What's the most important thing?
Nonfiction writers usually stick with one big
idea per paragraph.
The topic sentence usually comes first!
There are several effective ways to
get rid of zombie rodents. A zombie
squirrel or rabbit is easily stopped by
dropping a cardboard box over it and
taking it to your the Federal Zombie
Disposal Facility. Beavers, of course, will
quickly gnaw through a cardboard box;
you should use a metal garbage can
instead. Zombie hamsters can be placed
back into their Habitrails, while zombie
sewer rats must have very tiny handcuffs
placed on their wrists.
The sport of twenty-meter freestyle skunk
kicking was invented by mistake. On
November 18, 1957, young Bob Flob was
riding his bike home from a high school
basketball game, followed closely by a rabid
skunk that foamed at the mouth and nipped at
his heels as he pedaled. When the animal bit
through his bike tire, Flob decided that he had
had enough. Leaping off his bicycle, he
grabbed the skunk by the scruff of the neck,
dropped it, and booted it through the air. The
skunk yowled in pain and surprise as it sailed
cleanly between two telephone poles. Several
young children who had seen Flob make his
kick decided to join in the fun. A new sport
The topic sentence sometimes comes last!
First of all, Becky ruined my school
picture by putting gum in my hair during first
period. Then she splashed water on my pants
and told everyone that I peed myself. During
lunch, she took my tube of Pringles and licked
each chip individually—who'd want to eat
them after that? Finally, she stabbed me in the
forehead with my pencil. There are obviously
a million reasons why I won't invite Becky to
my birthday party.
Ways to find the main idea (in order of
Focus on the first sentence to see if it covers
all the topics of the paragraph.
Focus on the last sentence to see if it covers
all the topics of the paragraph
Count how many sentences are devoted to
each topic. The one with the most sentences
we will call the main idea.
“He was just 5 feet tall but was a very impressive
figure. Because he could not walk without guidance,
he frequently carried a child upon his shoulders as a
navigator. He had an astounding memory and was
called a walking encyclopedia. He could remember
people and tunes many years later—i.e., 30 years
after he had met someone or had played a tune. He
could tell a child's age by putting his hand upon a
child's head. Boone had very happy and warm
personality and children loved him—and he they. He
would tell them stories. He had a great big pocket
watch with a chime effect—children loved that. He
belonged to fraternal organizations. His only family
was his wife and his mother. His mother died in 1901.”