How to Write a Strong Topic Sentence + Examples
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- What Is a Topic Sentence?
- 5 Steps to Writing a Good Topic Sentence
- Elements of a Good Topic Sentence
- Common Pitfalls to Avoid
- Where To Get Your Essay Edited For Free
Crafting the perfect essay takes time and dedication. There are so many elements you have to worry about, such as tone, purpose, and correct spelling and grammar. Writing a strong topic sentences is another critical part in writing a cohesive essay.
Without a strong topic sentence, you risk losing your reader and perhaps part of your grade. If it’s a college admissions essay, then you need it to be as strong as possible to back up your application. Learn about what steps you should take to write a strong topic sentence.
What Is a Topic Sentence?
People often confuse a topic sentence with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is typically at the end of your opening paragraph, that dictates the main argument you’ll be making in your essay.
Throughout your essay, you’ll have multiple topic sentences, as each paragraph should start off with one. This beginning sentence is used to direct the topic of the paragraph and outline the flow of the following sentences. It’s used to help guide your reader and to continue to keep them hooked on your overall essay. Without topic sentences, your essay will be unorganized, lack transitions, and sound very choppy. To write a good topic sentence, there are several steps to take.
Writing a Good Topic Sentence: 5 Steps
Step 1: Decide what you’re going to write about.
When you see the essay prompt, you’ll have some time to think through what you want to say and why. You have to decide if it’s a persuasive essay, informative, narrative, or descriptive. Determine your purpose for writing the essay after reading through the prompt. Whether it’s an assignment for school or if it’s to get into college, you need to make sure you have that purpose clearly outlined.
Step 2: Create a thesis statement.
One of the first things you need to do is create a thesis statement. This is typically a sentence with three points that you’ll back up throughout your essay.
For example: The Office became a cultural phenomenon because it spurred the careers of many of today’s successful movie stars, it talked about situations that most American workers can relate to, and even 15 years later, offers funny, relevant content that helps to break down prejudices.
You then use that thesis statement to create an essay around the points you want to make.
Step 3: Make your essay outline.
Once you have the points you want to make within your thesis statement hammered out, make an outline for your essay. This is where you’ll start to create your topic sentence for each paragraph. You want to clearly state the main idea of that paragraph in the very first sentence. From there, you back up that main idea with facts and reputable sources. Make sure your topic sentence is clear, but does not just announce your topic.
For example, do not write something like: “In this paragraph, I will discuss why it’s bad that poachers are killing giraffes.”
Instead, write something that clearly states your idea with a reasonable opinion and that gives direction to the paragraph: “Giraffes are a key part of the African ecosystem, so it’s important to enforce regulations against the poachers who are killing them for their body parts.”
You’d then follow that up with reasons why giraffes are a key part of the African ecosystem and how poachers are destroying their population.
Step 4: Begin writing your essay.
Once you have your thesis statement and you’ve created an outline with supporting paragraphs and their topic sentences, you can begin writing your essay. It’s important to make that outline before just jumping in–a disorganized essay can spell disaster for you as you continue to write, and could result in a poor grade. Many times, teachers will even require you to turn in your outline as part of your overall essay grade.
Step 5: Proofread and check your resources.
After you’ve written the essay, go back through it with a fine tooth comb. Read through each topic sentence and the paragraphs that follow to ensure that you’ve written clear, solid topic sentences throughout and that the paragraphs with them make sense. During the proofreading phase, you also need to recheck the sources you’re using. Make sure each source is reputable. In other words, do not use sites like Wikipedia where anyone can go in and edit an article to add misinformation. Use sites that:
- Are actual reputable news sources, such as the New York Times, CNN, CBS News
- Have domain names that end in .edu or .gov
- Come from an encyclopedia, such as Encyclopedia Britannica
Using sites that are not reputable could jeopardize the validity of your argument.
Elements of a Good Topic Sentence
Now that you know the steps to set yourself up for success when writing a topic sentence, there are certain elements that go into a quality first sentence. Always make sure that your topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph. You don’t want to make your reader hunt for the point you’re trying to make. Check out some key elements of a good topic sentence:
Make sure your topic sentence isn’t too vague.
You need a topic sentence that has some specifics to it. It also needs to hook in your reader in some way with an opinion. A vague sentence makes it harder to write a paragraph that can clearly backs up your thoughts. For example:
DON’T: “In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley seems like a nice guy.”
DO: “When Mr. Bingley is first introduced, he comes across as a kind person because he speaks to everyone and doesn’t immediately pass judgment.”
Choose a reasonable opinion.
Your topic sentence should clearly outline whatever point you’re trying to make in the paragraph, but you want to pick a reasonable opinion that you can easily reinforce with facts and statistics. Here’s an example of what you should and should not do:
DON’T: “It’s obvious that Mr. Bingley was a total loser with no backbone.”
DO: “Mr. Bingley could have shown more confidence in his choices and stood up to Mr. Darcy when he found himself in love with Jane Bennet.”
You can then back that up with facts, saying that he was a wealthy Englishman and thus one of the key players in society at the time, which should have given him more confidence. If he’d been more confident, perhaps he would not have left and devastated Jane.
Use your topic sentence as a transition.
Along with telling the reader the point of your next paragraph, your topic sentence should also serve as a transition from the previous paragraph. Without a transition, the essay can feel like it’s choppy and disjointed. For example:
DON’T: “Mr. Bingley is a good man and here’s why.”
DO: “Although Mr. Bingley did break Jane’s heart by leaving, he ended up redeeming himself by returning to Netherfield Hall.”
Keep your topic sentence short.
A long, drawn-out topic sentence can risk losing your reader. Many times, it’s hard to determine the point of a sentence when it goes on for too long. You want a clear, concise sentence that draws in the reader but also leaves some room for you to expand on it in the following paragraph.
DON’T: “Throughout the novel of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley was often quite different from Mr. Darcy as he would treat all people in a friendly manner, considering them all his friends and acquaintances, even agreeing to throw a ball after Elizabeth’s sisters rudely demanded he do so and was gracious to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as well despite their manners.”
DO: “Overall, Mr. Bingley served as a foil to Mr. Darcy throughout the story by treating everyone around him equally with dignity and grace.”
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Writing an essay can be overwhelming at times, but so long as you avoid some of these common pitfalls, it can be easier to get it done on time.
Don’t wait until the last minute.
If your teacher assigns you an essay or tells you that you have an essay test coming up, don’t wait until the day before to do anything about it. You have to plan or study and you need to give yourself time to do that. If you know it takes you a while to write something, then start planning it as soon as you get the assignment.
Don’t forget to write an outline.
Along with planning, make sure you have that outline written up and planned out well. It will serve as your guideline for writing the essay. Without it, you’ll face the risk of a disorganized essay that does not clearly illustrate your point.
Ask for help if you need it.
This may be the most important pitfall to avoid. If you get in over your head while writing, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a friend to review the essay or ask your teacher for guidance.
Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free
Once you’ve finished your essay, you may want additional input. There are tools out there to help, but CollegeVine’s free peer essay review tool can provide you with actionable feedback from students just like you. CollegeVine’s tool has helped many students and may be able to help you, too! Asking for peer feedback can help to refine your essay and it never hurts to have an extra set of eyes read through what you’ve written. Check out the free tool today!