Topic Sentences and Their Placement

How to use topic sentences to introduce or conclude your paragraphs.

A paragraph is a grouping of sentences that discuss a common topic. The topic the paragraph discusses is expressed via a topic sentence. Topic sentences can be expressed using many techniques and may appear anywhere in the paragraph, though appearing as the first sentence in the paragraph is most common.

This is a subchapter on topic sentences. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have learned an important new lesson in constructing paragraphs.

What is a Topic Sentence?

A topic sentence is a sentence that defines the topic for a paragraph. It typically appears as the first sentence in a paragraph, but that need not be the case. The topic sentence for this paragraph determines that the paragraph will be about topic sentences. All other sentences in the paragraph are supporting sentences for the primary topic. A paragraph may or may not include a concluding statement before the next paragraph begins.

This is a new topic sentence about how new paragraphs begin. Try writing paragraphs that begin with topic sentences. Use your journal to perform this task.

First Sentence Topic Sentences

As introduced in the previous section, the topic of a new paragraph is often introduced by the first sentence of the paragraph. This is the easiest way to write topic sentences and hence paragraphs, so I recommend you begin with opening topic sentences.

That’s not to say this is the only way to use topic sentences. In the remaining sections, we’ll look at changing the location of the topic sentences to achieve your goals.

Second Sentence Topic Sentences

Topic sentences need not be the first sentence in a paragraph. In the following example, the topic sentence for the paragraph is the second sentence:

California is a big state. However, if you think California is big, you won’t believe the size of Alaska. After all, Alaska is the biggest state in the United States of America.

Note that using a topic sentence as the first sentence is still the most common form.

Last Sentence Topic Sentences

Paragraphs contain multiple sentences. Each sentence serves a different purpose all the way from the introduction, through clarification to the conclusion. That’s what makes paragraphs so complex.

Two-Pronged Topic Sentences

Topic sentences can be divided into simple statements and two-pronged topic sentences. Simple statements identify a single topic to be discussed in a paragraph. Two-pronged sentences identify multiple topics to be discussed. Both forms have their uses in writing narrative and essays.