How to Write an Opening Statement for an Essay
Daniel ketchum, 25 jun 2018.
The saying goes that you only get one chance to make a first impression. In an essay, the same is true, with the first words functioning as the first impression a reader sees. An opening statement helps to set the tone for your overall essay. It also gives the reader a sense of the direction you will be taking in your essay. Essay writing is different from most other types of writing you will be required to write in school and college. The opening statement sets the tone for the rest of the essay. If a professor assigns a personal essay, he may expect your personal perspective on a topic. In an academic essay, using first person to explain that same personal perspective is not part of the guidelines. Because of those different expectations in essay content, your essay opening statement may vary in tone and perspective. However, the actual writing process involves many of the same ideas.
Explore this article
- Develop Your Essay Outline
- Develop Your Essay Thesis
- Essay Opening Statement
1 Develop Your Essay Outline
Develop an outline for your overall essay. Developing an outline is an important step in bringing together your ideas on a subject and making sure that you cover the topic as thoroughly as possible. Since most opening statements summarize or at least foreshadow the contents of the essay, this outline will help you formulate your opening statement as well as the body of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the development of the Roman legions, the topic headings you use in the outline can also be used as the core of your opening statement.
2 Develop Your Essay Thesis
Next, develop the thesis for your opening statement. Write a thesis that will help to encapsulate the theme of your essay for the reader. The opening statement should make clear what the essay is about and what approach you are going to take. In a general way, you can also give your opinion on the subject while still leaving the details to the main body of the essay's text.
3 Essay Opening Statement
When appropriate to the essay type, try thinking outside the box to get creative with your opening statement based on the assignment's expectations. Keep in mind that academic essays may have different requirements than a personal essay. This means that the respective opening statements also vary with each essay's guidelines. Creativity is more relevant to a personal essay. One of the main purposes of any opening statement is to grab the reader's attention. For instance, if you are writing an essay in a history or social science class against war or materialism, you might want to quote a line from a John Lennon song like “Imagine" or start with a quote from Gandhi.
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About the Author
Daniel Ketchum holds a Bachelor of Arts from East Carolina University where he also attended graduate school. Later, he taught history and humanities. Ketchum is experienced in 2D and 3D graphic programs, including Photoshop, Poser and Hexagon and primarily writes on these topics. He is a contributor to sites like Renderosity and Animotions.
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How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction | Examples
Published on October 4, 2021 by Meredith Testa . Revised on August 14, 2023 by Kirsten Courault.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each application season, and they may devote as little as five minutes to reviewing a student’s entire application. That means it’s critical to have a well-structured essay with a compelling introduction. As you write and revise your essay , look for opportunities to make your introduction more engaging.
There’s one golden rule for a great introduction: don’t give too much away . Your reader shouldn’t be able to guess the entire trajectory of the essay after reading the first sentence. A striking or unexpected opening captures the reader’s attention, raises questions, and makes them want to keep reading to the end .
Table of contents
Start with a surprise, start with a vivid, specific image, avoid clichés, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.
A great introduction often has an element of mystery. Consider the following opening statement.
This opener is unexpected, even bizarre—what could this student be getting at? How can you be bad at breathing?
The student goes on to describe her experience with asthma and how it has affected her life. It’s not a strange topic, but the introduction is certainly intriguing. This sentence keeps the admissions officer reading, giving the student more of an opportunity to keep their attention and make her point.
In a sea of essays with standard openings such as “One life-changing experience for me was …” or “I overcame an obstacle when …,” this introduction stands out. The student could have used either of those more generic introductions, but neither would have been as successful.
This type of introduction is a true “hook”—it’s highly attention-grabbing, and the reader has to keep reading to understand.
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If your topic doesn’t lend itself to such a surprising opener, you can also start with a vivid, specific description.
Many essays focus on a particular experience, and describing one moment from that experience can draw the reader in. You could focus on small details of what you could see and feel, or drop the reader right into the middle of the story with dialogue or action.
Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus. If that’s the type of essay you’d like to write, you can describe that object in vivid detail, encouraging the reader to imagine it.
Cliché essay introductions express ideas that are stereotypical or generally thought of as conventional wisdom. Ideas like “My family made me who I am today” or “I accomplished my goals through hard work and determination” may genuinely reflect your life experience, but they aren’t unique or particularly insightful.
Unoriginal essay introductions are easily forgotten and don’t demonstrate a high level of creative thinking. A college essay is intended to give insight into the personality and background of an applicant, so a standard, one-size-fits-all introduction may lead admissions officers to think they are dealing with a standard, unremarkable applicant.
Quotes can often fall into the category of cliché essay openers. There are some circumstances in which using a quote might make sense—for example, you could quote an important piece of advice or insight from someone important in your life. But for most essays, quotes aren’t necessary, and they may make your essay seem uninspired.
If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.
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The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.
The key to a strong college essay introduction is not to give too much away. Try to start with a surprising statement or image that raises questions and compels the reader to find out more.
Cliché openers in a college essay introduction are usually general and applicable to many students and situations. Most successful introductions are specific: they only work for the unique essay that follows.
In most cases, quoting other people isn’t a good way to start your college essay . Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don’t achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn’t have, you probably shouldn’t include it.
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Awesome Guide on How to Write an Essay Introduction
'I'd like to recall the day I nearly burned myself in flames in my automobile while going 250 mph and escaping the police'. – Thankfully, we don't have a story like that to relate to, but we bet we piqued your interest.
