Supporting Sentences

The bulk of a paragraph consists of sentences that support the claim. Support is a very broad term in college composition: it means anything that further conveys the idea. This means that supporting sentences can come in many different forms, and that you have many different strategies to choose from when composting your own paragraphs. Some of the most common strategies for supporting sentences are identified below:



This is the strategy of stating the claim in a different way, often by adding more information, giving a better idea of the context, getting more precise, or clearing up difficult concepts.



This is the strategy of describing a specific instance so that readers can have a particular circumstance or image to relate to the claim. A realistic instance is often called an example, and an instance that the writer makes up just for clarity is often called an illustration. For this strategy, specificity is key. For more information see the section Specificity.



This is the strategy of relating the focal ideas to something different to help readers better understand them. This can be done by showing how the two types of ideas are similar, or by showing how they differ by contrast. Analogies and comparisons are most useful when the paragraph’s ideas are complex or unfamiliar to the audience, for they can clarify through likeness or difference to simpler or more familiar ideas.



This is the strategy of relating why things have happened (causes), or what has been or will be the outcomes of something (effects), or even how events are related.



This is the strategy of clarifying exactly what you mean by key words or phrases, or by clearly identifying what categories you are discussing. It is helpful to think of this strategy as re-defining words and phrases in the author’s own way.



This is the strategy of referencing or quoting other authors, writings, or sources. This is any use of outside material, such as statistics, cases or precedents, news stories, or laws, and it includes bringing in quotations and ideas from experts, historical figures, or highly respected persons. Remember that MLA format requires citation for each instance of such evidence or testimony.



This kind of supporting sentence is often used as the conclusion to a paragraph. Emphasis is the strategy of explaining the significance of the entire paragraph, or the insights to be gained from it. Rectification is a kind of emphasis that clarifies any likely misinterpretations (especially those that would rely on common assumptions or thought clichés), or that identifies the most important interpretation out of the many possible ones.


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