As shown in Drafting a Descriptive Paragraph, a topic sentence contains the main idea upon which a paragraph is developed. Often it appears at (or near) the beginning of a paragraph, introducing the main idea and suggesting the direction that the paragraph will take. What follows a topic sentence are a number of supporting sentences that develop the main idea with specific details.
Here is an effective topic sentence for a descriptive paragraph:
My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped, blond guitar--the first instrument that I ever taught myself how to play.This sentence not only identifies the prized belonging ("an old, slightly warped, blond guitar") but also suggests why the writer values it ("the first instrument that I ever taught myself how to play"). Some of the sentences below support this topic sentence with specific descriptive details. Others, however, offer information that would be inappropriate in a unified descriptive paragraph. Read the sentences carefully, and then pick out only those that support the topic sentence with precise descriptive details. When you're done, compare your responses with the suggested answers on page two.
- It is a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and finger-printed.
- My grandparents gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday.
- I think they bought it at the Music Lovers Shop in Rochester where they used to live.
- At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key.
- Although copper strings are much harder on the fingers than nylon strings, they sound much better than the nylon ones.
- The strings are stretched down a long slim neck.
- The frets on the neck are tarnished, and the wood has been worn down by years of fingers pressing chords.
- It was three months before I could even tune the guitar properly, and another few months before I could manage the basic chords.
- You have to be very patient when first learning how to play the guitar.
- You should set aside a certain time each day for practice.
- The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that has been slightly damaged in shipping.
- A guitar can be awkward to hold, particularly if it seems bigger than you are, but you need to learn how to hold it properly if you're ever going to play it right.
- I usually play sitting down because it's more comfortable that way.
- The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago.
- I have a Gibson now and hardly ever play the Madeira any more.
The original version of this paragraph, titled "The Blond Guitar," appears in our collection of Model Descriptive Paragraphs.
How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph