Experts from Writers-House underline the fact that signposts and topic sentences allow you to clarify your message to a reader. Topic sentences introduce the main idea of a paragraph so that readers know what to expect from the following section. Topic sentences also clarify how the key points of the paragraph are related to the main idea of the whole essay. Signposts have a different function. They indicate that the direction of the argument is going to change. They also underline the change in the argument in the context of a thesis statement.
Both signposts and topic sentences are not the first things you should think about when writing an essay. They don’t express the main idea (the thesis does it). However, they also are not the last stage of the writing process, like editing and proofreading. Signposts and topic sentences are more related to the structure as they serve to navigate a reader through your thesis and arguments.
Types of Topic Sentences
Actually, topic sentences are not necessarily one-sentence long. There may be two or three sentences that serve the same purpose. In the case of three sentences, the first one usually states a certain point, while the second and the third sentences explain it. These two sentences should explain how the discussed phenomenon works.
There is no recipe for the best topic sentence. We suggest that you use various approaches throughout the paper because if you repeat something for too many times, it will certainly be boring for a reader. Here are some nice methods for you.
Complex sentences. It’s good to combine topic sentences with the end of the previous paragraph, making a transition. To write a topic sentence in this way, write a complex sentence that will include subordinate and independent clauses. A complex sentence gives you an opportunity to quickly move from old information to a new claim.
Questions. Questions are also a good method of writing topic sentences, as well as signposts. It’s logical to expect an answer after a question, so questions make good transitions. Questions also lead to curiosity, which is a reason why this approach is good for essays.
Bridge sentences. Bridge sentences sometimes can help make formal text easier to perceive. Bridge sentences refer to something you’ve said before and indicate the next portion of information at the same time, with no need to involve cumbersome formal clauses. Here’s an example of a bridge sentence: “But here is another fact to consider.”
Pivots. Don’t forget that topic sentences shouldn’t be at the beginning of a paragraph only. They may also appear somewhere in the middle of the paragraph, indicating that the flow of thought will turn in a new direction. This strategy is especially effective when you need to use counter-evidence. To use this method, start a paragraph with a fact, add the evidence that supports your point, and then make another claim, using a signal word (e.g. “however,” “yet,” “but”). Sometimes it’s hard to do it all in one sentence so you can use longer constructions than signal words, and state a new point in two or even three sentences.
You can think of signposts as of topic sentences that are used for big sections, not just single paragraphs. They are usually used in long essays, which contain sections that consist of several paragraphs. Signposts help readers understand that the essay is going to turn in a new direction. They may be followed by a counter-argument, more complicated analysis, or the information on a background of the topic. Signposts are related to the general architecture of the text and remind readers of why your essay was written, as well as of its topic.
You can put signposts at the beginning of a paragraph, writing one sentence, or you can also write a whole paragraph that will make a transition from one side of your argument to another. Here’s a good approach that works with most essays. You can signpost a new section in the first sentence and remind your audience of the main idea of your essay, elaborate your idea in the next sentence, and then write a topic sentence for the following paragraph. Your signpost should predict the following argument, indicating the direction in which the new section will move.