Tuesday, September 18, 2007

3.1--Topic Sentences

A. Here’s the problem:
I know you know this rule, so don’t even think of feigning ignorance: a topic sentence states an idea, not a fact. “Gatsby gives expensive parties” just doesn’t give you anywhere to go in a paragraph, at least not anywhere that isn’t a PGIO (profound glimpse into the obvious) to anyone who’s ever heard of the novel, much less read it. Yet I continue to be amazed at the number of essays I read every year in which writers begin important body paragraphs with facts about the characters or the plot of the novel.

B. What to do:
If you outline before you draft, you should have a reasonably good idea of the purpose of every paragraph in the essay. If you don’t outline before you draft, you should outline after—it’s a great way to improve the organization of your papers. Then make sure each paragraph states its main idea clearly. Remember that topic sentences serve two functions: they give the paragraph something to do (prove) and they help develop one part of your thesis.

C. Example: Mr. Darcy is first introduced at the Meryton Ball accompanied by Mr. Bingley and his two sisters.
Corrected Version: When Mr. Darcy is introduced at the Meryton Ball, the neighbors have good reason to dislike his pride and arrogance.

D. Now you try—write corrected versions of the following sentences.
1. Finally Elizabeth is informed that Darcy loves her; soon he learns that she hates him.
2. The third marriage is that of Lydia and Wickham.

E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources:
Strunk & White, pp. 16-17 (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk5.html#10)