That's what we refer to as an efficient hook. Fundamentally, it's an attention-grabbing first sentence that piques an audience's interest and encourages them to keep reading. While writing an essay, a strong hook in essay introductions is essential.
Delve into the article if you're wondering how to start an essay with a strong introduction. This is the ultimate guide for writing the parts of a introduction paragraph from our custom dissertation writing service to engage your readers.
The introduction paragraph, to put it simply, is the first section of an essay. Thus, when reading your essay, the reader will notice it right away. What is the goal of an opening paragraph? There are two things that an excellent introduction achieves. It initially informs the reader on the subject of your work; in other words, it should describe the essay's topic and provide some background information for its main point. It must also spark readers' interest and persuade them to read the remainder of your article.
To provide you with essay writing services , we only need your paper requirements to create a plagiarism-free paper on time.
How Long Should an Introduction Be
Typically, there are no strict restrictions on how long an opening paragraph should be. Professional essay writers often shape the size of it with the paper's total length in mind. For instance, if you wonder how to make introduction in essay with five paragraphs, keep your introductory sentence brief and fit it inside a single section. But, if you're writing a longer paper, let's say one that's 40 pages, your introduction could need many paragraphs or even be pages long.
Although there are no specific requirements, seasoned writers advise that your introduction paragraph should account for 8% to 9% of your essay's overall word length.
And, if you place an order on our coursework writing services , we will certainly comply with your introduction length requirements.
What Makes a Good Introduction
All of the following criteria should be fulfilled by a strong opening sentence:
- Start your introduction on an essay with a catchy sentence that draws the reader in.
- It needs to include baseline information about your subject.
- This should give readers a sense of the main argument(s) that your essay will address.
- It must include all necessary information on the setting, locations, and chronological events.
- By the end of your introduction, make a precise remark that serves as your essay's thesis.
What Are the 3 Parts of an Introduction Paragraph
So, what should be in a introduction paragraph? The introduction format essay has three sections: a hook, connections, and a thesis statement. Let's examine each component in more depth.
Part 1: Essay Hook
A hook is among the most effective parts of a introduction paragraph to start an essay. A strong hook will always engage the reader in only one sentence. In other words, it is a selling point.
Let's now address the query, 'how to make an essay introduction hook interesting?'. Well, to create a powerful hook, you can employ a variety of techniques:
- A shocking fact
- An anecdote
- A short summary
And here is what to avoid when using a hook:
- Dictionary definitions
- Sweeping statements that include words like 'everywhere,' 'always,' etc.
Once you've established a strong hook, you should give a general outline of your major point and some background information on the subject of your paper. If you're unsure how to write an introduction opening, the ideal approach is to describe your issue briefly before directing readers to particular areas. Simply put, you need to give some context before gradually getting more specific with your opinions.
The 5 Types of Hooks for Writing
Apart from the strategies mentioned above, there are even more types of hooks that can be used:
- A Common Misconception — a good trick, to begin with, to claim that something your readers believe in is false.
Example: 'Although many falsely believe that people working from home are less productive – employees who get such work-life benefits generally work harder.'
- Statistics — Statistical facts may provide a great hook for argumentative essays and serious subjects focusing on statistics.
Example: 'A recent study showed that people who are satisfied with their work-life balance work 21% harder and are 33% more likely to stay at the same company.'
- Personal Story — sometimes, personal stories can be an appropriate hook, but only if they fit into a few brief sentences (for example, in narrative essays).
Example: 'When I had my first work-from-home experience, I suddenly realized the importance of having a good work-life balance; I saw plenty of the benefits it can provide.'
- Scenes — this type of hook requires making the readers imagine the things you are writing about. It is most suitable when used in descriptive and narrative essays.
Example: 'Imagine you could have as much free time as you wish by working or studying from home—and spend more time with your loved ones.'
- Thesis Statement — when unsure how to do an essay introduction, some writers start directly with their thesis statement. The main trick here is that there is no trick.
Example: 'I strongly believe there is a direct correlation between a healthy work-life balance and productivity in school or at work.'
Part 2: Connections
Give readers a clearer sense of what you will discuss throughout your article once you have given a hook and relevant background information about your essay topic. Briefly mentioning your main points in the same sequence in which you will address them in your body paragraphs can help your readers progressively arrive at your thesis statement.
In this section of your introduction, you should primarily address the following questions:
You may make sure that you are giving your readers all the information they need to understand the subject of your essay by responding to each of these questions in two to three lines. Be careful to make these statements brief and to the point, though.
Your main goal is gradually moving from general to specific facts about your subject or thesis statement. Visualize your introduction as an upside-down triangle to simplify the essay writing process. The attention-grabbing element is at the top of this triangle, followed by a more detailed description of the subject and concluding with a highly precise claim. Here is some quick advice on how to use the 'upside-down triangle' structure to compose an essay introduction:
- Ensure that each subsequent line in your introduction is more focused and precise. This simple method will help you progressively introduce the main material of your piece to your audience.
- Consider that you are writing a paper on the value of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In this situation, you may start with a query like, 'Have you ever considered how a healthy work-life balance can affect other areas of your life?' or a similar hook. Next, you could proceed by giving broad factual information. Finally, you could focus your topic on fitting your thesis statement.
