Listing Characteristics

After the discussion, choose one animal. Your choice maybe serious or humorous. In the space below, freewrite, brainstorm, or cluster to develop your ideas.

3. Finally, complete the outline. In the blanks for characteristics, use either all adjectives or all nouns.


are the best pets for reasons.

(name of animal)


A. Characteristic

B. Characteristic

C. Characteristic

Wi Organization

A paragraph has three main parts. The first part is the topic sentence. It is called the topic sentence because it tells the topic or main idea of the paragraph. The second main part is the supporting sentences. The supporting sentences develop the topic. That means that they explain or prove the topic sentence. Some paragraphs also have a concluding sentence. The concluding sentence summarizes the paragraph and adds a final comment.

An English paragraph is like a sandwich. The topic and concluding sentences arc the top and bottom pieccs of bread, and the supporting sentences are the filling. The bread holds the sandwich together, and the supporting sentences are the meat and cheese.

When you write a paragraph, you first tell your reader in the topic sentence what you are going to say. Then you say it in the supporting sentences. Finally, you tell them what you said in the concluding sentence. This may seem clumsy and repetitious to you. However, clear academic writing in English requires all of these parts.

The Three Parts of a Paragraph model paragraph

Listing Order


Goldfish make the best pets for three reasons. First of all, goldfish are very quiet. They don't bark, howl, meow, chirp, squawk, screech,1 or race around the house at night while you and your neighbors are trying to sleep. Second, they are economical. You can buy a goldfish at your local pet store for about 50<£, and a small bowl for it costs less than $3.00. Water is practically free. Also, they eat only a pinch of dried fish food daily, so their food bill is quite low. Third, goldfish are very well behaved. They don't have teeth, so they can't chew your furniture or bite your guests. They don't ever go outside, so they can't dig holes in your garden. In addition, you don't have to spend hours teaching them commands such as "Sit!" or "Heel!" If you want a quiet and economical pet that doesn't cause any trouble, visit your nearest goldfish store.


1. What is the title of this paragraph?

2. Which sentence is the topic sentence? What information does it give?

3. How many supporting sentences are there?

4. Does this paragraph have a concluding sentence? What is it?

'bark, howl, meow, chirp, etc.: different animal sounds

The Topic The most important sentence in a paragraph is the topic sentence. It is

Sentence called the topic sentence because it tells the reader what the topic of the paragraph is. In other words, it tells the reader what he or she is going to read. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph.

A topic sentence has two parts: a topic and a controlling idea. The topic part names the topic; it tells what the paragraph is about. The controlling idea part limits what the paragraph will say about the topic. It tells the reader: This paragraph will only discuss these things about this topic. For example, the topic of the model paragraph on page 103 is goldfish. What will the paragraph say about goldfish? The controlling idea tells us: They are good pets for three reasons. The controlling idea tells us the paragraph will not give us any information about the history of goldfish, how to take care of them, where to buy them, or the different kinds of goldfish. It will only give us three reasons they make good pets.

Usually, the topic comes first and the controlling idea comes second in the topic sentence. However, the controlling idea may come first. In the a sentences below, the topic is first. In the b sentences, the controlling idea is first.

Topic Controlling Idea a. Violence in American society has several causes.

Controlling Idea Topic to. There are several causes of violence in American society.

Topic Controlling Idea a. A good architect is both an artist and a mathematician.

Controlling Idea to. Artistic talent and mathematical ability are two qualities of

Topic a good architect.

I J;fiI«i|mMI The following paragraphs show how the controlling idea part of a topic sen-Topic Sentences tence controls a paragraph. The topic of all three paragraphs is the same:

beaches. However, the content of each paragraph is quite different because the controlling idea is different.

Work by yourself. Then check your answers with a partner.

1. Find the topic sentence in each paragraph.

2. Draw a circle around the topic and underline the controlling idea.


(j3eaches)offer different pleasures to different kinds of people. Solitary1 types can enjoy sunbathing or reading undisturbed. Social people can usually find someone to talk to or take a walk with. Curious individuals can collect seashells or study the habits of seashore creatures such as sandcrabs or seagulls. Athletes can swim, surf, jog, or play football or volleyball. Every type of person can find enjoyment at the beach.

Paragraph I


Beaches are fun in summer and in winter. In summer, you can swim and do many other water sports. If you don't like water sports, you can play beach games or relax on the warm sand. In winter, beaches are less crowded, so they are good places for solitary walks. Also, on a clear winter night, nothing is more fun than sitting with a group of friends around a big bonfire, talking, laughing, and singing. All year round, a beach is a place to have fun.

