The ‘Hamburger Paragraph’: A Simple, Descriptive Method for Writing Better Content

Composition used to be a subject taught in school. It was a big deal back in the 50s and 60s but I can remember even in the 70s and 80s, my own teachers wanted us to be comfortable presenting our ideas in written form. And we got lots of experience writing for those teachers! Maybe you have a memory like mine, of that red duo-tang that was reserved for the weekly creative writing assignment, or the teacher who assigned you a weekly essay to write. Sadly, as the curriculum gets stuffed with more and more requirements, many teachers can’t devote time to writing anymore.



Did you just kind of learn to write sentences, paragraphs, and even whole essays by practising the skill over and over? If so, you may feel that you just “know” how to write your thought down. But maybe you couldn’t teach someone else how to do it, because it just came naturally.

But if you were trying to teach paragraph writing to your kids, or perhaps to someone whose mother tongue tends to flow very differently from English, what would you say? How would you discuss what you just do without thinking about it? Well, one way of representing a well-written paragraph is to use the image of a hamburger. This image is actually a common one among English teachers today, and you can even download graphic organizers for the “Hamburger Paragraph” that you can use to construct a strong paragraph of your own.

Why not give this fun, visual writing method a try? You may find that even if your writing was already quite good, using the “Hamburger” method for writing a paragraph can make you an even better writer!

How to Write a ‘Hamburger Paragraph’

The concept of the “Hamburger Paragraph” is pretty simple. Using the image of a burger on a bun, the top and bottom parts of the bun are the beginning and end of the paragraph. Additional sentences fit in the middle, like the burger patty and the toppings that go with it. The whole thing works together, just like the different ingredients come together to make a tasty hamburger.

When you write, the “layers” of your paragraph should be:

  1. The Topic Sentence: This is the sentence that tells your reader what your paragraph is about. It should contain the main thought you want to communicate.
  2. Supporting Sentences: This is where you add the details that are the “meat” of your paragraph. Many worksheets and graphic organizers will show three supporting sentences, but you can make a paragraph work with just one or with several. Just try to remember that when you write for the internet, you want to keep paragraphs moderately short. Big blocks of text are hard to read online!
  3. The Concluding Sentence: When you’re writing just a single paragraph, you want this last sentence to wrap things up, so to speak. If you’re tying two or more paragraphs together, the last sentence of each paragraph acts more as a transition to the idea that will be presented in the next paragraph.

Supporting Sentences

Strong supporting sentences make your paragraph strong too. So try to keep that “meaty” imagery in mind when you write the middle of your paragraph. Your supporting sentences should not just repeat what you said in your topic sentence, but in different words. A supporting sentence should support, or hold up, the statement you make in your topic sentence. A good supporting sentence can:

  • Provide a fact or a descriptive detail that adds to what you said in your opening sentence;
  • Give an example that illustrates what you said in the first sentence;
  • Provide statistics or an expert opinion to prove what you said in the topic sentence;
  • Define an important term that readers may not be familiar with;
  • Explain the “how” or “why” of the statement you made at the beginning of your paragraph;
  • Contrast two different concepts or things, or draw a comparison between two like things. This type of supporting sentence can be useful if you are writing a product review or discussing a number of options from which the reader may want to choose.

The job of your supporting sentences is to give more meat to your initial claim or statement, to back up whatever your topic sentence said. Be sure when you write your paragraph, that each and every supporting sentence does a job. If you can’t identify what a sentence does, take a good, hard look at it. Does it go off topic or maybe just restate what you’ve already said? If so, you need to rewrite that sentence or replace it with a completely different one. You want each sentence to make its own contribution and not just to lie there, adding to the word count!

Concluding Sentence

A concluding sentence is to your paragraph what the conclusion is to an essay. It helps to bring all the ideas together and to remind the reader why all the details from those supporting sentences matter. Just like the bottom bun on as hamburger, it also mirrors or completes the topic sentence and gives the reader a sense that everything is now complete.

Now that you have learned how to build a “Hamburger Paragraph,” why not try it out for yourself! If you are looking for writing practice, write just one paragraph this way and share it in our BlogBourne forum. If you are already a strong writer, why not teach someone else how to write a paragraph using the hamburger imagery. Later on, we’ll look at a similar method that helps you string paragraphs together in order to create a larger composition: an essay, article, or blog post.

 

English Skills Workshop: Paragraph Writing | The “Hamburger Paragraph” is a visual method for writing strong paragraphs. Learn how the method works and download a free graphic organizer that will make it even quicker to write great paragraphs!


A strong paragraph is built must the same way you’d build a tasty hamburger
If you want to pin this article, feel free to use this image. It’s optimized for Pinterest!
(Image from a public domain photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay)

 

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Original content © 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

 



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  • Comments

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I can’t lay claim to the analogy. I’m just passing along the information 🙂

        I hope more writers will take the time to read up on the actual skills involved in writing, and make an effort to practise things like constructing a strong paragraph. Sadly, I’m seeing a lot of weak writing from bloggers. In many cases, it’s due to lack of planning and because the writer is submitting a raw first draft that hasn’t even been proofread. But in a lot of other cases, the actual skill of writing a proper sentence or paragraph, or developing a coherent piece of writing, is the main cause of poor writing.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Actually, the article has nothing to do with article writing. It’s about writing a paragraph. There will be more about developing an article later. For now, I’m sticking to very basic writing skills.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I thought so too when I first encountered the hamburger analogy! But apparently, it’s a pretty common way to teach writing in schools today. There is a related method for developing an essay, too 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It is! A lot of high school English teachers review the basics of paragraph writing with their students using the hamburger analogy.

