How to write a good essay: Paraphrasing the question
How to Begin an Essay
The opening of an essay is very important, as you need to grab the reader's attention. Additionally, you need to set up the rest of the essay in terms of tone and content. There's no "right" way to begin an essay, but good openings share qualities you can use in your own writing. To begin your essay, start by creating a roadmap for what you want to say, then tailor your introduction to fit your essay. To improve your work, use popular essay writing strategies.
Essay Template and Sample Essays
Laying the Roadmap for Your Essay
Write a 1-sentence attention-grabbing hook to open your essay.While your essay may be interesting to you, it's not necessarily interesting to the reader. Readers, by and large, are somewhat picky about what they read and what they don't. If a piece of writing doesn't immediately catch their attention in the first paragraph, there's a good chance they won't bother to read the rest of it. Because of this, it's often a good idea to begin an essay with a sentence that commands the reader's attention from the get-go. So long as this first sentence is logically connected to the rest of the article, there's no shame in being attention-grabbing right out of the gate.
- Don't stress if you don't have a good hook when you first sit down to write! Many writers save the opening line for last, as it's easier to craft a good opening line after you've written the rest of your essay.
- Great hooks might include a fascinating little-known fact about your topic, a startling statistic, a quote, a rhetorical question, or an insightful personal question. However, don't quote the dictionary. For instance, if you're writing an essay on the growing danger of childhood obesity worldwide, you might start with this: "Contrary to the popular idea that childhood obesity is only a problem for rich, pampered Westerners, the WHO reports that in 2012, over 30% of preschool-age children in developing countries were overweight or obese."
- On the other hand, if it fits into your essay more logically, you may want to start with a particularly gripping image or description. For an essay on your summer vacation, you might start with this: "When I felt the Costa Rican sun filtering through the jungle canopy and heard the sound of howler monkeys far off in the distance, I knew that I had found someplace very special."
Draw your reader into the "meat" of your essay.A great first sentence can get the reader's attention, but if you don't keep pulling the reader into your essay, she or he can still easily lose interest. Follow your very first sentence with a sentence or two that logically link the attention-grabbing "hook" in the first sentence to the rest of the essay as a whole. Often, these sentences will expand on the narrow scope of the first sentence, placing the specific snapshot you present initially in some sort of larger context.
- For example, in your obesity essay, you might follow your first sentence as follows: "In fact, childhood obesity is a growing problem that is increasingly affecting rich and poor countries alike." This sentence explains the urgency of the problem described in the first sentence and gives it a broader context.
- For your vacation essay, you might follow your first sentence with something like this: "I was deep in the jungles of Tortuguero National Park, and I was lost in more ways than one." This sentence tells the reader where the imagery in the first sentence comes from and pulls the reader into the rest of the essay by teasing that it will eventually be revealed how the narrator is "lost."
Tell the reader what your essay is about.After reading your introduction, your reader needs to know the topic of your essay, as well as your purpose for writing it. You might be writing to inform, persuade, or entertain, and this should be apparent in your introduction. Additionally, you should tell your reader why your topic is important, as well as what they'll get from your essay.
- In your obesity essay, you might sum things up by proceeding like this: "The purpose of this essay is to analyze current trends in childhood obesity rates worldwide and recommend specific policy initiatives to combat this growing problem." This clearly and plainly tells what the essay aims to do. There is no confusion here.
- For your vacation essay, you might try something like this: "This is the story of my summer in Costa Rica, a summer that neither spider bites, nor rotten plantains, nor Giardia could keep from being life-changing." This tells the reader that they'll be reading an account of one person's journey to a foreign country while teasing specific details about what's in store in the body of the essay.
Outline the structure of your essay.Let the reader know how you will present your argument or perspective, providing the basic structure of your essay. You'll likely provide this information in your thesis statement. Provide your stance, as well as a brief outline of the support for your stance.
