“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” This is how Charles Dickens began his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities.” His goal? To intrigue the reader who had just picked up the book for the first time.

Authors understand the need to grab a reader’s attention in the very beginning of whatever they write – novels, short stories, poetry, and certainly non-fiction, such as essays, articles, and such.

Journalists understand this too. They know that if they do not engage their readers with the headline and the first subtitle and sentence, their article will not be read.

Students need to understand this too. When they are assigned essays to write, no matter what type, their introduction is the most important part of their piece. It is the first impression an instructor or professor will have of their writing skill and ability to capture a reader’s attention.

So, exactly what makes a good introduction? These tips and strategies should help.

  1. Identify Your Thesis First

You cannot begin an essay on any topic until you know how you are going to approach that topic – what point you want to make or what you want the reader to understand by the time the essay is finished.

You need to write your thesis statement down and revise it until it is exactly as you want it.

The thesis statement will be included in the introduction, but it will not be the first sentence of that paragraph. Usually, it comes at the end of your introduction.

  1. Craft Your Opening Sentence

Think like Charles Dickens or a journalist. What can you say that will immediately intrigue your reader? In general, there are three things you can do here.

  • Open with a shocking statement or statistic – something that will jolt the reader. For example: “Every night, 14 million children in the U.S. go to bed hungry.” Or “30% of the methane gas that is destroying our ozone comes from cow farts.”
  • Open with a quotation from a famous person related to the topic of your essay. “We were about one-third Tories (Loyalists), and one-third timid, and one-third true blue.” This was how John Adams described the American colonists’ opinions about the Revolutionary War.
  • Open with an anecdote (a very brief story) that relates to your topic/thesis. “During the persecution of the Jews by Hitler in the 1930s, a boat filled with Jewish immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. was turned away when it attempted to land. Today, there are families trekking from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S. They, too, are being turned away.
  1. Be Mindful of These Don’ts

There are some things that will immediately turn off a reader. Among them are the following, and they should be avoided:

  • Do not make broad sweeping statements that are unprovable. “Most people agree that the only way to get ahead is to get a college education.” Or “Most people on welfare are lazy.”
  • Do not use clichés – “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” or “There are two sides to every story.”
  • Do not appear to be unsure of yourself. Phrases such as “I think” or “It seems to me” indicate lack of confidence. Be assertive and confident in your introduction, because you have done the research and you do know what you are talking about.
  1. Write Your Introduction Last

This is always a good strategy. Once you have written your entire essay, you will have developed some strong insight and will have had time to think about how you want to introduce your reader to your topic and your thesis.

In the End…

Not everyone is a skilled essay writer. And if you struggle with academic writing, then it is not shameful to Get Academic Help while you practice and become better. Get the help you need rather than submit something that is not quality and that will result in a poor grade.


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