Part 3: The Thesis Statement
If you're unsure of the ideal method to create an introduction, you should be particularly attentive to how you phrase your thesis statement.
The thesis of your work is, without a doubt, the most crucial section. Given that the thesis statement of your piece serves as the foundation for the entire essay, it must be presented in the introduction. A thesis statement provides readers with a brief summary of the article's key point. Your main assertion is what you'll be defending or disputing in the body of your essay. An effective thesis statement is often one sentence long, accurate, exact, unambiguous, and focused. Your thesis should often be provided at the end of your introduction.
Here is an example thesis statement for an essay about the value of a proper work-life balance to help you gain a better understanding of what a good thesis should be:
Thesis Statement Example: 'Creating flexible and pleasant work schedules for employees can help them have a better work-life balance while also increasing overall performance.'
Catchy Introductions for Different Essay Types
Although opening paragraphs typically have a fixed form, their language may vary. In terms of academic essays, students are often expected to produce four primary intro to essay examples. They include articles that are analytical, argumentative, personal, and narrative. It is assumed that different information should appear in these beginning paragraphs since the goals of each sort of essay change. A thorough overview of the various paper kinds is provided below, along with some good essay introduction samples from our argumentative essay writers:
- The writer of a narrative essay must convey a story in this style of writing. Such essays communicate a story, which distinguishes them from other essay types in a big way.
- Such a paper's hook will often be an enticing glimpse into a specific scene that only loosely links to the thesis statement. Additionally, when writing such an essay, a writer should ensure that every claim included in the introduction relates to some important moments that have significantly impacted the story's outcome.
- The thesis in narrative writing is usually the theme or main lesson learned from the story.
Narrative introduction example: 'My phone rang, and my mother told me that Dad had suffered a heart attack. I suddenly experienced a sense of being lifted out from under me by this immaculately carpeted flooring. After making it through, Dad left me with a sizable collection of lessons. Here are three principles that I know dad would have wanted me to uphold...'
Still Can't Think of a Perfect Intro?
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- Analytical essay introduction format is another popular type. In contrast to a narrative paper, an analytical paper seeks to explore an idea and educate the reader about a topic.
- Three important facts that support the analytical premise should be included in the middle section of the introduction.
- A well-researched and well-thought-out claim will form a wonderful thesis because the main goal of this paper is to study the topic and educate readers. It's crucial to remember that this assertion shouldn't initially have any real weight. Although it will still be theoretical, it has to be articulated practically.
Analytical introduction example: “... Hence even though presidents, CEOs, and generals still have their daily schedules full of economic crises and military conflicts, on the cosmic scale of history humankind can lift its eyes up and start looking towards new horizons. If we bring famine, plague, and war under control, what will replace them at the top of the human agenda? Like firefighters in a world without fire, so humankind in the twenty-first century needs to ask itself an unprecedented question: what are we going to do with ourselves? What will demand our attention and ingenuity in a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious world? In a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? This question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power? ...” Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari
- To persuade readers of anything is the sole goal of persuasive essay writing. This may be accomplished using persuasive strategies like ethos, pathos, and logos.
- A hook statement for this paper may be anything from a fascinating fact to even comedy. You can use whatever technique you choose. The most crucial advice is to ensure your hook is in line with your thesis and that it can bolster further justifications.
- Generally speaking, a persuasive essay must include three supporting facts. Hence, to gradually lead readers to the major topic of your paper, add a quick summary of your three arguments in your introduction.
- Last, the thesis statement should be the main claim you will be disputing in this paper. It should be a brief, carefully thought-out, and confident statement of your essay's major argument.
Persuasive introduction example: 'Recycling waste helps to protect the climate. Besides cleaning the environment, it uses waste materials to create valuable items. Recycling initiatives must be running all around the world. ...'
- The final sort of academic writing that students frequently encounter is a personal essay. In principle, this essay style is creative nonfiction and requires the author to reflect on personal experiences. The goals of such a paper may be to convey a story, discuss the lessons that certain incidents have taught you, etc. This type of writing is unique since it is the most personal.
- Whatever topic you choose can serve as the hook for such an essay. A pertinent remark, query, joke, or fact about the primary plot or anything else will be acceptable. The backdrop of your narrative should then be briefly explained after that. Lastly, a thesis statement can describe the impact of particular experiences on you and what you learned.
Personal introduction example: 'My parents always pushed me to excel in school and pursue new interests like playing the saxophone and other instruments. I felt obligated to lead my life in a way that met their standards. Success was always expected on the route they had set out for me. Yet eight years after my parents' separation, this course was diverted when my dad relocated to California...'
Tips for Writing a Winning Introduction Paragraph
You now understand how to do introduction and have specific intro example for essays to help you get going. Let's quickly examine what you should and shouldn't do during the writing process.
- Keep the assignment's purpose in mind when you write your introduction, and ensure it complies with your instructor's requirements.
- Use a compelling and relevant hook to grab the reader's attention immediately.
- Make sure your readers understand your perspective to make it apparent.
- If necessary, establish key terms related to your subject.
- Show off your expertise on the subject.
- Provide a symbolic road map to help readers understand what you discuss throughout the post.
- Be brief; it's recommended that your introduction make up no more than 8 to 9 percent of the entire text (for example, 200 words for a 2500 words essay).
- Construct a strong thesis statement.
- Create some intrigue.
