English Language JSS3 First Term

Week 2


Writing Skill: Paragraph Construction

Skill Focus: How to make notes


Writing Skill: Paragraph Construction

It is a good idea to plan your writing in paragraphs so that

  • each paragraph is about one topic
  • each paragraph usually contains a topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually (but not always) the first sentence in the paragraph.
  • the other sentences, called support  sentences, give the reader more information about the topic introduced in the topic sentence.

Why do we use paragraphs when writing? Because it helps the reader to distinguish between the main ideas of a reading passage, a chapter, or a book, and the less important supporting details.

Read paragraph A below and discuss the questions:

The locust is a species of grasshoper. Locusts are found in all continents of the world except Antartica. In Africa, there are ten species of locusts. They are very common in tropical areas, except where it is wet.

1. The topic is:

a. grasshoppers

b. locusts

c. African locusts

2. Which is the topic sentence?

3. Which are the support sentences?

Here are two more paragraphs about locusts. One is well organised, and one is not. Read paragraphs B and C which follow and discuss questions 4 – 6.

B. Locusts live in two forms or phases, as they are called: the solitary phase and the gregarious phase. In the solitary phase, they live alone like any other grasshopper, and cause little damage. But if their numbers increase, they enter the gregarious phase. In this phase, they can become swarms big enough to darken the sky, and then they are very dangerous.

C. In a few hours a swarm of locusts can eat all the vegetation in an area. A swarm of locusts can cause terrible damage. For example, 10,000 million locusts can eat 20,000 tonnes of food in a day. So in one day, they can eat enough maize to feed 100,000 people for a year.

4. What is

i. the topic

ii. the topic sentence of each of the paragraphs B and C

5. Which is the better paragraph and why?

6. Write out the badly organised paragrapgh again, reordering the sentences as necessary.

Skill Focus: How to make notes

While listening to a passage and making notes, don’t try to write down everything you hear. Just pick out key words and expressions, and jot them down. Number your points so you can refer to them easily.

Most of the sentences you hear in an information text will be statements – so they will almost always have a falling intonation pattern – as we saw in the last note.


Article 1 – All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Your notes might read: Everyone free and equal – spirit of brotherhood.


Prose is a form of language that exhibits a grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech rather than a rhythmic structure (as in traditional poetry). While there are critical debates on the construction of prose, its simplicity and loosely defined structure have led to its adoption for use in the majority of spoken dialogue, factual discourse and both topical and fictional writing. It is commonly used, for example, in literature, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, broadcasting, film, history, philosophy, law and other forms of communication. Prose is a communicative style that sounds natural and uses grammatical structure. Prose is the opposite of verse, or poetry, which employs a rhythmic structure that does not mimic ordinary speech.

Prose is a form of language that has no formal metrical structure. It applies a natural flow of speech, and ordinary grammatical structure rather than rhythmic structure, such as in the case of traditional poetry. Normal every day speech is spoken in prose and most people think and write in prose form.  Prose comprises of full grammatical sentences which consist of paragraphs and forgoes aesthetic appeal in favor of clear, straightforward language.

Example of a Prose verse:

Read this from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” written by Robert Frost.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Common Examples of Prose

Everything that is not poetry is prose. Therefore, every utterance or written word that is not in the form of verse is an example of prose. Here are some different formats that prose comes in:

  • Casual dialogue: “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” “Fine, thanks.”
  • Oration: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. –Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Dictionary definition: Prose (n)—the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse.
  • Philosophical texts: Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. –Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Journalism: State and local officials were heavily criticized for their response to the January 2014 storm that created a traffic nightmare and left some motorists stranded for 18 hours or more.

Characteristics of Prose

  • Written in paragraphs
  • Tells a story rather than describes an image or metaphor
  • Generally has characters and a plot

Some Common Types of Prose

1. Nonfictional Prose: A literary work that is mainly based on fact although it may contain fictional elements in certain cases. Examples are biographies and essays.

2. Fictional Prose: A literary work that is wholly or partly imagined or theoretical. Examples are novels.

3. Heroic Prose: A literary work that may be written down or recited and employs many of the formulaic expressions found in oral tradition. Examples are legends and tales.

4. Prose Poetry: A literary work which exhibits poetic quality using emotional effects and heightened imagery but are written in prose instead of verse.

Features of Prose

The elements of prose are: character, plot, setting, theme, and style. Of these five elements, character is the who, plot is the what, setting is the where and when, theme is the why, and style is the how of a story.

A character is any person, personal, identity, or entity whose existence originates from a fictional work or performance.

A plot, or story line, is the rendering and ordering of the events and actions of a story, particularly towards the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect.

Setting is the time and location in which a story takes place.

Theme is the broad idea, message, or lesson of a story.

Style includes the multitude of choices fiction writers make, consciously or subconsciously, as they create a story. They encompass the big-picture, strategic choices such as point of view and narrator, but they also include the nitty-gritty, tactical choices of grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence and paragraph length and structure, tone, the use of imagery, chapter selection, titles, and on and on. In the process of writing a story, these choices meld to become the writer’s voice, his or her own unique style.

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