E – evidence
  3. D – details

Here is how these three different parts work.

  1. Reasons: tell the reader why something happens.
  2. Evidence: help the reader believe your idea by giving them proof
  3. Details: talk about the size, shape, color and so on to give the reader a picture of your idea.

Writing Example

Here’s an example of a summary. Read the paragraph. Does this paragraph talk about reasons, evidence or details?

Last week, the USS George Washington visited the port city of Busan, South Korea as part of the US involvement in local war games exercises. With a crew of almost 6300 people, this enormous aircraft carrier is like a floating city. From front to back, the ship is almost 340 meters long (about three soccer fields), 78 m wide and 77 m in height. One of the most powerful ships ever built, it can hold up to 80 aircraft. The USS George Washington is a nuclear powered warship, which means it can sail 3 million nautical miles without stopping for fuel. This super carrier was built in 1992 at a cost of $4.5 billion USD.

This paragraph provides readers with details about a US aircraft carrier. It talks about details like size, energy source and cost.

If we wanted to write about different things, we could write a paragraph that explains why the USS George Washington is in Busan (reasons).  Or, a paragraph that compares this warship with others to show how it is the buggets and most powerful (evidence).

RED Writing System Worksheet

Now it’s your turn to try the RED Writing System.

Download the worksheet here. You will find one topic sentence. This is the first sentence of a paragraph. Write three different paragraphs: one that gives reasons, one that provide examples and one that gives the reader details.

I have included sample paragraphs in the download. Your answers will be different from mine. That’s okay. My examples show you how to use the system. I don’t want you to copy my ideas.

Learn how to use the RED Writing system and you will be able to write clear paragraphs about your ideas.

Photo credit: SnapShot1951.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle Savage January 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for this. I’m teaching a 4-week intensive class to Korean students and I just don’t have time to teach everything they need to know to write a paragraph and/or an essay. This is a great high level overview so they can get a grasp on the concept.

Kasha Mastrodomenico February 7, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I love the idea of the RED system. I created my own system too for my ELL students. I even made it interactive so they can do it on the computer. It goes through each part of an expository paragraph until they reach their final goal or a Data Based Question Essay (I teach Social Studies). The website is http://www.hollerformastro.com. With good systems like these our second language students will be excelling in no time!

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