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Writing

How to Craft a Perfect Topic Sentence

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 2 min read

A good paragraph is composed of a topic sentence (or key sentence), relevant supporting sentences, and a closing (or transition) sentence. This structure is key to keeping your paragraph focused on the main idea and creating a clear and concise image. An important part of writing a paragraph properly is crafting an effective topic sentence.

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What Is a Topic Sentence?

A topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph that summarizes the topic and the controlling idea of the paragraph. A topic sentence should include a topic, a controlling idea, and the writer’s viewpoint. A clear and concise topic sentence should set the expectations for the content that will follow, while giving readers a clear understanding of the writer’s focus. Regardless of format or genre, every paragraph should start with a central focus that the rest of the paragraph supports.

What Is the Purpose of a Topic Sentence?

The purpose of a topic sentence is to express or summarize an important point that the writer will prove in the subsequent sentences of the paragraph. A paragraph’s topic sentence should make it easier for readers to understand the scope of the paragraph and digest the information they’re receiving through text. Even in fiction, the introduction of a paragraph either establishes an idea or scenario or continues one from the previous paragraph.

Example of a Topic Sentence

A topic sentence must clearly summarize the topic that the writer will address as well as the controlling idea of the paragraph. Take a look at the following example of a topic sentence:

Food waste generates a huge amount of greenhouse gases, specifically methane—one of the primary contributors to climate change.

In this example, food waste is the topic and the controlling idea revolves around its impact on climate change.

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5 Tips for Crafting the Perfect Topic Sentence

You can improve the effectiveness of your topic sentences by following a few key tips, such as:

  1. Provide a balance of information. Your topic sentence should be specific enough to direct readers toward the main idea of the paragraph, without disclosing too much of the material you intend to cover. Conversely, a vague topic sentence will not give your readers enough information to understand the point you’re trying to make.
  2. Include relevant information. The supporting sentences of your paragraph should further support the idea established with your topic sentence. If you introduce an idea with your topic sentence, the following sentences should provide details that support the idea. If you need to introduce a new idea, use transition words to connect your new paragraph to the previous paragraph to avoid jarring the reader with new information.
  3. Make it interesting. A good topic sentence draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading. Using emotion or sensory details is an effective way to pique a potential reader’s interest, and get them invested in your writing early on.
  4. Make it effective. A solid topic sentence doesn’t ramble on or meander around the point. Your topic sentence should be short and effective—get to your main point quickly and clearly, using just enough detail to set your readers up for the rest of the paragraph.
  5. Weave in your point of view. If you’re writing an academic essay, your topic sentence should incorporate your opinion or point of view on the subject matter along with supporting facts, so that you have a point to argue in the following paragraphs.

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