Writing Paragraphs | The Topic Sentence


What is this episode about?

Learn how to write good topic sentences for your paragraph in this new Writing Series episode from English Plus Podcast.

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I am using an automatic transcript service as it is not possible for me to do it on my own and I cannot afford human transcription at the moment. The service claims to have about 95% accuracy, which means there will still be some mistakes, so my apologies for having a less than perfect transcript, but I hope I can afford human transcription soon and I will solve this problem. However, the service is pretty good, and the transcript is almost perfect.


Welcome to a new episode from English plus podcasts. This episode is about writing. And in this episode, we will learn how to write the topic sentence. And this is going to be the first lesson in a long series, where we will discuss how to write paragraphs in a proper way. We will first start with the elements of the paragraphs.

[00:00:26] And that is obviously the very first thing we need to know about the topic sentence. And then we will move on to talk about how we can write supportive ideas, development, conclusion, cohesion, et cetera. But for today, we will talk about the topic sentence before we start. Let me remind you that you can find the transcript of this episode and the PDF practice worksheet in a link.

[00:00:48] I will leave in the description that will take you to the website where you can find everything you need. To support your learning here on English plus podcast, but that’s not everything. You will also find a link that will take you to patriarchy, where you can become a patron of the show. If you like the content we’re creating, we’re inviting you to become our patrons on Patreon and support English plus podcast and help us create more of this content that you like.

[00:01:15] And there’s also another link that will take you to our mailing list, where you can subscribe and get updates. Every two weeks, every time we release a new chapter. So now without further ado, let’s start talking about the topic sentence. The first end may be the most important thing in a paragraph. Why is it the most important thing?

[00:01:33] Is it just because usually it is the first sentence in a paragraph? Well, maybe, but this is not the only reason why it is the most important thing, but since it is usually the first sentence in a paragraph that will help us catch the reader’s attention or lose the reader. It is very important and sensitive paragraph.

[00:01:52] We’re not talking about essays yet where a reader might read the first paragraph before he, or she decides to read on or to put the essay aside here, we have a paragraph, it’s the shortest form of writing. So the first sentence matters. It is the most important thing in your paragraph. It is the topic sentence.

[00:02:10] What are we going to learn about the topic sentence? We’re going to learn about the function of a topic sentence. We’re going to learn what a good topic sentence looks like and how a good controlling idea guides the flow of the information in the paragraph. Now to start, what is a topic sentence? A topic sentence tells about the main idea of a paragraph.

[00:02:32] It is usually found at the beginning of a paragraph. And that is what a topic sentence in a nutshell. But of course that is not enough. So what we need to do is to dig in and learn about some details related to the topic sentence. Now, let me read you this topic, sentence of a paragraph titled to shift or not to shift this thing has to do with driving cars.

[00:02:53] Now the topic sentence goes like this. There are many benefits to driving a car with a manual transmission. This is the topic sentence. Very simply. There are many things that the writer achieved using this topic sentence. Now, if you ask yourself, do you know what the topic or what the paragraph is about?

[00:03:11] What is the topic of this paragraph? Yeah, sure. We’re talking about driving cars with a manual transmission. No here, of course, we will talk a little more about how we should be specific and everything, but the two most important questions we need to know, right. From the beginning of reading a paragraph.

[00:03:27] What is this paragraph about? And what is the angle? Okay. What is this paragraph about driving a car with a manual transmission. Oh, so far so good, but I’m still not interested. Well, what is that going to be? Is it a, kind of a, how to manual? Is it going to tell me how to drive a car with a manual transmission?

[00:03:45] If we stop here our topic sentence. Yes. It told us what our topic is, but we still can see the angle, which we will call later. Controlling idea. Here. I will read the topic sentence again. There are many benefits to drive a car with a manual transmission. So here what I’m interested to know, and that is part of my expectation as well, that I want to know about the benefits.

