Topic Sentences Still Work

I realize schools don’t teach much in the way of basic writing and grammar these days. Add the whole new world of text messaging shortcuts and it’s any wonder people can write at all.

There’s an often quoted, never attributed statistic that says that 81 percent of the people (I have to assume people really means adults rather than entire population) want to write a book.

If  the majority of the people want to write a book, but we’re not teaching writing basics any longer, there’s every reason to expect when an editor sees good writing, that writing really stands out.

Here’s a little something you can do to help your writing stand out:  Use topic sentences in your paragraphs. A topic sentence lets the reader know what to expect the paragraph to cover. A topic sentence also helps the writer know what to include and what to leave out of a paragraph.

If you find yourself struggling to write a topic sentence, ask yourself these questions.

  • What do I really want to say?
  • What’s the point I want to make (my purpose)?
  • What idea do I want to create for my reader?
  • What question to I want the reader to consider?

Then limit the answer to your question to one sentence. And there you have it–your topic sentence for your paragraph. If it doesn’t quite fit, you can use your answer as a guide to help you write a topic sentence that does.

Of course you’ll have rewrites and you may decide your paragraphs don’t go with your topic sentences as well as they should. If the content doesn’t support the topic sentence, you have two choices. You can rewrite the content or you can delete it.

You should also know your topic sentence doesn’t always have to be the first sentence in every paragraph. Sometimes it’s the last sentence that wraps the paragraph up.

Bottom line is your paragraphs need content that supports your topic sentence. If you can do that, you’re way ahead of many people who claim to be writers.

Happy writing!

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3 Responses to “Topic Sentences Still Work”


  1. 1 xxhawkeyexx July 15, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks for the tips!!!
    Nice blog!!!

    http://xxhawkeyexx.wordpress.com/

  2. 2 mrsulleseit March 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I beg to differ! I teach fifth grade at a public school in California. At our school, kindergarteners learn topic sentences with a fill-in-the-blank sort of structure (Although I like many animals, my favorite is a ______ ). By the time they reach fifth grade, they know four or five sentence types that they can use for topic sentences, and which types work best for persuasive essays or responses to literature. I am very proud of how well my students write, and of how much they enjoy writing!

    • 3 expertbookpublishing March 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      I’m so pleased to read your comment. It’s music to my ears to hear your students write well and they like to write. HMMM. Could it be they like to write because they write well?

      Your students are extremely fortunate to be taught as early as kindergarten about topic sentences. My experience with many (not all, of course) of my writing students is a lack of basic skill. They intuitively know a bit about writing, but weren’t taught (or didn’t learn) things your students are fortunate enough to be getting in school.

      Congratulations to you and your school system!


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