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September 18, 2015
A topic sentence identifies the main idea of any paragraph that you write. It may also state the main point or argument that you will be making in the paragraph. While it often appears at the very beginning of the paragraph, it can appear elsewhere, especially in a creative writing piece. But the important concept is this: the topic sentence lets the reader knows exactly what will be covered in the paragraph. With this topic sentence definition, let’s look at an example. Here is a topic sentence you might write for a paragraph that is part of a persuasive essay on the elimination of the Electoral College:
“The Electoral College was created at a time when it could take months to count every vote and get the results to Washington, D.C.”
First, let’s understand what a paragraph is. It is a collection of sentences that are all connected to the support of a main point or idea. The main point or idea is the basis for writing a topic sentence. Here are the clear steps in the process.
General Topic Idea: Hurricane Andrew
Focused Topic: The devastation left by Hurricane Andrew
Topic Sentence: Hurricane Andrew left a huge swath of destruction in its path.
(NOTE: Writing a topic sentence means that you construct a complete sentence, not just a title or a phrase. The general topic Idea is a title; the smaller topic is a phrase; the topic sentence is just that – a complete sentence.)
Below are a two exercises that will help you understand what a topic sentence is and is not. Each of the following groups of sentences contain examples of topic sentences. See if you can identify it.
Focused Topic: Planning a Party
Focused Topic: Writing a Cover Letter
Topic 1: 2, 4
Topic 2: 3, 5
If we return to the “smaller topic” of the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, the writer still has choices for a topic sentence that may narrow the focus of his/her paragraph even further. Here are some potential topic sentences other than the one chosen:
Each of these sentences speaks to a different result from the devastation caused by the hurricane, and the supporting details for each topic sentence will differ too. As you can see, then, the topic sentence will really serve to organize the remainder of your paragraph.
Exercise: Below are three sets of details for a paragraph on “Things I learned from my mother about money.” Here are three topic sentences. Match the topic sentence, A, B, or C with the correct set of details.
Set 1: B
Set 2: C
Set 3: A
The Final Exercise for Learning How to Write a Topic Sentence