Elementary Principles Of Composition

1. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic.
If the subject on which you are writing is of slight extent, or if you intend to treat it very briefly, there may be no need of subdividing it into topics. Thus, a brief description, a brief summary of a literary work, a brief account of a single incident, a narrative merely outlining an action, the setting forth of a single idea, any one of these is best written in a single paragraph. After the paragraph has been written, it should be examined to see whether subdivision will not improve it.
Ordinarily, however, a subject requires subdivision into topics, each of which should be made the subject of a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal to him that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.

2. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning.
The object is to aid the reader. The practice here recommended enables him to discover the purpose of each paragraph as he begins to read it, and to retain the purpose in mind as he ends it. For this reason, the most generally useful kind of paragraph, particularly in exposition and argument, is that in which
a. the topic sentence comes at or near the beginning;
b. the succeeding sentences explain or establish or develop the statement made in the topic sentence; and
c. the final sentence either emphasizes the thought of the topic sentence or states some important consequence.
Ending with a digression, or with an unimportant detail, is particularly to be avoided.

3 Keep related words together.
The position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their relationship. The writer must therefore, so far as possible, bring together the words, and groups of words, that are related in thought, and keep apart those which are not so related.
The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.
Wordsworth, in the fifth book of The Excursion, gives a minute description of this church.
In the fifth book of The Excursion, Wordsworth gives a minute description of this church.
Cast iron, when treated in a Bessemer converter, is changed into steel.
By treatment in a Bessemer converter, cast iron is changed into steel.

4 Use the active voice.
The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive: I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.
This is much better than: My first visit to Boston will always be remembered b