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I'm writing a casual essay which is intended for one of my friends. I wrote it so that it's quite easy to grasp the gist even if you read only the topic sentences of each paragraph.

Would emphasizing the topic sentences look strange or clumsy? If it's done by some writers, what is the common way, for example, bolding, underlining or italicizing?

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There are many examples of formatting where a select few words are emphasized, but to do that for the entire first sentence is not a popular option. Why?

  1. Its position at the top of a paragraph already denotes it as the sentence to skim in a cursory reading.
  2. There would simply be too much special formatting. You know how in the comments section on many websites you can't use bold or italics, so people CAPITALIZE things for emphasis? IT CAN BE EFFECTIVE IN SMALL DOSES, BUT IT QUICKLY WEARS OUT ITS WELCOME IF YOU USE TOO MUCH. The same goes for other formatting options.

You would probably have more success with section headers or bolded keywords. (Both might be overkill. Just look at all the formatting in my post-- it's rather distracting.) In action:

Section Headers

Section headers can be anywhere from subtle to extremely ostentatious and disruptive to the flow, depending on your needs, but good ones will give the topic or even the thesis with a few well-chosen words without becoming a distraction. They have the added benefit of allowing you to use formatting to indicate a hierarchy of information. For instance, Wikipedia articles have a number of different headers that can be deployed for different purposes. Check out this article on General Arthur McArthur, Jr. (what a name!), which has at least four different tiers of headers and subheaders, or you could use font size and bolding in the following manner.

Dog breeds

Dogs come in many varieties...

Herding dogs

Herding dogs are a subcategory of all dog breeds...

Heelers

This is a subcategory of herding dogs...

Headers

This is another subcategory of herding dogs, of equivalent importance to the previous one.

Compare to the use of bolded keywords

Section headers can be anywhere from subtle to extremely ostentatious and disruptive to the flow, depending on your needs, but good ones will give the topic or even the thesis with a few well-chosen words without becoming a distraction. They have the added benefit of allowing you to use formatting to indicate a hierarchy of information. For instance, Wikipedia articles have a number of different headers that can be deployed for different purposes. Check out this article on General Arthur McArthur, Jr. (what a name!), which has at least four different tiers of headers and subheaders, or you could use font size and bolding in the following manner.

Compare to emphasizing the whole first sentence

Section headers can be anywhere from subtle to extremely ostentatious and disruptive to the flow, depending on your needs, but good ones will give the topic or even the thesis with a few well-chosen words without becoming a distraction. They have the added benefit of allowing you to use formatting to indicate a hierarchy of information. For instance, Wikipedia articles have a number of different headers that can be deployed for different purposes. Check out this article on General Arthur McArthur, Jr. (what a name!), which has at least four different tiers of headers and subheaders, or you could use font size and bolding in the following manner.

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    You have to love it when an answer has all your favourite things - CAPITALIZATION, bold and italics.+1. It is also a beautiful answer, and I think it summarizes the entire topic – ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica Jun 24 '20 at 7:52
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    Aww, shucks... Thanks, @ArtickokeAndAnchovyPizzaMonica! I love it when my efforts are appreciated! – wordsworth Jun 25 '20 at 2:57

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