- For your obesity essay, you might continue like this: "This essay addresses three main global health concerns: the rising availability of high-calorie food, the decline in physical exercise, and the growing popularity of sedentary leisure activities." For a straightforward research essay like this, outlining the main topics of discussion is a good idea because it allows the reader to immediately understand the essay's justification for the purpose explained in the previous sentence.
- On the other hand, for your vacation essay, you might keep your tone lighthearted and playful. Although it's perfectly fine to write, "By experiencing both city life in the capital of San Jose and rural life in the jungles of Tortuguero, I changed as a person during my trip," you might want to revise the sentence to make it flow with the previous statements.
Include a thesis statement or controlling idea.In essay-writing, a thesis statement is a single sentence that describes the "point" of the essay as clearly and concisely as possible. Some essays, especially five-paragraph essays written for academic assignments or as part of a standardized test, more or lessrequireyou to include a thesis statement as part of the opening paragraph. Even essays that don't require this can benefit from the concise purpose-defining power of a bold thesis statement or controlling idea. Generally, thesis statements are included at or near the end of the first paragraph, but the position can vary in some circumstances.
- For your obesity essay, since you're dealing with a serious topic and writing about it in a clinical, straightforward way, you might be fairly direct with your thesis statement: "The Global Initiative Education Program policy initiative will have the greatest affect on combating childhood obesity around the globe by educating communities, changing popular beliefs, and fostering support." This thesis statement tells the reader in relatively few words the exact purpose of the essay.
- You probably wouldn't include a single thesis statement for your vacation essay. Since you're more interested in setting a mood, telling a story, and illustrating personal themes, a direct, clinical statement like "This essay will describe my summer vacation to Costa Rica in great detail" would sound oddly forced and unnecessary.
Set an appropriate tone for your essay.In addition to being your space to discuss what you're going to talk about, your first paragraph or so is also a space to establishhowyou're going to talk about it. The way you write — your writing voice — is part of what encourages (or discourages) your readers from reading your article. If the tone in the beginning of your essay is clear, pleasing, and appropriate for the subject matter, your readers will be more likely to read than if it's muddled, varies greatly from sentence to sentence, or is mismatched to the topic at hand.
- Take a look at the sentences for the example essays above. Notice that, while the obesity essay and the vacation essay have very distinct voices, both are clearly written and are appropriate for the subject matter. The obesity essay is a serious, analytical piece of writing dealing with a public health problem, so it's reasonable for the sentences to be somewhat clinical and to-the-point. On the other hand, the vacation essay is about a fun, exciting experience that had a major effect on the writer, so it's reasonable that the sentences are a little more playful, containing exciting details and conveying the writer's sense of wonder.
Cut to the chase!One of the most important rules when it comes to introductions is that shorter is almost always better. If you can convey all the information that you need to convey in five sentences rather than six, do it. If you can use a simple, everyday word in place of a more obscure word (e.g., "start" vs. "initiate"), do it. If you can get your message across in ten words rather than twelve, do it. Wherever you can make your introductory passages shorter without sacrificing quality or clarity, do so. Remember, the beginning of your essay serves to get your reader into the meat of the essay, but it's the sizzle and not the meat of the essay itself, so keep it short.
- As noted above, while you should strive for brevity, you shouldn't shorten your introduction so much that it becomes unclear or illogical. For instance, in your obesity essay, you shouldn't shorten this sentence: "In fact, childhood obesity is a global problem that is increasingly affecting rich and poor countries alike." ...to this: "In fact, obesity is actually a big problem." This second sentence doesn't tell the whole story — the essay is about the rising global incidence of childhood obesity, not the fact that obesity is bad for you in general.
Tailoring Your Introduction to Your Essay
Sum up your argument in a persuasive essay.Though all essays are unique (besides plagiarized ones), certain strategies can help you make the most of your essay based on the specific type of writing you're doing. For instance, if you're writing an argumentative essay — that is, one that argues a specific point with the hope of persuading the reader into agreement — it can be helpful to focus on summarizing your argument in the introductory paragraph (or paragraphs) of the essay. Doing this gives the reader a quick rundown of the logic you're going to use to support your argument.