[00:04:11] What are these benefits? What are the benefits to driving car with a manual transmission? Well, I know the topic, but I might not know that there are benefits to driving a car with a manual transmission. So that kind of attracted me, that kind of drew my attention. Now I want to read and learn about it. So here, there’s also something very important and we will discuss that in more detail.

[00:04:35] In the episode. Now here, we achieved three things with the topic sentence. First of all, we told the reader what our paragraph is about. That is the topic of our paragraph. And then we told the reader another thing, and that is the angle, the perspective, our point of view, how are we going to approach this topic?

[00:04:54] Now here, that is the controlling idea, obviously, but there is another thing that is also very important that has happened here. The writer has achieved a very important thing. It’s both an achievement and a big responsibility here. The writers set expectations in the minds of the readers. So the writer has to meet those expectations.

[00:05:15] You don’t want to let the readers down. Now, if I read the topic sentence and I know the topic sentence is this, and the writer is going to talk about it this way. Yes. I’m interested. What if I read the paragraph and it’s not actually about this topic sentence, so I will be disappointed. You don’t want to disappoint your readers.

[00:05:32] So that’s why. You have to think carefully about the topic sentence, what topic you want to talk about and what controlling idea, what is the angle? What’s the perspective, point of view. You’re going to approach this topic now with that being said, let’s talk about what a good topic sentence consists of.

[00:05:52] Let’s talk about the features of a good topic sentence. Now a good topic sentence has the following features. First of all, it controls or guides the whole paragraph. When you read the topic sentence, you know what to expect in the paragraph. That is a very important thing. And perhaps the most important thing you need to think about when you want to write your topic sentence.

[00:06:14] The second thing, a good topic sentence is not a fact that everyone accepts as true. For example, a bad topic sentence would be like, uh, libraries have books. Well, that is a very bad topic centers because yeah. So what you don’t want that response from your readers? If your topic sentence is libraries have books, the first response you will get from readers.

[00:06:41] Is so what, yeah, I know that you don’t want your readers to react like, so what, or I know that, or that’s not important. So that’s why a good topic sentence is not a fact that everyone accepts as true. You can say libraries of books. That’s not a good topic sentence. The information in this sentence is true, but it is a fact and it is not a good choice for a topic sentence.

[00:07:05] So you will have to be more specific. And that brings me to the third point. A good topic. Sentence is specific. You don’t want to be too general. For example, if you say tea is delicious, that’s not a good topic sentence because the information in the sentence is too general. The reader does not know what to expect in the paragraph.

[00:07:24] Even if they care about tea or even if they love tea and they care about how tea is delicious, whatever, but what is the writer going to talk about? That is a question that I can’t figure out when I read the topic. Sentence tea is delicious. So what are you going to tell us about how they, uh, plenty or how they package tea, how they make tea?

[00:07:44] What are you going to talk about? Are you going to tell us about your own experiences with drinking tea? What time of day you drink tea? It is too general. You have to be specific. The readers does not know what to expect in the paragraph. And that is a big mistake writers can make when they write their topic sentences.

[00:08:02] So if you want to write a paragraph about D make your topic sentence more specific, such as green tea has many health benefits. Okay. Now I’m interested. I know your topic is about green tea. That is specific. That is not just in general. And it’s even more specific when you say has many health benefits.

[00:08:20] So I know that your paragraph is going to be about the health benefits of green tea. I might be interested in learning about that, so I will read your paragraph. So that is a very important thing you need to know about when you want to write your topic sentence. A good topic. Sentence is specific now that’s not all of course we said specific.

[00:08:40] However, a good topic sentence is not too specific. You will have to find a balance between general and specific. You can’t be general. You have to make it specific, but not too much. For example, this diction dairy contains more than 42,000 words. That limits the topic too much. Imagine that was a topic sentence.

[00:09:02] First of all, of course. It’s a fact it’s not interesting. And what are you going to talk about? Are you going to tell me about those 42,000 words? Are you going to list them in your paragraph? Well, I’m not interested if it is the case. Are you going to tell me about how they made this dictionary? But if it is just about the dictionary that contains more than 42,000 words, It’s too specific that limits the topic too much.

