Developing Paragraphs on Writing


What is Writing?




       To write is to put down the graphic symbols that represent a language one understands, so that others can read these graphic symbols if they know the language and the graphic representation. Understanding the definition of writing, many linguists have presented the definition of writing variously. Davies in his book  “Success in English Teaching” says that writing is probably the linguistic skill that is least used by most people in their native language. Furthermore, Gould states that:


            “In short, writing is not private; it is always a form of social dialogue, a way of talking to someone. Writing is a discovery process, a way of finding out what you are thinking and what you want to say in particular situation.”


Hart also gives more definition about writing, he says that writing is  a process of building larger units from smaller ones. that is, the writer uses  words to make sentences, sentences to make paragraphs, and paragraphs to make compositions-letters, reports, college themes.

       From those definition of writing above, it can be inferred that writing is a language skill which is used to communicate indirectly with other people. Therefore, since the people are not physically present, we must write as clear and precise as possible. It means through writing we are able to shares ideas, arouse feelings, persuade and convince other people. The ability to write well is also an asset in most careers. The search for a job usually requires a letter of application and a resume. A poorly written letter of resume invites rejection.



A. The Characteristic of Written Language

       There are quite a number of relevant differences between spoken and written language. Basic characteristics of written language maybe so different from their native language. H. Douglas Brown states some characteristics of written language, they are as follows:


1. Permanence

       Written language is permanent, and therefore the reader has an opportunity to return again and again. If necessary, to a word or phrase or sentence, or even a whole text.


2. Processing time

        A corollary to the above is the processing time that the reader  gains. In practice, except for the time factor itself, fast readers do not necessary have an advantage over slow readers.


3. Distance

      The written word allows messages to be sent across two dimensions: physical distance and temporal distance. The pedagogical significance that was written in some other place at some other time with only the written words themselves as contextual clues.


4. Orthography

      In writing we have graphemes-that’s it! Yes, . Sometimes punctuation, pictures, or charts lend a helping hand. And, yes, a writer can describe the aforementioned phonological cues, as in,

            With loud, rasping grunts, punctuate by roars of pain, he slowly dragged himself our of the line of enemy fire.


5. Complexity

       You might be tempered to say that writing is more complex than speech, but in reality, that would be difficult to demonstrate. Writing and speech represent different modes of complexity, and the most salient difference is in the nature of clauses. The shorter clauses are often a factor of the redundancy we build into speech (repeating subjects and verbs for clarity.


6. Vocabulary

      It is true that written English typically utilizes a greater variety of lexical items than spoken conversational English. In our everyday give and take with family, friends, and colleagues, vocabulary is limited. Because writing allows the writer more processing time, because of a desire to be precise in writing, and simply because of the formal conventions of writing, lower frequency words often appear.


7. Formality

      Writing is quite frequently more formal than speech. what do we mean by that? Formality refers to prescribed forms that certain messages must adhere to. The reason that you can both recognize a menu and decide what to eat fairly quickly is that menus conform to certain conventions.


B.     General Purposes of Writing

       Although there are other writing purposes (for example, to entertain or to express oneself), most of the writing will be to inform or to persuade.


1.      To inform. Often your chief or only aim will be to provide information to your reader. Your assumption is that your reader knows little or nothing about the topic on which your wish to provide information.


2.      To persuade. In persuasive writing, your aim is to convince your reader to adopt a particular position, to take a particular action, or to do both. If, in a letter to your local newspaper, you oppose plans to build a shopping mall near your neighborhood, your purpose is persuasion.


C.        Kinds of Writing

       Being familiar with some kinds of writing is required for students who want to be good at writing skill. Thomas Cooley (1982) proposes several kinds of writing. They are as follows:


1.      Writing to inform : Exposition

       The main purpose of this kind of writing is to inform. Writing that aims to inform or explain in this way is often called “exposition”, from the latin word exponere, meaning “to place out”.

       Expository prose attempts to place out, or arrange, the world before us for examination, like exhibits at a fair or gallery. It answers the journalistic questions that reporters traditionally put to the world: who, what, when, where, how, and why?


