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The Writer’s Reference Book


Module 15 – Paragraph Development I – Hint Sheet

  1. Topic Sentences – The topic sentence is the general statement in a paragraph that explains what the whole paragraph is about. It is usually the first sentence in the paragraph.
  2. Statement (Controlling Idea)
    1. A topic sentence contains a topic and a statement (controlling idea). The statement (controlling idea) is what the writer intends to say about the topic.
      • Topic Statement (Controlling Idea)
      • Pollution + demands action.
      • Pollution + exists throughout the world.
    2. A topic sentence implies an argument that must be proven. A statement of fact cannot be used as a topic sentence since it does not need to be proven.
      • Statement of fact: Television stations broadcast news.
      • Topic sentence: Television news shows are biased.
    3. Topic sentences should not be too general.
      • Too general: Shakespeare was a great writer.
      • Topic sentence: Shakespeare's typical education seems unlikely for a genius.
  3. Unity – Any sentence in the paragraph that does not support the topic sentence is considered out of unity. Check each sentence by using the word “because” after the topic sentence:
    • Topic sentence: Dogs make excellent pets.
    • (Because) They are loyal.
    • (Because) They are playful.
    • (Because) They are useful.
    • The sentence "They are a lot of trouble to take care of" would be out of unity since it does not explain why dogs make excellent pets.
  4. Support – Paragraphs may have primary (major) support as well as secondary (minor) support. Topic sentence: Dogs make excellent pets.
    • Primary support: First, they are loyal.
    • Secondary support: They are devoted to their owners.
    • Primary support: Next, they are playful.
    • Secondary support: They enjoy games like catch.
    • Secondary support: They like to play with toys.
    • Primary support: Finally, they are useful.
    • Secondary support: They can protect property.
    • Secondary support: They can warn of danger.
    • Look for transition markers (first, another, etc.) to identify primary support.
  5. Conclusion – The conclusion of a paragraph should bring the paragraph to a close without bringing in a new topic or idea. A good concluding sentence for the paragraph in item 4 might be “Dogs are truly man’s best friend.” A poor concluding statement might be “Goldfish also make good pets.”
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