Paragraph 2


Beaches differ in various parts of the world. Thailand has miles of empty beaches. They are beautiful, clean, and uncrowded, even in summer. You can spend the whole

'solitary: alone; without companionship afternoon on a beach and not see another person. In Japan, on the other hand, the beaches are very crowded. You can hardly find a place to sit down at the more popular Japanese beaches. The beaches in Northern Europe differ in another way. The water is cold, so most people go to the beach only to sunbathe. Along the French Riviera, the beaches are rocky, not sandy as they are on tropical islands. Each type of beach—empty or crowded, sandy or rocky—has its own special qualities to enjoy.

Paragraph 3


People of all ages have fun at beaches. Young children love to splash in the water, jump in the waves, and play in the sand. They happily dig holes, fill buckets, and build sand castles all day long. Teenagers enjoy active water sports such as surfing, jet skiing, and boardsailing. They also like to just "hang out"1 at the beach with their friends. Senior citizens2 have a good time at the beach, too. They take long walks along the water's edge or simply relax and enjoy the sunshine. Indeed, children, teenagers, and even their grandparents can have fun at a beach.

'hang out: {slang) relax and socialize

2senior citizens: people older than about sixty-five


Topic Sentences

A. Work with a partner.

1. Circle the topic and underline the controlling idea in the topic sentences below.

2. Discuss with your partner what you think the supporting sentences could be.


_An ideal roommate^ has three qualities.

1. Cigarette smoking damages a person's heart and lungs.

2. Cigarette smoking spoils a person's appearance.

3. Nonsmokers are also affected by cigarette smoking.

4. Hawaii is famous for its surfing beaches.

5. Hawaii has a perfect climate.

6. The "aloha spirit"3 of Hawaii's people is well known.

7. An Olympic athlete must have talent and dedication.

8. College students take many kinds of tests.

9. Small cars are economical to buy, to operate, and to maintain.

10. Big cars are safer than small cars for two reasons.

11. A good boss has four important characteristics.

12. An employer looks for employees with certain qualities.

13. Living with an American family has three advantages for foreign students.

14. Attending a small college has several advantages for foreign students.

15. Students will have many different types of teachers during their school years.

3aloha spirit: friendliness to visitors

B. Work with a partner or in small groups. Add controlling ideas to these topics to make complete topic sentences.


Topic Controlling Idea

Foreign students often suffer culture shock._

Foreign students are used to different teaching methods._

Foreign students are interesting to have in class._

1. Our class

Our class

Our class

2. Foreign travel

Foreign travel

Foreign travel

3. Television



4. The English language

The English language

The English language

Supporting Sentences

The middle sentences of a paragraph are the supporting sentences. The supporting sentences support, or "prove," the idea in the topic sentence. In a listing type of paragraph, the supporting sentences are grouped under separate points. Each point is discussed in order. For example, in the model paragraph on page 103, the writer says that goldfish have three characteristics that make them good pets: they are quiet, economical, and well behaved. Then the writer discusses each characteristic in order. First, she says they are quiet, and then she writes one sentence about their quietness. Next, she says goldfish are economical and writes three sentences about costs. Finally, she says they are well behaved, and she writes three sentences about their good behavior.

Paragraph Unity A paragraph must follow the rule of unity. Unit means one, so the rule of unity means that all the sentences are about one main idea. For example, if your paragraph is a description of your living room, you should write sentences only about your living room. Don't write about any other room in the house.

Another way of stating the rule of paragraph unity is to say that all the supporting sentences in a paragraph must be relevant to the main idea. That means that they are all direcdy related to the main idea. If they are not, they are irrelevant. For example, if your paragraph is about your mother's good cooking, a sentence such as My sister is also a good cook is irrelevant because the paragraph is about your mother, not your sister. If your paragraph is about the harmful effects of smoking, a sentence such as Many people smoke because it relaxes them would be irrelevant because it is not direcdy related to the main idea—that smoking is harmful.

When you write a paragraph, make sure that all of your supporting sentences are relevant to the main idea.


Paragraph Unity

Work with a partner or by yourself.

I. Read the following paragraphs and underline the topic sentence in each. Decide what the main idea of each one is.

1. In each paragraph, one or more sentences break the rule of unity. Find these irrelevant sentences and cross them out.

Paragraph I:

Find one irrelevant sentence.

Christmas Morning Christmas was my favorite holiday when I was a child, and Christmas morning was my favorite part of that special day. My brother and I usually woke up before dawn. We always tried to stay in bed until daylight, but it was hard. We usually got up while it was still dark and ran into the living room to see what Santa Claus had brought us. Then we raced into our parents' room and woke them up. Our father always grumbled1 about the early hour, but he wasn't really angry. After our parents got up, we all went into the living room to open our presents. After that, we ate breakfast. We always had the same special breakfast on Christmas morning: blueberry pancakes, bacon, and hot chocolate. Mother makes a special breakfast on our birthdays, too. After breakfast, we played with our new toys. The gifts, the special breakfast, but mostly the family togetherness made Christmas morning a special time that I will always remember.

