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Paragraphing (Length Consistency)

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The purpose of this handout is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.

Paragraphs are units of thought with one adequately developed idea. Listed here are some rules of thumb to use when paragraphing. As your writing improves, you'll be able to break these "rules" to meet your own needs. Until then, these suggestions can be helpful.

  • Put only one main idea per paragraph.
  • Aim for three to five or more sentences per paragraph.
  • Include on each page about two handwritten or three typed paragraphs.
  • Make your paragraphs proportional to your paper. Since paragraphs do less work in short papers, have short paragraphs for short papers and longer paragraphs for longer papers.
  • If you have a few very short paragraphs, think about whether they are really parts of a larger paragraph—and can be combined—or whether you can add details to support each point and thus make each into a more fully developed paragraph.

You can check on whether your paragraphs are balanced by looking at your paper.

Some balanced pages:

These images show text that is balanced on pages. The left image shows text that is left-justified. The right image shows text that is centered.

Paragraph Balance

Unbalanced pages with ideas not equally developed:

These images show text in unbalanced boxes to illustrate the need to balance paragraphs and sections in your paper.

Unbalanced Paragraphs

Use the following graphics as a tool to organize your paper with one main idea in each box. Use as many pages and boxes as needed.

These images contain line drawings of three boxes one on top of the other. The first box on the page contains the word introduction. The last box on the page contains the word conclusion.

Graphics to Help with Balance and Organization

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Posted on 13th October 2017

Writing a Three-Paragraph Essay

By Elise Barbeau

Sally Baggett holds a master’s in literature. She enjoys inspiring students, cooking with her family, and helping others achieve their dreams.

Just like there is more than one way to skin a cat (or so they say), there is more than one way to write an essay. One is not required to produce a perfectly formatted five-paragraph essay every time one composes a piece of writing. There is another type of essay you can write that may just be simpler than the traditional style: the three-paragraph essay. This type of essay might be beneficial for beginning writers as it offers the organizational structure of a longer essay without requiring the length. It also offers a challenge to more advanced writers to condense their points.

The Parts of the Essay and Its Benefits

As with most essays, the three-paragraph essay has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Yet with this type of essay–unlike its five-paragraph counterpart–each one of these sections has only one paragraph. The three-paragraph essay, therefore, might be ideal for young writers or those who are currently mastering the English language.

Another benefit to the three-paragraph essay could be that it requires you to condense your supporting points into just one, which can be a good exercise. If you had to choose only one point to convince a reader to agree with you, what would it be?

After performing some light prewriting, such as brainstorming or writing an outline, students can move right into composing the essay. While this process is similar across the board for writing academic papers, the three-paragraph essay is unique in that the body will take up less space in the finished product.

An outline for this essay might look like this :

  • Background Points
  • Thesis Statement
  • Supporting fact 1
  • Supporting fact 2
  • Transition Sentence
  • Re-statement of Thesis
  • Summary of Main Point
  • Challenge to the Reader

Paragraph One: Introduction

As with most formal essays, the three-paragraph essay begins with an introduction paragraph. Such paragraphs must, obviously, introduce the reader to your idea and, in most cases, convince the reader that this essay is worth reading. To craft a strong introduction, be sure to open with a solid hook. You want to draw in readers so they are compelled to engage with your writing.

A hook can be something compelling such as a question, a powerful quote, or an interesting fact. Introduction paragraphs also usually contain background information that assists the reader in understanding your topic, perhaps defining it or explaining an important part. Finally, you want to include a thesis statement. Even though your essay only has three paragraphs, there still needs to be a purpose to the writing.

You could structure your introduction paragraph according to this outline :

  • Hook: Is there no solution for dumping waste in the ocean?
  • Explain why trash is dumped in the ocean
  • Statistics about dumping trash in the ocean
  • Thesis Statement: Dumping waste in the ocean is a problem because it spells disaster for the ecosystem, leading to problems on land.

This structure is not mandatory, though it might be useful in the long run for organizing your thoughts.

Paragraph Two: Body

The second paragraph, as we have discussed, is the one and only body paragraph. This paragraph bears the burden of communicating support for the thesis statement all on its own. As such, it may take more than one rough draft to get this paragraph to communicate everything you want it to.

Your body paragraph needs to underscore the thesis statement. Create a topic sentence for this body paragraph that communicates this and also transitions from the introduction into the body. For example, your body paragraph topic sentence based on the outline above could be:

One of those problems might play itself out as food scarcity where humans live.

This topic sentence reiterates the thesis and moves the reader into a body paragraph that contains a supporting point: that damage to the ocean’s ecosystem could lead to food scarcity. Within the body paragraph, you can quote different sources that support this point.

Again, this paragraph does not have room to contain everything that a full five-paragraph essay might. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some strong evidence to convince your reader to see your perspective, such as is accomplished through quotes and analysis. Don’t forget to end with a strong transition sentence to move the reader seamlessly into the conclusion.

Paragraph Three: Conclusion

The final paragraph in an essay is usually the conclusion. The three-paragraph essay is no exception. In this essay, the conclusion can be just as long as the other two paragraphs, and it can drive home the point made in the thesis statement and body paragraph. As with most conclusion paragraphs, this paragraph ought to restate the thesis in different words. It should then summarize what was stated in the body paragraph before challenging the reader in some way, whether in thought or action.

Editing Before Turning It In

One thing to be sure of in this type of essay (as in any other) is to polish it. Make it flow well. In other words, revise it!

Before beginning the revision process, take a break from your writing so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Once you start revising, hunt not only for grammar and punctuation errors but for ways to make the writing flow better. Take a look at the sentences at the beginning and end of each paragraph. Do these sentences contain transition words? Do these paragraphs link to each other? Transition words or phrases like “Likewise,” “In spite of,” or “In addition to” can ensure that your paragraphs are coherent. There are also other services that will automatically proofread you paper.

If you used any sources (i.e. websites, books, videos, etc.) to help support your points and write your paper, you need to cite them! Most teachers will ask you to create a bibliography in MLA format . Others may have you one in APA format , or create references in Chicago style. Ask your teacher for guidance on what citation style they prefer.

Final Thoughts

Don’t forget that you aren’t limited to using this type of essay for just persuasion. You can also use it to relate a narrative tale, using the three parts as the beginning, middle, and end of a story. You can use this to craft an informative essay. See if other types of essays–such as a process analysis or an evaluation–will fit inside the three-paragraph essay format.

In many ways, the three-paragraph essay is similar to the five-paragraph essay. They both make a solid point using an introduction, body, and conclusion. This simpler essay only requires that you condense your points into one body paragraph, perhaps only one supporting point, before reaching a conclusion. Again, this can make a good exercise for beginning English writers, but can also make a challenge for a more advanced writer to select their strongest supporting points.

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A Guide to Writing a Three-Paragraph Essay

Table of Contents

There is no one method to write an essay. It is optional to create a perfectly formatted five-paragraph paper every time someone writes a piece. It’s possible to write a different type of essay, which may be simpler than the traditional style: A three-paragraph essay.

An Image of a blurred out book written in German

Read on to learn about 3 paragraph introduction body conclusion style.

Components of a Three Paragraph Essay

Three-paragraph essays are commonly comprised of three parts: An introduction, a body, and a conclusion .

Despite this type of essay, unlike its five-paragraph counterpart, each section has only one paragraph. Therefore, the three-paragraph paper suits young writers or those already mastering English. 

1. Brief Introduction

A three-paragraph essay begins with an introduction paragraph. In most cases, such sections must introduce the reader to your idea and convince others that this essay is worth reading. Make sure you begin with a good hook to make a powerful introduction. You want readers to engage with your writing so they will engage with it. 

A hook can be anything compelling, such as a powerful quote or an interesting fact. In addition to general background information, introduction paragraphs usually contain details. These details assist readers in understanding your topic, such as highlighting it or explaining an important point. Finally, you will need a thesis statement. Even if your essay is only three paragraphs, there is still a reason behind it. 

2. Body Paragraph

As we have discussed at length, the only body paragraph is the second paragraph. This paragraph is responsible for showing why the thesis statement is true. Your section may take more than one rough draft. Thus, it may only convey some of what you want it to portray. 

Body paragraphs should emphasize the thesis statement. In this body paragraph, create a topic sentence that communicates this and then transitions from the introduction into the body. 

3. Conclusion

An essay usually ends with a final paragraph. Three paragraph essay is no exception. Conclusions can be as long throughout this essay as in the other two sections. They can bring the thesis statement and body paragraph across.

Conclusion paragraphs should restate the thesis differently, as with most conclusion paragraphs. The body paragraph should summarize what has been said and challenge the reader to do or think something .

Benefits of a Three-Paragraph Essay

You could also use the three-paragraph essay to condense your supporting points into one, which is a great exercise. What would you choose if you had to convince readers to agree with you only one way? 

Students can begin composing the essay by performing light prewriting, such as brainstorming or writing a structure. The writing process for academic papers is similar across the board, but the three-paragraph article is unique. The body will take up less space in the finished product. 

Final Thoughts

Remember that you can use this type of essay for just persuasive purposes. You can use this to tell a story by relating the three parts of the story. You relate it to a narrative’s beginning, middle, and end. Using this to write a compelling essay can be helpful.

You should ask yourself if other types of essays, like a process analysis or an evaluation, fit within the three-paragraph essay format. Remember to stick to the structure- 3 paragraph introduction body conclusion .

A Guide to Writing a Three-Paragraph Essay

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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How to Write a 3 Paragraph Essay

The three-paragraph essay is an essay teachers create to help students learn format and structure. It is not an essay you will see in professional writing, nor is it an essay that students will usually write once they become proficient writers. It teaches students to visualize the three parts of an essay, to organize their thoughts and apply their knowledge in a written format. Once students understand the structure, they can move on to a five-paragraph essay and eventually to a less stringent form of writing.

Visualize the structure. Think of the essay as three parts. The first part is the introduction, which contains the thesis statement or statement of purpose. The body is the largest section that will elaborate on the thesis statement. The conclusion is similar in size to the introduction. It reminds the reader of the thesis and leaves the reader with something to think about. If it helps, draw a chart with three sections, and fill in the information that each part represents.

Decide on a topic and a thesis statement. If your topic is dogs, then decide what it is you want to say about dogs. It may be that you want to talk about the benefits of rescuing a dog from a shelter, or perhaps you want to talk about how to choose a dog that is right for you. Once you know your thesis, then you can come up with at least three points to discuss in the body of the paper. For the conclusion, you will reiterate your main points, remind the reader of the thesis and leave the reader with an idea to think about. You may want to wait on the conclusion until you have actually written the paper.

Create an outline. Use Roman numerals for clarity: Roman numeral I for the introduction, II for the body and III for the conclusion. Beginning with the introduction, write down what you want for background information. State your thesis. For the body of the paragraph, list at least three points that you want to discuss. For the conclusion, think of a statement you want to say to finalize the paper.

Begin writing. Following the outline, write the introduction. It will be about five to seven sentences in length and include an introductory statement, some background and the thesis. The thesis works best as the last statement in the introduction. Then, begin the body of the paper. Discuss each point and use transitional devices to move from one point to the other. Finally, write the conclusion. The conclusion should remind the reader of the thesis and the main points. End with a statement that takes the reader beyond the content of the essay to the next step or an idea to think about.