    1. Profile photo of Andria Perry
      Andria Perry

      This sounds like the way I used to line up gigs for bands, I would ask them to make the play list with an opening BANG and then calm it down and make sure you give them another bang at the end to remember them by 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Exactly, Andria! And writing an essay, speech, or article works the same way too 🙂

        In fact, a paragraph is sort of the microcosm to the macrocosm of the article or essay.

    2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
      Gil Camporazo

      It’s nice. However, I eat different food stuff, but the principle is the same. This is what I learned from my early years in the elementary. Our English teacher would require us to write a theme like how did we spend our summer vacation, your favorite pet, and much more. She simply instructed us on how to compose those themes in three parts: The introduction, The Body, and The Conclusion. That is how simple the instruction was.

      1. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
        Gil Camporazo

        Yeah, that is true. Many writers have their own style or method of writing, but they keep observing the basic parts of an article.

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        And so my friend Nakitakona, you’ve observed the similarity between writing a strong paragraph and writing a well thought out essay! I hope we’ll see you and many other writers here putting the principles into practice 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        As I told Dawnwriter above, I don’t lay any claim to the analogy. It’s a known method that teachers are using to teach paragraph writing in English classes these days 🙂

    3. Profile photo of Barbara Radisavljevic
      Barbara Radisavljevic

      I used to teach this method in my high school English classes without the hamburger imagery. This was back in the sixties before graphic organizers were fashionable. It’s a good method, however it is presented.

    4. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

      You know @barbrad, I can’t remember ever being taught how to write a paragraph in school. We were taught how to construct an essay, but I think that most of the grammar and mechanics exercises when I was in school were based on the idea that we should simply read good literature and write about things that interested us.

      Teachers spent a great deal more time on skill like not taking and writing a bibliography or list of citations for a term paper than they did teaching us about the structure of a sentence or paragraph. Most of my formal training in those areas came much later on, when I was taking classes in linguistics and education at university.

      1. Profile photo of Andria Perry
        Andria Perry

        I do not recall this either, I hated English in school, they made it so boring I was sleeping setting up with my eyes open.

        Most everything I know I have taught myself, Plus I read books and always have even when I was a little kid, cat in the hat!, The ladies at the library know me by name 🙂

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        That’s too bad, @andriaperry! I had great English teachers in high school. I especially loved the teacher I had in my first and last year. She was the head of our English department and she also acted and directed with the local lyrical theatre group. She was just awesome! For history, on the other hand, my teacher was a real dud….

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I loved it too! But I only really got to do that in French class in high school. The really good dissecting was in university. I took a course in syntax after I did my introductory linguistics course. “Government,” figuring out which word or phrase governed another in the sentence, was really cool!

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I love English and all languages! I’m fluent in Canadian French. I have also dabbled in Spanish, German, Irish Gaelic, classical Greek, and Latin. I love grammar and etymology, and just linguistics in general. I love to diagram sentences just as much as I love to trace the origins of a word, or to look at how a whole language developed. It’s really fascinating stuff!

    5. Nell

      Unknowingly I have been following the hamburger method of writing and I must say it comes naturally to you especially when you are trying your best to connect with your audience.

      Yes it is great to follow the proven techniques and sometimes to just go with the free flow. After all it is writing and everyone has got a different style. 🙂

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        It’s really great if the “hamburger” method comes naturally to you! For a lot of people, the free flow method just results in choppy writing and paragraphs that go around in circles. It tends to confuse the reader and dilute whatever message the writer is trying to communicate 🙁

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        Not my original analogy, but I did think it was a really good way to teach such an important skill. Most people today really have no idea how to write a paragraph, beyond choosing a topic sentence.

    6. Profile photo of Sandy KS
      Sandy KS

      I must write it out. Than go back over it. I do try to correct grammar and spelling as I write. I keep writing, as I fear I will forget how to if I don’t. I have forgotten many things and had to relearn when it comes to writing already.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        I think we all need to keep practising our writing skills if we don’t want to forget. It does get easier when you’re coming back to something like paragraph writing, though. Then it’s just a bit of a refresher course 🙂

    7. Profile photo of Deb Jones
      Deb Jones

      Perhaps this hamburger analogy came along after one-room schoolhouses — my era. (Okay, not quite) I don’t recall it from my days of English classes and believe me, I never missed a word in those. It makes wonderful sense and gives those who think concretely a visual to help with the explanation.

      1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne Post author

        We never learned to write a paragraph this way either, but my oldest did. I think it’s a brilliant approach for students and adult bloggers alike!

        If you find yourself reading and wondering, “Where’s the beef?” you know the writer in question could use this analogy!

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