2. Writing to convince : Persuasion and Argumentation

       A persuasive writing has the shape of logical argument is often called argumentation. The kind of persuasive writing may be said to appeal more to the head than to the heart. Instead of exhorting readers to action or belief in a cause, it seeks to convince them that a particular line of reasoning is valid and applicable.


3. Writing to create : Narration and Description

       Narration is writing that tells a story. It focuses upon what happened. Our uncharitable discharge is largely narrative.

       Good description can hope to do the same for people, places, and objects. Descriptive writing appeals directly to our physical senses. It tells us what the hospital room of test subject, No.331, for example, looks, feels, smells and even tastes like.


4. Writing to express the self : Journals,  Autobiographies, Personal Essays

       The underlying purpose of this kind of writing is psychological release, one of the motives behind diaries, journals, private letters, and some other autobiographical forms.

       To a degree, all personal writing gives vent to the writer’s inner self. It is thus “expressive” in the root sense of allowing the ego to “push out”.


D.  Components of Writing

       In teaching of writing activities, a teacher is expected to be able to recognize the general components of writing; content, form, grammar, style and mechanics. Haris (1974:68-69) states the five general components of writing. He says:


     “Although the writing process has been analyzed in many different ways, most teachers would probably agree in recognizing at least the following five general components:

1. Content: the substance of the writing the ideas expressed.

2. Form: the organization of the content.

3. Grammar: the employment of grammatical forms and syntactic patterns.

4. Style: the choice of structures and lexical items to give a particular tone or flavor to the writing.

5. Mechanics: the use of the graphic conventions of the language.


Meanwhile, David Nunan (1989:38)says:


            “Successful writing then involves:

-         mastering the mechanics of letter formation;

-         mastering and obeying conventions of spelling and punctuation;

-         using the grammatical system to convey one’s intended meaning; to reflect given/ new information and topic/ comment structures;

-         polishing and revising one’s initial efforts;

-         selecting an appropriate style for one’s audience.”


       From those statements above, it can be seen that a good writing is the writing which involves the mastery of the mechanics, the letter formation, spelling and punctuation, the use of grammatical system, and the selection of the appropriate style for the readers.


E.  Writing Learning Activities

       Writing is considered as the teaching activity which spends most time in the classroom. Because of the limitation of the time in the classroom, the teacher often gives writing as the homework for the students. Frequently, writing is regarded  as the status of homework. In relation to the writing learning activities, Harmer (1991) prints out:

“It is often easier to provide opportunities for spoken communication in the classroom than it is for the written medium. Frequently writing is relegated to the status of homework. This is a pity  since writing, especially communicative writing, can play a valuable part in the class.”


        From the statement above, it is clear that writing has little opportunity in the classroom. Good writing should have some basic skills, a good deal of practice and some specific training. Paul Davies states that good writing skills usually develop from extensive reading, some specific training, and a good deal of practice. Writing involves the following basic skills:

-         hand writing or typing

-         spelling

-         constructing grammatical sentences

-         punctuation




       in addition to recognizing some basic skills, students should also often do some writing activities in the classroom. Teachers of English can help students practice writing by giving some instructional for writing activities, such as:

a. The sentences in the following paragraph have been jumbled. Write them out in the correct order.

b. Finish the following sentences in a way that makes the underlined word clear. For example:

     An expert is someone who ……..

c. The following story is written in the present tense, rewrite it in the past.

d. We have come to an exciting point in the story. Write down what you think will happen next, and why.

e. For a survey on child education in this country: could please state your main criticisms of the way you were brought up?


F.        Assessment of Writing Skill

       Assessment involves the means of obtaining information about students’ abilities, knowledge, understanding, attainment, or attitudes. An assignment in writing, for instance, will be helpful in assessing a student’s ability in and understanding of the assigned activity. Sommer (1989) defines assessment as the process of finding out who the students are, what their abilities are, what they need to know, and how they perceive the learning will affect them. Assessment places the needs  of the students at the center of the teacher’s planning.

     They are some forms of assessment of classroom-based writing, they are as follows:



(a) Portfolio Assessment

       Some new ideas in the teaching of English become quickly established in practice because  they are so right, so timely, so useful. The portfolio in writing classes is a case in point.

