Preview Quiz 1

As a preview to what will be discussed in Part One, try to answer this question:

What is the most important element in any paragraph?

  1. An important message
  2. The main idea
  3. A strong opening

Begin reading Part One to discover the correct answer.

The purpose of this booklet is to help you understand better what a main idea is and how to recognize the main idea in different kinds of paragraphs.

Perhaps the best way to understand main idea is to think of it as the central idea, or the most important idea, in a paragraph. Simply stated, if there is no main idea in a paragraph, there is no paragraph. For example, the core is the most important part of an apple for it is the center around which the fruit grows. A candle provides a similar example. At its center is a wick without which there is no candle, just a lump of wax.

The same holds true for a paragraph. One sentence in a paragraph expresses the main idea; the other sentences explain, develop, or support it. If the main idea is eliminated, the paragraph loses purpose and direction; it is no longer a paragraph.

The main idea, therefore, is the most important idea and it gives the paragraph purpose and direction.

Every well-written paragraph has purpose and direction. The purpose may be to inform, define, explain, give directions, narrate an event, persuade, compare, contrast, etc. Its direction is usually single-minded: it seeks to focus on the main idea.

It is not necessary to memorize this definition. It is important, however, that you develop a general understanding of these concepts and transfer it to your reading and study.