What Is a Paragraph? (Definition)

What Is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a distinct section of writing covering one topic. A paragraph will usually contain more than one sentence.

A paragraph starts on a new line. Sometimes, paragraphs are indented or numbered. (Whatever format you use, be consistent.)

The "perfect paragraph" will start with a topic sentence. It will have detail sentences in the middle and end with a concluding sentence. It will only cover one topic from start to finish. The length of a paragraph is supposed to be determined by the topic, but often writers will create a paragraph simply to ensure they're not presenting too much text in one chunk.

Multiple Paragraphs within a Quotation

When a quote contains multiple paragraphs, the convention is to use a quotation mark at the start of each paragraph (to remind readers that they're still reading a quotation) but not at the end of the paragraphs except the last one. For example:

In 1912, the publisher Arthur C. Fifield sent Gertrude Stein the following rejection letter shortly after receiving her manuscript for The Making of Americans:

"Dear Madam,

"I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

"Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

"Sincerely yours,

"A. C. Fifield"

See Also

What are sentences? What are clauses? What are phrases? Glossary of grammatical terms