Redraft and edit your work. Always read your work aloud to pick up on confusing sentences, ambiguous words and the natural cadence of the writing. Look for spelling errors, mechanical errors and grammatical errors. Create a checklist of items to remind you what to look for such as subject/verb agreement, use of commas and run-on sentences. Ask yourself if the thesis is clear and whether it is clearly discussed in the body of the paper. Finally, ask someone else to read your paper. Most writers will miss something that others will naturally see.

  • Make sure the point of view is consistent. If you write in first person, stay with first person. Don't shift to second person (you) or third person (he or she).
  • Avoid starting your concluding paragraph with "In conclusion." This is an elementary transition that is not necessary.

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Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.

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3 Paragraph Essay: How to Write a 3 Paragraph Essay

There are many types of essays you will come across while in school. All of them require a specific number of words and paragraphs, depending on your tutor’s specifications.

Although not very common, you will sometimes get assigned a 3 paragraph essay. They help sharpen writing skills for students who don’t have prior essay writing experience.

If you are out there wondering how to write a 3 paragraph essay, worry no more because the following article will explicitly guide you on the process. You will also learn about the number of words expected and the format. Read on for a detailed review.

How to Write a 3 Paragraph Essay

Writing a 3 paragraph essay is pretty straightforward if you have the necessary skill set. You have adequate knowledge about the various writing formats (APA, Chicago, MLA, or Harvard), good grammar, and appropriate research techniques. Endeavor to make the meaning clear and understandable such that the presentation is logical.

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Remember that you only have three paragraphs to explain your point of view. Your sentences should, therefore, be precise and to the point. Provide facts, explain ideas, give directions and define words to ensure the reader understands your logic without struggle.

A typical 3-paragraph essay should have;

  • An introduction
  • A conclusion

Let us cover each section in detail;

1. Introduction

Your first paragraph should feature the introduction. Start by writing your topic. For example, How to “Write a 3 Paragraph Essay”. After the title, the first sentence of the introductory paragraph should incorporate a topic sentence (thesis statement). It is a sentence that outlines the title and your point of view or argument.

Also see: Should you capitalize the title of your essay? 

The second sentence then provides extra information that supports the topic sentence. It should help explain why your argument is relevant. The third and final sentence should outline the points you will incorporate in your body and should be in the order of presentation.

The second paragraph is the body of your essay. Here you will be explaining your points further. The first sentence of your body (number 4 overall) should outline your first point. You can also add two or three sentences to support your argument.

The number of sentences in your body should get determined by the number of points you plan to incorporate in your essay. For example, if you have three points, each should have at least three sentences because you will have to provide proof to support each.

3. Conclusion

The third and final paragraph is the conclusion of your essay. Start by restating the topic sentence using different words. Outline the main points, and finish by prompting the reader to reflect on your topic. You can conclude with a call to action or by phrasing a question.

4. The Final Touches

After writing your essay, polish it by;

  • Reviewing the whole essay
  • Ensuring the sentence flow is smooth
  • Adding transitional phrases that join your ideas and thoughts
  • Listing down your sources of information
  • Checking for punctuation, spelling errors, grammar, and capitalization.

How Long Is A 3 Paragraph Essay?

A typical 3 paragraph essay should have around 250 words. However, this figure varies because the number of words in each sentence varies. Each paragraph should have between 100-200 words and each sentence 15-20 words.

Since you will be writing only three paragraphs, avoid using filler words because they will significantly increase the total number of words. To make the essay readable, you can incorporate subheadings to help the reader follow your thoughts.

Aim to keep your sentences and paragraphs short as it helps captivate the attention of the reader. Too long sentences and sections may be boring, and the reader may skip crucial points.

Can You Have Three Paragraphs In An Essay?

You can have three paragraphs in an essay. There is no rule that says an essay must have a certain number of paragraphs. However, all essays must have at least three paragraphs. In the case of a 3 paragraph essay, each paragraph gets allocated a section. The first paragraph becomes the introduction, while the second and third become the body and conclusion.

Most instructors assign 3 paragraph essays to train students about the general format of crafting essays. You will, therefore, mostly get these kinds of essays in high school. The main objective is to enhance writing, research, and formatting skills. However, this does not mean you should not take them seriously because they contribute to your overall marks.

Remember that the body paragraph carries your main points. Ensure you state and explain them clearly while still providing proof.

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How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.


In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

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Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .


Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield

Other students also liked, comparing and contrasting in an essay | tips & examples, how to write the body of an essay | drafting & redrafting, transition sentences | tips & examples for clear writing, what is your plagiarism score.

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Paragraphs & topic sentences.

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.


A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.

Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.


Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.

Introduction : the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body : follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion : the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.

The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put , on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or , if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY. George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”

In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.

Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.

A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.

Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.

Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized ) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.

Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.

Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.

I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular. Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”


(modified from Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference )

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  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph

When you write strong, clear paragraphs, you are guiding your readers through your argument by showing them how your points fit together to support your thesis. The number of paragraphs in your essay should be determined by the number of steps you need to take to build your argument. To write strong paragraphs, try to focus each paragraph on one main point—and begin a new paragraph when you are moving to a new point or example.

A strong paragraph in an academic essay will usually include these three elements:

  • A topic sentence. The topic sentence does double duty for a paragraph. First, a strong topic sentence makes a claim or states a main idea that is then developed in the rest of the paragraph. Second, the topic sentence signals to readers how the paragraph is connected to the larger argument in your paper. Below is an example of a topic sentence from a paper by Laura Connor ‘23 that analyzes rhetoric used by Frederic Douglass, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Karl Marx. In her paper, Connor argues that Marx’s rhetoric was most effective in driving social change. In his numerous writings, Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws. This topic sentence makes a claim that will then need to be supported with evidence: readers can expect that the sentence will be followed by a discussion of what Marx saw as the flaws in capitalism, which will in turn help them understand Connor’s thesis about how these three authors used their rhetoric to effect social change. A topic sentence signals to your readers what idea is most important in that paragraph—and it also helps you know if you’ve effectively made your point. In this case, Connor has set up the expectation for readers that by the end of the paragraph, they will understand Marx’s view of the flaws in capitalism. Imagine that, instead of writing “Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws,” Connor had begun that paragraph with a descriptive sentence. For example, she could have written something like this: “Marx wrote a critique of capitalism.” While that sentence describes something that happened, it does not give readers information about what will be in the rest of the paragraph—and it would not have helped Connor figure out how to organize the paragraph.
  • Evidence. Once you’ve made a claim in your topic sentence, you’ll need to help your readers see how you arrived at that claim from the evidence that you examined. That evidence may include quotations or paraphrased material from a source, or it may include data, results, or primary source material. In the paragraph that follows Connor’s topic sentence above, she offers several quotations from Marx that demonstrate how he viewed the flaws in capitalism.
  • Analysis. It’s not enough to provide evidence to support a claim. You have to tell your readers what you want them to understand about that evidence. In other words, you have to analyze it. How does this evidence support your claim? In Connor’s paragraph, she follows her presentation of evidence with sentences that tell readers what they need to understand about that evidence—specifically that it shows how Marx pointed to the flaws in capitalism without telling his own readers what to think about it, and that this was his strategy. It might be tempting to end your paragraph with either a sentence summarizing everything you’ve just written or the introduction of a new idea. But in a short paragraph, your readers don’t need a summary of all that you’ve just said. And introducing a new point in the final sentence can confuse readers by leaving them without evidence to support that new point. Instead, try to end your paragraph with a sentence that tells readers something that they can now understand because they’ve read your paragraph. In Connor’s paragraph, the final sentence doesn’t summarize all of Marx’s specific claims but instead tells readers what to take away from that evidence. After seeing what Marx says about capitalism, Connor explains what the evidence she has just offered suggests about Marx’s beliefs.

Below, you’ll find Connor’s complete paragraph. The topic sentence appears in blue . The evidence appears in green . Connor’s analysis of the evidence appears in yellow .  

Example paragraph  

In his numerous writings, Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws. By critiquing the political economy and capitalism, Marx implores his reader to think critically about their position in society and restores awareness in the proletariat class. T o Marx, capitalism is a system characterized by the “exploitation of the many by the few,” in which workers accept the exploitation of their labor and receive only harm of “alienation,” rather than true benefits ( MER 487). He writes that “labour produces for the rich wonderful things – but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces—but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty—but for the worker, deformity” (MER 73). Marx argues capitalism is a system in which the laborer is repeatedly harmed and estranged from himself, his labor, and other people, while the owner of his labor – the capitalist – receives the benefits ( MER 74). And while industry progresses, the worker “sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class” ( MER 483). But while Marx critiques the political economy, he does not explicitly say “capitalism is wrong.” Rather, his close examination of the system makes its flaws obvious. Only once the working class realizes the flaws of the system, Marx believes, will they - must they - rise up against their bourgeois masters and achieve the necessary and inevitable communist revolution.

Not every paragraph will be structured exactly like this one, of course. But as you draft your own paragraphs, look for all three of these elements: topic sentence, evidence, and analysis.

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11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)

How do you structure a paragraph in an essay?

If you’re like the majority of my students, you might be getting your basic essay paragraph structure wrong and getting lower grades than you could!

In this article, I outline the 11 key steps to writing a perfect paragraph. But, this isn’t your normal ‘how to write an essay’ article. Rather, I’ll try to give you some insight into exactly what teachers look out for when they’re grading essays and figuring out what grade to give them.

You can navigate each issue below, or scroll down to read them all:

1. Paragraphs must be at least four sentences long 2. But, at most seven sentences long 3. Your paragraph must be Left-Aligned 4. You need a topic sentence 5 . Next, you need an explanation sentence 6. You need to include an example 7. You need to include citations 8. All paragraphs need to be relevant to the marking criteria 9. Only include one key idea per paragraph 10. Keep sentences short 11. Keep quotes short

Paragraph structure is one of the most important elements of getting essay writing right .

As I cover in my Ultimate Guide to Writing an Essay Plan , paragraphs are the heart and soul of your essay.

However, I find most of my students have either:

  • forgotten how to write paragraphs properly,
  • gotten lazy, or
  • never learned it in the first place!

Paragraphs in essay writing are different from paragraphs in other written genres .

In fact, the paragraphs that you are reading now would not help your grades in an essay.

That’s because I’m writing in journalistic style, where paragraph conventions are vastly different.

For those of you coming from journalism or creative writing, you might find you need to re-learn paragraph writing if you want to write well-structured essay paragraphs to get top grades.

Below are eleven reasons your paragraphs are losing marks, and what to do about it!

11 tips for perfect paragraphs

Essay Paragraph Structure Rules

1. your paragraphs must be at least 4 sentences long.

In journalism and blog writing, a one-sentence paragraph is great. It’s short, to-the-point, and helps guide your reader. For essay paragraph structure, one-sentence paragraphs suck.

A one-sentence essay paragraph sends an instant signal to your teacher that you don’t have much to say on an issue.

A short paragraph signifies that you know something – but not much about it. A one-sentence paragraph lacks detail, depth and insight.

Many students come to me and ask, “what does ‘add depth’ mean?” It’s one of the most common pieces of feedback you’ll see written on the margins of your essay.

Personally, I think ‘add depth’ is bad feedback because it’s a short and vague comment. But, here’s what it means: You’ve not explained your point enough!

If you’re writing one-, two- or three-sentence essay paragraphs, you’re costing yourself marks.

