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2.3: Summary Sentences

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    15237
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    Rather than serve as a repetition of your topic sentence, a closing summary sentence should summarize your ideas in a way that is unique and meaningful for your readers. [Image: Jakob Owens | Unsplash]

     

    Definition to Remember:

    • Topic Sentence + Evidence (+ Summary Sentence) = Paragraph

    Rules to Remember:

    1. While a topic sentence and solid evidence are essential parts of any new paragraph, a summary sentence is an optional component worth acknowledging.  If the information you are presenting is complex or your paragraph is longer than usual, a summary sentence at the end of the paragraph can be an excellent way to remind your readers of your overall purpose for the paragraph as you prepare to move on to a new point.
    2. Rather than serve as a repetition of your topic sentence, a closing summary sentence should summarize your ideas in a way that is unique and meaningful for your readers. Consider the following example:
      • My doctoral adviser was a difficult woman. When I took a literary criticism course from her, she spent at least a portion of the time grilling me on the merits of my master’s degree and whether I should really be sitting in her course. When I walked by her in the hallway on my way to teach, she made a point of looking the other way so she didn’t have to engage with me. And when she arrived late and unprepared for my oral exams in April, I knew I was in for a difficult session. It was little consolation to learn years later that she had struggled with an addiction problem during those years; mostly I wondered how such a difficult woman could possibly find joy in the depth and nuance of canonized literature. 

        While the closing summary sentence here echoes some of the language of the topic sentence, it does more than merely repeat.

    3. A summary sentence is also an effective way to consistently remind your readers of your paper’s overall thesis statement. If you include summary sentences consistently at the close of each paragraph, use that final sentence to clearly connect the evidence of that specific paragraph to the thesis of your paper.
    4. If you are writing a paragraph to a boss or client, a summary sentence is an effective way to remind your readers of how your ideas relate specifically to their needs or concerns.
      “In my cross-cultural context, my writing must be clear and concise. I focus on ‘write-bites’ that are easily translated and transferable.” Dr. David Toth, Missionary

    Common Errors:

    • Including a summary sentence that is repetitive of information already offered and adds nothing to further the discussion. Remember that the summary sentence is optional; use it only when it strengthens your argument rather than waters it down.
    • Neglecting to remind readers of the larger purpose of the overall paper. If you are going to include a summary sentence at the end of each paragraph, let it serve a robust purpose for you.
    • Using the summary sentence to introduce the next paragraph. While some English teachers teach this method as a means of transitioning from one idea to the next, it rarely works. The formula your readers will expect to see in each paragraph you write is this: topic sentence + evidence (+ optional summary sentence) = paragraph. When you introduce new information without addressing it fully, your ideas will begin to sound scattered and diluted. Hold to the simple math instead.

    Exercises:

    Exercise 9.1

    Choose 5 of the 10 topics in Exercise 7.1 and Exercise 8.1. Record the topic of each paragraph, and write a summary sentence on the lines below. Does the additional summary strengthen or weaken your overall paragraph? Why?

    1.

    2.

    3.

    4.

    5.

    Exercise 9.2

    Consider at least five paragraphs you have written in the past week, whether for work, school, or personal use. Did you include a summary sentence? Why or why not? Write a summary sentence for those you did not choose to write initially and decide whether the additional summary strengthens or weakens your argument. Record the topic of each paragraph and the summary sentence on the lines below.

    1.

    2.

    3.

    4.

    5.

    Exercise 9.3

    Choose one of the topics you used for Exercise 8.3 and write a summary sentence to conclude the paragraph. Do you anticipate a stronger paragraph with or without the summary sentence? Why?

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