Next time you’re staring at a blank screen and wondering how to make the words for that due-in-24-hours essay magically appear, remember these two words: Topic sentence.
So now you know what a topic sentence is, but how do you make it a good one? First, recognize that topic sentences can come in many shapes and sizes. They are not formulaic — in fact, it’s a good idea to use different types to keep your writing lively. Here are a few common types:
Complex: This type of sentence will typically start with a subordinate clause, often reflecting on the previous topic, and then move into the next one in the second half of the sentence. For example: “Although Columbus is given credit for opening the door to European colonization in America, he is also heavily criticized for his role in reducing the number of native residents in the areas he visited.”
Question: Questions can be good guides for the reader, who will likely assume you are about to answer the question posed (so make sure you follow through!). Using a question at the beginning of your paragraph adds some momentum, driving toward your answer. (You just read an example of this type: see two paragraphs above.)
Bridge: Like a complex sentence, a bridge acts as a transition from your previous point into the next one. However, the bridge is typically a simpler sentence and can add a little variety to your writing. You might write something as simple as, “The new ordinance, however, did not deter bar patrons from smoking.”
Ideas that typically don’t work well as topic sentences? Quotations from others usually aren’t good—they will typically only indirectly relate to the topic. Also, avoid a blatant announcement: “Now, I will cover the events leading up to Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address” (This is too simplistic).