Always aim for at least four sentences per paragraph in your essays.

This doesn’t mean that you should add ‘fluff’ or ‘padding’ sentences.

Make sure you don’t:

a) repeat what you said in different words, or b) write something just because you need another sentence in there.

But, you need to do some research and find something insightful to add to that two-sentence paragraph if you want to ace your essay.

Check out Points 5 and 6 for some advice on what to add to that short paragraph to add ‘depth’ to your paragraph and start moving to the top of the class.

  • How to Make an Essay Longer
  • How to Make an Essay Shorter

2. Your Paragraphs must not be more than 7 Sentences Long

Okay, so I just told you to aim for at least four sentences per paragraph. So, what’s the longest your paragraph should be?

Seven sentences. That’s a maximum.

So, here’s the rule:

Between four and seven sentences is the sweet spot that you need to aim for in every single paragraph.

Here’s why your paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than seven sentences:

1. It shows you can organize your thoughts. You need to show your teacher that you’ve broken up your key ideas into manageable segments of text (see point 10)

2. It makes your work easier to read.   You need your writing to be easily readable to make it easy for your teacher to give you good grades. Make your essay easy to read and you’ll get higher marks every time.

One of the most important ways you can make your work easier to read is by writing paragraphs that are less than six sentences long.

3. It prevents teacher frustration. Teachers are just like you. When they see a big block of text their eyes glaze over. They get frustrated, lost, their mind wanders … and you lose marks.

To prevent teacher frustration, you need to ensure there’s plenty of white space in your essay. It’s about showing them that the piece is clearly structured into one key idea per ‘chunk’ of text.

Often, you might find that your writing contains tautologies and other turns of phrase that can be shortened for clarity.

3. Your Paragraph must be Left-Aligned

Turn off ‘Justified’ text and: Never. Turn. It. On. Again.

Justified text is where the words are stretched out to make the paragraph look like a square. It turns the writing into a block. Don’t do it. You will lose marks, I promise you! Win the psychological game with your teacher: left-align your text.

A good essay paragraph is never ‘justified’.

I’m going to repeat this, because it’s important: to prevent your essay from looking like a big block of muddy, hard-to-read text align your text to the left margin only.

You want white space on your page – and lots of it. White space helps your reader scan through your work. It also prevents it from looking like big blocks of text.

You want your reader reading vertically as much as possible: scanning, browsing, and quickly looking through for evidence you’ve engaged with the big ideas.

The justified text doesn’t help you do that. Justified text makes your writing look like a big, lumpy block of text that your reader doesn’t want to read.

What’s wrong with Center-Aligned Text?

While I’m at it, never, ever, center-align your text either. Center-aligned text is impossible to skim-read. Your teacher wants to be able to quickly scan down the left margin to get the headline information in your paragraph.

Not many people center-align text, but it’s worth repeating: never, ever center-align your essays.

an infographic showing that left-aligned paragraphs are easy to read. The infographic recommends using Control plus L on a PC keyboard or Command plus L on a Mac to left align a paragraph

Don’t annoy your reader. Left align your text.

4. Your paragraphs must have a Topic Sentence

The first sentence of an essay paragraph is called the topic sentence. This is one of the most important sentences in the correct essay paragraph structure style.

The topic sentence should convey exactly what key idea you’re going to cover in your paragraph.

Too often, students don’t let their reader know what the key idea of the paragraph is until several sentences in.

You must show what the paragraph is about in the first sentence.

You never, ever want to keep your reader in suspense. Essays are not like creative writing. Tell them straight away what the paragraph is about. In fact, if you can, do it in the first half of the first sentence .

I’ll remind you again: make it easy to grade your work. Your teacher is reading through your work trying to determine what grade to give you. They’re probably going to mark 20 assignments in one sitting. They have no interest in storytelling or creativity. They just want to know how much you know! State what the paragraph is about immediately and move on.

Suggested: Best Words to Start a Paragraph

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing a Topic Sentence If your paragraph is about how climate change is endangering polar bears, say it immediately : “Climate change is endangering polar bears.” should be your first sentence in your paragraph. Take a look at first sentence of each of the four paragraphs above this one. You can see from the first sentence of each paragraph that the paragraphs discuss:

When editing your work, read each paragraph and try to distil what the one key idea is in your paragraph. Ensure that this key idea is mentioned in the first sentence .

(Note: if there’s more than one key idea in the paragraph, you may have a problem. See Point 9 below .)

The topic sentence is the most important sentence for getting your essay paragraph structure right. So, get your topic sentences right and you’re on the right track to a good essay paragraph.

5. You need an Explanation Sentence

All topic sentences need a follow-up explanation. The very first point on this page was that too often students write paragraphs that are too short. To add what is called ‘depth’ to a paragraph, you can come up with two types of follow-up sentences: explanations and examples.

Let’s take explanation sentences first.

Explanation sentences give additional detail. They often provide one of the following services:

Let’s go back to our example of a paragraph on Climate change endangering polar bears. If your topic sentence is “Climate change is endangering polar bears.”, then your follow-up explanation sentence is likely to explain how, why, where, or when. You could say:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing Explanation Sentences 1. How: “The warming atmosphere is melting the polar ice caps.” 2. Why: “The polar bears’ habitats are shrinking every single year.” 3. Where: “This is happening in the Antarctic ice caps near Greenland.” 4. When: “Scientists first noticed the ice caps were shrinking in 1978.”

You don’t have to provide all four of these options each time.

But, if you’re struggling to think of what to add to your paragraph to add depth, consider one of these four options for a good quality explanation sentence.


6. Your need to Include an Example

Examples matter! They add detail. They also help to show that you genuinely understand the issue. They show that you don’t just understand a concept in the abstract; you also understand how things work in real life.

Example sentences have the added benefit of personalising an issue. For example, after saying “Polar bears’ habitats are shrinking”, you could note specific habitats, facts and figures, or even a specific story about a bear who was impacted.

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing an ‘Example’ Sentence “For example, 770,000 square miles of Arctic Sea Ice has melted in the past four decades, leading Polar Bear populations to dwindle ( National Geographic, 2018 )

In fact, one of the most effective politicians of our times – Barrack Obama – was an expert at this technique. He would often provide examples of people who got sick because they didn’t have healthcare to sell Obamacare.

What effect did this have? It showed the real-world impact of his ideas. It humanised him, and got him elected president – twice!

Be like Obama. Provide examples. Often.

7. All Paragraphs need Citations

Provide a reference to an academic source in every single body paragraph in the essay. The only two paragraphs where you don’t need a reference is the introduction and conclusion .

Let me repeat: Paragraphs need at least one reference to a quality scholarly source .

Let me go even further:

Students who get the best marks provide two references to two different academic sources in every paragraph.

Two references in a paragraph show you’ve read widely, cross-checked your sources, and given the paragraph real thought.

It’s really important that these references link to academic sources, not random websites, blogs or YouTube videos. Check out our Seven Best types of Sources to Cite in Essays post to get advice on what sources to cite. Number 6 w ill surprise you!

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: In-Text Referencing in Paragraphs Usually, in-text referencing takes the format: (Author, YEAR), but check your school’s referencing formatting requirements carefully. The ‘Author’ section is the author’s last name only. Not their initials. Not their first name. Just their last name . My name is Chris Drew. First name Chris, last name Drew. If you were going to reference an academic article I wrote in 2019, you would reference it like this: (Drew, 2019).

Where do you place those two references?

Place the first reference at the end of the first half of the paragraph. Place the second reference at the end of the second half of the paragraph.

This spreads the references out and makes it look like all the points throughout the paragraph are backed up by your sources. The goal is to make it look like you’ve reference regularly when your teacher scans through your work.

Remember, teachers can look out for signposts that indicate you’ve followed academic conventions and mentioned the right key ideas.

Spreading your referencing through the paragraph helps to make it look like you’ve followed the academic convention of referencing sources regularly.

Here are some examples of how to reference twice in a paragraph:

  • If your paragraph was six sentences long, you would place your first reference at the end of the third sentence and your second reference at the end of the sixth sentence.
  • If your paragraph was five sentences long, I would recommend placing one at the end of the second sentence and one at the end of the fifth sentence.

You’ve just read one of the key secrets to winning top marks.

8. Every Paragraph must be relevant to the Marking Criteria

Every paragraph must win you marks. When you’re editing your work, check through the piece to see if every paragraph is relevant to the marking criteria.

For the British: In the British university system (I’m including Australia and New Zealand here – I’ve taught at universities in all three countries), you’ll usually have a ‘marking criteria’. It’s usually a list of between two and six key learning outcomes your teacher needs to use to come up with your score. Sometimes it’s called a:

  • Marking criteria
  • Marking rubric
  • (Key) learning outcome
  • Indicative content

Check your assignment guidance to see if this is present. If so, use this list of learning outcomes to guide what you write. If your paragraphs are irrelevant to these key points, delete the paragraph .

Paragraphs that don’t link to the marking criteria are pointless. They won’t win you marks.

For the Americans: If you don’t have a marking criteria / rubric / outcomes list, you’ll need to stick closely to the essay question or topic. This goes out to those of you in the North American system. North America (including USA and Canada here) is often less structured and the professor might just give you a topic to base your essay on.

If all you’ve got is the essay question / topic, go through each paragraph and make sure each paragraph is relevant to the topic.

For example, if your essay question / topic is on “The Effects of Climate Change on Polar Bears”,

  • Don’t talk about anything that doesn’t have some connection to climate change and polar bears;
  • Don’t talk about the environmental impact of oil spills in the Gulf of Carpentaria;
  • Don’t talk about black bear habitats in British Columbia.
  • Do talk about the effects of climate change on polar bears (and relevant related topics) in every single paragraph .

You may think ‘stay relevant’ is obvious advice, but at least 20% of all essays I mark go off on tangents and waste words.

Stay on topic in Every. Single. Paragraph. If you want to learn more about how to stay on topic, check out our essay planning guide .

9. Only have one Key Idea per Paragraph

One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph.

Don’t forget!

Too often, a student starts a paragraph talking about one thing and ends it talking about something totally different. Don’t be that student.

To ensure you’re focussing on one key idea in your paragraph, make sure you know what that key idea is. It should be mentioned in your topic sentence (see Point 3 ). Every other sentence in the paragraph adds depth to that one key idea.

If you’ve got sentences in your paragraph that are not relevant to the key idea in the paragraph, they don’t fit. They belong in another paragraph.

Go through all your paragraphs when editing your work and check to see if you’ve veered away from your paragraph’s key idea. If so, you might have two or even three key ideas in the one paragraph.

You’re going to have to get those additional key ideas, rip them out, and give them paragraphs of their own.

If you have more than one key idea in a paragraph you will lose marks. I promise you that.

The paragraphs will be too hard to read, your reader will get bogged down reading rather than scanning, and you’ll have lost grades.

10. Keep Sentences Short

If a sentence is too long it gets confusing. When the sentence is confusing, your reader will stop reading your work. They will stop reading the paragraph and move to the next one. They’ll have given up on your paragraph.

Short, snappy sentences are best.

Shorter sentences are easier to read and they make more sense. Too often, students think they have to use big, long, academic words to get the best marks. Wrong. Aim for clarity in every sentence in the paragraph. Your teacher will thank you for it.

The students who get the best marks write clear, short sentences.

When editing your draft, go through your essay and see if you can shorten your longest five sentences.

