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Easy Paragraph Styles

Write English Paragraphs

Writing Skills: organisation, sentence fluency

The other day, I asked my ESL students to read a newspaper story and write a summary.

Their writing was terrible. The grammar was okay, but the paragraph structure was poor. So, I developed a mini lesson to help students understand the purpose and structure of a paragraph.

Step 1 Introduction

What is a paragraph? It’s a group of sentences that present one idea. It’s an idea plus facts or information.

Here is the basic structure of a paragraph.

1  The first sentence tells the reader the main idea.
2 The next three of four sentences give the reader your reasons. Or evidence. Or details.
3 The last sentence is a conclusion, or a lead into the next paragraph.

Step 2 What Inside a Paragraph?

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 included.

  1. R – reasons; why something happens.
  2. E – evidence; help the reader believe your idea by giving them proof
  3. D – details; talk about the size, shape, color and so on to give the reader a picture of your idea.

Step 3 Example

Here’s an example of a paragraph. Does it present 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 gives readers details about a US aircraft carrier. It talks about the 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 biggest and most powerful (evidence).

Step 4 Practice

Now try the RED writing system.

Here is a topic sentence.

“Walking down the street I noticed a new bookstore had opened in my neighborhood.”

Write three different paragraphs:

1 one that gives reasons
2 one that provides examples
3 one that provides details

If you want to show the class some examples (after they have completed their writing), this worksheet download page has three different paragraphs.


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2 thoughts on “Easy Paragraph Styles

  1. 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.

  2. 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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