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         Topic Sentences

A topic sentence identifies the overall topic of a paragraph and makes a point about the topic.  The point about the topic is also called the controlling idea.  The controlling idea should be debatable or require proof or explanation. 

Topic Sentence = Topic + Controlling Idea

     Winter is the best season in Minnesota.

     Michael had a difficult childhood.

A topic sentence might also provide support for the controlling idea.

Topic Sentence = Topic + Controlling Idea + Support

     Lisa  needs to break with John  because he is arrogant, lazy, and controlling.   

Typically, the topic sentence is at the beginning of the paragraph, and the rest of the paragraph sets out to prove the topic sentence.  The example below begins with a short lead-in that gives the reader background information, and the topic sentence follows the lead-in.

 My best friend, Lisa, has been dating her boyfriend, John, for almost a year.  Recently, the two of them have been talking about John moving in with Lisa.  Letting John move in with her would turn Lisa’s situation from bad to worse.  Instead of letting him move in with her, Lisa needs to break up with Johnbecause he is arrogant, lazy, and controlling.  When Lisa first met John, she was impressed by his self-confidence.  Having self-confidence is good, but there is a definitive line between being self-confident and arrogant, and John is on the wrong side of that line.  In his mind, he is perfect and can do no wrong.  Worse, he criticizes everyone, including Lisa, for being imperfect.  Even though he thinks he is perfect, John cannot keep a job.  While he blames his lack of employability on his former bosses, the truth is that he cannot keep a job because he is lazy.  Whenever he gets a job, he shows up for work late, works slowly, and takes frequent breaks.  Somehow, even though he rarely has an income, he feels he deserves to control the money that Lisa makes.  Furthermore, Lisa’s money is not all he thinks he should control.  He also tells Lisa what to wear, what and when to eat, and who she should and should not hang out with.  Clearly, Lisa would be better off without John.  She lost one year of her life by dating him; she needs to cut her losses and run.