[00:09:24] There’s nothing else for the writer to say, well, what, what are you going? How are you going to follow that sentence? What are you going to say? I don’t know. You can’t be too specific. You have to make your topic sentence specific, of course, but not too specific. So that being said, we still have a very important point and that is a good topic.

[00:09:45] Sentence has a controlling idea. Yeah, of course I introduced what a controlling idea is, but what is the controlling idea? That’s the angle, as I told you, now, that includes words or phrases that help guide the flow of ideas in the paragraph. Now, the controlling idea focuses the content of the following sentences.

[00:10:05] Now when you know what the controlling idea is, you know what to expect in the paragraph because knowing the topic alone, no matter how interesting or exciting the topic might be, it is not enough. I need to know your point. I need to know your angle. I need to know your controlling idea. And here we come to talking about controlling idea.

[00:10:25] I will give you some examples because that’s a very important part of the topic sentence. Some examples. And when I read those examples to you, we will figure out what our expectations as readers will be. So here we have the first topic sentence, many language students prefer bilingual dictionaries to monolingual dictionaries.

[00:10:45] So our topic is about bilingual dictionaries and monolingual dictionaries, and we have students preference as many language students. They prefer bilingual dictionaries. What is the controlling idea here that some students or many students prefer bilingual? Now, what is the expectation here in your mind?

[00:11:04] If you decide to read this paragraph? What do you expect to learn from this paragraph? You expect that the paragraph will explain why the statement is true. This will explain why is it that many students or many language students prefer bilingual dictionaries to monolingual dictionaries? That might be interesting because you want to know yourself.

[00:11:26] Maybe you are a fan of monolingual dictionaries. Maybe you agree with those language students and you want to see if they have the same reasons that you have for your preferring bilingual dictionaries to monolingual dictionaries. So that is the controlling idea without the controlling idea. If I just want to say bilingual dictionaries versus monolingual dictionaries.

[00:11:45] Okay, but what is it? Is it just going to be about what this is and what that is? I know what they are. I’m not interested. I don’t care maybe, but here, because my expectations because of the controlling idea changed to something else. Now I’m interested. I want to know why the statement is true, whether I am with or against it.

[00:12:07] Remember it doesn’t have to be that you should appease your readers. Do not appease them. Sometimes you may tease them, but never trick them. Don’t trick them. Tell them that you’re going to talk about something. And then you talk about something else or you never talk about what you said or what you promised you talk about in the topic sentence.

[00:12:26] So that was our first example in controlling ideas. Let’s take a look at the second example. The best season for kids is winter. So the best season for kids is winter. I know this might be very simple, very basic, maybe not that interesting of a topic sentence, but we still have a controlling idea here.

[00:12:44] Now here, the controlling idea is that the best season for kids is winter. Why is it? So, so here the reader expects the paragraph to give reasons and examples of why winter is the best season for children. That is what might hook the reader and attract their attention to read this paragraph. It might not, but you can never catch fish if you don’t throw the line.

[00:13:07] So that’s what you have to do. Now. Let’s take a look at another example. People from many different cultures live in Los Angeles. Well here, we’re not just talking about living in Los Angeles. That’s true general. Okay. What kind of, what aspect of living in Los Angeles are you going to talk about? Or we’re not just talking about Los Angeles.

[00:13:26] We’re talking about people who live in Los, the controlling idea that they come from many different cultures. So what are my expectations here? What are your expectations? What do you expect to learn? If you read this paragraph? The reader expects the paragraph to include information about various groups of people who make up the population of Los Angeles.

[00:13:48] That might be interesting to a lot of people because remember not every single paragraph as we will learn later down the line in the series about the different types of paragraphs we can write. Not every paragraph is going to answer the question, why we can answer the questions. What, how, where when et cetera.

