Paragraph Writing Exercises


In Process Writing, we have emphasized the fact that it is very hard for the teacher to concentrate on both the grammar and the organization errors on a student paper and still not discourage the student with those red marks all over the paper. Instead, we have suggested that the students should be able to comment on and edit their own paper to a certain extent. The advantages of such an approach would be raising awareness of the student and reducing the workload of the teacher.


The exercises we have here are organized in such a way that the students will concentrate on only one thing (e.g. organization, grammar, vocabulary choice, etc.) at a time. For each type of mistake, we first repeat the information presented in detail in Paragraph Development and The Essay, and then provide  a writing exercise about it. For each type,  the student first sees the original writing. Then, he corrects the writing by typing in the text box provided, and then sees the teacher-corrected version. The teacher-corrected version is only a suggestion. There may be many ways to correct a mistake. The examples given here are all original beginner level papers.


Here are the contents:


D. Lack of Topic Sentence

A. Unity

Exercise 4

Exercise 1

E. Development of ideas

B. Coherence

Exercise 5

Exercise 2


C. Faulty Start


Exercise 3

Exercise 6



A.   Unity: It means that all the sentences refer to the main idea, or the topic of the paragraph.


Exercise 1: The original student paper:


I live in a flat with my family. We have two bedrooms and a living room. We have a garden and we have some flowers there. In weekdays I arrive home at five o'clock and I have lunch. Then I do my homework and go to bed. I had a computer but now it doesn't work. I have a brother and a sister and I think I am very lucky to live with them. Sometimes our relatives visit us. Our flat becomes very crowded sometimes but I like it.


In a unified paragraph, we expect all the sentences to be about the main idea of the paragraph. The main idea in this paragraph is "the description of your house". If we examine the paragraph, we see that some sentences do not describe the house, such as:


In weekdays I arrive home at five o'clock and I have lunch.

Then I do my homework and go to bed.

I had a computer but now it doesn't work.


Now, rewrite the main idea of the example paragraph so that it covers all the sentences the student has written.


You can compare your answer with the answer we suggest:


B.    Coherence: It means that the sentences should be organized in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan of development.

         Exercise 2:

         The original student paper:


I live in a house in Izmit. It isn't old or modern. It's a normal Turkish house. We can say it is near the sea. It takes about 10 minutes to go to the sea side on foot. We have one bedroom, one living room. We also have two other rooms, too. We use them as a dining room. Naturally, we have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a toilet. I live with my parents. And our house has a little garden; my parents spend their time there to grow vegetables and fruit.


First, let's see the order of the ideas:

1.    Where the house is

2.    Type of the house

3.    The location

4.    The rooms in the house

5.    The fact that he lives with his parents

6.    The garden


The paragraph is well organized until he says he lives with his parents. It looks like this idea interrupted his description of the house. It should be put somewhere else in the paragraph. In the box below, rewrite the paragraph in the correct order of ideas (you can copy (ctrl+c) and paste (ctrl+v) if you like.)



Now, compare your answer with the answers we suggest:



C.    Faulty Start:

Here are some ways to bore your readers to death (!) when starting a paragraph/an essay:

You can start with:

1.    a nonsense sentence:

       e.g. I want to talk about X.  

2.    a cliché:

        e.g.  X plays a great role in our lives.

               X is a very important issue in today's world.

       Exercise 3: Here is an example:

I want to talk about friendship. Friends can change your life. So, you must know who is a real friend. Firstly, your friend must understand you and of course, you must understand her, too. I think, another important point in a friendship is confidence. You mustn't tell lies to each other. In addition, you must say everything about yourself. I think these are important for a friendship. If you have a friend like this, you don't break up with her because a real friend is not found easily.

How do we understand that "I want to talk about friendship." is a nonsense sentence? If we leave the nonsense sentence out, the content and meaning of the paragraph does not change. Click "SEE" to check it yourself.


