Sample Descriptive Paragraph—Nonfiction
“Let’s walk,” she says serenely, slipping her arm in mine and heading into Central Park. As she strolls along, folks check her out and occasionally point. She is tall, strong, and straight-backed, glowing with vegan health and moving confidently through the crowds in her all-black ensemble. In videos and photos, she looks like she has a prominent jaw, but in person it is much softer, as are her other features (Windex-blue eyes, glossy black hair). Her voice is gentle and melodious, and she looks you square in the eye when she speaks.
—from Jancee Dunn’s “The Cole Truth,” Rolling Stone 786, May, 1998.
Sample Descriptive Paragraph—Fiction
It was a tiny, grubby-looking pub. If Hagrid hadn’t pointed it out, Harry wouldn’t have noticed it was there. The people hurrying by didn’t glance at it. Their eyes slid from the big book shop on one side to the record shop on the other as if they couldn’t see the Leaky Cauldron at all. In fact, Harry had the most peculiar feeling that only he and Hagrid could see it. Before he could mention this, Hagrid had steered him inside. For a famous place, it was dark and shabby. A few old women were sitting in a corner, drinking tiny glasses of sherry. One of them was smoking a long pipe. A little man in a top hat was talking to the old bartender, who was quite bald and looked like a toothless walnut. The low buzz of chatter stopped when they walked in.
—from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic, 1999)
Sample Narrative Paragraph—Nonfiction
During the final years of his life, [Franz] Kafka’s health deteriorated rapidly. In 1923 he fell in love with Dora Dymant and settled in with her in Berlin; he asked Dora’s father for permission to marry her but was refused. In the winter of 1923-24 he moved into a series of clinics and sanitariums. He died, Dora at his side, on June 3, 1924, at a sanitarium in Kierling, near Vienna. His surviving family, including his sisters, all perished several years later in Nazi concentration camps.
—from “The Modern Period” of Literature of the Western World, Vol. II, 3rd edition. Eds. Brian Wilkie and James Hunt (Macmillan, 1992)
Sample Narrative Paragraph—Fiction
None of it came up until my early thirties, when I got involved with a woman. Her name was Jeanne. We had been classmates at Cornell, both pre-med, both of us seeing someone else. Years afterward I was working for a drug company in N— that was coming under fire for manufacturing an anti-depressant that had bad side effects. We were trying to gather some support for the drug from the medical community, and I met Jeanne again at a conference. She had become a shrink. Excuse me, a psychiatrist. And yes, she had done a lot of research on posttraumatic psychosis and even had a healthy share of Holocaust survivors and incest victims and Vietnam veterans among her clients.
—from Pink Slip, by Rita Ciresi (Delta Publishing, 1999)
Sample Expository Paragraph—Nonfiction
The use of wedding rings has evolved as the latest of all the bridal traditions. From the earliest times, kings used initial rings to sign documents because they were unable to write. Since the initial, or signet, ring had the potency of the king’s signature, anyone possessing a facsimile was put to death immediately. Later, during Greek times, when Alexander the Great died, his vast kingdom was, according to his instructions, divided among his generals. They also got copies of his signet ring. They used these themselves and even allowed trusted advisors to use them when they served as the generals’ proxies. Eventually, rulers even allowed their courtiers to wear copies of their royal signets. Finally, the custom spread among the common people, and nearly everybody who couldn’t write signed official documents with a signet ring. Rings thus became a sign of contractual agreement, which meaning was eventually applied to wedding rings.
Sample Expository Paragraph—Fiction
Many of the Jews of Iberian origin had long ago been robbed of the knowledge of their rituals, forced, during the time of the Inquisition, to convert to the Catholic faith. These so-called New Christians were sometimes sincere in their conversions, while others had continued to practice their religion in secret, but after a generation or two they often forgot why they secretly observed these now-obscure rituals. When these secret Jews fled Iberia for the Dutch states, as they began to do in the sixteenth century, many sought to regain Jewish knowledge. My father’s grandfather had been such a man, and he schooled himself in the Jewish traditions—even studying with the great Rabbi Manasseh ben Israel—and he raised his children to honor the Jewish traditions.
—from A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss (Random House, 2000)
Sample Argumentative Paragraph—Nonfiction
Nothing gives the English more pleasure, in a quiet but determined sort of way, than to do things oddly. They put milk in their tea, drive on the wrong side of the road, pronounce Cholmondeley as “Chumley” and Belvoir as “Beaver,” celebrate the Queen’s birthday in June even though she was born in April, and dress their palace guards in bearskin helmets that make them look as if, for some private and unfathomable reason, they are wearing fur-lined wastebaskets on their heads.
—from Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, 1995)
Sample Argumentative Paragraph—Fiction
The pure argumentative paragraph is primarily a nonfiction writer’s tool. But occasionally in fiction, the author needs to persuade the reader to accept the premise upon which the story is based, as in this opening paragraph from Chris Bohjalian’s Water Witches (Scribner, 1997):
Some people say that my wife’s sister is a witch. My father, for one. My brother, for another. And while I will not dispute their use of the term when they are merely alluding to her somewhat contrary nature, I do take issue with them when they use the word to malign what she believes is her calling. After all, it is a calling that to a lesser extent my wife hears as well. No, my sister-in-law is no witch, at least not literally. She, along with my wife and my mother-in-law, is simply a dowser. She is capable of finding underground water with a stick. She is capable of divining underground water with a stick. And unlike my wife and my mother-in-law, she is an active dowser. She does not merely have the power, she uses it.
These tips came from the course Form and Composition
Using proper grammar, punctuation and mechanics make your writing correct. In order to truly write well, you must also master the arts of form and composition. From sentence structure to polishing your prose in all types of paragraphs, this workshop will enhance your writing – no matter what type of writing you do.
You will learn:
- How to fix common sentence problems (sentence fragments, run-on sentences, dangling and misplaced modifiers).
- How using sentence variety can make all paragraph types more interesting.
- How different types of paragraphs can set the tone of your writing.
- How to build different types of paragraphs, sentence by sentence, to write engaging prose.
- How to polish your prose to write an original composition.
- How writing paragraphs well can make you a better writer.