Unity is a very important characteristic of good paragraph writing. Paragraph unity means that one paragraph is about ONLY ONE main topic. That is, all the sentences — the topic, supporting sentences, the detail sentences, and (sometimes) the concluding sentence — are all telling the reader about ONE main topic. If your paragraph contains a sentence or some sentences that are NOT related to the main topic, then we say that the paragraph “lacks unity,” or that the sentence is “off-topic.”
Look at the following paragraph and answer the questions.
Each of the Russian manned space exploration projects had specific major goals. For example, the Vostok project was designed to test whether or not human beings could survive and function in outer space. For another example, the Voshkhod project was intended to find out whether people could work in the weightless environment of space. One Voshkhod cosmonaut experimented with weightlessness by taking a “spacewalk.” That is, he floated in a spacesuit outside his Voshkhod spacecraft, connected to it by a tether. The cosmonaut to do this was Alexei Leonov. Several weeks later, Leonov’s spacewalk was followed by that of U.S. astronaut Ed White. Finally, the Soyuz project, with three cosmonauts, had goals of testing spacecraft and spaceflight skills so that people could fly long missions in Earth orbit.
- What is the topic of the paragraph?
- What is the topic sentence?
- Does it have perfect unity?
- Is there the sentence that is off-topic? What is the off-topic sentence?
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A coherent paragraph has sentences that all logically follow each other; they are not isolated thoughts. Coherence can be achieved in several ways.
- Using transitions helps connect ideas from one sentence to the next.
- Ordering thoughts in numerical sequence helps to direct the reader from one point to the next.
- Structuring each paragraph according to one of the following patterns helps to organize sentences: general to particular; particular to general; whole to parts; question to answer; or effect to cause.
Remember that a paragraph should have enough sentences so that the main idea of the topic sentence is completely developed. Generalizations should be supported with examples or illustrations. Also, details and descriptions help the reader to understand what you mean. Don’t ever assume that the reader can read your mind: be specific enough to develop your ideas thoroughly, but avoid repetition.
Let us now analyze our model paragraph for unity and coherence:
THE HUMAN BODY
(1) The human body is a wonderful piece of work that nature has created. (2) It is not beautiful like the body of a butterfly or peacock but it is shaped practically. (3) It can do many types of work which other animals cannot. (4) It is not strong like the body of a tiger. (5) But in place of physical strength it has a big and sharp brain. (6) By using this brain the human physique has been able to overcome many of its limitations. (7) By sitting in an aeroplane it flies faster than a kite, by riding a motorcycle it travels faster than a leopard, and by firing a machine gun it fights much better than a tiger. (8)In spite of all this, the human body suffers from many diseases because it has a weakness for habits such as smoking, drinking and overeating. (9) When it is healthy the body can give great pleasure but when it is sick it can cause great pain. (10) The wise man would always keep his body fit because a healthy mind can work only in a healthy body.