- Make sure there is a clear and smooth transition from your introduction to the body of your piece.
- If you're looking for a custom writer , request assistance from the EssayPro team. We know how to write a term paper along with many other types of essays.
- Provide too much background information.
- Use sentences that are off-topic or unnecessary.
- Make your opening paragraph excessively long.
- Keep some information a secret and reveal it later in conclusion.
- Employ overused phrases or generalizations.
- Using quotation marks excessively
Now that you know what is in the introduction of an essay, we recommend reading the information on how to critique an article to gain more academic insight.
If you are still struggling with that, keep in mind that you can always send us your request to get professional assistance from our law essay writing service .
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How to Write a Killer Opening to Your College Essay
Whether you’re still brainstorming topics for your college essay or personal statement, or completing your final draft, you know your essay needs to stand out from the crowd. You know you need to “get creative,” but it is so hard to know what a college wants to see.
While the school you are applying to also has access to your list of activities and transcript, your essay is their only chance to get to know your personality. Your personality and life experiences matter to your future college because they are a good indicator of whether you would be a good fit on their campus. Colleges ask for a “personal” statement for a reason.
The introduction paragraph of your essay sets the tone for the rest of the essay. So while the topic of your essay or personal statement needs to show depth and provide insight into the person behind the application, the introduction lays the blueprints for the reader on what to expect. So, get creative (we’ll explain what that really means!), skip the cheese, and write from the heart.
Make Creativity the Key
Your opening line should show creativity, but without being cheesy. Something like: “Laughter, much like time, can heal most wounds…” or, “The stage lights flooded my senses, blocking out my vision and the laughter of the crowd before me…” instantly makes the reader want to read further and see where this essay will take you. The reader immediately has questions. Is the author sick? Will the rest of the essay be funny or sad? This particular essay was written by a pre-med hopeful who enjoyed writing stand-up comedy on the side. Her essay shared information about her future career plans, while also inviting admissions professionals to catch a glimpse of her personal life outside the classroom, allowing them to feel like they know her well after reading her essay. If this same student had begun her essay with, “Life is like a box of chocolates,” to indicate her unique interests, the tone would be set with a trite, less authentic opening.
Create an Air of Mystery
Have you ever been so invested in a book that you secretly read the last page? It’s human nature to be attracted to a bit of drama. Riveting, mysterious opening lines keep the reader alert throughout the rest of your essay, as they try to anticipate the curve balls your essay may throw. Don’t be afraid to leave readers hanging for a moment with your first scene, as long as you provide the answers in a timely manner. Here are some examples:
“My hands shook as I realized my mistake.” This essay describes a student who makes a mistake in a laboratory that leads him to a new discovery. By beginning with this story, he is able to talk about his internship in a science lab, as well as end the essay with his experience having his discovery published in a medical journal, hitting two major points on his resume.
“The texture of yarn beneath my fingers reminded me of childhood stuffed animals.” This essay tells the story of a girl teaching herself to knit to connect with her grandmother, and eventually begins crocheting hats, scarves and toys for homeless and foster children. Readers are invited to know the author personally, in addition to expanding on one of her resume entries.
Paint a Picture
Every article containing advice about the Personal Statement agrees: Don’t tell your reader what you did, show them. Paint a picture for them. After an attention-grabbing opening line that leaves the reader wondering what comes next, the rest of your introduction needs to tell a story.
For example: “I turned to the young boy, pausing as his eyes brimmed with tears of frustration, before explaining my new plan of action to help him understand,” is much better than: “The summer before senior year, I tutored an elementary student in math and learned a lot about myself.”
The more detail you add, the more invested the reader will become. Remember, the college is admitting YOU, not just your resume.
A great beginning exercise is to make an outline with the essay prompts, whether these are the Common Application essay choices or the prompts found on the college’s admissions page. Try to answer each essay prompt with three essay topics. Start writing, and see which one flows the best and resonates with your creativity. With the right topic, the opening line will sound natural and the rest of the essay will flow easily.
If you are truly struggling with the voice or organization of your essay, try reading sample essays. While you are reading these essays, write down opening lines and sentences you feel are truly effective or clever. With a page of these inspiring sentences in front of you, try to rewrite your essay using these techniques and try a variety of opening lines.
Take the Bird’s Eye View
Take it from someone (me!) who sat in one of those admissions seats: It is truly essential that your essay be memorable, beginning with the opening line.
I remember the lengthy days of reading admissions files, often reviewing dozens of essays each day. Most of them sounded like copies of one another. Others I still remember to this day, despite reading at least a dozen essays before them that day. Read your opening line and full essay through the eyes of a potential admissions official who has read 20 essays before yours. Does your essay still stand out? Would it catch your attention at the end of a long day of reading essays?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you’re headed in the right direction.
Author: Michaela Schieffer
Michaela Schieffer is a former admissions counselor and now independent college counselor, guiding students through their college applications and essays through MoonPrep.com . Moon Prep's specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.
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36 Engaging opening sentences for an essay
Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD
An essay’s opening sentence has a tremendous impact on the reader. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an argumentative essay, a personal narrative, or a research paper; how your text begins will affect its tone and topic. You can write about anything as long as it is relevant to your thesis—starting with an engaging opening sentence may be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful essay.
An introduction is the first section of any paper that allows you to introduce your thesis and provide an overview of your argument or discussion. A good introduction should grab your audience’s attention and entice them to read on, summarising what you’re trying to say concisely. It’s a good idea to think of your introduction as a hook, writing an opening sentence that will leave your reader wanting more.
