Tip #11: Real Writers Don’t Worry About Topic Sentences

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Brian's Writing Tip #11: Don't Worry About Topic Sentences

1.      Real writers don’t worry about topic sentences. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with teaching budding writers formal paragraph structure, including the topic sentence. Just be aware that mature writers rarely think in terms of topic sentence-body-concluding sentence when they compose paragraphs. Writing tends to be more organic and intuitive and less formally organized. Any given paragraph may or may not have a perceptible topic sentence, but don’t let that concern you. The topic sentence is a contrivance to help novice writers develop a feel for form. Like training wheels on a bike that are eventually shed, there will come a time when writing teachers should stop insisting that every paragraph contain a topic sentences.

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Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Marie
    Marie05-14-2014

    Middle school and high school science books (at least those published by Pearson) have topic sentences for all their paragraphs. If you outline a section (or a chapter or the whole book), it follows the rules perfectly.
    This may be why I prefer a book aimed at the well-educated layman.

  2. Rhonda Barfield
    Rhonda Barfield04-15-2014

    Maybe I’m the exception to the rule. As the author of five published books and more than a hundred articles, I have always thought in terms of “topic sentence to paragraph content to concluding sentence” while constructing paragraphs. I understand the lack of application to fictional writing. However, in my genre of here’s-how-to-do-something, this structure works well for me.

    Readers have often told me that they find my style extremely clear and easy to access. I credit that, at least in part, to strong organization.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko04-15-2014

      Well, there you go proving me wrong, Rhonda. Apparently some writers do think in terms of topic sentence. And it seems to be working. Thanks for sharing.

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