Supporting sentences describe, explain, clarify, or give examples of the main idea in the topic sentence. They answer questions such as Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? They explain the topic sentence in greater detail and give the reader more information.
Each paragraph that you write must have enough supporting details to make the main idea clear to the reader. Likewise, a good writer makes sure that each supporting sentence relates directly to the topic sentence and its controlling idea. Study the following examples:
- Topic Sentence: People should consider joining a health club.
- Supporting Sentence: Health clubs give members an opportunity to exercise and socialize at the same time.
- Topic Sentence: Emergency towing service is great to have if your car breaks down.
- Supporting sentence: It can help you change a flat tire.
- Topic Sentence: Cell phones allow parents to stay in better contact with their children.
- Supporting Sentence: As long as his or her cell phone is turned on, a child can be reached at any time.
Types of Supporting Sentences
TS: There are many support services for students at the university.
SS: These services, such as tutoring, are generally free for students.
TS: I will never forget my childhood home.
SS: The house has a large entrance with a spiral staircase in the middle.
TS: Note taking is one of the most important skills to learn.
SS: Reviewing good notes before a test will help students become more familiar with the information.
TS: Jogging is not as easy at it seems.
SS: Ninety-seven percent of people cannot jog three kilometers without stopping.
TS: Brazil has many natural resources.
SS: Brazil is one of the leading producers of bauxite, a principal material for making aluminum.
Creating Questions Leading to Supporting Details
Read each topic sentence below. What information would you expect the writer to include in the paragraph? For each topic sentence, write two questions that the supporting sentences should answer. Ask Who? What? When? Where? Why? or How? (Group work)
1. Pesticides should not be used on farm products.
Q: What kind of pesticides are used? Why should we avoid using pesticides on farm products?
2. The beaches along the Mediterranean Sea are some of the best beaches in the world.
3. Although few people realize it, country music and rock music have some similar characteristics.
4. My best friend and I met in a very unlikely place.
Avoiding Unrelated Sentences
Some writers include too many ideas in one paragraph. Remember that a paragraph should focus on just one controlling idea. Each sentence must support the topic sentence in some way. These supporting sentences help unify the paragraph.
Find the unrelated supporting sentence: (group work)
Certain qualities are typical of good restaurants. These restaurants offer fast and friendly service, with servers who are friendly and courteous. They make sure that customers’ needs are met throughout the meal. Since customers are choosing to eat out, obviously the quality the food is important. A good restaurant uses fresh ingredients in its dishes. Some of the best-quality cheeses can be imported from France. Good restaurants also have a pleasant atmosphere. They are clean and well maintained and they all pay attention to details such as decor, lighting and music.
A concluding sentence concludes or wraps up, a paragraph.
Features of a Concluding Sentence
A concluding sentence has three main features:
- It is usually the last sentence of a paragraph.
- It lets the reader know that the paragraph (the thought) has ended.
- It brings the paragraph to a logical conclusion by doing one of these two actions:
- Restating the main idea of the topic sentence.
- Offering a suggestion, giving an opinion or making a prediction.
Restate the Main Idea
Perhaps the easiest concluding sentence to write is one that restates the main idea or summarizes the main points of a paragraph. For example:
Kids and Pets
At some point, most parents have to decide whether or not to allow their children to have pets. Some parents believe that pets teach children a sense of responsibility because children have to learn how to take care of their pets. In addition, many parents believe that pets can be fun for the family. Pets can also help children become more compassionate because children will develop a special bond with their pets. On the other hand, some parents are afraid that their children might hurt the animals or that these animals might hurt the children. Often these parents don’t allow their children to have any kind of pet. Other families do not have the extra time or money that pets require. In brief, although many children want a pet, parents are divided on this issue for a number of significant reasons.
The information in this concluding sentence is very similar to the topic sentence: At some point, most parents have to decide whether or not to allow their children to have pets. In addition, the concluding sentence includes the phrase “a number of significant reasons” because the paragraph includes several reasons for allow or not allowing children to have pets.
Offer a Suggestion, Give an Opinion, or Make a Prediction
Although many people think that sports cars are impractical, they remain popular with three very different types of drivers. Young people tend to buy them because they want to look cool to their friends. It is much easier for a young person to impress other people with a fast sports car than with your father’s minivan. Wealthy people, however, enjoy sports cars because they want to show others that they have status in the community. I have never seen a doctor or a lawyer driving around in an old station wagon. Finally, sports cars appeal to adventurers. Adventurers are people who like to take risks on the road. Whatever the reasons, I think sports cars are here to stay.
You try. Come up with a couple of different concluding sentence for each of the following paragraphs.
Caring for river turtles is easier than many people think. You do not need a lot of equipment. In fact, all you need is a large aquarium, some rocks, and a little bit of vegetation. After you buy the equipment, arrange all the items inside the aquarium. Remember to make sure that your river turtles have an area for swimming. If you have a large turtle, you’ll need to construct a small pool in your backyard.
Different Ways to Cook Eggs
There are four easy ways to prepare a delicious egg. The first and probably the easiest way is to boil an egg. Just drop the egg into a pot of water and boil it for five minutes. Another easy way is to scramble an egg. All you need is a fork to beat the egg mixture before you put it into the hot frying pan. A third way is to fry an egg “over easy.” This involves breaking the egg into the skillet without breaking the yolk. After a few moments, take a spatula and turn the egg over to cook on the other side. Finally, poaching an egg involves cooking the egg in a small dish that is sitting in boiling water. Break the egg into a small metal cup that is sitting in a pan of very hot, shallow water. Poaching an egg takes only four to five minutes.
Transitions with Concluding Sentences
Here are a list of transitional words and phrases that are commonly used at the beginning of a concluding sentence.
|as a result||for this reason||in the end|
|because of this||hence||overall|
|for these reasons||in sum||thus|
For each topic below, first brainstorm ideas for a topic sentence. (Individual work)
- A happy surprising moment in your life
- A famous person you would like to meet
- Good study habits
Next, choose one of the topic sentences from above and write questions for it using Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
After that, write sentences that answer each of those questions.
Finally write a single paragraph (just one!) using your topic sentence and two or three supporting sentences. Be sure to use only supporting sentences that relate to the topic sentence and its controlling idea. Finally, write a concluding sentence that restates the main idea or gives a suggestion, opinion or prediction.