Types of Paragraphs

A paragraph is a collection of related sentences. But how, exactly, should those sentences be related? What makes a paragraph cohesive? (cohesive = something that sticks together; gluey, united).

In this lesson, we're going to answer these questions.

There are three types of paragraphs:

    1. topic sentence
    2. sandwich
    3. narrative

Topic Sentence Paragraphs

A topic sentence paragraph begins with a topic sentence, and every other sentence in the paragraph provides "evidence" that the topic sentence is true.

Here is an example:

It was a beautiful spring day. The birds were chirping, and butterflies flitted through the air. Clouds drifted lazily across the sky. A bunny rabbit hopped among the wildflowers.

This paragraph makes sense because every sentence (after the first) supports the assertion that it was, indeed, "a beautiful spring day". This organizing principle makes the paragraph easy to read. That paragraph is coherent. (coherent = united).

"But Mr. Hall, I don't get it. The sentence about the bird doesn't seem related to the sentence about the rabbit."

True, at first glance, it might seem that birds and bunny rabbits don't have much in common, but, in fact, they are related, because both these things are related to beautiful spring days.

Sandwich Paragraphs

Sandwich paragraphs are topic sentence paragraphs that cite evidence from another source. They are usually broken down into five or more parts:


Here is an example of a sandwich paragraph, broken down into parts:

Topic Sentence

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise.

Transition / Signal Phrase

In fact, according to Jason Porter, a professor at Yale University,

Evidence & Parenthetical Citation

sea levels may rise as much as four meters before the end of the century (Porter).


This would flood hundreds of major cities and create millions of environmental refugees.

Sandwich paragraphs are used in formal academic writing. We will study them at length in the units on MLA and persuasive writing, so we don't need to say anything more about them at this time.

Narrative Paragraphs

A narrative paragraph tells a story in chronological order. (Chronological order = the natural order in which events occur). Here is an example of a narrative paragraph:

Joe opened the door and stepped quietly into her bedroom, pausing for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the darkness. On the bed, Christine appeared to be sleeping soundly. He glided past her, opened the top drawer of her dresser, and felt with his hands for the necklace.

The organizing principle of a narrative paragraph is chronological order. In other words, first things first, second things second. The reader has an easy time following the action because she knows that the next sentence will tell her what happens next.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.