05 16

What is supporting details in a paragraph

How to Write a Support Paragraph - Bellevue College

To reiterate: the topic sentence is the main idea, and the rest of the paragraph supports that main idea. 

Creating the cohesion needed between the topic sentence and the details isn't easy. You have to try, try again. Write and rewrite. But all that work is the art of writing. And trust me, good writing is an art.

But I digress a bit. The point is the cohesion. To illustrate, let's work backwards, and see the details, the supporting information, first, as see if we can't come up with a decent topic sentence. Here we go:

For example, recently I began taking my two-year-old dog to obedience school. After four weeks of lessons and practice, she has learned to follow only three commands -- sit, stand and lie down -- and even those she often gets confused. Frustrating (and costly) as this is, I continue to work with her every day. After dog school, my grandmother and sometimes go grocery shopping. Inching along those aisles, elbowed by hundreds of fellow customers, backtracking to pick up forgotten items, and standing at the endless line at checkout, I could easily grow frustrated and cranky. But through years of trying times, I have learned to keep my temper in check. Finally, after putting away the groceries, I might go out to a movie with my fiance, to whom I have been engaged for three years. Layoffs, extra jobs, and problems at home have forced us to postpone our wedding date several times. Still, my patience has enabled me to cancel and reschedule our wedding plans again and again without fuss, fights, or tears.

(There are several parts I would rewrite, but let's just stick with the topic sentence for this lesson.)

Okay, there are three examples given of the main idea, about which the writer, let's assume a woman, gives us a hint in the final sentence. She mentions patience, and as we reread the paragraph, we see that the three examples are indeed about her patience. Her examples also mention that she keeps at it, "again and again," so this is also part of the topic.

Let's try this for a topic sentence: "My life is full of things that try my patience, but I have learned to keep at it, to try, try again."

Or this: "Nothing tests my patience more than just going through a normal day."

Maybe this: "I'm telling you, I may not have the patience of Job, but I'm getting there."

We could go on and write the main idea -- the topic sentence -- of patience any number of ways. That's the art of writing.

One more thing. That last sentence, the one that re-mentions patience (brought up originally in the topic sentence), is key to the cohesiveness of this paragraph, in that it brings the three examples back to the main idea. It's the old "tell 'em what you're going to say, say it, then tell 'em what you said."

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