(To learn more about how to write the best quality sentences, see our page on Seven ways to Write Amazing Sentences .)

11. Keep Quotes Short

Eighty percent of university teachers hate quotes. That’s not an official figure. It’s my guestimate based on my many interactions in faculty lounges. Twenty percent don’t mind them, but chances are your teacher is one of the eight out of ten who hate quotes.

Teachers tend to be turned off by quotes because it makes it look like you don’t know how to say something on your own words.

Now that I’ve warned you, here’s how to use quotes properly:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: How To Use Quotes in University-Level Essay Paragraphs 1. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 2. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 3. You should never start a sentence with a quote. 4. You should never end a paragraph with a quote. 5 . You should never use more than five quotes per essay. 6. Your quote should never be longer than one line in a paragraph.

The minute your teacher sees that your quote takes up a large chunk of your paragraph, you’ll have lost marks.

Your teacher will circle the quote, write a snarky comment in the margin, and not even bother to give you points for the key idea in the paragraph.

Avoid quotes, but if you really want to use them, follow those five rules above.

I’ve also provided additional pages outlining Seven tips on how to use Quotes if you want to delve deeper into how, when and where to use quotes in essays. Be warned: quoting in essays is harder than you thought.

The basic essay paragraph structure formula includes: 4-6 sentence paragraphs; a clear topic sentence; useful explanations and examples; a focus on one key idea only; and references to two different academic sources.

Follow the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to getting top marks at university.

Writing essay paragraphs that are well structured takes time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself and keep on trying!

Below is a summary of our 11 key mistakes for structuring essay paragraphs and tips on how to avoid them.

I’ve also provided an easy-to-share infographic below that you can share on your favorite social networking site. Please share it if this article has helped you out!

11 Biggest Essay Paragraph Structure Mistakes you’re probably Making

1.  Your paragraphs are too short 2.  Your paragraphs are too long 3.  Your paragraph alignment is ‘Justified’ 4.  Your paragraphs are missing a topic sentence 5 .  Your paragraphs are missing an explanation sentence 6.  Your paragraphs are missing an example 7.  Your paragraphs are missing references 8.  Your paragraphs are not relevant to the marking criteria 9.  You’re trying to fit too many ideas into the one paragraph 10.  Your sentences are too long 11.  Your quotes are too long


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 10 Critical Theory Examples
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  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 11 Primary Data Examples

4 thoughts on “11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)”

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Hello there. I noticed that throughout this article on Essay Writing, you keep on saying that the teacher won’t have time to go through the entire essay. Don’t you think this is a bit discouraging that with all the hard work and time put into your writing, to know that the teacher will not read through the entire paper?

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Hi Clarence,

Thanks so much for your comment! I love to hear from readers on their thoughts.

Yes, I agree that it’s incredibly disheartening.

But, I also think students would appreciate hearing the truth.

Behind closed doors many / most university teachers are very open about the fact they ‘only have time to skim-read papers’. They regularly bring this up during heated faculty meetings about contract negotiations! I.e. in one university I worked at, we were allocated 45 minutes per 10,000 words – that’s just over 4 minutes per 1,000 word essay, and that’d include writing the feedback, too!

If students know the truth, they can better write their essays in a way that will get across the key points even from a ‘skim-read’.

I hope to write candidly on this website – i.e. some of this info will never be written on university blogs because universities want to hide these unfortunate truths from students.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Regards, Chris

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This is wonderful and helpful, all I say is thank you very much. Because I learned a lot from this site, own by chris thank you Sir.

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Thank you. This helped a lot.

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis Statement

Matt Ellis

A thesis statement is a sentence in a paper or essay (in the opening paragraph) that introduces the main topic to the reader. As one of the first things your reader sees, your thesis statement is one of the most important sentences in your entire paper—but also one of the hardest to write! 

In this article, we explain how to write a thesis statement in the best way possible. We look at what to include and the steps to take for writing your own, along with plenty of thesis statement examples to guide you. 

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What is a thesis statement?

The goal of a thesis statement is to let your reader know what your paper or essay is about. It helps your reader understand the greater context and scope of your topic, plus it lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of the work. 

A secondary benefit of a thesis statement is that it makes it easier to search for papers on a particular topic, especially in the realm of academic writing like research papers and thesis papers (which are sometimes known as dissertations when written for doctoral degrees). For example, if you’re writing a paper of your own, you’ll want to look up other papers to use as evidence and sources . You can simply scan the thesis statements of several papers to see which match your topic and could be worthwhile sources to cite. 

How to write a thesis statement: Basics

Before we get into details, here are the basic steps for how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Develop the best topic to cover in your paper
  • Phrase your topic as a question-and-answer
  • Add some polish

We ’ ll describe each of those steps in more detail below, but we wanted to share a quick guide. Also, we ’ ll provide some thesis statement examples and talk about how to write a thesis statement for different kinds of essays: persuasive, compare-and-contrast, expository, and argumentative essays.

The thesis statement is located at the beginning of a paper, in the opening paragraph, making it an essential way to start an essay . A thesis statement isn’t necessarily the first sentence in an essay; typically you’ll want to hook the reader in an engaging way in the opening sentence before inserting your central idea or argument later in the first paragraph. A thesis statement is often confused with a topic sentence , the first sentence in a paragraph, because they both introduce the central idea of what follows. You can think of thesis statements as the topic sentence of your entire paper.  

What to include in a thesis statement (with examples)

Thesis statements are a necessary part of paper and essay writing , but different formats have different rules and best practices. Below, we break down how to write a thesis statement for the most common types of papers. 

How to write a thesis statement for expository and argumentative essays

Expository and argumentative essays are some of the most common types of academic papers. Because they don’t have a formal abstract like research papers, they rely on their thesis statements to provide an overview of what’s discussed. 

Thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays should use strong and decisive language; don’t be wishy-washy or uncertain. You want to take a stand right in the opening so that your readers understand what your paper is trying to show. 

Moreover, thesis statements for these essays should be specific, with some minor details to hint at the rest of the paper. It’s not enough to merely make your point; you also want to provide some basic evidence or background context to paint a full picture. 

If your paper dives into different subtopics or categories, try to fit them into the thesis statement if you can. You don’t have to get into details here, but it’s nice to mention the different sections at the top so that the reader knows what to expect. 

Thesis statement examples

Despite the taboo, insects make an excellent food source and could stem humanity’s looming food shortage, based on both their protein output and the sustainability of farming them. 

The backlash to rock ’n’ roll music in the ’50s by religious groups and traditionalists actually boosted the genre’s popularity instead of diminishing it as intended.

How to write a thesis statement for persuasive essays

Similar to argumentative essays, persuasive essays follow many of the same guidelines for their thesis statements: decisive language, specific details, and mentions of subtopics. 

However, the main difference is that, while the thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays state facts, the thesis statements for persuasive essays state clear opinions . Still, the format is the same, and the opinions are often treated like facts, including conclusive language and citing evidence to support your claims. 

Furthermore, unlike with other essays, it’s appropriate to make emotional connections in a thesis statement in persuasive essays. This can actually be a clever strategy to start your essay off on a more personal, impactful note. 

Advertising should not be allowed in public schools because it’s a distraction from studies and may lead to misguided priorities among the school board, to say nothing of the materialist culture it promotes. 

Exotic pets provide the same love and companionship as conventional pets, so the laws regulating which animals can and cannot be kept as pets should be more relaxed.

How to write a thesis statement for compare-and-contrast essays

Thesis statements for compare-and-contrast essays are tricky because you have at least two topics to touch on instead of just one. The same general guidelines apply (decisive language, details, etc.), but you need to give equal attention to both your topics—otherwise, your essay will seem biased from the start. 

As always, your thesis statement should reflect what’s written in the rest of your essay. If your essay spends more time comparing than contrasting, your thesis statement should focus more on similarities than differences. 

It sometimes helps to give specific examples as well, but keep them simple and brief. Save the finer details for the body of your essay. 

Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are the two most popular actors to portray James Bond, but both have their own distinct and at times contradictory interpretations of the character. 

How to write a thesis statement in 3 steps

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to sit down and write your own thesis statement. To keep you on track, here are three easy steps to guide you. 

1 Brainstorm the best topic for your essay

You can’t write a thesis statement until you know what your paper is about, so your first step is choosing a topic. 

If the topic is already assigned, great ! That’s all for this step. If not, consider the tips below for choosing the topic that’s best for you:

  • Pick a topic that you’re passionate about. Even if you don’t know much about it, it’ll be easier to learn about it while writing if you’re genuinely interested. 
  • Narrow down your topic to something specific; otherwise, your paper will be too broad and perhaps too long. Just make sure it’s not too specific, or you won’t have enough to write about. Try to find a happy medium. 
  • Check beforehand that there are enough strong, credible sources to use for research. You don’t want to run out of referential material halfway through. 

Once you’ve chosen a topic—and the angle or stance you want to take—then it’s time to put the idea for your thesis sentence into words. 

2 Phrase your topic as a question and then answer it

It’s not always easy to fit your entire thesis into just one sentence, let alone one that’s written clearly and eloquently. Here’s a quick technique to help you get started. 

First, phrase your topic as a question. For example, if you want to write about Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, ask yourself, “What influences did Gandhi have on society after his death?” 

If you already know the answer, write it down—that’s a good start for your thesis statement. If you don’t know the answer, do some preliminary research to find out; you can certainly use what you discover as evidence and sources in your essay’s body paragraphs . 

3 Add some polish

Chances are, your first attempt at a thesis statement won’t be perfect. To get it to its best, try revising , editing , and adding what’s missing. 

Remember the core traits for thesis statements we mentioned above: decisive language, a happy medium of specific but not too specific details, and mention of subtopics. If you’re struggling to contain everything in a single sentence, feel free to move the secondary information to the following sentence. The thesis statement itself should only have what’s most necessary. 

If you’re in doubt, read your thesis statement to a friend and ask them what they think your paper is about. If they answer correctly, your thesis statement does its job. 

Next comes the hard part—writing the rest! While the bulk of the writing lies ahead, at least you’ve nailed down your central idea. To plot out your supporting argument, follow our advice on essay structure and let your ideas flow. 

three sentence essay

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3 Paragraph Essay Example

There are different types of essay writing, such as explanatory, descriptive, argumentative texts, or compare and contrast essays. All of them have own peculiar features and requirements for their structure and organization. However, there is a common characteristic for any of the essay types: the length of an essay has a fixed number of words and paragraphs. The minimal length is 3 paragraph essay example which consists of an introduction, main body, and conclusion.

writing happy

Such expressions as “I am not able to do it” or “It is so hard to do” did not exist for her. She adopted them from her father as well as a credo, “Do not follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you”. M. Thatcher not only raised the economy of Britain to the highest positions in the 1980s but also stimulated about 150 countries throughout the world to follow her methods of governing. As a matter of fact, the so-called “Thatcherism” became the most popular and successful way of governing a country in twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It was so because she knew that the “crowd” was demanding things that were not essential for Britain and the world at that time. She was intended to change everything, and she actually did it because she did not let the public prevail over her. The genuine characteristic of her personality is that her political views were untraditional and radical for those times. She was not afraid of being censured because of her uncompromising position, as opposed to the policy of the most deputies. She believed that saving of low taxes was necessary in order to stimulate citizens to work harder and industriously. Apart from this, she voted for the legalization of abortion and the liberation from the persecution of sexual minorities. She knew that these changes would stun the society but she also understood that it was necessary for Britain. Ultimately, all her actions were always accomplished successfully because she was brave and modern enough to destroy old inefficient ways of governing and bring innovative ideas to life.