D.   Lack of Topic Sentence: Topic sentence is the main idea, your attitude, your evaluation of something.

Having no topic sentence is bad both for the writer and the reader. First, the reader has to read the entire paragraph to get to the point. Here, the example is one paragraph long. What if the example was a paper of 2-3 pages? This is one side. Lack of a topic sentence also causes the writer to drift away from the topic. He loses control over the writing. He may write 3 sentences about one controlling idea and 1 for the other which causes an imbalance within the writing.

        Exercise 4: Try to write only a topic sentence for this paragraph.


I hate lie. I always try not to tell lies and I want that from my friends, too. I think it is the most important behavior. I can believe everything my friends say. In addition, a good friend must say his ideas to me firstly. I mean, he shouldn't talk about me with other people. Especially about the bad thing, he doesn't have to talk because it might be wrong. Secondly, a good friend must help me. He must do his best. He should ask help from me too. If we solve problems together, our friendship will be better and it will become stronger. Thirdly, the talking time is important. I can talk with my friends for a long time, and during that time I must be happy. That's why we should like the same things. In conclusion, trust is the basics of a friendship.

Write your topic sentence in the box.

See the one we have provided:


E.    Development of the ideas: It means that every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and examples.


We generally believe that people would easily understand us when we write. Unfortunately, our use of language may not be perfect and our ideas may be  different. If we want our ideas to be understood, we need to explain them and give specific examples of each. Listing our ideas  is never enough. See the example below:


       Exercise 5:


First of all, a friend mustn't tell lie. He must always tell me the truth and he must be honest because if there is honesty between two friends, their relationship will last until death. In addition to honesty, helping or being near a friend on a bad day is very important. Another point to consider is that he must criticize me if I make a mistake. 

If we list the ideas, here is what we get:

A friend must:

·         not tell a lie

  • be there for him on a bad day
  • criticize when necessary

The list and the paragraph are the same length because the ideas in the paragraph are also listed without explanation. This means, the ideas are not developed. It also lacks a topic sentence. Let’s write the paragraph again  creating a topic sentence and some explanation of the ideas provided.

See our suggestion:


Many reasons play a role in our vocabulary mistakes. There are some English words and expressions that are confused throughout the world where English is used. There even are  dictionaries of common language errors. For example, effect/affect, advise/advice. There are sites dedicated to these common errors and related exercises amongst the links we have provided. Here, we would especially like to work on language errors caused mainly by Turkish interference (aka Turklish).

       Exercise 6: Let's read the original student paragraph below and then discuss the issue:

Friends play a great role in our lives. They effect our lives negatifly or positifly. We should choose them very carefully. First, we can look at his behaviors. If it is OK, no problem but if it is not, we can't become a "Kanka". After that, we can look at his activities. It is very important to do something together. We must beware of people who has bad habits such as smoking, bad speaking, etc. Some people don't think so but I think finally we should look at his phsical aparians because if you have diffirent phsical aparianse than him, you can't be relaxable. For example if you are taller than him, this generally does unrelaxable to him. As a consequently, it is very important to choose a friend according to your especialities.

First of all, "negatif" and "positif" are written in Turkish (or almost in Turkish "pozitif"). We, Turkish learners of English, generally make this mistake both in writing and in speaking (consider "psychology, sociology"). We may have similar words in both languages; however, we must pay attention to their spellings and pronunciations.

Secondly, "Kanka" is a Turkish word. It is correct to highlight it either by using double quotations or writing in italics, but does this explain what "Kanka" means? Do all of us (including foreign instructors reading this writing) need to know this word which is used mostly by teenagers? It is common practice to use foreign words or expressions. If we use them, we need to make ourselves clear by explaining their meanings.

Thirdly, we see many misspelled words. We can deduce what they are but do we have to? Unless we write words correctly, we cannot expect others to understand us. This attitude "This is how I write / talk. If they want to understand me, they should get used to my style" would not help anyone, and should not be.

Now, let's get rid of the "Turklish" in the sample paragraph and write it again, without changing the meaning much.

Now, you can compare your version with the paragraph we have written. Remember, ours is only a suggestion. It is quite normal to have a different paragraph.





Prepared by Oya Ozagac, March 2, 2005.