The opening paragraph of any essay is crucial, yet, it is one of the hardest parts to write. A good introduction should be compelling yet straight to the point, all while building the foundation of the narrative. However, it is easier said than done. Thus, it needs to strike an intricate balance between content and craft.
Many English writing courses will spend some time imparting tips and tricks for students to master this. For a taste of what such writing courses will cover, here is an overview of how to craft an effective introduction:
GRIP YOUR READER RIGHT OFF THE BAT
More so than the entire paragraph, the opening line of your essay needs to capture the reader’s interest. Most students start with writing about the weather (It was a bright and sunny day…) – which isn’t wrong but can be tedious since it has been used many times before.
To add some interest, consider starting with a line of speech instead, or a character’s thoughts. This pulls the reader right into your story and makes them curious about what is going on. Another method is to start in the heat of the action; this will get the ball rolling on your narrative!
LAY OUT THE FACTS
An opening paragraph is, after all, an introduction to your story. Your reader needs sufficient information so that they can understand and be invested in the narrative. Some essential points the introduction should establish are:
- The characters of the story
- The time and place of the incident
- The situation/problem
Bear in mind the nifty rule of thumb in composition writing: Show, not tell. Merely conveying all the details may be tempting, but consider opting for a compelling method while doing so.
GIVE YOUR READER SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Once you’ve pulled your reader in, ensure that you retain their interest for the rest of the story. You may do this by having your readers anticipate the climax. Build momentum with your opening paragraph, hinting the upcoming event or present the ‘problem’ in your narrative. The key is to keep your reader on their toes so that they will keep wondering ‘What’s next?’
Avoiding clichés is not as easy as it is made out to be, especially when hundreds of students are given the same prompt. Thus, to stand out, don’t employ methods used by other students. Don’t rely on memorised essay phrases and paragraphs. If a teacher read a similar sentence 20 times over, chances are, they will be less impressed than you think they might be. As far as possible, try to find a novel angle to describe the same situation, so that your composition can shine.
As they say, a good beginning is half the battle won. Master the craft of writing a compelling introduction, and we’re sure you’ll be well on your way to writing excellent English compositions in no time!