'grumbled: complained

Paragraph 2:

Find two irrelevant sentences.

A Dental Disneyland Visiting my children's dentist is like visiting Disneyland. When you enter the office, Mickey and Minnie Mouse greet you at the door. The waiting room is full of activities for children. On the left, there is a round table that looks like a giant tooth. There are a lot of children's books on this table. On another table are Lego building blocks. In the middle, there is an area where young children can play with stuffed animals on the floor. On the right, there is a small room where older children can play video games. The dentist's name is Dr. Aubrey. He graduated from dental school five years ago. My children don't mind going to the dentist now because it is so much fun.

Paragraph 3:

Find two irrelevant sentences.


A nurse should have at least five qualities. First, he or she must really like people because sick people are sometimes unpleasant and demanding. Second, a nurse must be organized. If a nurse forgets to give a patient his or her medicine on time, the consequences could be serious. Medicine is very expensive today. Third, a nurse must be calm. He or she may have to make a life-and-death decision in an emergency, and a calm person makes better decisions than an excitable one. Also, a calm nurse can soothe a patient who is upset. Doctors need to stay calm in emergencies, too. In addition, a nurse should be physically strong because nursing requires a lot of hard physical work. A nurse probably walks several miles during each eight-hour shift, and he or she often has to lift heavy patients into and out of bed. Finally, a nurse must be intelligent enough to learn subjects ranging from chemistry to psychology and to operate the complex machinery used in hospitals today. In brief, nursing is a profession for people who are caring, organized, calm, strong, and smart.

Listing-Order In Unit 2 you learned how to write a paragraph using time order, and in Unit Paragraphs 3 you learned about space order. In this unit, you will learn about listing order.

In a listing-order paragraph, divide your topic into separate points. Discuss one point completely, and then another point, and then a third point, and so on. The order in which you discuss each point is your decision.

Listing-Order Notice that in the model paragraph the writer introduces each of the three Transition characteristics with a transition signal: First of all, second, and third. These

Signals transition signals are the same as time-order transitions. However, they don't show time order in this paragraph. Here, they are used to list the characteristics that are going to be discussed. For this reason, we can call these listing-order transition signals. Also and in addition are other listing transition signals. Then and next are used only for time order, not for listing order.





... also ...

First of all,...



In addition,...

Place listing-order transition signals at the beginning of the sentence, and put a comma after them. Also may come at the end of a sentence with a comma or in the middle of a sentence without a comma.

Also, they are good companions. They are good companions, also. They are also good companions.


I Work by yourself or with a partner. Listing-Order

Transition Signals Circle the listing-order transition signals in the model paragraph on

B. Read the paragraph about human intelligence that follows. Add listing-order transition signals in the blank spaces, and add commas where they are necessary.

Human Intelligence1 There are several kinds of intelligence.

there is mathematical-logical intelligence. People with this kind of intelligence become mathematicians, scientists, or engineers.

_there is linguistic intelligence. People with linguistic intelligence are good at language, so they become poets and writers. We are familiar with these first two kinds of intelligence, but five other kinds are not so familiar. There are

_spatial and musical kinds of intelligence.

Spatial intelligence is necessary for architects and artists, and

(continued on the next page)

1 Based on Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

musical intelligence is necessary for musicians. _ _

there is bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Athletes, actors, and dancers have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. The last two kinds of intelligence are interpersonal and intrapersonal. People with these two kinds of personal intelligence manage people well, so they become leaders of society. In short, there is more than one way to be smart.

Concluding Sentence

Paragraphs that stand alone (that is, which are not part of a longer composition) often have a concluding sentence at the end. A concluding sentence closes the paragraph so that the reader is not left expecting more.

Sometimes a concluding sentence reminds the reader of the main point by restating the topic sentence in different words:

All year round, a beach is the place to have fun.

In short, there is more than one way to be smart.

Sometimes a concluding sentence summarizes the main points briefly:

If you want a quiet and economical pet that doesn't cause any trouble, visit your nearest goldfish store.

In brief, nursing is a profession for people who are caring, organized, calm, strong, and smart.

Sometimes writers end a paragraph by making a personal comment:

I never thought I would like cats, but our cat, Sally, has made me change my mind.

With this information, I will never again feel stupid in my math class.

You may choose to use a conclusion transition signal to tell your reader that this is the end of your paragraph, or you may choose not to. Avoid the worn-out phrases In conclusion and In summary. Here are some other choices. If you use a conclusion signal, put a comma after it.

conclusion signals


Concluding Sentences

Work with a partner or by yourself. Write five concluding sentences for paragraphs based on the topic sentences in the practice on page 107. Use a concluding transition signal in some, but not all, of them.


Roommates will always have different habits and personalities, but_

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  • luca loewe
    What is the controlling ideas on the topic foreign travel?
    9 years ago

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