Writing a thesis statement is the first thing you need to do when planning your paper. Although there are multiple strategies for creating a thesis statement, you must express yourself clearly and answer three simple questions: What is the main idea of my essay? Why is it important? How do I plan to prove it in a paper?
There are countless ways to begin an essay or a thesis effectively. As a start, here are 36 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.
1. “Is it possible to be truly anonymous online?”
This is an engaging opening sentence because it immediately poses a problem that the reader will likely want answered. It’s also interesting that this question applies directly to internet usage, something everybody has experience with. The subject of the opening sentence is “online anonymity,” which allows the writer to discuss two related concepts.
2. “I was shocked to awake one morning to find I had turned into a snail.”
The opening sentence immediately grabs the reader’s attention with its play on words, leaving them unsure if it’s meant as a joke. It continues to entertain by combining an unlikely image (a person turning into a snail) with waking up more common. The sentence also establishes the essay’s tone, which is humorous and personal.
3. “I didn’t want to study abroad.”
This opening sentence immediately intrigues the reader because it presents an opinion that contradicts what would be expected in this type of assignment. The writer then follows with a statement about their decision to study abroad, discussing the reasons for this choice and explaining their position on the matter.
4. “The three dogs had been barking for over an hour before my neighbor finally came out to investigate.”
This opening sentence introduces a narrative about something that happened in the past, starting with dogs barking at night. The next sentence provides background information by revealing that the neighbor came out after an hour and then reasons for this delay. The fact that the writer does not reveal why this is significant until later on makes the opening sentence even more effective because it keeps the reader engaged with what will happen next.
5. “I have always been interested in fashion.”
This opening sentence immediately sets the topic for the entire paper by discussing interest in fashion. It also establishes the tone, clearly portraying the writer’s voice while informing the audience about their personal experience with the subject matter.
6. “I remember when I first realized I didn’t have a home.”
This opening sentence begins a personal narrative about a time before moving out of their family home when the writer realized they didn’t live there anymore. It uses flashbacks to set up the rest of the essay by showing what happened before they moved out and how this made them feel.
7. “When I was in middle school, my dad told me not to get into fights.”
This opening sentence establishes a relationship between the writer and the subject of their essay, creating a more personal tone. It also establishes an expectation for what will be discussed by telling something that happened in the past. The sentence ends with a twist, so it’s more interesting than just stating something that was told to them, making this opening sentence effective.
8. “When I first sat down to write this essay, I was absolutely certain of the thesis.”
This opening sentence immediately introduces conflict because it tells about something that didn’t occur as expected. It also implies that there will be an alternate solution or angle for this paper that will be explored in the following paragraphs. The vocabulary (like “absolutely”) suggests more certainty in this opening paragraph than presented, making it interesting to read.
9. “I remember the first time I killed a man.”
This opening sentence offers an unexpected statement that intrigues the reader and immediately draws them into the essay, wanting to know more about what happened. This type of sentence is called a gripping opener because it does just that. The sentence is also effective because it creates suspense and anticipation in the reader’s mind about what will happen next in this story .
10. “There are two sides to every story: my side and your side.”
This opening sentence introduces a topic that will be revisited multiple times throughout the essay, making it effective for an introduction. It also creates a sense of mystery about the two sides and how they relate to each other, which will be resolved later on once it becomes clear that there are three sides.
11. “I should start this essay by introducing myself.”
This opening sentence includes an explanation for why this paragraph is being written (to introduce oneself) before it ends with a question (“who am I?”). This is effective because it gets the reader to think critically about who the writer is and what they want to say. It also permits them to stop reading after this sentence if they don’t feel like it, making it one of the less intimidating opening sentences.
12. “At the age of seven, I knew my life was going to be amazing.”
This opening sentence establishes a confident, optimistic tone by mentioning something that happened in the past. It also implies that the writer had this positive outlook before anything particularly special happened to them yet, which will likely be mentioned later on, making it more interesting to read.
13. “I don’t know when I lost my sense of excitement for learning.”
This opening sentence presents a conflict that the writer will likely try to resolve in this essay, which gives the reader something to look forward to. It also establishes voice by expressing how they feel about their education so far and suggesting what could be done about it.
14. “Coming home after a long day of school and work is like walking into a warzone.”
This opening sentence creates a sense of conflict that will likely be discussed later on and establishes voice because it shows the writer’s attitude towards their environment. It provides an example of why this subject has been brought up by describing what happens during this “warzone” of a day.
15. “I’ve always loved school.”
This opening sentence is effective because it provides an example of how their life used to be before the issue was introduced (in the next few sentences), making it more interesting to read. It also creates a sense of nostalgia about how good things used to be, making it more engaging.
16. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”
This opening sentence is effective because it creates a voice by describing the writer’s experience and establishes conflict, so the reader knows what to expect in this essay. It provokes an emotional response in the reader, making them more interested.
17. “On day two of our honeymoon, my wife passed out.”
This opening sentence creates suspense by mentioning what happens before revealing why this is significant. It also establishes conflict because it implies that the writer’s wife’s health will be an issue throughout the essay. This leads to a likely discussion about whether or not they should continue their honeymoon, making it engaging for the reader.
18. “I’m a college student, and I hate it.”