To sum up, it is impossible to overvalue her role in the economic and political life of Britain. Yet, her assertiveness, steadfastness, mental quickness and fearlessness in the face of insoluble problems are those features which please thousands of people. It does not matter how much she did for her country because her personality itself is much more interesting and captivating thing to get to know. She always used to say that a person should not give up on herself to become an inspiring example for the others. Indeed, M. Thatcher never stopped doing what she had to do in order to reach important purposes even if no one would appreciate her methods of reaching them.

  • Blundell, J. (2008). Margaret Thatcher: A portrait of the Iron Lady. New York: Algora Pub.
  • Blundell, J. (2013). Remembering Margaret Thatcher: Commemorations, Tributes and Assessments. Algora Publishing.
  • Goodlad, G. D. (2015). Thatcher. Routledge.
  • Thatcher, M. (2010). Margaret Thatcher: The autobiography. New York: Harper Perennial.
  • Vinen, R. (2009). Thatcher’s Britain: The politics and social upheaval of the Thatcher era. London: Simon & Schuster.
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The technology behind Ahrefs’ Paragraph Generator

Ahrefs’ Paragraph Generator uses a language model that learns patterns, grammar, and vocabulary from large amounts of text data – then uses that knowledge to generate human-like text based on a given prompt or input. The generated text combines both the model's learned information and its understanding of the input.

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3rd grade writing samples

by: Jessica Kelmon | Updated: November 27, 2022

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In 3rd grade writing, there’s an emphasis on students’ nonfiction writing being both well-researched and well-organized. Your child’s teacher may introduce various methods to help kids organize their thoughts — from outlining to using Post-it notes and everything in between. These 3rd grade writing samples come from a class where the teacher has the kids use colored paper: pink paper for introductions, yellow paper for supporting reasons (backed by evidence ), and green paper for conclusions. There are a couple of key differences you may notice this year in terms of fundamental 3rd grade skills . For example, while second graders simply write straightforward introductory statements in their reports, third grade writing is supposed to have, “grabby,” or intriguing introductions to pique the reader’s interest. Read more about your third grader’s writing under the Common Core .

Third grade writing sample #1

Saving Water by Bella

In her report, Bella does a great job of writing a “grabby” introduction and making sure that her conclusion relates to her introduction.

Third grade writing sample #2

Saving Water by Cade

Notice how Cade includes details in his introduction. He also includes many supporting reasons, also called evidence from the text, in his report. Using evidence is an essential skill that continues to be a focus every year.

Third grade writing sample #3

Saving Water by Laura

Third graders are taught to emphasize the content and organization of their writing. Making edits to spelling and grammar are considered a final step — and aren’t quite as important as getting their ideas on paper. As you read Laura’s report, you may notice the spelling corrections (like the dark “c” in “faucet”) that she makes at the end, after concentrating on her introduction, supporting reasons, and conclusion.

See more examples of real kids’ writing in different grades: Kindergarten , first grade , second grade , fourth grade , fifth grade .

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Three Sentence Examples

Put three in each shoe.

All three girls laughed.

There are three small rooms up stairs.

I have over three thousand acres.

Three days later the issue was settled.

It had been two years since their mother had died - three since their father had run off with that harlot.

She had the job she had planned for the last three years.

You've been working for me for almost three months now and this is the first time I've ever seen you sick.

I was hoping I was simply a few weeks late, but it's been over three now and then this started.

Three men talking to each other on a sidewalk certainly wasn't enough to tell the police – except Len.

There was an old treadle sewing machine with carved drawers and even a grandfathers' clock, stating the permanent time of three p.m.

I belong to Bailum & Barney's Great Consolidated Shows-- three rings in one tent and a menagerie on the side.

But we're only three days out of Ashley - at the most.

We'd have waited for you, but we was outnumbered three to one and didn't have time to look for you.

Three empty bedrooms were closed off to the heat, as well as a full bath that looked as though it hadn't been used in years.

I have only three possible answers.

Why, you have only seen him three times!

It was almost three O'clock in the afternoon and her stomach was screaming for something to eat.

I have plans too, you know - and they don't include dropping out three months short of graduation.

I know you love me, but when people find out I lived with the Indians for three years...

Our route scooted between Pennsylvania and Virginia for three hours until we crossed into West Virginia and traded a major highway for winding secondary roads.

And yet, it had been her goal for over three years.

She turned around and walked three steps before it hit her.

The three of them walked abreast along a narrow road consisting of no more than two bare strips of dirt in the grass.

He told me he got on a ship in Galveston and sailed for three years.

Was this what I experienced for three years?

We were forced to stop on three different occasions as Howie, a back seat passenger, became frequently nauseous.

That's where the three of us grew up.

In three days we all fulfilled our dreams.

I assure you, I have managed to contact all but three and if I located them I would get down on my knees before them and beg forgiveness, just like I've done with the others .

I served my time, all twelve years, three months and sixteen days of it, but it pales in the face of suffering I poured on these young ladies.

As the baby of the three , he'd always been the rock star among them.

For decades, teams of three hardy fools had tried to knock each other senseless with high pressure fire hoses, while the spectators tried to escape the cross fire.

She'd break up with Logan and die in three months.

You extended my life over three years after the others said I had a few months.

Living for three years after a diagnosis of dying in a month weird?

The highways were quiet on the Monday mid-morning, and they drove the three hours faster than she was expecting.

The three third floor rooms contained six ice climbers while Donald Ryland remained in the small first floor quarters.

He placed one upon the floor, so that it could run around, and pulled apart the other, making three piglets in all; and then one of these was pulled apart, making four piglets.

All three got into the buggy and Zeb picked up the reins, though Jim needed no guidance of any sort.

The Gargoyles were very small of stature, being less than three feet in height.

But although the Munchkin was hardly tall enough to come to Zeb's shoulder he was so strong and clever that he laid the boy three times on his back with apparent ease.

At three o'clock the Throne Room was crowded with citizens, men, women and children being eager to witness the great trial.

Two or three other shepherds joined him in the search.

They show that three toes have been lost from the left forefoot.

King Solomon lived three thousand years ago.

The schoolhouse was two or three miles from home, but he did not mind the long walk through the woods and over the hills.

There was something which she wished very much to know before going home, and so, without thinking, she had leaned over and whispered just three little words.

Then, suddenly, an awkward half-grown boy who sat right in front of the master's desk turned squarely around and whispered to Tommy Jones, three desks away.

There was one such king who had four sons, Ethelbald, Ethelbert, Ethelred, and Alfred. The three older boys were sturdy, half-grown lads; the youngest, Alfred, was a slender, fair-haired child.

It tried three times, four times, a dozen times, twenty times--but always with the same result.

Sometimes he carried three or four bags to the palace where the little king of France lived with his mother.

Be they many or few, you may have all for three pieces of silver.

Around 430 BC, Athens, embroiled in the Second Peloponnesian War, endured three years of epidemics that wiped out a third of its inhabitants.

In parts of the world where these three ingredients exist, we have seen prosperity rise.

I describe these three situations because each, in its own way, illustrates how I think the future will play out regarding income and wealth.

He was wearing his long coat with three stars on his breast.

There were three metal objects with dials and switches; machines I'll call them, from which the wires ran.

Three of us sat around the table while Quinn continued to read in a corner rocker.

We mutually agreed the subject of our tests was verboten until we were able to get together again in three weeks hence.

Martha looked at it longingly while the three of us emptied one in no time with Quinn doening the lion's share.

He's never out more than ten to twenty minutes at a time and three or four sessions make a heavy day.

Betsy and I were more shocked at the buried animosity that the other three must have witnessed over the past few weeks.

Two for three was never the less remarkable.

It took three tries before we were satisfied our information was in believing hands.

Unfortunately, it occurred over night and we couldn't fix the time in spite of three attempts to do so.

We buckled down and managed three sessions.

Three calls were telephoned from Boston, New York and Connecticut while two were made on untraceable phones.

Our group conducted only three cases as we now called them and none were noteworthy.

The house was far too large for us with five bedrooms and three baths but Betsy had plans!

There were three bedrooms and an open concept kitchen dining area with a cathedral ceiling.

Additionally, there was a delightful backyard and three acres of land.

The main floor exhibited three offices which we stocked with multiple secure computers.

We couldn't do anything because abduction wasn't made public for three days and the child went missing sometime during a twelve hour overnight period.

Three weeks later, baby Claire Elizabeth LeBlanc was baptized at St. Bernard's Catholic Church with Betsy and Ben Gustefson as godparents.

We stood back to back, holding hands and baby-stepped three hundred and sixty degrees, taking in the breath taking scene in all directions.

We left the building to Betsy as the three Leblanc's were yet to arrive.

We were met by three inquisitive stares.

Three . He killed the mother and father so there was no one to report their daughter missing, for nearly a week.

I queued my way past three minions before the stern voice growled, Reagan' in my ear.

I listed three facts conveyed to three different police agencies that she could call and confirm.

It was summer, a wonderful time of year in New Hampshire and on Friday, three weeks after her first visit, Julie returned to Keene.

That must be three hundred and fifty miles from here!

Going three thousand miles away sounds like a good idea for you folks, even if it's only for a couple of days.

The three of us packed for three days only, as if so limiting our clothing changes would force our return more quickly.

There was no window and the only ornaments were crucifixes on three walls.

The pastor continued as if we hadn't taken nearly a three hour break, mostly continuing his sermon.

What about the three name fellow we were discussing before dinner?

Betsy booked three adjoining room, on the first floor, with a view of the pool.

Nervous fingers necessitated three tries.

We assumed all three had left together and gone into hiding.

I unwearyingly followed the three to that horrid mall and waited for my chance.

The three of us were outside and secure in my new van without further incident.

It's only two or three miles.

Again the wave moved as one when the three were sighted.

Just the three of us are in residence, soon to be two.

We had world war three over it.

She stood across the parking lot, talking to three suited men.

Real estate records were scoured for any known relative of the now deceased murderer in an attempt to locate family owned property, a difficult chore as mother Grasso wedded three men and lived with countless others.

Our case of water bottles, down three from the original two dozen would need to be rationed.

It definitely wasn't because he was the most patient of the three brothers.

She'd automatically made enough dinner for three after cooking for Kyle and Jonny for three months.

We tracked three hundred that flew into Miami or Orlando.

That gives you three hours.

They moved towards the three .

It'll smell like a whale died in here now, and I've only got three more Tahoes that survived the hurricane.

I've already had three bowls of stew!

The manor stretched into three long wings.

She was surprised to see three people within, none of whom looked like they fit in the refined, elegant spaces of the parlor.

They waited for Xander to return with the three vamps trailing him.

I'll be gone in three and a half weeks.

While only three feet apart, the space felt immeasurable.

She paused to listen, looked at the ground, and changed directions three times before she heard the sound of water flowing.

He brought three more bags while she spread the woodchips around the monument.

Damian lifted his head, indicating the three forms standing at the top of the hill.

To the three of them, the drastic changes that occurred over such a short time span after thousands of years of no change were a warning sign.

