|As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning. The object is to aid the reader. This practice enables him to discover the purpose of each paragraph as he begins to read it, and to retain the purpose in mind as he ends it.|
For this reason, the most generally useful kind of paragraph, particularly in exposition and argument, is that in which:
A. the topic sentence comes at or near the beginning;
B. the succeeding sentences explain or establish or develop the statement made in the topic sentence; and
C. the final sentence either emphasizes the thought of the topic sentence or
states some important consequence.
Ending with a digression, or with an unimportant detail, is particularly to be avoided.
If the paragraph forms part of a larger composition, its relation to what precedes, or
its function as a part of the whole, may need to be expressed. This can sometimes be
done by a mere word or phrase (again; therefore; for the same reason) in the topic
sentence. Sometimes, however, it is expedient to precede the topic sentence by one or
more sentences of introduction or transition. If more than one such sentence is required,
it is generally better to set apart the transitional sentences as a separate paragraph.
According to the writer’s purpose, he may, as indicated above, relate the body of the
paragraph to the topic sentence in one or more of several different ways. He may make
the meaning of the topic sentence clearer by restating it in other forms, by defining its
terms, by denying the converse, by giving illustrations or specific instances; he may establish
it by proofs; or he may develop it by showing its implications and consequences.
In a long paragraph, he may carry out several of these processes:
|Example Paragraph One
||Type of Support for Topic Sentence|
|Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be gone
|If you go in a company, or even in pairs, it is no longer a
walking tour in anything but name; it is something else and more in
the nature of a picnic.
||The meaning made clearer by denial of the contrary.|
|A walking tour should be gone upon alone, because freedom is
of the essence; because you should be able to stop and go on, and
follow this way or that, as the freak takes you; and because you must
have your own pace, and neither trot alongside a champion walker,
nor mince in time with a girl.
||The topic sentence repeated, in abridged form, and supported
by three reasons; the meaning of the third (“you must have your own
pace”) made clearer by denying the converse.|
|And you must be open to all impressions and let your thoughts
take colour from what you see.
||A fourth reason, stated in two forms.|
|You should be as a pipe for any wind to play upon.
||The same reason, stated in still another form.|
|There should be no cackle of voices at your elbow, to jar on the
meditative silence of the morning.
||Repetition, in paraphrase, of the quotation from Hazlitt.|
|And so long as a man is reasoning he cannot surrender himself
to that fine intoxication that comes of much motion in the open air,
that begins in a sort of dazzle and sluggishness of the brain, and ends
in a peace that passes comprehension. - Stevenson,Walking Tours.
||Final statement of the fourth reason, in language amplified and
heightened to form a strong conclusion.
|Example Paragraph Two
||Type of Support for Topic Sentence
|It was chiefly in the eighteenth century that a very different
conception of history grew up.
|Historians then came to believe that their task was not so
much to paint a picture as to solve a problem; to explain or illustrate
the successive phases of national growth, prosperity, and adversity.
||The meaning of the topic sentence made clearer; the new conception
of history defined.|
|The history of morals, of industry, of intellect, and of art; the
changes that take place in manners or beliefs; the dominant ideas
that prevailed in successive periods; the rise, fall, and modification
of political constitutions; in a word, all the conditions of national
wellbeing became the subjects of their works.
||The definition expanded.|
|They sought rather to write a history of peoples than a history
||The definition explained by contrast.|
|They looked especially in history for the chain of causes and effects.
||The definition supplemented: another element in the new conception of history.|
|They undertook to study in the past the physiology of nations,
and hoped by applying the experimental method on a large scale to
deduce some lessons of real value about the conditions on which the
welfare of society mainly depend. -Lecky, The Political Value of History.
||Conclusion: an important consequence of the new conception of history.
Directions: Write 3-4 supporting sentences for each of the topic sentences listed below. Write one sentence per table cell, and then write how each sentence supports the topic sentence.
|The Weather in Michigan can be quite unpredictable
|Basketball is the best sport. (or any other sport)
|Going to college is important in today's world.