Week 6


  • To further explore the role and importance of the topic sentence.
  • To explore the role of ideas development and vocabulary choice in strengthening the impact and cohesiveness of a paragraph.

Lack of Topic Sentence

A common problem in students’ writing is lack of a topic sentence. The topic sentence has two very important functions. For the writer, it acts as a guideline. Constantly referring back to the topic sentence can prevent the writer from drifting away from the topic, and including irrelevant ideas. For the reader, it is a signpost. Without a topic sentence the reader has to get through the entire paragraph before they can understand the central theme of the paragraph. This is tiring, and frustrating for the reader.


Read this paragraph (which is missing it’s topic sentence) and choose the best topic sentence.

Topic sentence 1: Knowing a friend will keep your secrets is the definition of trust.

Topic sentence 2: Trust is the basis of a good friendship, however, trust is more than being able to rely on someone to keep my secrets, rather, trust has two faces.

Topic sentence 3: Trust is a difficult idea to explain, however, it is important in our lives.

People usually think of trust as being able to confide in someone, knowing that what you share with them will stay private. For example, perhaps you are worried about a situation at work or school, but unsure of how to handle it. Speaking to someone you trust can help you to find a solution, but not if they tell everyone around you. However, trust is more complex than just this first, common definition. Trusting someone means believing they will accept, and continue to love you, regardless of the mistakes you make and changes you experience in your life. A true friendship can survive the coming and going of different boy or girlfriends, different choices of lifestyle, changes of address and career, even life abroad. Really trusting someone means not only being able to share your most personal thoughts with them, but feeling secure and accepted throughout the many twists and turns on the road of life.

Development of Ideas

It is important to remember when we write that our reader may be very different to us. They may be older or younger, have different beliefs about and experiences of life, or come from a very different culture. We are not the audience for our own writing, and so it is necessary to ensure that all our ideas and statements are explained and supported (with examples and details) as much as possible.

Consider this example:

To reduce the crime rate, the government needs to increase the penalties for violent crimes, and provide rehabilitation programs in prisons for convicted criminals. These are necessary steps to a more peaceful society, and safer streets. If my reader comes from a country where the penalties are already very harsh, or has never heard of a rehabilitation program, how will they be able to understand me? Even if they come from the same city as me, what if they have never thought about this topic, or don’t know anything about crime and the justice system? What if they disagree? Without any evidence to support my opinion, is my argument very convincing?

Now consider this alternative:

To reduce the crime rate, the government needs to increase the penalties for violent crimes, and provide rehabilitation programs in prisons for convicted criminals. Current penalties are light, and do not deter violence. For example, recently two men convicted of attacking and severely beating an innocent shopkeeper received only an eight month jail term, while the poor shopkeeper will have to carry those memories and scars for the rest of his life. In addition, evidence suggests that the lack of education and self-development programs in prisons means that young, violent criminals have little chance to reform themselves. In fact, after spending eight months in the company of other criminals, and with no guidance or education, the two men mentioned earlier may return to society more violent and dangerous than when they were sent to prison. Thus, not only harsher penalties but reeducation programs are extremely important. These are necessary steps to a more peaceful society, and safer streets.

Vocabulary Choice

Vocabulary can also help tie your ideas and sentences together, as well as expressing individual ideas. Using synonyms or synonymous expressions throughout your paragraph helps us stay focused on the topic, without boring the reader. This is called lexical chaining.


The key to a successful celebration is good food. In every culture, across the world, significant events are marked with feasting. No matter how much preparation has gone into decorating a venue, choosing the music or entertainment, or seating guests in the right order, if the meal is a disappointment, everything is ruined. Close your eyes and imagine celebrating and important event with your friends and family. Was there a sumptuous banquet being served? Could you see a heavily laden buffet table in the background? Were you in the middle of a meal with many courses? Or were you simply enjoying the typical celebratory dish your mother used to prepare for special occasions?


  • Combine using a thesaurus and an English? English dictionary.
    The thesaurus will give you lots of related words and expressions, the dictionary will tell you which ones are appropriate, and how to use them in a sentence.
  • When you are brainstorming ideas before you write, try to list some synonymous expressions, which you can refer back to while you are writing. For example, if your topic is ‘education’, create a list: Education? Schools, Institutions, Academies, Learning, Teaching, Students, Teachers, Knowledge, Skills…