Transition by Leading Each Paragraph with a Strong Topic Sentence

Posted: November 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Most Popular Posts, The Argument or Analysis, Transitions | No Comments »

If you “lead from the top” by beginning each paragraph with a strong topic sentence, that lead sentence serves as a transition to the new topic. Indeed, strong lead sentences are one of the best transition techniques in your arsenal.

Consider these lead sentences from Justice Roberts’ opinion overturning the school assignment system in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007):

“The principle that racial balancing is not permitted is one of substance, not semantics.”

“Jefferson County phrases its interest as ‘racial integration,’ but integration certainly does not require the sort of racial proportionality reflected in its plan.”

“Similarly, Jefferson County’s use of racial classifications has only a minimal effect on the assignment of students.”

“The districts have also failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals.”

“The reasons for rejecting a motives test for racial classifications are clear enough.”

551 U.S. at 732-735, 742.

Justice Breyer also used strong declaratory statements to transition between thoughts in his dissent in that same case. Note his focus on facts:

“The historical and factual context in which these cases arise is critical.”

“Overall these efforts brought about considerable racial integration. More recently, however, progress has stalled.”

“In fact, the defining feature of both plans is greater emphasis upon student choice.”

“Experience in Seattle and Louisville is consistent with experience elsewhere.”

“Indeed, the consequences of the approach the Court takes today are serious.”

551 U.S. at 804, 805, 846, 849, 861, 865.

I know. It makes you nervous. You want to write a transition sentence before you leap into the next topic. But in legal writing, the transition goes at the beginning of the topic. Lead from the top. (Have I said that before?)


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