Miscommunication can be a big problem, whether you are trying to make a point in an academic paper or you are trying to send the right message in the workplace. The topic sentence is a crucial part of writing letters, emails, and papers that clearly and concisely tell the reader what you are trying to say.
If you want to learn about communicating more effectively in the business world, you can check out a business writing training course on Udemy, or have a look at this blog post outlining the top business writing skills you need. However, before you even take that step, it’s important for you to tackle one of the most important aspects of writing– the topic sentence.
What is the Topic Sentence?
The topic sentence is a sentence that is used at the beginning of a paragraph to tell the reader what it is that you are going to be talking about in that paragraph. It’s very similar to the thesis statement that you may have learned about if you took an English composition class, except on a much smaller scale. (On a side note, make sure you check out Udemy’s college writing essentials course if you’re a student in need of a little refresher).
The topic sentence is important because it leads the reader into the points that you are trying to make, without leaving them confused. It also helps to prevent any miscommunication on your part.
There are a few qualities that make for a good topic sentence:
- Brevity: Long, rambling sentences can be confusing. Don’t pack your topic sentence too full of details. That’s what the rest of the paragraph is for.
- Clarity: Likewise, don’t beat around the bush. Say exactly what you want to say. Try not to engage in wordplay and don’t speak in vague terms.
- Precision: Don’t be too broad when introducing the topic that you’re going to discuss. Not only is that a bland approach, it is also unhelpful to readers.
On the other hand, there are a few things that make for a bad topic sentence. Be sure that you aren’t using these kinds of sentences to introduce your paragraphs, as they are unhelpful to readers and do little to help you get your point across.
- Don’t use facts as topic sentences. Remember, you are using the topic sentence to introduce a point you are trying to make, or your opinion.
- Don’t just talk about the “what” – talk about the “why” as well. That is, don’t just think about the effect, but it’s cause.
- Don’t say “I am going to tell you…” or I am going to speak about…” when introducing a topic.
Good Vs. Bad Topic Sentences
Now that you know a little about the basics of writing good topic sentences (and how you can start to avoid writing bad ones), let’s take a look at some examples of each.
Bad: Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809.
Why isn’t this a good topic sentence? First and foremost, it tells the reader very little about what you are going to say. Not only that, but you are not using this valuable space in your paragraph to make a real point.
Good: Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, was one of the most influential politicians in history.
With this topic sentence, you are making a strong point, which you will ideally back up with plenty of facts and good information. The reader also knows what to expect when you use this kind of statement.
Bad: I am going to discuss the Battle of Gettysburg.
While you are telling the reader what the topic is, you are still speaking in very broad terms with this kind of statement.
Good: The Battle of Gettysburg, fought in 1863, was the turning point in the Civil War.
You are making a strong point with this kind of statement, and narrowing down what you are going to talk about. In this case, you are discussing why the Battle of Gettysburg was such an important battle.
Bad: The Civil War had lasting effects on the American South.
With this topic sentence, you are saying what happened, but you are not saying why.
Good: Because the Civil War was fought mostly on Southern soil, it had lasting effects on the region.
With this topic sentence, you are describing a cause and an effect, and you can go into a little more detail in the following sentences.
Other Examples of Topic Sentences
Here are a few more examples of topic sentences that work well, as well as descriptions of why they are effective. Consider some of these techniques to improve your own writing.
- Carol never considered becoming a police officer until her sister was the victim of a violent crime.
Telling a story – especially one with a cause and an effect – can be a great way to hook in readers and to introduce your topic.
- In tomorrow’s meeting, we will be discussing workplace productivity.
For business writing, the topic sentence is important in delivering a message quickly.
- Education is important in lowering crime rates.
This topic sentence introduces the point – that education is important – and tells the reader why that point is important.
- To become a better athlete, you must learn a number of different skills.
This topic sentence is effective because it is easy to see why the topic is important. In addition, the reader can tell what will follow the statement – a discussion of the skills needed to be a better athlete.
And finally, have a look at this topic sentence. What does it tell you? Now that you’ve seen plenty of examples of topic sentences, you should be more than ready to write your own.
- Writing a great topic sentence is not difficult, and will improve your writing skills tremendously.
Whether you want to improve your writing skills to become better at academic writing, something you can learn about in this great essay writing course, or you want to enhance your skills in the workplace, learning to write topic sentences can be of great benefit to you. People in business should also be sure to check out this course on writing effective business emails to take your skills to the next level.