The Structure of Paragraphs

Proper, effective paragraphs should have a structure. This gives clear, confident direction to the reader and presents a logical flow to the material. The three main components of a paragraph are the topic sentence, supporting details and a closing sentence.

(i) The topic sentence introduces the main idea of the paragraph. You should spend time developing three or four key topic sentences in a business letter. These can become the basis for your response or explanation to an external source.

Ask yourself: What points do I want to make in this business letter? What exact messages do I want to convey? If you have three key points, these can become your topic sentences for three paragraphs.

(ii) Supporting details provide the evidence, facts and statistics to reinforce your topic sentence. In some cases, business writers use supporting details as a topic sentence. This can confuse the reader, as there is no clear signal about the content of the paragraph or the logical flow of the correspondence. Allow supporting details to buttress your argument and prove your topic sentence through evidence and examples.

(iii) The closing sentence, which can be optional, serves to re-emphasize the topic sentence by restating the point using different words or phrases. It can also add emphasis to a key message or illustrate a change in direction to the next paragraph by introducing new material.

Paragraph Example:

Our company strongly disagrees with the Ministry of Health’s decision not to approve funding for the product (topic sentence). Robust clinical data, including a recent report from XYZ, shows that the product significantly improves the quality of response for patients who have failed at least one prior therapy. The incremental cost per quality adjusted life year our product is estimated at $77,000 for patients with one prior therapy (supporting evidence). This represents good value for patients and Ontario health care (closing sentence).


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