- For instance, if you're arguing against a proposed local sales tax, you might include something like the following in your first paragraph: "The proposed sales tax is regressive and fiscally irresponsible. By proving that the sales tax puts a disproportionate tax burden on the poor and that it has a net negative effect on the local economy, this essay intends to prove these points beyond a shadow of a doubt." This approach tells the reader right away what your main arguments are going to be, and this gives your argument legitimacy from the get-go.
Be attention-grabbing in creative writing.Creative writing and fiction can be more emotionally charged than other pieces of writing. For these types of essays, you can usually get away with beginning your essay with a metaphorical bang. Making an effort to be exciting or memorable in your first few sentences is a great way to draw readers into your work. Although you can play around more with creative writing, you should still lay out your structure, purpose, and controlling ideas in the beginning. Otherwise, your reader will struggle to follow your writing.
- For example, if you're writing a thrilling short story about a girl on the run from the law, we might start with some exciting imagery: "Sirens echoed through the cigarette-burnt walls of the flophouse. Red and blue flashed like paparazzi's cameras on the shower curtain. Sweat mingled with rusty water on the barrel of her gun." Nowthisstory sounds exciting!
- It's also worth noting that your first few sentences can be compelling without being action-packed. Consider the first few lines of J. R. R. Tolkien'sThe Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” This raises intriguing questions right away: What is a hobbit? Why does it live in a hole? The reader has to keep reading to find out!
Tie specific details to your overall theme for arts and entertainment.Writing in the arena of arts and entertainment (like movie reviews, book reports, etc.) carries fewer rules and expectations than technical writing, but the beginnings of essays written in this style still benefit from an overarching strategy. In these cases, while you can get away with a little playfulness in the beginning of your essay, you'll usually need to take care to ensure that you describe your the overall theme or focus even as you pinpoint small, specific details.
- For example, if you're writing a review and analysis of P.T. Anderson's filmThe Master,you might start like this: "There's a moment inThe Masterthat's small, but hard to forget. Speaking to his teenage paramour for the very last time, Joaquin Phoenix's naval washout suddenly tears through the window screen that's separating them and embraces the girl in a passionate kiss. It's at once beautiful and perverse, and perfectly emblematic of the twisted depiction of love the film presents." This opening uses a small, compelling moment from the film to capture the main theme in a compelling way.
Stay clinical in technical or scientific essays.Of course, not all writing can be wild and exciting. Wit and whimsy have no place in the world of serious analytical, technical, and scientific writing. These types of writing exist for practical purposes — to inform relevant individuals about serious, specific topics. Since the purpose of essays written in these topics is to be purely informative (and occasionally persuasive), you should not include jokes, colorful imagery, or anything else that's not directly related to the task at hand.
- For instance, if you're writing an analytical essay on the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of protecting metal from corrosion, you might begin like this: "Corrosion is an electrochemical process by which metals react with their environment and degrade. Since this poses a serious problem to the structural integrity of metal objects and structures, various means of protecting against corrosion have been developed." This beginning is blunt and to-the-point. No time is wasted on style or flash.
- Note that essays written in this style often contain abstracts or summaries before the essay itself which succinctly tell the reader what the essay is about in broad strokes. See How to Write an Abstract for more information.
Address the most important information first for journalism.Journalistic essay writing differs somewhat from other essay styles. In journalism, there is usually a great effort made to focus on the pure facts of the story, rather than the writer's opinion, so the introductory passages of a journalistic essay tends to be somewhat descriptive, rather than argumentative or persuasive. In serious, objective journalism, writers are often encouraged to put the most important information up front in the very first sentence so that readers can learn the essentials of a story within seconds of reading the headline.
- For instance, if you're a journalist tasked with covering a local fire, you might begin our piece like this: "Four apartment buildings on the 800 block of Cherry avenue suffered a severe electrical fire Saturday night. While there were no fatalities, five adults and a child were rushed to Skyline Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the blaze." By beginning with the bare essentials, you give the majority of the readers the information they want to know immediately.
