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Student Reminders! EN100 Students: Diagnostic Paragraphs Due 9/9


Welcome Back! Welcome Back, UWP Students. Thus begins the fall semester!


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Topic Sentences and Paragraph Development

There are three stages of paragraph development.

1. Topic Sentence
2. Support
3. Conclusion

Topic Sentences

What is the function of a topic sentence?

  • It narrows down the topic, sets up the boundaries for the paragraph.
    • Over 95% of professional writers use topic sentences.

Let’s look at an example:

John is thirty years old.

While this sentence might narrow down the topic, as noted above, it does have some problems. What might they be?

How about this one:

John is pathetic

Why does the second example work better than the first?

So a topic sentence narrows down the topic (like a thesis) and generally provides anĀ opinion.


How much is enough? Two sentences? Three? Ten? This is a tricky question. The answer is that you need to provide enough support to adequately prove the point that you have made in the topic sentence. Let’s explore this idea using examples.

John is pathetic. He still lives with his parents.

A concise bit of support, but where are the logical flaws in the paragraph? Let’s try to come up with a counterexample.

Notice the way that simple added details can help to develop your paragraph in ways that prove your claim. This is why your writing teachers have encouraged you to be as specific as possible.

John is pathetic. He is thirty years old and still lives with his parents. He doesn’t own a car or have a job. He drinks far too much and rarely gets up before noon. He doesn’t have many friends anymore. His sister is pretty popular, though.

How about the support above? What is askew? Look at the sentence construction and the development.

Conclusion and Construction

Your conclusion has several functions.

  • Sum up
  • Underscore your main points
  • Transition (in editing)

The best conclusions do more than repeat what the topic sentence states. Remember that everything you write has one basic persuasive goal: Keep reading the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next page!

John is pathetic. At the age of thirty, he still lives with his parents. Every weekend, he swindles his mother our of twenty dollars so he can drink at Trackside, a dilapidated little bar on the north side of Milwaukee. He used to drive a rust orange Pacer, with a sheet of plastic serving for a passenger window. Above twenty miles an hour, the shredded “window” cracked like a whip in the wind and flapped like a broken wing attached to a clump of moving metal. I heard that he traded the vehicular contraption for a case of Miester Brau beer and a guitar with four strings and a cracked neck. The last time that I saw John was over a month ago. I arrived at his house in the afternoon. His mother had just roused him from bed, and he was playing Frogger on his Atari 2600. Between joystick maneuvers, he was slurping from a cup of instant coffee, smoking a filterless cigarette, and taking quick gulps from a can of warm Pabst. I left within ten minutes.

Sometimes it helps to change up sentence types and work on language in your writing.

It doesn’t hurt to use the writing process as a opportunity to add to your vocabulary and search for language that does more than one thing at a time.

Verbs should convey tone and quality, and details should be carefully selected to prove your point. Someone else might think John is heroic, and he might very well be, but not in your paragraph.

Try to use figurative language, but avoid the most readily available (cliche) uses. Look at the simile in the paragraph. It’s extended, but one of the choices is more original than the other because it is more specific. It provides a more complete picture. Which one is it?

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