Tell us exactly what you're going to say in your first sentence. Explain how you're going to prove it in your first paragraph. Get it done simply and easily in the body paragraphs. Sum it all up in the conclusion, just in case the reader forgot what you were trying to say in the first place.
Follow this simple plan:
Your topic sentence tells the reader exactly what you plan to prove:
I like ice cream.
Okay. That's easy. We can't be confused by that. If you said, "The French Revolution had many causes" or "American Motors has many great new cars this year" we would also know exactly what your paper was about.
Now, how are you going to attack this issue? What subtopics are we going to use?
It has many different flavors.
Good. We can develop that idea.
It reminds me of my youth.
That should be fun.
Ice cream cools me off on hot days.
That's three good subtopics which can easily be developed, but we are not done, because we need to tie the whole paragraph off with a conclusion, just in case the reader isn't following our plan:
I really enjoy ice cream.
Now, let's look at the whole introductory paragraph:
I like ice cream. It has many different flavors. It reminds me of my youth. Ice cream cools me off on hot days. I really enjoy ice cream.
The most difficult part of the composition is finished. We have told the reader exactly what our paper is about and we have laid out a plan of attack for us to follow. The rest of the composition is just filling out the details. For the topic sentence of our second paragraph, we simply look at the second sentence of our introduction:
Ice cream has many different flavors.
We can copy our third sentence as the topic sentence of our third paragraph, and our fourth in the same way. It is then a simple matter to fill in three specific examples in each paragraph to clarify our ideas. The body of the essay, then, should look something like this:
Ice cream has many different flavors. Chocolate is one of my favorites because it is very sweet and I love sweet things. Rocky Road is yet another great flavor. The nuts add a terrific chewiness to the sweet chocolate. A third great flavor is Superman ice cream which mixes all the colors of Superman's costume into a pretty, tutti-frutti mixture that looks as good as it tastes. These are just a few of the many terrific flavors I like in ice cream.
Ice cream reminds me of my youth. Every time I have an ice cream cone, I remember the fun I had when I was 14 and I spilled my cone down Margaret Miller's bathing suit. Everyone laughed when she ran screaming down the beach. Ice cream sundaes remind me of the many great times we had at John's when I was younger, ordering huge concoctions called "Kitchen sinks." Just hearing the sound of the ice cream man's truck brings back good memories of all the times we used to sit under the tree on my lawn waiting for the Good Humor man. Even my dog used to get a Dixie cup once in awhile. Ice Cream today always brings back great memories.
Ice cream is a great way to cool off. Once, when it was 110 degrees in the shade, I had a thick vanilla shake and felt very cool. Another time, it was so hot, we got cool just standing around the ice cream truck and enjoying the cool breeze. Last week, the beach was so hot I was burning my feet in the sand. I got some ice cream and put a little on my feet to soothe the heat. Whenever I've needed cooling down, I have always turned to ice cream.
We've varied the wording, added specific details, and made sure to conclude each sentence with a general remark that rephrased our topic sentence. We turn now to our last paragraph which sums up all our arguments and basically restates our introduction:
I have many reasons for loving ice cream. It is a great cooler downer. It brings back many fun memories of my childhood. It comes in all kinds of great flavors. When I scream, it's for ice cream!
I like to restate my arguments in reverse order. This is especially good for more sophisticated essays in which one has put arguments in order, with the strongest argument at the end.