Expository paragraphs deal with facts, ideas, beliefs. They explain, analyze, define, compare, illustrate. They answer questions like What? Why? How? What was the cause? The effect? Like what? Unlike what? They are the kinds of paragraph we write in reports or term papers or tests.
The term paragraph has no simple definition. Occasionally a single sentence or even a word may serve as an emphatic paragraph. Conventionally in composition, however, a paragraph is a group of sentences developing a common idea, called the topic.
An expository paragraph is essentially an enlargement of a subject/predicate pattern like "Dogs bark." But the subject is more complicated and needs to be expressed in a clause or sentence, called the topic statement, which is usually placed at or near the beginning. The is, what is as serted about the several sentences. These con stitute the body of the paragraph, developing or supporting the topic in any of several ways, ways we shall study in subsequent chapters.
No one can say how long a paragraph should be. Subject, purpose, audience, editorial fashion, and individual preference, all affect the length and complexity of paragraphs. As a rough rule of thumb, however, you might think of expository paragraphs in terms of 120 or 150 words. If most of your paragraphs fall below 100 words—50 or 60, say—the chances are they need more development. If your paragraphs run consistently to 200 or 300 words, they are probably too long and need to be shortened or divided. Numerous brief paragraphs are liable to be disjointed and underdeveloped. Great long ones fatigue readers. But are talking about a very broad average. An occasional short paragraph of 15 to 20 words may work very well; so may an occasional long one of 300.
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