       A typical writing portfolio contains the student’s total writing output to represent his or her overall performance, but it may also contain only a selection of works which the students has chosen for the teacher to evaluate. In other words, portfolios show a student’s work form the beginning of the term to the end, giving both teacher and student a chance to asses how much the latter’s writing has progressed.


(b) Protocol Analysis

     A second, though somewhat complicated, means of assessing students writing is protocol analysis. Actually, protocol analysis, as well as the other non traditional forms of assessment, is a writing procedure that promotes the process approach to writing.

       Protocol analysis is also known as the composing aloud protocol or a think aloud activity, which is the exact opposite of the fixed model used by traditional composition teachers.

       Assessment of student writing can be done using this strategy, for through protocol analysis, a teacher can tell how students write, the strategies they use to generate ideas, how often they revise and edit their work, and whether their written work has improved.


(c) Learning Logs

       learning logs help teachers see what their students are learning log, students write on the knowledge they have gained from studying in their writing classes, and from their own thinking. A teacher need not grade learning logs, but can assess how much a student has gained of benefited from the writing class.


(d) Journal Entries

       Journal entries may be used as an informal means of assessment by the teacher because they are personal and intimate. The teacher can write short notes in response to students’ thoughts.


(e) Dialogue Journals

       another nontraditional form of assessment of writing is dialogue journals these are written conversations between teacher and student over a period of time, usually for duration of a course, on topics that are of special interest to them. Their goal is to “communicate in writing, to exchange  ideas and information free of the concern for form and correctness so often imposed on developing writers” (Jones, 1991, p. 3, in Peyton & Staton, 1991).

       Dialogue journals provide guidance  to the learner in expressing ideas, thoughts, feeling, and emotions. Dialogue journal interaction leads trust between learner and teacher.










General objectives:

-         Students have knowledge about Topic Sentence as a sentence core in a paragraph.

-         Students have skill to use a Topic Sentence as a sentence core in a paragraph.


Specifics objectives:

-         Students are able to show Topic Sentence in a paragraph.

-         Students are able to show the location of Topic Sentence in a paragraph.

-         Students are able to show sentences which are not suitable with Topic Sentence in a paragraph.

-         Students are able to choose the suitable Topic Sentence for a decided paragraph.

-         Students are able to write the right Topic Sentence in a decided paragraph.

-         Students are able to compose a short paragraph with the right Topic Sentence.



A good paragraph has generally a topic sentence, the topic or key sentence states the subject of the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph is a development of that topic. In this way, the writer keeps to just one point. He does not deal with too many aspects. This will only confuse the reader. Once  you have decided on a topic sentence for your paragraph, you should keep to that point only. Do not add other points. Keep them for other paragraphs.


1  Study the following paragraphs carefully.               


       Most mosquitoes have their preferences. They go for the fair sex because they use perfume. Mosquitoes also prefer brunettes because dark hair attracts them. They like active people. They don’t go for quiet people over 65, nor do they care for people who take lots of baths. In general, most mosquitoes prefer animals to human beings.


Text Box: Comments: The first sentence is the topic sentence. It states that mosquitoes have preferences. The rest of the paragraph tells us what these preferences are. in the last line, the writer sums up the general preference of mosquitoes. Throughout the paragraph, the writer has kept to just one point; the preferences of mosquitoes.  







       It is a sad thing that as soon as the hands of the clock have turned ten the shadow of going to bed begins to creep over the evening. We have never heard bedtime spoken of with any enthusiasm. One after another we have seen a gathering disperse, each person saying (with air of solemn resignation): “Well, I guess I’ll go to bed.” But there was no hilarity about it. it is really rather touching how they cling to the departing skirts of the day that is vanishing under the spinning shadow of night.

  Text Box: Comments: The topic sentence of the above paragraph is: “It is a sad thing that as soon as the hands of the clock have turned ten the shadow of going to bed begins to creep over the evening. “This sentence contains the controlling idea of the whole paragraph.  Notice that every sentence is related to “the shadow,” or the lack of enthusiasm about going to bed.







2   In the preceding paragraph the topic sentence came first. A topic sentence, however, may occur with equal effectiveness at the end or in the middle of a paragraph. The following is an example of a paragraph with the topic sentence at the end. The topic sentence in this position gives the effect of a summary.


