When you outline your essay’s topic sentences in the special way I’ll teach you, the idea level of your essay will not only be clearly organized, but it will also entice readers into reading the body paragraphs of your essay, as well.
Here’s the deal—The key ingredients for topic sentences are keywords, and there are two kinds:
1. CORE KEYWORDS, which are the main ideas in your thesis
2. Newness Keywords, which link your stories, examples, and reasoning support to your CORE KEYWORDS
Identify CORE KEYWORDS
For instance, suppose you’re writing an essay about salads.
You start off saying how most people love salads, and so do you. And, like most people, you like all kinds of salads, even fruit salads. But you’re different in that you can’t stand fruit salads with apples, bananas, or pears in them.
So here’s your thesis (CORE KEYWORDS are CAPITALIZED):
Like most people, I love salads, even FRUIT SALADS, but I just CAN’T STAND FRUIT SALADS with APPLES or BANANAS or PEARS.
Here’s a topic sentence for the first body paragraph to go with that thesis:
I just CAN’T STAND APPLES in FRUIT SALADS.
Though the topic sentence does link back to the thesis with CORE KEYWORDS, that’s a pretty dull topic sentence, isn’t it? Can you see why? Think about it for a moment. Something is dull and boring whennnnnnnn—can you think of when?
Okay, here it is—something is dull, boring, and uninteresting when there is nothing new in it (you knew that, right?). There’s nothing new in that topic sentence—it has already been stated in the thesis. It has no Newness Keywords to make readers curious about what’s next.
Create General Newness Keywords
To provide interest to CORE KEYWORDS and the main idea in your thesis, you add Newness Keywords.
Newness Keywords are generalities—that is, they are just a bit more general than the specifics of the stories, examples, or reasoning they introduce in their paragraph—and they usually summarize the paragraph. The following two sentences are preferred alternates to that deadly dull topic sentence above, and they illustrate some general Newness Keywords (italicized):
I just can’t stand apples in fruit salads—not red ones, anyway.
I just can’t stand apples in fruit salads because of some very bad experiences I had with apples in different foods.
You can see that by adding some general information as Newness Keywords you are telling your reader what kind of details are coming up in the paragraph. The first example indicates that the paragraph will tell something about “not red ones;” it may seem specific, but it’s not too specific, since we don’t know which “red ones” are being referred to or why.
The second example suggests you will reveal those “bad experiences” that have made you dislike apples in fruit salads. But, again, we don’t know which specific “bad experiences,” so it’s a generality. Those Newness Keywords make those topic sentences more interesting because they entice readers into wanting to read on and find out the specifics, the interesting details.
Newness Keywords are the secret sauce that appeal to your reader’s curiosity.
Combine CORE and Newness Keywords in Topic Sentences
When you combine Newness Keywords with CORE KEYWORDS in a topic sentence, you connect with the main idea of the thesis, and you hint at interesting details to come in the following paragraph, as you’ll see in the following three examples.
Example #1. Here’s a thesis supported with an outline of topic sentences. The outline shows the use of specific CORE KEYWORDS (CAPITALIZED) and general Newness Keywords(italicized):
After my parents’ DIVORCE, I actually GREW CLOSER to MY ABSENT FATHER in EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, and FINANCIAL WAYS.
Outline of Topic Sentences That Entice Readers
Despite the DIVORCE, I’ve GROWN EMOTIONALLY CLOSER to MY FATHER because now he lets me talk to him about important things, like boys.
Although he’s NOT AROUND 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, and he buys me lots 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 says a lot.So I’ll just show you those topic sentences without their Newness Keywords and let you compare and see how much those Newness Keywords helped add enticing interest:
Despite the divorce, I’ve grown emotionally closer to my father.
Despite the divorce, I’ve grown emotionally closer to my father because now he lets me talk to him about important things, like boys.
Although he’s not around every day, my father does social things with me nowadays.
Although he’s not around 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.
Quite interesting differences, aren’t they?
