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Advanced English Writing (year 20122013)
III. Topic sentences and the unity of a paragraph

Main points
? Structure of a paragraph ? Criteria of an effective paragraph ? Criteria of an effective topic sentence ? How to write a topic sentence? ? Controlling idea

Structure of a paragraph
? Topic sentence ? Supporting sentences ? Concluding sentence

Criteria of an effective paragraph
? Unity ? Coherence ? Well-developed

Unity: all the sentences in the paragraph are related with the topic sentence; Coherence: one part leading to the other part logically; Well-developed: it fulfills what it sets out to say.


Unity is concerned with the content of a
paragraph. A unified paragraph discusses only

one topic or one aspect of a topic. Only one
central idea or theme it may have. When a new

idea is generated, a new paragraph must begin.

Criteria of an effective topic sentence

1> complete 2> concentrated (or focused on one central idea) 3> clear

4> predictive: how the supporting sentences will be developed 5> point of view: YOUR attitude toward what is to

be narrated, explained or argued

? p12

The controlling idea

Narrow your focus within a topic sentence by using a

more specific word or group of words to express the chief
point of a paragraph: its controlling idea.

Too General 1. Music is enjoyable.

Controlling Idea Added

Music arouses many different emotions in listeners. In the Olympic Games the athletes of many countries compete intensely.
A qualified teacher, he is intellectually stimulating.

2. The Olympic Games are exciting.

3. He is a good teacher

段落目的 1) 讲故事

主题 发生了什么事

主题句要素要点 基本事实——谁、 地点、时间、怎样

One Thursday last month in the college

cafeteria, seven young men planned a prank
that turned the entire college upside down.

2) 个人经历

发生了什么事, 时间、地点

经历的重要性, 你的感受

In November 1986, when my parents sent me an airline ticket from Belize to New York City

so that I could join them, I was scared and
unsure of my future.

3) 描写



My block, at Avenue M and East 19th Street, is an exciting place to live.

4) 指导


必须做的头等大 事

To make a good Italian spaghetti sauce, a
beginning cook must have patience.

5) 争论或劝说

人物、地点或 事件

对事件的看法(用 should, ought, good, bad, better worse 之类词语)

Teenagers should be more outspoken about

protecting their rights.

6) 提供解决



In order to decrease crime in our apartment
building, we must set up a tenant patrol.

7) 词和术语定义





Getting over” is the practical skill of

succeeding in difficult situations.

8) 分析或分类 被分析或分类




In any type of gambling there are three important factors: the original money paid (or the “ bet” ), the chance involved, and the “ payoff”.

9) 比较或对比 被比较的两项


When I compare my elementary school today with what it was like when I went there ten years ago, I

see that there is much more learning going on now.

10) 阐述原因



Many small businesses have had to shut down this winter for a number of reasons.

11) 解释过程



Producing a book requires the cooperation of author, editor, designer, printer and distributor.

? P13: Exercise 3 ? P14: Exercise 4 ? P14-15: Exercise 5

A topic sentence may appear at the beginning or end of a paragraph; it may also be found in the middle. Sometimes it may not show up at all if it is implied and readers can understand the central theme easily.

Exercise I

The Topic Sentence

A. Write out the topic sentence in each of the
following paragraphs.

Sample Paragraph 1

We Americans are incredibly lazy. Instead of

cooking a simple, nourishing meal, we pop frozen
dinner into the oven. Instead of studying a daily

newspaper, we are contented with the capsule
summaries on the network news. Worst of all, instead of walking even a few blocks to the local convenience store, we jump into our cars.

分析: 该段第一句为主题句,作者用了大量具体 的事实说明这种懒惰到了何种程度。

Paragraph 2 Several Shakespearian characters were ruined by their desires for power. Cassius was one such character. He overthrew Julius Caesar to possess the emperor’s power but died by having Pindarus, his slave, stab him with the same sword he had used to kill Caesar, Macbeth was another power-hungry character.

To take over the crown, he assassinated his king, only to be killed later by Macduff. Edmund in King Lear was also ruined by an unnatural desire for power. After gaining his father’s title and fortune through lies and intrigues, Edmund was killed by

his triumphant brother, the lawful heir.

Paragraph 3 When people sit down to eat, they

unconsciously reveal their personal habits. The color of the food that they order indicates their tastes. For instance, a person who orders red, yellow, and orange foods usually wears brightly colored clothes and lives in an apartment decorated in lively colors.

The texture of the food gives clues to the way that people deal with life situations. The diner who prefers such crunchy foods as crackers probably meets the day-to-day conflicts head-on while the diner who orders soft creamy foods will go to almost any length to avoid conflicts. Finally, the manner in which people eat their meals reveals their work habits. Those that eat all of their food at the same time probably have four or five things going on; those that finish one dish before beginning another one may be capable of handling only one project at a time.

