Essay Writing: Using Topic Sentences to Engage Readers
When you describe the topic sentences of your essay in the special way that I will teach you, the idea level of your essay will not only be clearly organized, but it will also entice readers to read the body paragraphs of your essay.
Here’s the deal — The key ingredients for topic sentences are keywords, and there are two types:
1. ESSENTIAL KEY WORDS, which are the main ideas of your thesis
2. Novelty Keywords, linking your stories, examples, and reasoning support to your MAIN KEYWORDS
Identify MAIN KEY WORDS
For example, suppose you are writing an essay on salads.
You start by saying that most people love salads, and so do you. And, like most people, he likes all kinds of salads, even fruit salads. But you are different in the sense that you can’t stand fruit salads with apples, bananas or pears.
So here is his thesis (MAIN KEY WORDS are IN CAPITAL LETTERS):
Like most people, I love salads, even FRUIT SALADS, but I CAN’T STAND FRUIT SALADS with APPLES, BANANAS, or PEARS.
Here is a topic sentence for the first body paragraph that accompanies that thesis:
I just CAN’T STAND APPLES in FRUIT SALADS.
Although the topic sentence relates to the thesis with MAIN KEY WORDS, that’s a pretty boring topic sentence, isn’t it? Can you see why? Think about it for a moment. Something is boring and boring whennnnnnn—You can think of when?
Okay, here it is — something is boring, boring and uninteresting when there is nothing new on it (you knew that, right?). There is nothing new in that topic sentence, it has already been said in the thesis. It has no novelty keywords to pique readers’ curiosity about what’s next.
Create general novelty keywords
To generate interest in the MAIN KEYWORDS and the main idea of your thesis, add Novelty Keywords.
Novelty keywords are generalities, that is, they are a bit more general than the story details, examples, or reasoning they introduce in your paragraph, and they generally summarize the paragraph. The next two sentences are preferred alternatives to the deadly boring topic sentence above, and illustrate some general keywords of novelty (on italic):
I can’t stand apples in fruit salads—not the red ones anyway.
I can’t stand apples in fruit salads. for some very bad experiences I had with apples in different foods.
You can see that by adding general information as What’s New Keywords, you’re telling your reader what kind of details appear in the paragraph. The first example indicates that the paragraph will say something about “non-reds”; it may sound specific, but it’s not too specific, since we don’t know what “reds” you mean or why.
The second example suggests that it will reveal those “bad experiences” that have made you dislike apples in fruit salads. But again, we don’t know what specific “bad experiences” are, so it’s a generality. Those novelty keywords make those topic sentences more interesting because they entice readers to want to keep reading and discover the specific details, the interesting details.
Novelty keywords are the secret sauce that draws your reader’s curiosity.
Combine CORE and Newness keywords in topic sentences
When you combine Novelty Keywords with MAIN KEYWORDS in a topic sentence, you connect to the main idea of the thesis and suggest interesting details in the next paragraph, as you’ll see in the next three examples.
Example 1. Here is a thesis supported with a topic sentence outline. The schematic shows the use of specific MAIN KEYWORDS (IN CAPITAL LETTERS) and general Novelty Keywords (on italic):
After my parents DIVORCE, I actually GREW CLOSER TO MY ABSENT FATHER in EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, and FINANCIAL WAYS.
Outline of topic sentences that attract readers
Despite the DIVORCE, I HAVE GROWN EMOTIONALLY CLOSER TO MY FATHER because now he lets me talk to him about important things, like boys.
Even though he’s NOT HERE EVERY DAY, MY FATHER does SOCIAL things with me nowadays, like going on “dates”.
Best of all, MY DAD’S FINANCIAL WAYS they are better, now, and he buys me a lot of fun things and gives me more money than before the divorce.
You’ve heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words” — well, a good example is too, and I think the example above speaks volumes. So I’m just going to show you those topic sentences without their Novelty. Keywords and allows you to compare and see how much those Novelty Keywords helped add compelling interest:
Despite the divorce, I have become emotionally close to my father.
Despite the divorce, I have become emotionally close to my father. because now he lets me talk to him about important things, like boys.
Although he is not around every day, my father does social things with me nowadays.
Even though he’s not here every day, my father does social things with me nowadays, like going on “dates”.
Best of all, my dad’s financial ways are better now.
