Last week I went on a bit of a rant about the Topic Sentence. After having slept on that post for several nights (well an attempt to sleep because my toddler is teething again...), I began to think that maybe I should revisit that post and let people know that there is a place for the Topic Sentence.
I know, I know. Last week I told you to banish them from your writing and instead embrace paragraph unity.
THIS ADVICE STILL STANDS.
Your paragraphs do not need a topic sentence to function properly.
Also, while we are on the subject of paragraphs, did you know that paragraphs can function in many different forms? Paragraphs aren't as constrained and rigid as we often think!
W. Ross Winterowd wrote that, "Paragraphs can be divided into three categories: those that are full stages in the development of the subject of the composition, those that signal a shift in focus or topic, and those that emphasize the importance of a single, relatively brief point."
The last function that Winterowd mentions brought to mind the topic sentence and how it does indeed serve a purpose (cringe) and has a place--yes, this was hard for me.
So, where is that place?
Yes! The business world loves the topic sentence.
And if you spend some time thinking about it, this all makes perfect sense.
How many business reports have you read that didn't tell you up front what you would be reading? Or perhaps weren't broken down into subheadings.
My guess is probably not a lot.
My experience working in big business (yes...I was a member of the corporate world for quite some time) taught me that there is not a lot of time to actually spend reading reports, information needs to be clear and available.
Most often the reports that I encountered were about auto insurance rates. Did they include graphs? Sometimes, but most often these reports were pages long and broken down into different topics regarding various rate changes/why these changes were being made.
Each topic had its own heading, and also its own introductory sentence--letting me (the auto underwriter) know what this section would be about.
I was not looking for creativity or even a well written report when I would review these findings, I was simply looking for the information.
In this case the topic sentence was extremely useful. It saved me time!
I did not have to spend a lot of my work time reading a document and deciphering the information--it was all right there, nice and neat for me in the form of a topic sentence.
Other areas that topic sentences might be useful?
Off the top of my head I can think of the following: Lab reports, case studies, and court commentaries.
So, if you love the topic sentence and my last post caused you much outrage-- Simmer down, I take a little bit of it back.
Topic Sentence + Business Writing = Success
grumble, grumble, grumble...