       Among the many picturesque legends of the underworld two are peculiarly illuminating. One related how a certain criminal called Sisyphus was there everlastingly doomed to keep pushing a great boulder uphill, and how, every time the top was reached, it rolled back again to the bottom. The other told of the Danaid maidens whose equally futile task it was to pour water into a sieve. In other words, the ancient Greeks’ notion of eternal punishment was perpetual frustration-a means without an End.


3   In descriptive writing, when the author wishes to evoke a mood without defining it specifically, he will often omit the topic sentence from this paragraphs. In such paragraphs the topic sentence is understood or implied rather than stated directly. Nevertheless, the author has such a sentence clearly in mind when he writes his paragraph. In the following paragraph the topic sentence is understood, yet this paragraph has unity. After you have read this paragraph, decide what you think the topic sentence should be.


       When the miner comes up from the pit  his face is so pale that it is noticeable even through the mask of coal dusk. This is due to the foul air that he has  been breathing, and will wear off presently. To a Southerner, new to the mining districts, the spectacle of seven hundred miners streaming out of the pit is strange and slightly sinister. Their exhausted faces, with grime clinging all over the hollows, have a fierce, wild look. At other times, when their faces are clean, there is not much to distinguish them from the rest of the population. They have a very upright square-shouldered walk, a reaction from bending underground, but most of them are shortish men and their ill-fitting clothes hide the selendour of their bodies. The most distinctive thing about them is the blue scars on their noses. Every miner has blue scars on his nose and forehead, and will carry them to his death. The coal  dust of which the air underground  is full enters every cut, and then the skin grows over it and forms a blue stain like tattooing, which in fact it is. some of the older men have their foreheads veined like Roquefort cheese from this cause.


  Text Box: Comments:  The topic sentence of this paragraph might be stated as follows: “ A miner’s work affects his physical appearance in several ways.” Through such a sentence is never explicitly state, it is clearly understood, and all the sentences in the paragraph are directly  relate to it.








Read the paragraph carefully, then answer the questions.


       Most night birds are sight when hunting. Owls have large eyes. They can pick up the slightest amount of light. Their eyes are so constructed that they make the fullest use of faint rays of light. It is the same with a cat or a fox. Their eyes are so sensitive that the pupils close to a slit in daylight. This is to control the amount of light entering the eyes. As the light fades, the pupils open until they are round and wide. Cats and foxes also have sharp hearing to help them in the dark.


A   Which is the topic sentence?



B   What does it state?



C     Which sentence is not related to this paragraph? Why?





Read this paragraph carefully, then answer the questions that follow.


       Singapore produces over 200 varieties of fish: from the so called “King of Tropical Fish” to the man-eating piranhas. But most of the farms will breed only one  or, at the most , four species. The reasons are many. Firstly, it is easier to control the breeding. Secondly, less money is involved. But the most important reason is that the farmer is sure he has sufficient fish of a particular variety for the regular buyers. Moreover , if the farmer concentrates on a limited  variety, his chances of success are greater. Even fish breeding  requires some degree of specialization. Farmers, therefore, tend to breed the same type of fish in a particular area.


A   Which is the topic sentence?



B   How is this topic sentence developed?    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________


C   Which sentence is not relevant to the paragraph? Why?






The following paragraphs are complete except for the missing topic sentence. At the end of each paragraph, you will find sentences that might be used as the topic sentences. Pick the one you think is best sited to the paragraph and be ready to explain in class why you think it is best.





      …………………………………… .  My first reason is that you may be on the majority side yourself the next time. Then you will want the minority to go along with you. My second reason is that the rule of the majority to go along with you. My second reason is that the rule of the majority is the way in all of our groups. Finally, if everyone ignored a majority decision that he disagreed with, the group could never do anything as a whole. For instance, it could never have a meeting or a party attended by the whole membership because some members would be sure to disagree about the time or the date, and other members would disagree about entertainment or food.

a.       the majority is always right.

b.      You should never questions a majority decision.

c.       If you don’t agree with the majority in your group, you should keep still.

d.      You should abide by the majority decisions of your group.




