Covered one main idea in each paragraph?
- Readers can get lost in the document when you present more than one main idea in a paragraph. Plus, presenting one idea helps you better develop clear topic sentences and follow the MEAL plan (see below).
Used topic sentences at the beginning of the paragraph?
- In long documents, you can use topic sentences at the beginning of the paragraph to guide readers through the text and allow them to find information more easily when skimming. A topic sentence concisely explains the main idea of the paragraph.
Included a complete MEAL in each paragraph?
- A complete MEAL includes the Main idea, Evidence, Analysis, and L Your main idea is also your topic sentence. The evidence includes data and examples used to support your main idea. Your analysis tells the reader how to interpret the data or explains what the example means. The link either explicitly or implicitly established the connection between the main idea of this paragraph and the goal of the document.
Used transition words?
- The first sentence of a paragraph should include the topic as well as transition words. Transition words act as guideposts for readers, helping them navigate through the document. Transitions may point to something already mentioned (e.g., this, that), echo an idea that was already mentioned, or help you to make a new point, give an example, or restate a point (e.g., first, for example, on the other hand)1.
Kept most paragraphs short?
- Short paragraphs are easier to read; many people start skimming after 11 lines of text.
1Adapted from Plain Language Action and Information Group (PLAIN). March 2011. Federal Plain Language Guidelines. U.S. Government. 112pp. Available at http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/bigdoc/fullbigdoc.pdf [Last accessed 12 Aug 2014].