This opening sentence establishes conflict for the rest of the essay because it implies that something negatively affects their education. It also establishes voice by showing what they think about being a student and how they feel about college so far, which makes it more interesting to read.
19. “The first time I heard the word ‘stan’ was when Eminem released his song in 2000 by the same name.”
This opening sentence establishes conflict for what will likely be discussed later on and also creates a sense of nostalgia because it takes the reader back to a significant point in recent history that they might remember (rare for essays). It also establishes voice because it shows the writer’s knowledge about rap music.
20. “I used to hate when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up because I never knew how to answer them.”
This opening sentence helps the reader understand why this essay was written to tie into their own experiences. It also establishes conflict by revealing something that the writer used to be troubled by. It also makes them seem relatable because everyone has problems with their future at one point or another.
21. “All my life, I’ve been told I was destined for greatness.”
This opening sentence establishes that the writer had difficulties in their life despite being seen as destined for greatness so far. It also creates a sense of conflict because it implies that they will have to convince the reader otherwise, making it more interesting to read.
22. “My friend once told me that I should never say ‘I’m just being honest when discussing our differences, but I always do.”
This opening sentence creates conflict by showing the reader that there is always tension between the writer and their friend because of this issue. It also establishes voice because it shows how honest they are about their differences, which makes them more relatable. This makes it engaging for the reader to read on.
23. “I’ve never been one to keep my emotions bottled up, and now that I’m pregnant, that’s been amplified.”
This opening sentence establishes emotion from the writer because it shows that they are uncomfortable keeping their emotions to themselves and continue to do so even when they become pregnant. It also creates a sense of conflict because the reader will probably wonder how this lack of emotional inhibition might affect them later on.
24. “The first time I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ it changed my life.”
This opening sentence grabs the reader’s attention and shows what impact this book has had on the writer so far. It also establishes how passionate the writer is towards literature and makes them more relatable because many people have been affected by great works of literature in some way. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
25. “As I walked out of class one day, my professor asked me what I wanted to do with my future.”
This opening sentence establishes conflict by showing that there was a time when the writer did not have an answer to this question despite being capable of doing anything in their mind. It also establishes voice by showing that the writer can stand up for themselves when pushed and makes them seem more relatable because everyone struggles with thinking about their future at some point or another. This is engaging for the reader to continue reading.
26. “I’ve always been taught that it’s impolite to talk about money, but I want to share my experience with you.”
This opening sentence establishes voice by showing that the writer does not abide by this code of conduct because they believe it’s more important to be open and honest. It also creates a sense of conflict so that the reader might have their own contrasting opinions, which will create tension while reading. This is engaging for the reader to continue reading.
27. “Growing up, I never liked math, and it wasn’t until college that I realized why.”
This opening sentence establishes voice because it shows how passionate the writer was about their dislike of math despite not knowing why. It also creates conflict because they will have to explain their reasoning to the reader, which makes it more interesting to read, and it is engaging for the reader to read on.
28. “There are so many factors that go into determining how much someone should be paid, but I believe that everyone deserves equal pay.”
This opening sentence establishes conflict because the writer believes in something that not many people support, and they will have to explain their reasoning. It also establishes voice because it shows that the writer is passionate about this belief and makes them more relatable for other people who share the same opinion. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
29. “Many things have been said about Millennials, but no one has asked us what we think.”
This opening sentence creates a sense of conflict because the reader might be wondering what this person thinks as a Millennial. It also establishes voice by using “us” to show that they are not alone in their beliefs and makes them seem more relatable. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
30. “I finally found a job that I love, and as it turns out, it’s located in a city that has been my dream destination since I was little.”
This opening sentence establishes voice because it shows how the writer feels about their new job and makes them sound passionate about their work which makes the reader want to read on. This is engaging for the reader to continue.
31. “It was the summer of 2001 when I first came across an anime dubbed in French.”
This opening sentence establishes voice through personal experience and makes it relatable because many people have watched their favorite movies or shows in another language. It also creates a sense of conflict by making the reader wonder why they continued watching even though they didn’t understand much of what was being said. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
32. “For years, I thought my life was perfect, until one day when I realized that there’s nothing more important than your mental health.”
This opening sentence establishes voice by showing that the writer used to have this belief but then had a heart change, making them more relatable because everyone’s beliefs change over time. It also creates a sense of conflict by questioning what the reader believes about their mental health, which will make them want to continue reading. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
33. “As children, it’s easy to dream about becoming an astronaut or a firefighter, but I never imagined that my greatest passion would be writing.”
This opening sentence establishes voice by showing how the writer is passionate about what they are currently doing. It also creates a sense of conflict because the reader may have different interests, making it more interesting to read. This is engaging for the reader to continue reading on.
34. “If you would’ve asked me a few months ago, I wouldn’t have said that my life was perfect. However, after some time and perspective, I’m grateful for the twists and turns.”
This opening sentence establishes voice by showing how this person’s perspective has changed over time. It also creates a sense of conflict because it questions what the reader thinks and makes them want to read on. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
35. “Everyone has goals in life, whether it’s saving up enough money to buy a house or finally writing that book.”
This opening sentence establishes conflict because it questions the reader’s goals and shows how they may be different from the writer’s. It also creates a sense of connection because many people share the same goals and make them want to keep reading. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
36. “I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but my favorite show as a child was A Little Princess.”
