Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
An online devotional for writers
Mark off a boundary. (Exodus 19:12, NLT)
A topic sentence expresses a key idea of a paragraph or a section of content.
It used to be (at least in academic essays) that writers adhered to The Paragraph Law: a paragraph contained a minimum of three sentences, up to five or six, but no more than that. And each paragraph needed a topic sentence.
Content writing has changed that. These days, paragraphs skirt the hard-and-fast rule about length. Online writing means readers skim, which leads to lots of white space and shorter paragraphs.
Therein lies a challenge for today’s conversational writers. Without all those well-meaning rules, how should you structure your content for clarity?
A topic sentence is still an essential tool. Think of it as a boundary. Use it to define sections. Then unpack the idea from your topic sentence in short paragraphs that make up a section.
A good example is Romans 8:18: “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (NLT).
Paul uses the rest of the chapter to describe a bit of what that glory will look like (8:19-25) … the present help we get from the Holy Spirit while we wait for that glory (8:26-27) … the work God does in us while we are here on earth, in preparing for that glory (8:28-39).
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans more than 2,000 years ago, without the use of today’s paragraphs. And he used a topic sentence to define a section of content.
If he did so, can’t you? Plus when you use a topic sentence to mark boundaries, it’s easier to write content, too.
Use a topic sentence to define a section of content.
Hard-and-fast” writing rules are not hard-and-fast with you. Help me to focus on defining sections of my content to communicate clearly.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
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