From my understanding in a topic sentence the topic is always the subject and cannot be the controlling idea, is that correct ?

Then, if it is the case, it is possible to have 2 controlling ideas in a topic sentence. See my example below.

For example : "This bicycle tour goes through a great selection of Bordeaux’s vineyards and wineries."

Are my controlling ideas vineyards and wineries and is it ok to 2 or is one the norm ?

Thank you,

  • 1
    Controlling ideas? They are just ordinary nouns. Why do you think you can't mention two in one sentence? Sep 17, 2021 at 12:04
  • The topic sentence contains two parts: the topic and a controlling idea. The topic is WHAT the paragraph is going to be about, and the controlling idea explains WHY the paragraph is being written. The topic sentence helps your reader understand the purpose of your paragraph.
    – Stephane
    Sep 17, 2021 at 12:46
  • 1
    OK - I had to look up what 'topic sentences' were. This is really a question about writing rather than about English grammar. I would say that vineyards and wineries were similar enough to count as the same 'controlling idea'. Sep 17, 2021 at 13:14
  • ok so as long as they are similar all good. If they were really opposite that wouldn't work, is that the idea ?
    – Stephane
    Sep 17, 2021 at 13:27
  • 2
    I believe this is far more suited to Writing.SE, being about style templates rather than syntax. Sep 17, 2021 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


The best way to answer this question would be to start out with clear definitions of what the key terms are.

You've defined the 'topic' as 'the subject of a topic sentence'. You've haven't, however, defined the 'controlling idea'.

It can be useful to think of the 'topic' as the 'what', and the 'controlling idea' as the 'why' - 'why bother?' 'why is this important?' and note that this generally applies to formal writing - particularly to essays or persuasive writing.

In these contexts, the controlling idea will apply to the overarching composition as a whole; within that, there can be subsections which will generally have subtopics and controlling ideas which feature as the topic sentences and conclusions of paragraphs shaping the argument.

In the example you give above, you have two 'whats':

1 - Bicycle tour

2 - Sights it covers

As far as I can see, there is no 'why' in your example - 'great selection' doesn't really get close - it certainly wouldn't satisfy the cynic - 'specially selected' or 'exclusive selection' might be better candidates.

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