This opening sentence establishes voice by showing that the writer shares a secret and makes them sound like they’re talking directly to someone. It also creates a sense of conflict because it’s difficult to imagine that the reader doesn’t know this information and makes them want to read on. This is engaging for the reader to read on.
To conclude, there are countless ways to begin an essay or a thesis effectively. These 36 opening sentences for an essay are just a few examples of how to do so. There is no “right way” to start, but it will become easier to find your voice and style as you continue writing and practicing. Good luck!
Royal Literary Fund- Essay Writing Guide
University of Melbourne
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'Whack at Your Reader at Once': Eight Great Opening Lines
Examples of How to Begin an Essay
- Writing Essays
- Writing Research Papers
- English Grammar
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
In "The Writing of Essays" (1901), H.G. Wells offers some lively advice on how to begin an essay :
So long as you do not begin with a definition you may begin anyhow. An abrupt beginning is much admired, after the fashion of the clown's entry through the chemist's window. Then whack at your reader at once, hit him over the head with the sausages, brisk him up with the poker, bundle him into the wheelbarrow, and so carry him away with you before he knows where you are. You can do what you like with a reader then, if you only keep him nicely on the move. So long as you are happy your reader will be so too.
Good Opening Lines for Essays
In contrast to the leads seen in Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay , here are some opening lines that, in various ways, "whack" the reader at once and encourage us to read on.
- I hadn't planned to wash the corpse. But sometimes you just get caught up in the moment. . . . (Reshma Memon Yaqub, "The Washing." The Washington Post Magazine , March 21, 2010)
- The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. . . . (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)
- Unrequited love, as Lorenz Hart instructed us, is a bore, but then so are a great many other things: old friends gone somewhat dotty from whom it is too late to disengage, the important social-science-based book of the month, 95 percent of the items on the evening news, discussions about the Internet, arguments against the existence of God, people who overestimate their charm, all talk about wine, New York Times editorials, lengthy lists (like this one), and, not least, oneself. . . . (Joseph Epstein, "Duh, Bor-ing." Commentary , June 2011)
- Before the 19th century, when dinosaur bones turned up they were taken as evidence of dragons, ogres, or giant victims of Noah's Flood. After two centuries of paleontological harvest, the evidence seems stranger than any fable, and continues to get stranger. . . . (John Updike, "Extreme Dinosaurs." National Geographic , December 2007)
- During menopause, a woman can feel like the only way she can continue to exist for 10 more seconds inside her crawling, burning skin is to walk screaming into the sea--grandly, epically, and terrifyingly, like a 15-foot-tall Greek tragic figure wearing a giant, pop-eyed wooden mask. Or she may remain in the kitchen and begin hurling objects at her family: telephones, coffee cups, plates. . . . (Sandra Tsing Loh, "The Bitch Is Back." The Atlantic , October 2011)
- There is a new cell-phone ring tone that can't be heard by most people over the age of twenty, according to an NPR report. The tone is derived from something called the Mosquito, a device invented by a Welsh security firm for the noble purpose of driving hooligans, yobs, scamps, ne'er-do-wells, scapegraces, ruffians, tosspots, and bravos away from places where grownups are attempting to ply an honest trade. . . . (Louis Menand, "Name That Tone." The New Yorker , June 26, 2006)
- Only a sentence, casually placed as a footnote in the back of Justin Kaplan's thick 2003 biography of Walt Whitman, but it goes off like a little explosion: "Bram Stoker based the character of Dracula on Walt Whitman." . . . (Mark Doty, "Insatiable." Granta #117, 2011)
- I have wonderful friends. In this last year, one took me to Istanbul. One gave me a box of hand-crafted chocolates. Fifteen of them held two rousing, pre-posthumous wakes for me. . . . (Dudley Clendinen, "The Good Short Life." The New York Times Sunday Review , July 9, 2011)
What Makes an Opening Line Effective
What these opening lines have in common is that all have been reprinted (with complete essays attached) in recent editions of The Best American Essays , an annual collection of crackling good reads culled from magazines, journals, and websites.
Unfortunately, not all the essays quite live up to the promise of their openings. And a few superb essays have rather pedestrian introductions . (One resorts to the formula, "In this essay, I want to explore . . ..") But all in all, if you're looking for some artful, thought-provoking, and occasionally humorous lessons in essay writing, open any volume of The Best American Essays .
- Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
- How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies
- Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
- What Are the Different Types and Characteristics of Essays?
- Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
- A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays
- The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
- 50 Great Topics for a Process Analysis Essay
- What Is a Compelling Introduction?
- Writers on Writing: The Art of Paragraphing
- The Title in Composition
- How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title
- Development in Composition: Building an Essay
- Bad Essay Topics for College Admissions
- List of Topics for How-to Essays
- How To Write an Essay
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Guide to Writing Strong Introductions for Argumentative Essays
Table of contents
Have you ever stared at a blank document, the cursor blinking back at you, as your mind races to conjure the perfect starting line for your argumentative essay? If so, you're in good company.
Opening an essay is often the most daunting part for many students. They oscillate between typing out a line and hastily hitting the backspace, feeling the pressure of that first sentence. After all, first impressions matter, right? So, your introduction should be nothing short of spectacular.
But here's the good news - crafting a powerful introduction for your argumentative essay is not as elusive as it seems. In fact, we've got a few tricks up our sleeve to help you out, and trust us, they work!