      ………………………………………………. In their widespread use of radar and sonar, the armed services are almost completely dependent on electronics. By the use of “mechanical brains,” scientists and mathematicians can solve complicated problems in a matter of seconds. Large corporations also use electronic devices for everything from sorting personnel cards to figuring the anticipated productivity of their workers for the next ten years, electronics given us photography equipment, radio and television sets, and high-fidelity phonographs. Space satellites, remote-controlled airplanes, and the widely used “electric eye” are all made possible by developments in electronics.

a.       Electronics has changed our homes.

b.      The twentieth century is an age of unparalleled progress.

c.       Electronics is indispensable to us today.

d.      The twentieth century is the age of science.



The following paragraphs need topic sentences. Read each paragraph carefully and write a topic sentence for it. the class may decide which is the best of all those submitted. Remember  that a good topic sentence usually does more than state the topic; it also suggests the writer’s attitude.


1.   …..……………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………  Robert Fulton, one of the inventors of the steamboat, did not do very well in reading, writing or arithmetic when he attended school. Alexander Graham Bell, who gave us the telephone, had only five years of school. In all subjects except reading, Bell had little interest and called himself a rather mediocre student. As a youngster, Albert Einstein, the famous scientist, was so slow in learning that his family thought he must be subnormal. Finally, Walt Whitman, one of America’s great poets, was so idle in class that one teacher said, “I am sure he will never amount to anything.”

2.           ……………….……………………………………………………

………………………………………………………  My studies show that quickly made films or undistinguished “potboilers” are tagged onto the second half of a double bill so that the public has to see them whether it wants to or not. furthermore, three hours of continuous viewing puts too much strain on the human eye. No one, as far as I know,  has ever really shown that moviegoers actually prefer sitting through two films. Finally, if the main feature is an exceptionally food one, the effect can be spoiled when a mediocre picture follows on the same program.




Write a paragraph of about 100 words on any of these topics. Underline your topic sentence.


a.   My favorite hobby

b.   My favorite game

c.   What I like most about school life

d.   Indonesian films

e.   How I study English
























Brown,  H. Douglas, 2001. Teaching by Principles , Sans Francisco State University.

Cooley, Thomas, 1992.  Guide to Writing. W W. Northon & Company. New York-London.

Devies, Paul,. 2000. Success in English Teaching. Oxford University Press.,

Gould, Eric, et. 2000. Al, The Act of Writing, Random House, New York.

Haris, David P. Testing English as the second language, Tata Mc. Graw-Hill

Harmer, Jeremy, 1991. The Practice of Language  Teaching. LONGMAN.

Hart , Andrew W. & James A, 1986.  Reinking. Writing for Career Education Students. St. Martin’s Press. Inc.

Nunan, David, 1989. Designing Tasks for the communicative Classroom, Cambridge University Press,

Rais, A. Dahlan, WRITING III (Paragraph Writing), Buku pegangan Kuliah. Universitas Sebelas Maret, SURAKARTA

Richards, Jack C. and Willy A. Renandya, 2002. Methodology in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press.

Ur, Penny, 1996. A Course in Language Teaching (Ways of presenting the meaning of New items), Cambridge University Press.

….., 1974. Language Teaching (A Scientific Approach), Mc Graw-Hill, Inc.

….., unknown sources.

….., Language Teaching (A Scientific Approach), Mc Graw-Hill, Inc. 1974. p143

Paul Devies,. Success in English Teaching. Oxford University Press. 2000, p. 96

Eric Gould, et. Al, The Act of Writing, Random House, New York. 1989. p. x-xi

Andrew W. Hart & James A. Reinking. Writing for Career Education Students. St. Martin’s Press. Inc. 1986. p.2

Andrew W .Hart. ibid. p.2

H. Douglas Brown. Teaching by Principles , Sans Francisco State University. 2001. p.303-5

Andrew W. Hart. Ibid. p 3

Thomas Cooley, Guide to Writing. W W. Northon & Company. New York-London. 1992. p. 18-22

David P. Haris, Testing English as the second language, Tata Mc. Graw-Hill, 1974. p. 68-69

Nunan, ibid. p. 38

Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of Language  Teaching. LONGMAN. 1991, p. 139

Paul Davies, ibid. p.96

Penny Ur, ibid. p.163

Jack C. Richards and Willy A. Renandya, Methodology in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press. 2002. p. 346-350



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