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Social Media and the Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is alive and well on social media, and if used properly, it will help you nail your social media posts. (This is my topic sentence for this article.)

Remember when you had to include a topic sentence at the beginning of every paragraph for papers in school?

It’s defined as “a sentence that explains the main idea of the paragraph in which it occurs.” So you composed your topic sentence after you wrote the paragraph, or, I should say, I did, in the rare moments when I actually did my homework. Let’s not go there today, OK?

Well, here is a tip: If you write a paragraph about what you want to post about on social media, and then write your topic sentence, you can throw away the rest of the paragraph and post just that sentence. It’s the way of the new world. We don’t have time for a full paragraph from you; we will give you one or sometimes two sentences to get your point across, and that’s it.

I remember, Jason Epstein — one of the great publishing giants of old (editor to Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal — don’t get me started) — told me when I asked him about how great the computer is for writers, that in his mind, it’s not great at all.

“Every manuscript gets longer. People add to their stories; they do not take away. Books are getting longer, and not in a good way,” he said.

Now, this conversation was in the late ’80s, not recently, so perhaps his opinion has changed, but I would guess that his premise is right: Edit out; don’t add in.

Gus Levy — one of Wall Street’s pillars — told me when I was only 18 that if you can’t write your memo in less than a page, you don’t know what you want to say. It served me well in my career over the years.

So, get your topic sentence out, and if you are willing to do so after you write the entire paragraph you were planning to use, it will be better. Promise.

Christine Merser, Managing Partner

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