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The Essay Introduction

Body paragraphs in a high school or college essay are used to support your argument. Since they make up the bulk of your essay, it's important to have body paragraphs that not only argue your point, but are easy to read and use good transitions. This page includes example body paragraphs from an actual college essay assignment.

Essay Body Paragraphs - Focused and Concise
A body paragraph should be full of relevant information, but it should also be concise - you don't want to bore your reader with a long, rambling paragraph! A typical body paragraph is 5-8 sentences.
Structure of a Body Paragraph
A normal body paragraph can be broken down as follows:
  1. Topic sentence. The topic sentence is the most important, as it tells the reader what the paragraph is about. If this sentence is unclear, or the rest of the paragraph does not flow with the topic sentence, this will confuse your reader.
  2. First concrete detail, used to support your main point. A concrete detail is typically a quotation or paraphrase.
  3. Support sentence (Commentary). These commentary sentences are your opinion on how the above quote supports your main point.
  4. Support sentence 2
  5. Concrete detail
  6. Support Sentence 1
  7. Support Sentence 2
  8. Concluding sentence. This sentence is used to finish up this part of the argument.
Again, typically 5-8 sentences will do the job.
Sample Essay Body Paragraph
Here's an example body paragraph from an essay on Sophocles' Oedipus the King. The paper's thesis suggests that Oedipus is not responsible for his crimes because his fate was predestined.

While Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, he punishes himself for his arrogance towards his fate and to relieve Thebes of its suffering. When Oedipus gouges out his eyes, he explains, "they will never see the crime I had committed or had done upon me!" (1270-1271). Oedipus is ashamed of what he has done and realizes that a self-inflicted punishment is the only way to rectify the problem. When the chorus claims that he would be "better dead than blind and living" (1367), Oedipus replies that this is the best way to punish his arrogance. He tells them that "I do not know with what eyes I could look" (1371) upon his parents, "those two to whom I have done things deserving worse punishment than hanging" (1373). Oedipus, while not responsible for his crimes, feels that he is dishonoring the parents that raised him by foolishly defying his fate. He also realizes that he is reason the city suffers, and that he "robbed [his] miserable self" (1380) of anything pleasurable when "I commanded all to drive him out, / the criminal since proved by God impure" (1381). His crimes pre-ordained, Oedipus was a hazard to Thebes before he set foot in the city. He hopes to "live in the mountains where Cithaeron is," (1451) so he can "die by their decree who sought / indeed to kill me" (1454-1455). Oedipus asks for exile on behalf of the city, so that it will no longer suffer. Seeing what has transpired, Oedipus realizes that a higher power is responsible for his destiny and his crimes.

A Good Balance
This paragraph is a good example of the body paragraph template used above. It balances concrete details with thoughtful commentary and each sentence transitions smoothly. Note that this example uses shorter quotes instead of longer sentences.


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