Lesson Seven

What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence usually appears as the first sentence in a paragraph. It informs the reader about the subject of the paragraph, or the topic, and how that subject will be explored in the sentences that follow. The topic sentence states an idea clearly. It raises the reader’s curiousity in some way and it offers a direction for the rest of the paragraph. Let’s look at some examples of topic sentences.

  • Grass-fed beef is a delicious, sensible, and healthy alternative to conventional beef.
  • Moderate exposure to violent content in video games does not contribute to a general increase in violence in society.
  • Americans are becoming increasingly alarmed by the depth of national surveillance programs and the subsequent loss of privacy.
  • It is wise to invest in early childhood education programs because they provide cognitive benefits well beyond preschool.

In each of these sentences, the subject is identified and there is some idea of how the writer is going to explore the subject. Contrast the sentences above with a similar group of sentences that lack a specific focus.

  • Grass-fed beef is delicious and nutritional.
  • Video games are not as bad as people think.
  • The NSA is out of control!
  • Early childhood programs need more financial support.

While it is possible to write a paragraph with short sentences like the ones you see here, it is worth questioning if they have an adequate focus. These sentences seem to be weak topic sentences; however, In the prewriting stage of writing the paragraph, you could start with kind of a weak topic sentence and then revise it after writing the supporting sentences. Or you might decide that a supporting sentence would make a better topic sentence. Or the concluding sentence sounds like a great topic sentence.


We will learn about supporting sentences in the lesson that follows.

Next: Lesson Eight