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Topic Sentences

Think of a topic sentence as a mini thesis, or the “point” of a section or paragraph.

What is a topic sentence?
Quick examples
Video on topic sentences
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Example 1: A topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph

More than anything, education should foster a love for learning. Every student needs to understand the fundamental principles of reading and math, science and sociology, but not every student learns in the same way, shares the same interests, or applies their learning to the same situations. Content changes, too—how we perceive a certain historical event might evolve as society evolves; what we think we know about the theoretical limits of our universe is always shifting. But if we learn to love the nature, process, and purpose of learning, we won't be left behind even as facts are forgotten and "truths" are redefined.

Example 2: A topic sentence close to the beginning.

"Smartly, Pixar has always kept the central metaphor of Toy Story malleable and imperfect; one can see any number of relationships—familial, romantic, or otherwise—in the toys’ undying devotion to their owners. In Toy Story 4, the subtext gets weirder and messier. Woody (Tom Hanks), the aging but ageless cowboy doll, ends up assuming the role of makeshift parent for Forky, mostly out of fear that he’s outlived his usefulness to Bonnie. (He’s still a bit hung up on Andy, too—just one of the many emotional tensions pinging across this 100-minute movie.) Woody’s tireless guardianship eventually leads him, during a family road trip, to the film’s two primary settings: a small-town thrift shop and the loud, flashing carnival across the street. Curiously, the shop becomes the more treacherous, labyrinthian backdrop, complete with narrow passageways behind shelves, a ravenous house cat, and even the film’s equivalent of the bustling Star Wars Cantina, tucked into a pinball machine" (source).

Example 3: A topic sentence at the end of the paragraph.

Picture the scene: a million outsiders have converged onto one tiny city block, cheering, shouting, screaming in a chaotic symphony that seems somehow poetic even though the sheer volume of it grates your ears. Flags hang from every building. Horns never stop honking, even well into the night, even when you're supposed to be sleeping. Some of the gatherers are singing at the top of their lungs, mostly off tune; others are chanting the names of their newborn heroes. Indeed, if you've ever been to a World Cup celebration, you'll understand what I mean when I say that I can only describe it with two antitheses: beautiful bedlam.

Example 4: A topic sentence in the end of the paragraph.

"I remember the last sermon I ever heard my father give, not long before his own death: Each one of us here today will, at one time in our lives, look upon a loved one in need and ask the same question: We are willing Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true that we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give, or more often than not, that part we have to give… is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us… But we can still love them. We can love—completely—even without complete understanding" (source).

Example 5: A topic sentence in the middle of the paragraph.

Again, rhetoric is often called the "art of influence," the method through which we analyze how something is composed, communicated, consumed, perceived, offered up on the altar of persuasion. That definition—the overly broad one—can be heard in every first-year writing classroom today. But the real definition is not so broad. Aristotle, for example, called rhetoric the art of "finding the best available means of persuasion," while Socrates (and Plato) called it a pernicious fluff, a sycophancy meant for teachers of lawyers, not lovers of philosophy. It is this real definition I want to work with.

Short video:

Topic Sentences.mp4

Deep Dive:


Want to chat about your topic sentences? During a consultation with one of our amazing consultants, you can ask questions like . . .

  1. Can you see my topic sentences? And do they make sense?
  2. Overall, are my paragraphs clearly organized? How well can you follow my ideas from section to section?
  3. What's the difference between a topic sentence and a transition?
  4. What's the difference between sub-claims and topic sentences?
  5. Do I need subheadings?