Embarrassed by her words and the tears streaming down her face, she ran past him and up the stairs leading to the second floor, issuing a cry of frustration when she realized she didn't know which of the three wings led to her room.

To maintain our operations, three more.

I have three eyes instead of two?

She had checked off three of the seven exercises she'd learned from the books she read.

Three men stood in the main foyer, two in the same shade of brown as her bodyguard and a striking man in designer jeans and an expensive sweater.

We had three in the last class, more than we've seen in a few hundred years.

All three were gunned down.

Let them sweat for a day, then do whatever you want with the three .

They complied, and the three women sat in lawn chairs.

I've been living in the bachelor pad with the guys for three months now.

There were three sets of numbers written in green ink on his palm.

He entered three codes and crossed through three doors, walked down a hall too narrow for him to walk straight, and retreated to his room.

The three moved with her, Pierre speaking tersely in French on the phone.

Jule ignored the three men trailing them and ushered her into the armored Tahoe.

The driver sped away before the door closed, and she twisted around to see the three men watching them.

Their faces lit up at the sight of Jule, and Sofia trailed him in, watching as the three clapped each other on the shoulders and hugged.

She opened her eyes to find all three gazing at her with similar guarded looks.

Damian flipped the lights on, and the three of them gathered at the table.

He followed a familiar path through a narrowing hall and looked at his palm for the three codes written in green ink there.

A dark shape moved from the rocks while three more fanned out from the sides.

He appeared calm and in control again, if not relaxed, with the only three men he'd ever trusted.

Darian's disapproving gaze mirrored Damian's, and Sofia hid her face against Damian's chest as the three men facing her gave her similar looks.

She roused herself, surprised to see the other three had disappeared at some point.

I'll count to three .

Her eyes dropped to what was left of the other three then flew up to the wall.

There are three bonds that are older than time.

When no one did, she paced three doors down and paused.

Three , he paused, studying her.

This world had been all she knew three weeks ago.

She ended up in her room as expected and left for the girl's room three doors down.

Curious to see how the girl was, Deidre walked three doors down and paused.

Now, thanks to an overzealous social worker, Martha was scheduled to become reacquainted with mommy dearest—in Denver, over three hundred miles away from Bird Song's nest.

The three largest quarters were located on the third floor, all presently booked by the two Dawkins brothers and wives, one pair of whom was not sleeping with his mate.

Three of 'em came in the door and they knocked her down and hit her—after she tossed the toaster at them.

When the meal ended and the dishes were put to bed, the three withdrew to the parlor, now empty of guests who were either dining uptown or waiting in line to do so.

Dean grabbed a bottle of inexpensive merlot and three glasses.

The phone rang, causing all three to jump, thinking it might be Martha.

Dean was loading three full sacks in the rear of his Jeep when he was surprised to see Ginger Dawkins several yards away.

The three were once again rocking away on the front porch.

There had been no mention of the lack of contact from the girl, but all three were disappointed no call had been received.

Never mind there were only three hundred die-hard fans with nothing else to do in attendance for the end of the year outing of a last place team.

That's what they've been doing for the past three years.

Monday was transition day at Bird Song, with the arrival of six new guests to fill three vacated rooms, with only the four Dawkins, Brandon Westlake, and Pumpkin Green staying on.

Fred O'Connor, with three silver-haired lady friends in tow, clustered around the backyard picnic table.

The three were north of sixty and involved with Fred's research activities.

It was a fun dinner—he didn't even burn the buns—and he had at least three votes locked in place.

Mr. Dean wished he felt a modicum of confidence in himself as the three drifted off to sleep—David and Cynthia Dean, with SB, the Bird Song owl, snuggled next to them.

Fred grumbled as he poured three glasses.

There were at least three different footprints but they were marred and nearly indistinguishable.

To escape the smiling innkeeper role, he plodded barefoot out back to the small patio, fired up the barbeque, popped the cap on the first of the last three Fat Tire Ales and stretched out on Cynthia's chaise.

She glanced down at the three bottles and his mid-section.

The top was still off, allowing additional room, but he still felt three or four trips lay ahead.

The Dawkins have three rooms for four people.

The number fell to three when a dinnertime caller remembered someone opening their purchase in the parking lot.

Over dessert, the Bird Song Three received the report.

But questions remained—the big three unknowns of who, why, and when.

The three entered the Dean's office.

It was repeated for three weeks.

He and Paul died in the same hospital, three days apart.

Liz plopped a straw hat with a red, white, and blue band on Dean's head just as three jets in close formation screamed overhead, buzzing the town in a deafening roar.

Each team has three members, a lead person and two back-ups.

Fred O'Connor was in the living room, hosting three of the four Dawkins, with Ginger missing, when the Deans returned to their bed and breakfast.

The way was totally familiar— twice today, three times in as many days.

Fred's changed his bow tie three times and you're bouncing around here like a November turkey.

It's owned by three guys who live in Denver.

Dean returned to Bird Song mid-morning, showered, and walked the three blocks to Diversions, a combination used book store, coffee shop, and local gathering place, on Sixth Street, a half block from Main.

He recognized Roger as one of the three .

The three men shook their heads no.

One of the three owners of the storage building is named Fitzgerald!

While Cynthia hemmed and hawed about the most diplomatic way to suggest that the Dawkinses might billet down to two rooms from the three they now occupied, the situation cured itself.

Paul was number three in the computer line, behind Brandon Westlake, and brother Joseph.

She was the victor of Vegas to the tune of three hundred dollars, and called to invite Fred out to spend the spoils.

The guests of longer term, the three remaining Dawkinses and Brandon Westlake, were all absent.

The three went to Fred's temporary quarters in Martha's small first-floor room to compose the message.

If love alone was a measurement of success, the future of the three had a small measure hope.

His guess had been three days.

This isn't three hundred souls.

The thought of the Dark One reminded Gabriel that he lost three death-dealers to him in the course of a week, not to mention the deal Deidre made.

He counted a total of seven missing, including the three known traitors.

We rescued three hundred souls.

Figured out three more.

You're certain about the bottom three ?

The top three and bottom three seem pretty solid to me.

In the course of three days, the goddess had almost learned to see him as an equal while her human side no longer in denial about her destiny.

In three days, Darkyn may come on behalf of his mate to collect by any means necessary.

If Gabriel didn't fall in love with Deidre in three days, he would be betrayed once more.

The pain she was in or the situation where she might lose her soul in three days.

In three days' time, she'd not only lose her soul, she'd lose Gabriel, too, this time for good.

The woman in the bed behind him had taken three days to warn him about the human left in Hell.

Deidre tested them three times but was afraid of pissing off Gabriel by disobeying him so early in the day.

The girl tapped his arm then held up three fingers, the sign she'd made to mean Wynn.

Darkyn was one finger, his mate two fingers and Wynn three .

We're going to make a little deal, the three of us.

In the last week he had been out on night calls three times.

There were only three things that mattered to her – Alex, Jonathan and Destiny.

Random was three now and Dawn was almost two.

I paid him for three bushes.

She picked up three eggs and put them into the basket.

He'd stuck by her for over three years, though.

Got word the inevitable is coming in three months or so.

She could pay it this month or put the three hundred dollars towards a one-way ticket to wherever she wanted to be when she died.

Twelve hours and forty three souls later, Gabriel gave up on the icons.

She passed three face painting clowns before she gave in and decided to have her own done.

It was three o'clock.

Ma'am, that's a three hour drive.

Her hands fumbled with the keys three times before she managed to unlock the door.

She passed the three quarters point, and tears filled her gaze.

He gathered the three daggers that survived.

She took three steps away from her cave.

Only two or three people ever see your file, Ileana added.

You have flirted with Death for three years now.

Instead of a slow, fifty year death, it'll be three years.

I gave her three months, but it's probably generous, given her sunny nature.

Hopefully, I'm dead in three months.

Three were thrust at her.

She wasn't sure why she expected either from him, except that she still held half a hope that she might live beyond three months.

She didn't believe for one minute he was going to find a way to prevent her from dying in three months.

My offer is good whether you expire in three months or an eternity.

Whether I have three months or an eternity, I'm not going to stop fighting to live on my terms.

All three of them were tense.

The three eldest sons on the Council were dead.

The result of a deity breaking one of the three is basically the destruction of the world.

He'd spent the past three nights in bed with another woman after completely destroying her whole world!

I want to hear the woman who lives by the motto of no apologies, no regrets, who told me once that her own soul searching taught her to live, doesn't want my help turning that three months into eternity.

If I knew three years ago, I might not have trusted Wynn.

One percent now is better than zero percent in three months.

There were three then five voices with a sixth calling the police and the seventh hugging the sobbing kid.

He gave her an amused look, then poured her three shots worth of whiskey and handed it to her.

His three other half brothers were already present and waiting, Erik pacing, Kiki at the table, and Tamer busy with his PDA.

It was three months' salary, though Hannah had added it to the black AmEx her fiancé paid in full every month without a second thought.

She reached into her pocket and pulled out one of the three water cubes and the remaining sugary cube.

Only then did her senses register the three men before her, the alley, and the familiar bloodlust in their glowing eyes.

She cried out, and the other three pried him off.

Three forms with glowing tattoos were moving slowly toward the road, stopping to sift through the dead bodies.

The three creatures continued to hunt through the fallen, sometimes eating, most of the times pushing body parts aside in search of something.

The three creatures made a run for the stairs.

At the first taste, she wolfed it and three more pieces down until the edge of her hunger disappeared.

You gave me three conditions, not two.

Evaluating each other, the three creatures stood in tight silence before Rhyn spoke at last.

Three weeks ago, he.d bargained his soul in exchange for her taking Rhyn off her list of those to be made dead-dead.

In all the years he.d served her, she.d never owned him until three weeks ago.

She couldn.t eat, feeling more stressed than she had in the past three weeks.

She visited the small café and dropped three boxed lunches into a tote bag along with extra cocoa and marshmallows in case Toby woke up soon.

Their brothers were already there, three of them sitting across the table from Sasha.

He.d paced in front of her chamber at some point every day for three weeks, wanting to tell her something, anything, to make her want to stay.

Kiki glared at him, but Rhyn knew this brother to be the easiest of the three to sway.

Three pairs of eyes went to Rhyn, who stood ready to take on any of them that mentioned leaving the Council.

Kiki tucked his iPad under his arm and opened a portal through which all three went before Rhyn followed.

The Ancient Kris probably contacted the other three , because we only have about forty Immortal refugees here now.

She vaguely recognized the other three and knelt beside the statue of Rhyn, who was no older than Toby had been the day before.

He crossed the distance between them in three strides and slapped her hard.

For the first time since arriving over three weeks ago, she missed her cavernous chamber.

For the first time in three weeks, she felt safe and relieved as she looked around the tiny room that had been hers when she first arrived.

Beating his wings so hard they hurt, he rose into the sky and soared around the small island, finally spotting three lone figures in small valley not too far from the Sanctuary.

All three whirled, and Katie.s eyes lit up.

Romas had tossed her in bed more than once over the past three months, though he had stopped lecturing her on how unbecoming a lush was to a man looking for a wife.

Evelyn brought the last of three trays to the table.

But … you've only known each other for three months!

Two of the three you left me.

Here's your cut-- two thousand and forty three dollars, Kevin said, and counted out the money on the desk.

I've got three more completed.

Kiera had suspected Romas to be independently wealthy by his complete lack of concern for being anywhere but with Evelyn for the last three months.

