Drafting Stand-Alone Paragraphs

Sometimes, you might be assigned to write just a single paragraph, not an entire essay. In this case, your topic sentence and thesis are the same thing. When planning, drafting, and revising a stand-alone paragraph, you still have to consider basic standards for effective writing. Here is a checklist for completing the single-paragraph assignment.


Consider how the following paragraph, written as part of an economics exam, reflects some of the steps in the checklist.


Explain the difference between a country’s gross national product (GNP) and its gross domestic product (GDP).


Though they are both important indicators of a country’s economic wellbeing, GNP and GDP are not the same. The GNP is the total market value of all goods and services produced by a country’s labor force and capital anywhere in the world. For example, the market value of clothing produced and sold by The Gap, regardless of store and factory location, would figure into the United States’ GNP. The GNP would include profits earned from Canadian and European stores, as well as from stores in places like Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The GDP, on the other hand, is the total market value of goods and services produced by a country’s labor force and capital within a country’s borders. Profits earned by The Gap in places other than the United States would not count toward the country’s GDP. Each of these figures is a separate but equally valuable way to measure a country’s economic health.

As the underlined topic sentence indicates, the paragraph will focus on differences between GNP and GDP, and every sentence afterward explains at least one of these two concepts. Because this is a complex paragraph with technical information, the paragraph ends by reminding us of the overall point.