Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

Topic Sentences – Location, Location, Location!

At the beginning.

In blogs, videos, and my courses, I have often mentioned that the topic sentence of a sunrise-1756274_640paragraph should be at the beginning of the paragraph – often the first sentence.

While this is true in many cases, it does not HAVE to be the first sentence of a paragraph.  When writing essays for grade school or secondary school, teachers generally expect the topic sentence of body paragraphs to come at the beginning. The concluding paragraph has a restated or modified thesis statement at the beginning, and this serves as its topic sentence. Of course, the introductory paragraph is a bit of an exception.  It often starts with a “grabber” and/or focus statement, and the thesis statement (serving as the overarching topic sentence) comes at the end of the paragraph.

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For most stand-alone paragraph writing exercises in school, the expectation is for a topic sentence at or near the very beginning of the paragraph as well.

Whew!

Having said all that, topic sentences can come at any point within a paragraph – even in academic writing at times.

At the end.

You can place the central idea at the end after several supporting sentences that have end-812226_640made the case for your argument or point of view. This can be especially useful in argument paragraphs because it leads the reader to your conclusion drawing them in with your amazing proofs and supports.

You knew you were amazing, right?  Of course.

Placing the topic sentence at the end of your paragraph can be effective in expository paragraphs as well. Leaving the central idea until the end can have a dramatic effect that attracts the reader to keep reading.

Of course, even if your topic sentence or central idea is withheld until the end of the paragraph, you still need to ensure that you have unity and coherence.  All the supports that come before the topic sentence need to be relevant and transition from one to another in order for the whole package to have the desired impact on the reader.  Remember that you have to “lead” them to your central idea and convince them with your message.

Nowhere – and everywhere.

Even more bizarre!

Some paragraphs don’t have the central idea explicitly stated at all! nowhere

This is often the case with narrative writing (relating a sequence of events) and sometimes descriptive writing.  This is especially true in fiction writing where many academic rules are “stretched” or broken.  You can imply the central idea with descriptions, action, dialogue, and so on. This is not to say that you never use topic sentences in fiction, but one topic sentence might serve several paragraphs rather than just one.  The continuity is important and, frankly, trying to generate a new topic sentence in the midst of a “flow” of description does not always make sense.

There you have it.  Topic sentences are not as stable as you thought.  They can move around from place to place.  Sometimes there are a couple of introductory sentences before a topic sentence as well.  Generally, I wouldn’t say the topic sentence comes in the middle of a paragraph, but it can be within it.

Still, for most academic writing, I recommend sticking to having the topic sentence at the beginning of most paragraphs.  It will serve you well.

When writing fiction, you have more freedom – but keep in mind that you still need to help the reader find your central idea using whatever techniques you choose.

Do you want to write more?  Do you want to improve your writing? Contact me, and I will set up a personal program for you. reading-86070_1920

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video: Topic Sentences

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Master the Compound-Complex Sentence in Your Writing

Master the Compound-Complex Sentence in Your Writing

I have written so far about three different kinds of sentences based on structure: the simple sentence, the compound sentence, and the complex sentence.

Today is for the compound-complex sentence.evan-dennis-75563

What is it?

You might well have guessed by now.  A compound-complex sentence combines the compound sentence and the complex sentence kinds.

It has at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

(Of course, it can include phrases just like all the other sentence kinds.)

These sentences tend to be longer simply because of the number of clauses they contain. But don’t depend on only the length of a sentence to tell you what it is.  A simple sentence with lots of adjectives, adverbs, or phrases can be quite long.

Properly punctuated, the compound-complex structure gives you lots of flexibility. With these sentences, you can manipulate the clauses (& phrases) to create stronger beginnings or endings, to enhance the most important point, or to artistically accentuate a detail or description. The options are nearly endless.

Note of caution:  This is not the “Best.” There is no “Best.”

All four kinds of sentences have equal intrinsic value.  The point is to use a variety of them in your longer writing.  The goal is knowing how to intermingle simple sentences with compound-complex sentences, introducing a few complex sentences with a couple powerful compound sentences so that they all complement each other.

Examples

Here are some examples of compound-complex sentences   (independent clauses in green / dependent clauses in blue):

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Whenever he hears the train whistle, Bob runs to see the train, and he often takes photographs as well.

#2

Sharon, who is an expert knitter, makes sweaters for her grandchildren and she loves watching the children open the presents at Christmas time.

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The building of the bridge was delayed after the workers went on strike, but the end result was still an amazing work of art.

No FEAR!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with varying your sentences. Practise, practise, practise!

Reading your text aloud will often signal any changes you might need to make to help with the “rhythm” of your article. It is beneficial to have an article that reads smoothly.  It helps the reader scan and comprehend your message.  Also, it makes the writing process more enjoyable if you take a somewhat artistic approach while still following the technical rules.  While there are lots of rules and conventions in the English language, there is also lots of room to maneuver and create.

When you are ready, don’t hesitate to contact a coach to help you along.

Here are my contact details.  I would love to assist you in your journey.

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

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For more tips, check out this week’s video:

Master the Compound-Complex Sentence