Friday, June 15, 2012

Paragraphs and Topic Sentences

Question: Where do contemporary professional writers place topic sentences in paragraphs?

Answer: The author of this study discovered that contemporary professional writers do not always place topic sentences in the beginning of paragraphs. Still, wherever they are placed, he asserts, they need to be clearly expressed.

Quote: “This sample of contemporary professional writing did not support the claims of textbook writers about the frequency and location of topic sentences in professional writing…. Moreover, it does not all mean that composition teachers should stop showing their students how to develop paragraphs from clear topic sentences. Far from it. In my opinion, often the writing in the 25 essays would have been clearer and more comfortable to read if the paragraphs had presented more explicit topic sentences.” P. 301.

Comment: In fact, if the paragraphs are extended because of size and reader comfort, the paragraphs might not even have  topic sentences. But the original paragraph does have a clear topic sentence. The author of this study says that professional writers do not always place topic sentences in the beginning, but they still benefit, wherever they are placed, from clear expression.

On the value of topic sentences: my nephew, a PhD engineering student, carefully constructed his dissertation with clear topic sentences. When it came time for his defense, he found that by simply reading his topic sentences, he was completely prepared for the questions of the examiners. RayS.

Title: “The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose.” Richard Braddock. Research in the Teaching of English (Winter 1974), 287-302.

No comments: