The students from
Advanced Composition developed this list of good rules on the topic
sentence. The teacher helped with comments and examples in italics.
The topic sentence:
-gives the main meaning of a paragraph. In the essay, the same kind of sentence is called the thesis, and it gives the main meaning of several paragraphs.
-occurs, normally, in the first sentence of the paragraph. However, in many kinds of writing, the topic sentence occurs in other places, such as second, third or even the final sentence.
-needs to be general, not specific, in relation to what you will read inside the paragraph.
-needs to be clear and carefully constructed.
-expresses your own concerns or ideas about a subject.
Good Topic Sentences:
-need to be attractive to the reader (not boring). It should interest or intrigue the reader.
-limit the content to what can be written in a single paragraph.
-contain controlling ideas (ideas that will be explained, defined, clarified or illustrated in the sentences that follow).
I came to Canada in 1993.
(No controlling idea; just a fact).
When I arrived in Canada in 2000, people brought me a big bouquet of flowers.
This is still only a statement of fact; no controlling ideas exist to be explored.
When I arrived in Canada in 2000, people were very nice to me.
Here the words "very nice" are controlling and need explaining.
I like cats better than dogs.
Avoid using the "I like" and "I think" statements in your topic sentence.
Instead try, "Cats are better than dogs."
Student Examples for May 12, 2004:
Didn't the weather forecast say it was going to be sunny today?
This is a kind of funny, joking style with a rhetorical question. Is a question a good idea for a topic sentence? Not often, but sometimes. It's considered atypical by most teachers so it is risky.
The Vancouver weather was the most important reason that made me decide to move here.
It is a good topic sentence.
Many people like Vancouver because of the weather, but I disagree.
Here, the student will complain about the rain etc.
Vancouver weather has many effects on people's moods.
Yes, unfortunately, true, and a good topic sentence.
(May 18, 2004)