Topic Sentences: Identification & Analysis

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  • 0:00 Sentences
  • 0:54 The Topic Sentence
  • 2:39 Tips for Writing a…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

The topic sentence is a very important structure in written language. This lesson not only defines this term, but gives tips on how to analyze your own topic sentences in order to make them as strong as can be.


As a society, we center our written communication on the sentence, which is a group of words that express a complete thought. In addition, we further organize our writing to be in paragraphs, which are groups of sentences related to one main idea. Using sentences and paragraphs to organize communication makes it much easier for your readers to understand your ideas.

In order for a paragraph to be an effective form of communication, it must be organized and flow logically from one idea to another. In this way, how a paragraph is structured is very important. Perhaps the most important part of that structure is the topic sentence, which is the first sentence of the paragraph that presents to your reader the main idea or purpose of the whole paragraph. Let's look at some qualities of the topic sentence.

The Topic Sentence

Since your topic sentence is the first one of that paragraph read by your audience, you need to make sure it grabs the reader's attention. Your first sentence needs to make the reader want to read more. Remember too, that it needs to express the purpose and main idea of the whole paragraph. This means that all the following sentences need to support that one main idea. Be careful your topic sentence is not too specific. It needs to be a broad enough idea to be the center of a whole paragraph.

Let's look at some examples of topic sentences. Imagine that you are writing about perhaps one of the most significant inventions of our age: the cell phone. One of your paragraphs has this topic sentence:

  • The cell phone is very useful.

True, this sentence does make it clear that paragraph is going to describe the uses of the cell phone, but do you think this is a strong topic sentence? Does it grab your attention? Do you want to read further? Not really. This is a weak topic sentence. It does not hook your reader. Now read this revised version:

  • The cell phone has as many uses as your own two hands.

This is a much better topic sentence. It creates more intrigue by connecting the uses of the cell phone to the thousands of things your own hands do for you every day. But we can take this even further to create an extremely strong topic sentence.

  • Imagine suddenly having to live without your right hand; that would be like life without the cell phone.

Although probably an exaggeration, this topic sentence is very strong. It definitely grabs the reader's attention and relates the overall main idea of the paragraph, the uses of the cell phone, to your reader's personal life. This definitely makes the reader want to continue to read the paragraph.

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