What is a Topic Sentence? - Examples & Definition

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  • 0:05 What is a Topic Sentence?
  • 0:58 Examples of Topic Sentence
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Vineski

Patricia has an MFA in Writing, an MS in Teaching and English Language Arts, and a BA in English.

In this lesson, you'll learn what a topic sentence is and how topic sentences can make your writing clearer and more interesting. Take a look at some examples and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What is a Topic Sentence?

Imagine you've walked into a party knowing nobody. You make yourself a drink, look around the room, and spot another person, silently standing there, sipping his or her drink and surveying the scene. He or she looks like a nice person, but what are you going to say? It might be something as simple as 'Hello, my name is Eva' or 'I really love your red sweater' or 'What do you think of all the food?' Whatever you decide to say, it will contain the main idea and focus of the conversation and tell the other person what that initial conversation is going to be about. It will be your topic sentence.

In writing, the topic sentence is the main idea of each paragraph. It contains the focus of the paragraph and tells readers what the paragraph is going to be about. Although the topic sentence can be located anywhere in a paragraph, in academic essays, it is usually located at the beginning of each paragraph.

Examples of Topic Sentences

Every topic sentence will have a topic and a controlling idea. While the topic tells readers what your paragraph is going to be about, the controlling idea tells readers what you want to say about your topic. Let's go over a couple of examples.

If your topic sentence is, 'Fortune hunters encounter many difficulties when exploring a shipwreck,' your topic is 'exploring a shipwreck' and your controlling idea is 'many difficulties.' In other words, this topic sentence tells your readers that the topic of this paragraph is exploring a shipwreck and that you, the writer, want to discuss the many difficulties that fortune hunters encounter.

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