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Part II: Mastering the Perfect Paragraph


The Topic Sentence: Your Paragraph's Main Idea


  • Craft a specific and concise topic sentence that focuses on a single main idea.

  • Make a clear assertion in your topic sentence that can be supported with evidence.

  • Refine your topic sentence by mentioning specific literary devices, elements, or ideas.


The most important sentence in your paragraph is the topic sentence. It clearly announces the main idea you will discuss in the rest of the paragraph.


A strong topic sentence is specific, focuses on a single topic, and makes a clear assertion that the rest of your paragraph will support. Your topic sentence should state an opinion or make a claim that you can back up with evidence and analysis in the following sentences. For example, a weak topic sentence might be something like "Moby Dick is a good novel." This example is weak because it makes no directed claim, provides no specific reasons that can be supported by evidence, nor mentions any elements of the writing that create this effect. Follow these steps to turn your topic sentence into a strong foundation for your Perfect Paragraphs.

 

Example

Starting topic sentence: "Moby Dick is a good novel."

Step 1: Make the sentence more specific by mentioning one aspect that makes Moby Dick a good novel. "Moby Dick is a novel that explores the complex theme of obsession in great depth."

Step 2: Provide a more concise version of the sentence. "Moby Dick delves into the theme of obsession."

Step 3: Include specific reasons that can be supported with evidence. "Moby Dick delves into the theme of obsession through its vivid imagery and complex characters."

Step 4: Further refine the sentence by mentioning a specific literary device or element. "Herman Melville's Moby Dick delves into the theme of obsession through its rich symbolism, particularly the white whale itself."

Revised topic sentence: "Herman Melville's Moby Dick delves into the destructive power of human obsession through its rich symbolism, most notably the representation of the white whale, Moby Dick, which serves as an elusive and all-consuming target for the novel's crew."

This final topic sentence is specific, concise, and provides a clear focus and angle on the theme of obsession that can be supported with evidence from the novel, such as the symbols and metaphors employed by Melville to represent the white whale's significance and Captain Ahab's fixation on hunting it down. Your topic sentence guides the rest of your paragraph and unites it into a cohesive whole. Every sentence in your paragraph should connect back to the main idea in your topic sentence. If a sentence doesn't relate, it doesn't belong in the paragraph, or your topic sentence needs to be revised. Remember, a strong topic sentence is the key to navigating the rest of your Perfect Paragraph. It's your guide - follow it and you can't go wrong, no matter how challenging the writing process may be!


Writing is a skill that requires practice, feedback, and refinement. If you're looking to take your paragraph writing to the next level, consider seeking the guidance of a writing tutor. At Hewes House, our experienced writing tutors are dedicated to helping students like you master the art of the Perfect Paragraph. We offer personalized feedback, targeted exercises, and strategies for overcoming common writing challenges. Whether you're working on a specific assignment or looking to build your skills for the long term, we're here to support you every step of the way.


Next week, we’ll dive into how to craft the second piece of your Perfect Paragraph, context.

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