Paragraph structure to love

One component of good writing is paragraph structure. If you read the Economist and just sort of “breathe in” the language and structure of their writing, you might learn good, tight structure like this:

“And yet Israel should not be surprised by the torrent of indignation it has aroused from around the world. This is not just because people seldom back the side with the F-16s. In general, a war must pass three tests to be justified. A country must first have exhausted all other means of defending itself. The attack should be proportionate to the objective. And it must stand a reasonable chance of achieving its goal. On all three of these tests Israel is on shakier ground than it cares to admit.”

Here’s what you could copy:

Sentence 1: Ties into prior paragraph with “And yet…” Establishes the topic of the paragraph (world indignation at Israel).

Sentence 2: Explains sentence 1.

Sentence 3: Establishes that there will be three tests of a justified war.

Sentences 4, 5, 6: Puts forth the three tests.

Sentence 7: Summarizes and ties back to sentence 1 (the indignation might be justified).

This is elegant structure! It looks effortless, too, but I bet it took some revision to get the paragraph so coherent and concise. As a reader, I relax when I see this sort of controlled organization. My brain just starts going with the flow of the writing, and it all makes better sense to me than an unorganized or jumbled presentation.

Maybe an editor could help you

Of course, we don’t know if this paragraph was changed by an editor. A good editor can help you structure your text in ways you can’t see because you’re so close to your own words. When you get edited, try to trust your editor…we do this every day, usually all day, and we really care!

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