Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Everyday English 1
Everyday English 1

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

6.2 Highlighting the main points

When reading is necessary for work or study, a helpful way of making important information in a text stand out is to mark it with a pen. Using a highlighter pen in this way helps you to:

  • think carefully about the main points in the text
  • focus on the important information
  • mark the main points to make it easy to read the text again.

Students often mark the important points in a text in this way when they study for an exam.

Each text is made up of paragraphs. Each paragraph is about one topic of information. Finding the main point in each paragraph makes the text easier to understand.

You can ask yourself:

  • What does this paragraph tell me?

Activity 39 Highlighting the main idea

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

This gives you practice in picking out the main idea in a paragraph.

  1. Read the paragraph below fairly quickly.
  2. Highlight the sentence that sums up the information in the paragraph.
  3. Note down a title for the paragraph.
Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

The paragraph is about the first moon landing in 1969. The best sentence to sum up the subject content is ’Man had landed on the Moon.’

A title could be: The First Moon Landing.

Activity 40 More highlights

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Let’s try another. Read the text below and highlight the most important sentence. This is the one that sums up what the whole paragraph is about.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

The paragraph is about the flu epidemic after the First World War. The first sentence gives the main point of the paragraph:

‘After the First World War a terrible flu epidemic swept Europe.’

Activity 41 Highlighting a longer text

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In the text below, highlight the sentence in each paragraph that sums up the main point of that paragraph.

Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

The important sentences are:

  1. Forget travel agents; the new way to pick up a cheap break is by entering a holiday auction on the internet.
  2. Getting a holiday by auction is quite different, and much more exciting, than booking up in the normal way.
  3. Most of the holidays on offer are cut-price breaks.

Often the first sentence of a paragraph contains the main point. This is sometimes called the topic sentence.

Being able to pick out the main points in a text is very useful. It saves time and helps you to understand a text more quickly. It makes you a more effective reader.