Without Newness Keywords, readers won’t have much interest in reading on. But with the general Newness Keywords added, readers are stimulated to find out—
- what “important things” she talks about with her dad, especially since there’s a hint that one of those things is “boys”—whether you’re a guy or a gal, you’re probably thinking: Hmm… could be something juicy, even though this is an essay… you never know… I’ll check this out….
- what sort of “dates” will she tell about—might be some fancy restaurants you’ve heard about, or some concerts that only a dad would probably be able to afford, or maybe off to see the Grand Canyon or Disneyland or the Cayman Islands, lots of possibilities… might be worth reading on to find out….
- what “fun things” is her dad buying her now? And he’s giving her more money than he did before the divorce? I don’t know about you, but I’m interested to hear the specific details, especially if those really are “fun things” and just how much more money he’s giving her now….
See what I’m getting at?
Example #2. This student example with CORE KEYWORDS and Newness Keywords gives another good illustration of how to entice readers to read on for the interesting details:
I would never have guessed that RIDING A NOISY, DIRTY CITY BUS would TEACH ME to RELAX, GET BETTER GRADES, and APPRECIATE THE HUMOR IN PEOPLE.
Outline of Topic Sentences That Entice Readers
That NOISY, DIRTY CITY BUS taught me to RELAX because I finally realized that no amount of cursing could hurry it.
After learning to RELAX on the BUS, I began studying French regularly while riding, which introduced me to my French angel and GOT ME much BETTER GRADES in French.
RIDING THE CITY BUS TAUGHT ME TO APPRECIATE THE HUMOR IN PEOPLE by showing me lots of silly personal dramas.
Of course, learning to relax on a bus is a yawner, but the first topic sentence suggests there’s an interesting story about cursing that goes along with that, which could provide some interesting phrases… might be a little shocking and fun to read about….
In the second topic sentence, the familiar, old view of getting nothing but irritation out of riding a bus might have some expected silver linings, but better grades because of it…?! And what’s that angel thing about?! Hmmm… just might have some tips that could be interesting and maybe even useful….
The Newness Keywords in the third topic sentence also look enticing, with the hint about “lots of silly personal dramas.” Sounds like some fun stories are going to be told in the next paragraph or two….
Example #2 shows once again the usefulness of Newness Keywords and the clarity and interest they can bring to your topic sentences while, at the same time, keeping focus on the main ideas of the thesis.
Example #3. Here’s another example of using topic sentences to outline the support for your thesis and get the reader’s curiosity juices flowing:
Because of MY TYPING TEACHER’S NASTY CRITICISM in my sophomore year, I found UNEXPECTED MOTIVATION TO BECOME A SECRETARY, as shown by MY PRACTICE, MY SECRETARIAL BUSINESS SCHOOLING, and MY FIRST JOB.
Outline of Topic Sentences That Entice Readers
Because of HER, over two years I PRACTICED so much that I developed wrists almost as strong as my athletic brother’s.
Since MY NASTY TYPING TEACHER graduated from a local business school, I got my own schooling there just to show her up—and I did!
Finally, I got MY FIRST SECRETARIAL JOB, making about twice what she makes—and I cleverly let her find out about it.
In the first topic sentence just above, “Because of HER” summarizes “Because of my typing teacher’s nasty criticism” from the thesis. One reason 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 might not have worked with any of the other topic sentences because they would be too far away from the thesis.
The Newness Keywords in the first topic sentence causes us to look forward to learning how strong her wrists really became…. could she beat her brother up, now?… seems to be leaning in that direction a bit…wonder whether that’s the case… think I’ll find out….
The Newness Keywords in the second topic sentence also rouse our curiosity … just how much did she manage to show up that nasty typing teacher… ‘rooting for the little guy’….
The third topic sentence uses Newness Keywords to let us know there’s a final blow to the writer’s long-worked-out plan of revenge… can’t wait to read about how she cleverly let her know about it, how she reacted, bet it’s great….
As you can see from these three example outlines of topic sentences I’ve shared with you, any writer of essays can write Newness Keywords in such a way that they’ll make their readers curious and want to read on.
Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change in the state of student essay writing—especially yours?