The small man waited next to A'Ran's trusted second-in-command, Ne'Rin, whose sister was one of the three before him.

None of the three beauties was she, or he'd know.

He felt nothing like this when he looked at the three women.

Jetr, the only Council member he trusted, had been an ally for three generations of his family without appearing to age.

They'd been praying that the last three women would yield his nishani.

After Kiera's three months of tormenting him, he would find turning the tables satisfying.

She hung back when she reached the other three warriors in the hall watching the scene in the room.

She'd avoided the galley Evelyn had tried for three days to drag her to and said it would prove they were on a ship after she challenged Evelyn to prove it wasn't a dream.

What had appeared to be a thick, gold, hard band of about three inches in width had molded around her arm and felt no heavier than the clothing she wore.

The galley was occupied by three hulking men at a table.

The three warriors at the table relocated several chairs down.

She felt silly standing in it with the three warrior strangers around her, waiting for something to happen that never did.

Three massive warriors escorted a fourth whose hands were bound.

The invitation was addressed to all three of them.

I will help you on three conditions.

They made it several doors before three of Romas's clan charged around the corner of a nearby intersection.

The giants battled, and she couldn't help feeling awed by the prisoner's abilities as he met the blows of all three foes and remained standing.

It might take all three sisters to rein her in, if even their hands were firm enough.

His three sisters knelt over his lifemate's still form.

Yes, he had named three conditions, and yes, she remembered agreeing after that fantastic kiss.

They battled with great vigor and exaggeration to the cheering of the three younger boys until one turned and noticed her.

Three of the boys nodded vigorously in agreement.

Two men populated each circle, sparring with each other, while the other two or three watched.

Excited to see that even this world had video games, she sat in the chair behind the buttons and screen, studying all three in an attempt to figure out how the game worked.

In the past three days, he hadn't made a single change before releasing the plans to his battle commanders.

There are three levels of fighter ships.

Two slowed to keep pace with her while the other three went on ahead.

Yes, there are about three billion.

She set the knife down on the edge and circled the fountain again until she'd reviewed all three of the pictographs where the female figure held a dagger.

Mansr tripped, taking all three of them down.

Three figures emerged to block her path.

She watched him systematically behead or run through the three men, her stomach churning at the sight of so much death.

She'd cried for two days before finally realizing on day three that no one was coming for her.

The three bands lit up and faded, and all three men dropped their arms.

The three largest of these quarters were located on the third floor.

The box, advertised as containing Ouray, Colorado correspondence from the last century and "other items of local interest," was offered via the Internet at three hundred dollars.

Before stooping to retrieve them, she handed three one hundred dollar notes to Cynthia.

The three sat at the table amid the warm smells of chocolate and apples, the Deans looking expectantly.

In the eighteen-nineties Ouray had three thousand people living in town, three or four times as many as today.

One note described in two sentences a Sunday trip to the Public Gardens while another mentioned three years had passed since the sisters had seen one another.

Cynthia buttered her toast while Dean dribbled orange blossom honey on three leftover rolls from last night's supper.

And now she's snoring like a bum after a three day drunk.

The famous million dollar highway, which climbed three mountain passes before ending seventy-odd miles later in Durango, was spectacular by anyone's definition, more so after a fresh winter snow.

Dean tried to picture the bustling town of a century past, at one time home to a dozen saloons, four restaurants, a newspaper, nearly three hundred houses and more than a thousand inhabitants.

Dean managed the luggage in three trips from their rental car while Cynthia and Fred handled the paper work and showed the women their quarters.

She excused herself to prepare supper for the three residents.

Three hundred dollars seems much too high.

There were four five-dollar gold pieces and three two-dollar and fifty-cent coins.

Just then, Edith returned to the room, holding out three crisp one hundred dollar bills, which she thrust toward Claire who reached out and snatched them, without so much as a thank-you, stuffing them in her purse.

She then pushed the three smaller denomination coins across the coffee table toward Fred.

While the need for such meetings wasn't as dire or sinister as the first few days after Bird Song's opening, the three still gathered here, away from the guests, especially when they wished to discuss one or more of their paying customers beyond their prying ears.

And," she added, " three gold coins.

These were the first three characters used on the first page of the notebook and the combination appeared with regularity throughout the book.

Better yet—sell it to her, for another three hundred bucks!

The three north-side second floor rooms contained Fred, Gladys Turnbull and a pretty female climber named Penny.

Just as batch number three of muffins was ready, Effie stuck her head in the kitchen, looking over her shoulder, even more nervously than usual.

You can spend three hundred bucks on a good one.

Though he was away only a half hour, Cynthia displayed three new pages of transcription.

Three times what we paid you for it!

When he finished the chores, he swallowed three aspirins and went outside to shovel the accumulating snow, hoping further activity might dissipate the anger he felt, not only at Shipton, but at himself for losing it in so public and childish manner.

We've got about three feet of snow out there that needs shoveling.

He tossed her an it's-all-right and, ignoring three more strangers in suits and the crowded parlor, went directly to the phone.

Three or four miles from town, the roadway opened and he slowed, allowing the warmth of the day to soak into his stiff body.

Cynthia smiled as soon as the three were alone.

All three looked like front of the liners at a Santa Claus hand-out.

She had joined the three hosts for a game of dominoes when Bird Song welcomed a new guest.

During the two weeks there was a Mexican dinner at the Catholic church, a couple of movies, three evenings at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and even a day of downhill skiing at Telluride.

It's pushing three weeks now and I hardly ever get the shakes anymore.

They had been in New England for a mere three months, but Sarah had fallen fast and hard for Connor.

It's three -thirty; I'll be gone two or three hours tops.

Jackson knew he had his work cut out for him in order to be back in less than three hours.

This is yours if you get those puppies bagged and ready to go in under three minutes.

So, you gave up on feeding and bought three suits you don't want?

While contemplating whether Freckles would be worth having to influence the other three or not, Jackson caught sight of someone in his peripheral vision.

On three occasions, he merely influenced his victims, quickly fed, and made them forget him.

Jackson told her that he and his sister moved back to Fairhaven three months ago, and their home had been in the family for generations.

Elisabeth pulled into the drive at three minutes to six.

Connor Poe was a handsome man by anyone's standards, however, the other three were in a league of their own.

Jackson walked around taking in the art, and searching for three oils he intended to buy.

The three brought the supplies down and set them up in one corner of the room.

She pulled the other three paintings out, and to Jackson's amazement had chosen correctly.

The other three were sitting with their drinks and his sat on the table in front of Elisabeth.

I have all three in my bedroom.

A group of four coeds sat three rows in front of him whispering about the hot guy, until one got up the nerve to talk to him.

The three sat, Sarah inquiring about their day.

The other three were silent for a moment while what he said sunk in, then all at once they started laughing.

All three stood amazed at the sight before them.

Every year, the full moon in January is the Wolf Moon and there is a three day festival that all werewolves attend… kind of our high holiday.

She opened a bottle of Jack Daniels and set out three glasses.

Jackson found the other three in the kitchen.

I have court; I'll see you around three .

The three stood looking at each other, speechless, until Jackson broke the silence in his best Hispanic accent, "Lucy… you got some splainin' to do."

By day three , Connor had lost consciousness.

When she returned, she cooked dinner for the three of them.

The three sat in the kitchenette of the holding cell since Sarah refused to leave Connor, even for a minute.

Fine. I am three hundred and twelve years old.

All three dropped their jaws.

Connor now belonged in the same league physically as the other three .

The other three laughed and Jackson offered, "Don't forget Christmas is coming."

The other three all raised their eyebrows at her.

He enjoyed listening, though music did not feed his soul as it did the other three .

He parked the car near the door to the warehouse, and the three entered without speaking.

All three smelled vampires.

All three mourned as they hovered over Jackson's lifeless body.

The other three looked at each other hoping someone would take the lead.

She looked to be about twenty-two or three .

The nickname had been given him by three other salesmen at the office.

Anyway, I suppose I owe him something for the three years he bossed me around.

Three pair of blue eyes stared back at her from the first stall, and tiny pink cleft muzzles lifted in a cute imitation of their mother's broken cry of joy.

If so, she didn't give him time to pursue anything else for the next three days.

In only three more days he'd be gone.

Three more days and she'd have the dairy back to herself again.

The next three days flew by without incident - probably because they were all too busy to start any mischief.

Three weeks, and they hadn't heard a word from him.

Beauty everywhere I look - and to think I only have three days to enjoy it.

Three stories tall, the old mill stood picturesquely at the edge of the river, an old metal one-lane bridge at one side beckoned travelers to visit the lush pastures on the other side.

I thought three days was being a pretty bold.

I've been out here since about three this morning.

Then I have to come back here and I'll be out of the country for about three weeks on a sales trip - the last one.

Three of the dogs ignored the feast, intent on her progress toward the barn.

He's been globe trotting for the last three weeks.

Three goats were on the porch.

No brush grew within three feet of the fence.

She chose three summer-weight uniforms, three winter-weight uniforms, and enough undergarments for two weeks.

All of the attacks occurred between three fifteen in the morning and four thirty.

She twisted in her seat to face General Greene, one of the three people on the compound authorized by the manic commander to be present in the command hub alone.

There are only three of us here with access to that level of information, and I'm ordering you to do it.

She reached the command hub to find the general pacing in front while three guards waited a short distance from him.

The general signaled the three guards over and pulled her out of the way.

The light around the doorframe went dark, and the three opened fire.

The enigmatic Tim's request for a favor was readily granted after three generations of both their families working together towards the PMF's goals of national unity.

There were three people with access to the keypads, and one was sleeping in the barracks from too much drugs.

Where were the other three ?

One of those with access was declared unfit; did he have enough scruples left to steal and hide three more keypads?

Three bodies were laid out in a row beside it.

Lana neared, forcing her gaze away from the three bodies as she waited.

Now, focus on locating the other three keypads.

He hadn't responded to her calls in over three days.

Their gear was strung across three other beds, much to the doctor's irritation.

They were all three bioengineered soldiers, thick-bodied and towering over her.

If the helo ride hadn't taken three hours, she would have thought they never left.

Soon after, the men in black mowed down two of Dan's men, and the three of them were left to fend for themselves.

Only three of us had access to them.

I packed enough food for Jack for three days.

Dan and Elise were there with three others.

The decision was made at levels higher than mine that we are sending in everything we have in three days.

There are three within about a week's walk.

We've mapped about twenty possible routes to the three facilities.

Each facility is within three days' walk of three more facilities with another twenty possible routes.

Several soldiers—two in grays and three in black uniforms—approached the bonfire, speaking with the men gathered in a group on one side.

Two of which lead towards known emerops facilities about two to three days out.

There are three cities along the Mississippi.

So we have three to check in the box we identified, if we include the one in Randolph.

Everyone was going into one of three buildings.

Lana glanced at Mike as he released her and dashed into the nearest of the three buildings.

There were three PMF soldiers inside and a small submarine.

Brady turned to see his friend leading three medics.

It's taking three so-called experts way too long to figure it out.

Brady could picture the politician glowering at the three men he towered over.

I shut down the satellites supporting comms on the East Coast, but it'll only take another two or three minutes before the backups on the sats are enabled.

He counted to three then ran.

Three men leapt out, a blond man in PMF grays flanked by two fed special security members.

I'll count to three , girl.

