GRE Essay Organization - Body Sentences

The sentences in each paragraph should be organized just like mini-essays. That way, your GRE essays will be well focused, and the flow of your essay will be easy to follow. Each paragraph should have an introductory sentence, several body sentences, and a conclusion sentence. As noted in the body paragraph section, each paragraph should have an argument or a central issue or theme, evidence, and justification. Most commonly, the first sentence in each paragraph will identify a claim. The next few sentences will provide evidence for the claim and the final sentence will justify the original claim in light of the evidence provided.

The following is an example of a paragraph with well organized sentences:

I realized that day that what I thought was a responsible action could produce terrible consequences. After sipping on beers all day, my friend decided it was time to start home. It did not occur to me that he might be drunk. After all, we had not been drinking excessively and he was not stumbling or having trouble speaking. He left in his car and within minutes he misjudged the sharp turn at the end of the street and wrecked his car. Even though I had decided not to have a party when my parents were away, having a couple of people over and having alcohol at the house was definitely one of the most irresponsible things I have ever done. That decision led to my friend’s accident and the responsibility of that accident was as much mine as it was his.

The first sentence in the above paragraph works to introduce the main topic of the paragraph. In this case, it instructs the reader that the paragraph will argue that the event to follow taught the author a valuable lesson.

The next four sentences work to provide context for the main topic of the paragraph. They provide, by detailed example, the evidence that the author will use to illustrate to the audience exactly how the lesson was learned.

The final two sentences work to justify how the example proves the original claim. In this case, the accident (the example) made the author realize his/her own responsibility when his/her friend was hurt. This is an important part of both of the GRE essays that you write. You not only need to provide examples and evidence to support your claims, but you must explain why your stance is relevant and how your supporting evidence helps to justify your stance.

A tip for writing paragraphs in this way is to try to start the paragraph with the argument/claim sentence and continue on to prove that claim. Although this is not a rule for essay writing, it tends to keep the reader interested and it follows a traditional pattern for introducing information. A common mistake is to start a paragraph with the example. It tends to be easier for authors to begin with the example and then talk about what it means. The problem with this approach is that suddenly your audience is thrust into a description of evidence and he/she is not sure why. In the case of the above example, to begin the paragraph with the sentences that describe the friend leaving would likely leave the audience wondering about the significance of the story. It makes transitioning between paragraphs much more difficult and it risks alienating your reader.