Best of all, my dad’s financial ways are better, now,and he buys me lots of fun things and gives me more money than before the divorce.
Pretty interesting differences, right?
Without novelty keywords, readers won’t have much interest in reading further. But with the added General Novelty Keywords, readers are encouraged to discover—
- what “important things” he talks about with his dad, especially since there’s a hint that one of those things is “boys”; Whether you are a boy or a girl, you are probably thinking: Hmm… can be something juicy, although this is a test… you never know… I will check this….
- what kind of “dates” that she will talk about; it could be some fancy restaurants that she has heard of, or some concerts that probably only a parent could afford, or maybe going to see the Grand Canyon or Disneyland or the Cayman Islands, many possibilities… it might be worth reading on to find out….
- what Is your dad buying you “fun stuff” now? And he is giving more money what before the divorce? I don’t know about you, but am interested in hearing the specific details, especially if those they really are “fun stuff” and just the more money it’s giving him now….
Do you see what I mean?
Example #2. This student example with MAIN KEYWORDS and novelty keywords gives another good illustration of how to entice readers to keep reading the interesting details:
I never would have imagined that RIDING A DIRTY AND NOISY BUS WOULD TEACH ME HOW TO RELAX, GET BETTER GRADES AND APPRECIATE THE HUMOR IN PEOPLE.
Outline of topic sentences that attract readers
That DIRTY NOISY CITY BUS taught me to RELAX because I finally realized that no amount of cursing could speed it up.
After learning to RELAX on the BUS, I started studying french regularly while riding which introduced me to my french angel and GOT ME much BETTER GRADES in French.
TAKING THE CITY BUS TEACHED ME TO APPRECIATE HUMOR IN PEOPLE showing me a lot of silly personal dramas.
Of course, learning to relax on a bus is a yawn, but the first topic sentence suggests that there’s an interesting story about cursing that goes along with it, which could provide some interesting phrases… could be a bit shocking and fun to read…
In the second topic sentence, the old familiar view that you get nothing but irritation from traveling by bus might have some expected positives, but better grades that’s why…?! And what is that Angel thing about?! Hmmm… you might have some tips that could be interesting and maybe even useful…
The novelty keywords in the third topic sentence also seem appealing, with the suggestion of “lots of silly personal drama.” Looks like some fun stories are going to be told in the next paragraph or two…
Example #2 shows once again the usefulness of novelty keywords and the clarity and interest they can bring to your topic sentences while, at the same time, keeping the focus on the main ideas of the thesis.
Example #3. Here’s another example of using topic sentences to outline support for your thesis and get the reader’s curiosity flowing:
Due to NASTY REVIEWS FROM MY TYPING PROFESSOR in my second year, I found an UNEXPECTED MOTIVATION TO BECOME A SECRETARY, as evidenced by MY INTERNSHIP, MY SECRETARIAL BUSINESS SCHOOL, and MY FIRST JOB.
Outline of topic sentences that attract readers
For her, more than two years I PRACTICED so much so that I developed wrists almost as strong as my athletic brother’s.
Ever since MY NASTY WRITING TEACHER graduated from a local business school, I got my own education there just to show it off, and I did!
FINALLY, I GOT MY FIRST SECRETARY JOB, earning about twice what she earns — and I cleverly let her find out.
In the first topic sentence just above, “Because of HER” summarizes “Because of nasty criticism from my typing teacher” of the thesis. One of the reasons this works is that the first topic sentence follows right after the thesis in the essay, as usual, so we can easily see the connection. This may not have worked with any of the other topic sentences because they would be too far removed from the thesis.
The novelty keywords in the first topic sentence make us want to know how strong her dolls really got… could you hit your brother, now?…he seems to be leaning a bit in that direction…wonder if that’s the case…I think I’ll find out…
The novelty keywords in the second topic sentence also arouse our curiosity. …how much he managed to show that obnoxious typing teacher… ‘supporting the little guy’….
The third topic sentence uses novelty keywords to let us know that there is a final blow to the writer’s long-elaborated plan of revenge… I can’t wait to read about how he cleverly let her know, how she reacted, I bet it’s great…
As you can see from these three topic sentence example outlines that I have shared with you, any essay writer can write Novelty Keywords in such a way that they will pique the curiosity of their readers and make them want to read on.
Wouldn’t that be a nice change in the state of student essay writing, especially yours?