Death was waiting for Gabriel when he dozed off.  He'd planned on staying awake and moving so she wouldn't catch up to them, but even he needed a short nap after three straight days of grueling travel in the underworld.

Another small smile crossed her face, and she sat down.  Gabe left her, knowing even if she did sleep, it wouldn't be long.  Death may have ignored their presence in her domain for three days, but something had made her reach out to him now.  He knew they'd have problems at some point and only hoped he could get Katie out of the underworld, before his own fate was sealed.

Toby's hand was all that felt real after the past three days.

The words had become his mantra over the past three days.

He handed the demon a small pouch that contained the concentrated magic of Hell.  One pouch wasn't enough to break through Death's weakened barriers, but three would.

He'd lost three days already.  Four was cutting it close.

He didn't have three more days' worth of control.  The idea he'd likely explode before Death delivered Katie made him feel fear, an emotion he hated and hadn't felt until responsible for the life of someone he cared about.

It's been three days!  You and Kris couldn't get along for three days?

She won't need to break the Immortal Codes and return your mate to you, because in the next three days, you'll be out of her hair.

They walked towards the beach that had formed his prison for three days in the real world.

They were given reasonable service and whispered offers to, "Stay three nights, the next one's free, and we'll give you a receipt for four."

Each was a father to three kids, aged between tot and teenager.

He could imagine the difficulty in supporting a fam­ily of three on the figure.

Naw. Jeff would hit all of the districts a few times a year, spend two, sometimes three days depending on the need.

The most curious looker, who sat at the first desk, scurried to an empty desk three stations away and began rummaging through the drawers.

A large drawer on the left side of the desk contained files on various branch offices of the company while the drawers on the right, three in all, contained blank paper, company circulars and a few maps.

I'm working on wife number three and I think she's working on somebody else.

Norfolk called three times today.

Dean rushed to the Philadelphia hospital where three days later a third heart attack claimed the woman's life.

The reports went back nearly three years and listed dates, locations and dollars expended, with each entry carefully and man­ually recording names, locations, reasons for visits and persons present.

She rarely combed her hair, owned no more than three or four shapeless dresses, which appeared in all seasons, most of which were stained and wrinkled.

He named two or three prominent lawyers Dean knew.

Never mind he spent three years constantly riding the bench, hoping against hope for a miracle, as he practiced, cheered and hustled with unbridled enthusiasm.

But his play was as sharp as usual as he handled a hard ground ball to his left, cleanly gunning the runner out by three steps.

Detective David Dean had been seeing Attorney Ethel Rosewater three or four times a month for more than two years.

He felt like a packaged pound of dog meat after slightly less than three hours sandwiched in his warm and comfortable bed between Ethel Rosewater's last frenzied spasm of pleasure and the screaming alarm clock.

The suitcase contained three sets of under­wear and socks, all neatly folded and strapped in place with an elastic cord.

The closet contained a second suit and three shirts, each on its own hanger with a necktie looped over it.

The office confirmed he and Byrne went out to have a drink or three , just the two of them.

Vinnie Baratto was the star running back for three years.

The unearthly shrill of the telephone shattered the scene, once, twice, three times before Dean clawed at the instrument and grumbled something.

I ain't slept like in three days...I ain't even eaten!

If the twins had been in the hands of the family for three days, two more wouldn't matter.

He's called three or four times.

The first three letters are SXX.

One of the three 'Smiths' of the group list­ed his auto registration with the telltale 'SXX.'

The last three dig­its were similar, but different.

There were three in all—Room 15, to the left, had been rented twice.

All three rentals listed two occupants.

Let's go back three months, she said with a twinkle in her eye.

A check of the records listed 22 individuals who had ordered the paper from out of town over the last three months.

He unobtrusively managed to locate all of the three renters of the adjoining rooms through their license plate numbers and was able to speak to two of them.

They left around three .

Three men, at three sepa­rate tables, evidently on the road for business, were all dining alone.

After a late lunch on the run, Dean spent most of the after­noon interviewing a burglary victim only three blocks from his Collingswood Avenue home.

Me and Billie and Willie had these three broads lined up but the twins had this job to do first.

Three more telephone calls to Cece Baldwin were as unsuc­cessful as the first and Dean spent the rest of the evening poring over the Byrne file.

She wouldn't normally have rented on that basis but he sent her three months payment, in cash, and she left a key in an agreed location.

I saw the two or three letters in there.

Cleary had bumped into him only twice, maybe three times but he had no recollection of the dates.

I cried for three days.

Dean sped up to 80 miles an hour and turned across three lanes to an exit while the Ford tried vainly, but unsuccessfully, to follow.

The first sign of the ground Dean spotted was a rain puddle reflecting the glow from the lights of the plane as the wheels touched the runway—one, two, three times before the tired air­craft glided to the taxiway.

He made two or three false starts before he located the elusive narrow path through the thorny brush that separated the beach from the road beyond it.

It says right here, 'One large patch, three small ones and a tube of gunk to stick 'em with.

It was three miles before he came to a closed gas station, but there was a phone booth outside.

I must have been there three hours.

That's a lot of heat for a lousy two or three million.

When Snow stepped in on disc number three , he knew that too— the date of the jam, who was on vibes, snares and keyboard.

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This synopsis of Gift of the Magi literary terms includes the terms referenced directly from the short story. This well known story, created by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) and first published in 1906, shows the selfishness or foolishness of a young couple at Christmas time. Eager to please the other with a spectacular gift, they sell their most prized possessions to have enough money to purchase the other a gift. She sells her hair to buy him a watch fob ; he sells his watch to buy her tortoise shell hair combs.

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Justices Search for Middle Ground on Mandatory Sentences for Gun Crimes

A federal law imposes a mandatory 15-year sentence for possessing a gun after committing three serious drug offenses. But which offenses count?

The exterior of the Supreme Court building under a clear sky.

By Adam Liptak

Reporting from Washington

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday over which drug offenses trigger mandatory 15-year sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act , which is a kind of federal three-strikes law.

The justices had three choices. By the end of the arguments, most of them seemed to have settled on a middle ground.

The law imposes the mandatory sentences on people convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms if they had already committed three violent felonies or serious drug offenses. The question for the justices was how to determine which drug offenses count under the law, which refers to a schedule of controlled substances overseen by the attorney general.

That schedule is revised from time to time, giving rise to the puzzle in the case.

Depending on which version of the schedule applies, a state drug conviction may or may not count as a strike under the federal gun law. Lawyers in the two consolidated cases on Monday gave the justices three options for deciding which schedule applied: the one in force when the defendant committed the state drug offense, the one in place when the defendant committed the federal gun crime or the one that applied when the defendant was sentenced for the federal gun crime.

The first case involved Justin Brown, whose lawyer argued in favor of the third position. Several justices seemed unpersuaded.

“Why does it make sense or why would it make sense for Congress to say that two defendants who were convicted at the exact same time should be sentenced differently simply by virtue of when their sentencing happened?” Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked the lawyer, Jeffrey T. Green.

Mr. Green acknowledged that his approach would “create some arbitrariness.”

But Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who once served on the United States Sentencing Commission, said that approach reflected the usual practice. “A federal judge applies the sentencing law at the time of sentencing,” she said.

Mr. Brown committed, among other things, four state marijuana offenses in Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2014. At those times, as well as when he committed a federal gun crime, the drug schedule in effect made him subject to the 15-year sentence. But by the time he was sentenced for the federal crime, the schedule had changed in his favor.

A federal appeals court ruled that the middle choice — the schedule in place when he committed the federal gun crime — was the one that counted, affirming the 15-year mandatory sentence.

The middle choice would have spared the defendant in the second case. That defendant, Eugene Jackson, committed, among other things, cocaine offenses in Florida in 1998 and 2004.

By the time he committed a federal gun crime in 2017, the schedule had been changed in a way that benefited him. But a federal appeals court ruled that the schedule in effect when he committed the state drug crimes counted, affirming a 15-year sentence.

Andrew Adler, a lawyer for Mr. Jackson, said the time that mattered was when his client committed the federal gun crime.

Mr. Adler started his argument with a thought experiment. Suppose, he said, that Congress had amended the gun law after a defendant had committed a state crime to drop that crime from the ones that required the mandatory sentence. No one would dispute, he said, that the amended law would apply in determining whether the state crime triggered the mandatory sentence.

The analysis did not change, Mr. Adler said, simply because a schedule was involved.

That point seemed to resonate with several justices, and they pressed a lawyer for the federal government, Austin Raynor, about it.

Mr. Raynor, who urged the justices to look to the earliest of the three possibilities — the schedule in place at the time of the state drug offenses — acknowledged that an amendment to the statute would require the middle-ground approach. But he said changes to the drug schedule were a different matter.

Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed, saying that a revision of the schedule in effect amended the statute.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor also appeared unpersuaded. “I think this is the most serious weakness in your argument,” she told Mr. Raynor, “because it doesn’t make much sense to me.”

Justice Elena Kagan called the distinction “a little bit mysterious to me.”

She added: “It seems perplexing as to why you would have a different rule than you would if Congress had just listed the substances.”

A previous version of this article misidentified Andrew Adler. He is a lawyer for Eugene Jackson, not for Justin Brown.

How we handle corrections

Adam Liptak covers the Supreme Court and writes Sidebar, a column on legal developments. A graduate of Yale Law School, he practiced law for 14 years before joining The Times in 2002. More about Adam Liptak

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Man walks past shelter damaged by earthquake in the Philippines

Philippines earthquake: woman killed by collapsed wall as fleeing residents return home

The magnitude 7.5 quake in Mindanao triggered tsunami warnings in Japan and more than 600 aftershocks

Philippine residents were allowed to return to their homes on Sunday after a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the country’s south, killing at least one person, with disaster officials reporting minor damage to some infrastructure.

The Saturday night quake shook parts of Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces, triggering coastal evacuations and tsunami alerts in the country and in Japan .

A woman was killed when a wall collapsed as she and her family were fleeing their home in search of safety in Tagum city in Davao del Norte province, said disaster official Mon Cabonilas.

“The tsunami threat associated with this earthquake has now largely passed the Philippines ,” the country’s Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in a statement but advised people in threatened communities to heed the instructions from local authorities.

In the coastal town of Carrascal in Surigao del Sur, all evacuees have returned to their homes, a disaster official told DWPM radio station. “We are ready in case there is a need to evacuate again.”

More than 600 aftershocks were recorded and Phivolcs urged caution as people resumed normal activities.

The Philippine Coast Guard put all its vessels and aircraft on alert for potential dispatch.

“We started going back to our homes early on Sunday, although we are still shaking because of aftershocks,” Julita Bicap, 51, a hotel worker in the seaside town of Bislig, said on Sunday morning after power was restored around 5am.

“There are aftershocks even now. Last night we were at the evacuation centre, including my two foreigner guests. One of them came back to the hotel already.” Bicap said she noticed a small crack in the hotel’s front wall.

Authorities recorded minor damage to homes, while the aviation agency reported minor cracks on wall tiles in some regional airports.

The strongest aftershock was magnitude 6.5, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is prone to seismic activity.

Philvolcs’ Hinatuan-Bislig Bay station recorded maximum waves of 0.64 metres. Japan’s Hachijojima island, 290km south of Tokyo, recorded waves of 40cm, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The US Tsunami Warning System had initially warned of waves of up to 3 metres above the usual high tide level.

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