- In the subsequent paragraphs, you can delve into the details and the context surrounding the event so that the readers who stick around can learn more.
Using Introduction Writing Strategies
Try writing your introduction last, rather than first.When the time comes to begin their essay, many writers forget that there's no rule that says that youhaveto write the beginning of the essay first. In fact, it's acceptable to start anywhere in the essay that suits your purpose, including in the middle and the end, so long as you eventually stitch the entire essay together.
- If you're unsure of how to start or don't even know exactly what your essay is about yet, try skipping the beginning for the time being. You'll eventually need to write it, but once you've written the rest of your essay, you may have a much firmer grasp of your topic. Start your essay with the part that feels easiest to write. You can write the rest of the essay later.
Brainstorm.Sometimes, even the best writers run out of ideas. If you're having a hard time even getting started with your introduction, try brainstorming. Get a fresh sheet of paper and write down ideas as they come to you in a rapid-fire fashion. These don't necessarily have to be good ideas — sometimes, seeing ideas that you definitely shouldn't use can inspire you to think up ideas that you definitelyshoulduse.
- You may also want to try a related exercise called free-form writing. When free-form writing, you begin writing anything — absolutely anything — and keep writing sentences in a stream-of-consciousness fashion to get your juices flowing. The end result doesn't have to make sense. If there's a tiny kernel of inspiration in your ramblings, you'll have benefited.
Revise, revise, revise.First drafts that can't be improved in some way by editing and reviewing are rare to nonexistent. A good writer knows never to turn in a piece of writing without going over it at least once or twice. Reviewing and revising allows you to spot spelling and grammar errors, fix portions of your writing that are unclear, omit unnecessary information, and much more. This is especially important for the very beginning of your essay, where otherwise minor errors can reflect negatively upon your the entire work, so be sure to give your essay's beginning a thorough revision.
- For example, consider an essay in which the very first sentence contains a small grammar error. Though the error is minor, the fact that it occurs in such a prominent place may lead the reader to assume that the writer is careless or unprofessional. If you're writing for money (or a grade), this is a risk you definitely don't want to take.
Get another person's opinion.No writer writes in a vacuum. If you're feeling uninspired, try talking to someone whose opinion you respect to get their perspective on the beginning of your essay. Because this other person isn't as invested in your writing as you are, s/he may be able to offer an outsider's point of view, pointing out things that may not have occurred to you precisely because you were focused on writing the perfect beginning to your essay.
- Don't be afraid to reach out to teachers, professors, and other individuals who may have assigned you the essay in the first place. Most of the time, these people will take the fact that you're asking for advice as a sign that you take the essay seriously. In addition, because these people will most likely have preconception the final product, they can give you advice that will guide you into writing your essay exactly as they want it.
QuestionWhere do I write my name on the essay?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerUsually teacher prefer that your name go at the top right or left corner of the first page, but ask your teacher for his or her preference.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I write an introduction about things to do during the summer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStart by writing about summer and how it means freedom for many people, then include a sentence about how there are many things to do in the summer. This will introduce the general topic of your paper.Thanks!
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To begin an essay, write a 1-sentence hook that gets people’s attention and leads them into the introduction. Then, write the rest of your introduction in a way that continues to capture the reader’s attention while showing them why you wrote your essay and whether you want to inform, persuade, or entertain them. Finally, prepare an outline and review the essay’s structure to make sure it is to the point and in the right tone.
- Be sure that you can write enough on a topic and mix up your sentences a bit. Nothing is worse than reading one boring paper after another. Excitement is key.—If you can't get into your subject, your reader most likely will not either and the result will be a poor grade.
- When asking for editing help be polite and respectful. The best person to ask editing help from is the assigning teacher or professor.
- Editing is your friend, save your work so you don't have to rewrite the entire thing. Essays with good content and organization can be easily fixed—no matter how bad the punctuation, spelling, or grammar.
- Stay on topic.
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