[00:14:06] We may answer all these questions that that’s why we have different types of paragraphs. So this paragraph is not like the first and the second we talked about, but here, as we said, the reader expects the paragraph to include information about various groups of people who make up the population of Los Angeles.

[00:14:23] Uh, one more example, soccer is popular for many reasons. Well, it’s not just soccer. If it is just soccer, it’s too broad. It’s too general. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe I’m crazy about soccer, which I am by the way, but still, if I read something that goes like soccer is great. Oh really? I know soccer is great, but great.

[00:14:43] Like what, what do you mean? What are you going to talk about in this paragraph? And especially in this digital age, nobody reads. Or it’s very difficult to attract people’s attention to reading. If you want them to read your paragraph, you have to be more convincing. You have to convince me from the very first sentence that you write so that I can give you the most valuable thing that you can get, which is my time.

[00:15:10] I will give you some time and I will read your paragraph. That’s very important here. When I say soccer is popular for many reasons. Well, I might be interested because I might ask myself being a soccer fan. What is the writer going to talk about? Is he going to talk about how popular it is because of this?

[00:15:26] Because of that? Whatever. I have many reasons myself, and maybe I just want to compare my reasons with the writers reasons. So that’s why I’m interested. And I just read the paragraph here. The reader expects the paragraph to give a variety of information about soccer and why it is popular around the world.

[00:15:44] So here I hope from these examples, you really understand the importance. Of controlling ideas and we have a lot of good exercises in the PDF practice worksheet that you will find in the description of the episode. You will find the link that will take you to our website. And there’s a post for this episode.

[00:16:01] You will find everything you need, including the PDF worksheets. Trust me, it’s very important if you really want to make the best of any of the episodes that we create. And we post here in English plus podcasts. You must take the PDF practice, worksheet and practice. Well, maybe we have a lot of series. I agree.

[00:16:19] You may not want to do that for all of our series, but you may pick a couple of series that you’re really interested in and dedicate some time to do some of the exercises that we create. And now with that being said, I hope I’ve made clear to you what the topic sentence is and why it is that important.

[00:16:36] When you want, or when you decide to write a paragraph, I have made a small change in the schedule. We used to have only one writing episode, every chapter, which is every two weeks in English plus podcast. Now I made it every week because I will do two episodes. One is going to be about. Writing paragraphs for how to write paragraphs, the different elements of writing, et cetera.

[00:16:58] And the other is going to be a little bit more grammatical, but it’s not like the other grammar series that we have where we just focus on grammar. No, that’s going to be grammar for writing. So next week we’re going to have grammar for writing. And especially because in this episode, we’re talking about.

[00:17:12] Topic sentences. Next week, we will talk about some grammar for writing. We will focus on grammar that have to do with sentences. First, we’ll talk about commas in sentences, and then we will talk about three common mistakes people make when they write sentences. And that is sentence fragment, a run-on sentence and comma splice.

[00:17:29] So make sure not to miss that because that will help you. Perfect. Your topic sentence, not only at the level of the idea, which is the most important level, but also at the grammatical level. So with that being said, let me remind you that you can find the transcript of this episode in a link. I will leave in the description.

[00:17:45] Actually, this link will take you to our website where you will find the transcript. You will find a PDF practice worksheet. You’ll find everything you need to practice the information. You’re learning in this episode and you will also find two links in the description that will take you to Patreon and to our mailing list.

[00:18:03] Patreon. That is the place where you can support English plus podcast. If you like the content we’re creating support us so that we can create more of that content. And we have great plans for the future, but we’re trying to unfold them little by little. So your support will mean a lot to us. And the other link will take you to our mailing list where you can subscribe, of course, and by subscribing, you will get updates every two weeks as well, release new chapters of our new episodes of our new schedule for the next two weeks for the next chapter.

[00:18:36] With that being said, thank you very much for listening to another episode from English plus podcast. This is your host, Danny out. We’ll see you next time.

<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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