Topic Sentences – Definition and Examples

Imagine being at a party and seeing the person you’ve been crushing on for months now. This could be your opportunity to spark up a conversation and build a connection with this person. But what are you going to say? A brief introduction would be a great way to start, but you’re going to need to think of a topic to keep the conversation going. Whatever you decide to talk about would contain the main idea that you wish to focus on during the initial part of your exchange. This would serve as your topic sentence. In this article, we shall discuss what a topic sentence is, along with the significant role it plays in writing.

What are Topic Sentences?

A topic sentence is considered to be the most important part of a sentence. For one, it serves as a general summary of what is being talked about in a paragraph. Topic sentences are also similar to short sentences in form, due to how it expresses a complete and understandable thought.

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A topic sentence has several functions in writing: it supports a thesis statement; it summarizes the content of a paragraph; and it gives the reader a glimpse of the subject to be tackled and how it would be discussed in the given paragraph. In most cases, readers look into the first few sentences of a paragraph to find out what it is about.

It’s always advisable to put your topic sentence at the very beginning of your paragraph for the benefit of your readers, but this would still depend on how you plan to link ideas and present information to your audience with the help of different transitional phrases. Overall, topic sentences are essential in writing so as to emphasize points for better communication.

Example 1

“In order to succeed in class, high school students need to utilize the resources available to them throughout their academic careers.”

Because the thesis statement is stated clearly for us to grasp, we know that the essay will be about the different resources that high school students need to utilize to obtain success in their academic journey. Thus, each one of the resources that are implied in the statement becomes a central point to be elaborated in the essay, and, in turn, each one of these requires a topic sentence to begin with. You may also see compound sentences.

The following are examples of topic sentences that may be used for the essay:

  • “One important resource that all high school students should utilize for success is tutorial services.”
  • “Another important resource for student success is frequent use of the library.”
  • “In addition to using tutoring services and the library, high school students should consult with their adviser on a regular basis to monitor success and make necessary changes when needed.”

Example  2

“Jordan never considered becoming a lawyer until his little sister was the victim of a violent crime.”

A great way to introduce your topic is to tell a story in a manner that presents a cause and effect type of situation. This approach is often used in dialogues, as it allows the speaker to expound the thought profoundly to listeners. You may also see exclamatory sentences.

Example 3

Once, in a restaurant in Italy with my family, I occasioned enormous merriment, as a nineteenth-century humorist would have put it, by confusing two Italian words.

“I thought I had, very suavely, ordered for dessert fragoline—those lovely little wild strawberries. Instead, I seem to have asked for fagiolini—green beans. The waiter ceremoniously brought me a plate of green beans with my coffee, along with the flan and the gelato for the kids. The significant insight the mistake provided—arriving mere microseconds after the laughter of those kids, who for some reason still bring up the occasion, often—was about the arbitrary nature of language: the single ‘r’ rolled right makes one a master of the trattoria, an ‘r’ unrolled the family fool. . . .”

— (Adam Gopnik, “Word Magic.” The New Yorker, May 26, 2014)

The example above is a situational type of topic sentence. It serves as an introduction to what the author is about to discuss, in a brief yet specific approach. It isn’t difficult for the reader to identify the topic sentence in this example because of how the succeeding statements support its central message. You may also see parallel sentences.

Topic Sentences and Controlling Ideas

In every topic sentence, there is a controlling idea which shows where the discussion is headed. You see, there are many subcategories that may be tackled with a single topic, which is why controlling ideas play a significant role in conveying a clear and specific thought.You may also see preposition sentences.

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To further understand the purpose of controlling ideas, let us look into the following examples:

1. Topic Sentence: Treasure hunters go through extreme ordeals when exploring a shipwreck.
The topic is “exploring a shipwreck” and the controlling idea is “extreme ordeals”

Here, the controlling idea “extreme ordeals” indicates the direction of where the paragraph is going. In simple terms, the speaker is likely to discuss the extreme ordeals that come when one explores a shipwreck. You may also see negative sentences.

2. Topic Sentence: Dogs make wonderful pets because they help you cope with your emotions.
The topic is “dogs make wonderful pets” and the controlling idea is “because they help you cope with your emotions”

In this example, you can’t help but ask how. Since the speaker emphasizes why dogs make wonderful pets in the topic sentence, then it is clear that the speaker is also ready to elaborate this thought in the succeeding statements. You may also see run on sentences.

3. Topic Sentence: It is important to be fully prepared before purchasing a house.
The topic is “purchasing a house” and the controlling idea is “important to be fully prepared”

Although the main topic is about purchasing a house, the statements that follow may expound why it is important to be fully prepared. You may also see conditional sentences.

4. Topic Sentence: Graduating from high school is important for a variety of reasons.
The topic is “graduating from high school” and the controlling idea is “variety of reasons”

While we may already have our own thoughts on why graduating from high school is important, the controlling idea shows that the speaker has his or her own set of valid points to share. You may also see imperative sentences.

5. Topic Sentence: Having a first child is challenging because of the many adjustments you need to make in your life.
The topic is “having a first child” and the controlling idea is “many adjustments you need to make in your life”

If you take a look at the topic, you can see that “having a first child” can open up different discussions. But by adding the controlling idea to your sentence, readers or listeners may then get an idea of what the speaker would like to highlight in his or her piece. You may also see declarative sentences.

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Good VS Bad Topic Sentences

Now that we’re familiar with the basics of writing proper topic sentences, let us now distinguish the difference between good and bad topic sentences from the example below:

Bad: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in 1917.

Why is this not a good topic sentence? First of all, it tells very little about what you are going to talk about. It doesn’t say much about your subject, nor are you utilizing this part of the paragraph to present a real point. You may also see interrogative sentences.

Good: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, born in 1917, was one of the most influential politicians in history.

With this topic sentence, you have successfully made a valid point that is supported by facts and information gathered from your research. Your readers then know what to expect in the following parts of your paragraph. You may also see sentence fragments.

Good topic sentences must be direct and specific to convey a clear thought. Your point must be strong enough to interest readers, without giving away too much details that may spoil your supporting statements. You may also see periodic sentences.

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Miscommunication can be a major problem in both writing and speech, whether it involves sending a message to a group or making a point in an academic paper. With that being said, constructing a good topic sentence is crucial in communicating clearly and concisely to an audience. It must be brief, clear, and precise for it to effectively carry out its purpose, similar to how complete sentences must be. So if you want to enhance your skills in the language, learning to write proper topic sentences can be of great benefit to you.

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