B. Write out the sentence in each paragraph
that is unrelated to the central idea.

Pearls are gathered by men known as divers. Actually, these men do not dive. They are lowered by a rope to the bottom of the sea. Many tourists to Japan enjoy shopping for cultured pearls. Pearl gatherers work in pairs, with one remaining at the surface to help the other return from his dive. An experienced diver can stay down about a minute and a half and can often make as many as thirty dives in one day.

For hundreds of years, man has made use of the talents of monkeys. Egyptian paintings of 2000 B.C., show baboons gathering fruit for their masters. Even in 1879, in Abyssinia, monkeys were still being used as torchbearers at feasts. The monkeys would sit in a row on a bench and hold the lights until the guests went home. Then the monkeys would eat. Most of the world’s zoos contain a variety of monkeys for people to watch.

C. The controlling idea of a topic sentence is the key word or group of words that expresses its basic idea. Point out the word or words containing the controlling idea in the following topic sentences.

Example: Good study habits are useful to a college

Example: Holiday ocean cruises attract four types of passengers.

Example: Censorship of films and television is a
controversial matter in some countries.

1. In ancient times, three types of calendars were
used. 2. Some people see electronic computers as a threat to man.

3. Map-reading skills can be helpful in many

school subjects.
4. The noise level in large factories has caused problems for many manufacturers.

5. In 1930, biologists made a strange discovery off
the coast of Africa.

D. Revise these topic sentences to narrow the focus by stressing a controlling idea. Example: Original Many young people today have

developed a culture of their own.


Styled hair and new-wave clothing are
part of the culture of many of today’s young people.

1. Marriage for couples under twenty is foolish. 2. Taking a course in English composition is beneficial. 3. College students could make better use of their

leisure time.
4. Buddhism is popular.

Suggested Revisions:
1. Married couples under twenty have more problems than those over twenty.

2. Taking a course in English composition is beneficial at least in three ways.
3. By cultivating one or two hobbies, college students could make better use of their leisure time. 4. Buddhism is popular in East Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea.

E. The paragraphs below do not have topic sentences. Read each one carefully and then write a topic sentence with a controlling idea that reflects the content of the paragraph. Circle the controlling idea.

Background music played at slow tempo can increase sales and promote patience. For instance, one supermarket chain increased its receipts by

more than one third after it began playing slow
background music. A Houston restaurant found that

slow dinner music made its patrons more patient
when the service was slow because of large crowds.

Background music played at a fast pace has almost
the opposite effect of that played at a slow pace. The same supermarket chain discovered that lively background music influenced shoppers to rush their marketing and thereby buy less. And the Houston restaurant found that fast music during the lunch hour made customers eat faster and thus vacate their

tables more quickly.

[Suggested answer]

1. Background music may help impact sales of business.


First, methanol burns cooler than gasoline. Thus, it has fewer nitrous oxide emissions. Second, it is less volatile than gasoline. That means that it is harder to ignite and therefore safer than gasoline. Third, methanol burns more efficiently than gasoline; more of its energy is converted into work. Finally, it has a higher octane rating. As a result, the cylinder is able to compress methanol and air into a smaller volume than gasoline before it is ignited.

[Suggested answer]

2. Methanol is a better energy than gasoline in four ways.

Small cars may be more easily parked than

large cars. In one major city, a traffic patrolman
recently hauled two Volkswagen owners before a

magistrate for parking their small cars in a single
space and thereby cheating the city out of a quarter. The magistrate disagreed with the patrolman and commended the two car owners for their ingenuity.

Small cars are better vehicles for icy weather. Seldom are they trapped by snow or mud, and they

almost never lose their traction on icy roads.
Finally, small cars are less expensive to operate.

They get better gasoline mileage than their large
counterparts, and their tires and other accessories

cost less than those for larger cars.

[Suggested answer]

3. Compared with bigger cars, small cars enjoy a
variety of advantages.

On the first day of their Mexico City vacation, tourists may go to Chapultepec Castle and view the many treasures of Maximilian and Carlota.

They may spend the next two or three days going
through the National Museum of Anthropology.

There they can study the various cultures of the
prehistoric as well as later Indian cultures of the area.

Then, they may wish to spend a day touring the
other famous museums and the historic churches

of the city. Before they fly back to the United
States, they will want to devote one day to a drive

about thirty miles northeast of the city to visit the
Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

[Suggested answer]
4. Tourists can enjoy their visit in the capital of Mexico within 7 days.

? Read chapter 3 of CW. ? Go on with your research on the project: 1)The topic and possible title; 2) Get prepared for your first presentation, the detailed outline of your project.

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