This blog post is dedicated to anyone who has ever struggled with introducing their argumentative essay - so essentially, every student ever! We're going to break it down, step by step, showing you the do's and don'ts, the tips and tricks, and even providing you with some solid examples.
Hire Us To Write Your Argumentative Essay
And if you're worried about whether you can do it on your own, don't fret! Our expert argumentative essay writers at Writers Per Hour are always ready to help you.
So, let's dive into the art of crafting a compelling introduction for an argumentative essay, shall we?
Understanding the Purpose of an Introduction
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of writing a killer introduction, it's important to understand why it matters so much.
Your introduction, essentially, sets the stage for your argumentative essay. It is your reader's first glimpse into the argument you're about to unfold. An effective introduction grabs your reader's attention, piques their interest, and provides a clear road map for what's to come in the essay.
In simpler words, the purpose of an introduction in an argumentative essay is threefold:
Engage the reader : A well-crafted introduction acts as a hook, capturing the reader's attention and encouraging them to read further.
Provide background information : It sets the context of the argument by offering necessary background details about the topic.
Present the thesis statement : Arguably the most critical part of your introduction - the thesis statement clearly outlines your position on the argument.
REMEMBER : a great introduction is your ticket to a good grade. It is the first impression you make on your reader. So, if it isn't engaging, concise, and clear, you might lose your reader before they even get to the main argument.
The Anatomy of a Good Argumentative Essay Introduction
Now that you understand the purpose of an introduction, let's break down the structure.
An effective introduction to an argumentative essay will generally have three main sections: a hook, background information, and a thesis statement.
The Hook : This is the first sentence of your introduction, and it needs to grab your reader’s attention. An effective hook could be a surprising fact, a rhetorical question, or an intriguing statement that challenges common perceptions. This needs to be relevant to your topic and should provoke curiosity, pushing the reader to continue.
Background Information : Following the hook, provide some context to your argument. Explain the relevance of your topic or problem, its history or evolution, or the common debates surrounding it. This provides a basic understanding for your reader and sets the stage for your argument.
Thesis Statement : This is where you state your position clearly and concisely. The thesis statement is arguably the most important part of your introduction—it is the crux of your argument and should be compelling and thought-provoking. It needs to clearly indicate what your argument is and give a hint of how you plan to approach it.
IMPORTANT : your introduction is not a place to present all your evidence or explain every aspect of your argument—that's what the body of your essay is for. Instead, your introduction should hint at these things, creating a roadmap for the reader.
Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Introduction for an Argumentative Essay
Crafting a strong introduction for your argumentative essay is about adhering to some key dos and don’ts. Let's take a look at some of these:
1. Engage your reader : Your introduction's first job is to engage the reader. You can achieve this with a compelling hook that draws them into your essay. Remember, first impressions matter!
2. Provide relevant background information : Your reader may not be as knowledgeable about your topic as you are, so be sure to provide some context and background information to help them understand your argument.
3. State your thesis clearly : Your thesis statement should be clear, concise, and debatable. The reader should have no doubts about your stance on the issue.
4. Preview your argument : Give your reader a sense of what's to come by previewing your main points or arguments. This prepares them for the rest of your essay.
1. Don't make your introduction too long : Remember, the introduction is just a sneak peek into your essay, not the main event. Keep it concise and to the point.
2. Don't use clichés : Starting your essay with clichéd phrases or overused quotes can make your introduction feel unoriginal. Instead, aim for a fresh and unique opening line that will pique your reader's interest.
3. Don't be vague : Be clear and precise in your introduction. Vague statements can confuse your reader and make your argument seem weak.
4. Don't forget your audience : Always keep your audience in mind while writing. Your language, tone, and the context you provide should be appropriate for your audience.
REMEMBER : your introduction sets the tone for the rest of your essay, so take your time with it.
Step-by-Step Guide on Writing the Introduction
Crafting an engaging introduction for your argumentative essay is like setting the stage for a compelling drama. It should hook your audience, provide context, and present your stance on the issue. But how can you bring all these elements together effectively? Let's break it down step-by-step. Here's your comprehensive guide to writing a riveting introduction for your argumentative essay.
Step 1: Understanding Your Topic
Before you begin writing, ensure that you thoroughly understand the topic and the argument you wish to present. This means going beyond surface-level research and really digging deep into the subject matter.
Step 2: Define Your Stance
Clearly outline your stance on the argument. This will be the foundation of your thesis statement and guide the tone and direction of your essay.
Step 3: Craft a Compelling Hook
Begin your introduction with a hook - an interesting fact, a question, a quote, or a compelling statement that grabs the reader's attention.
Step 4: Provide Background Information
Next, provide some context to your reader about the topic at hand. Remember not to delve too deep into the specifics - just enough information to guide the reader to understand the relevance of your argument.
Step 5: State Your Thesis
Lastly, present your thesis statement - a concise summary of your main argument. This should be clear, precise, and strongly worded. The thesis statement will guide the entirety of your essay, so make sure it's impactful.
Step 6: Preview Your Main Points
Briefly preview the main points that you will elaborate on in the body of your essay. This helps your reader to understand what to expect from the rest of your argumentative essay.
Step 7: Revise and Edit
Always revise and edit your introduction after writing. Look for any grammar mistakes, unclear sentences or ideas, and ensure that your introduction smoothly transitions into the body of your essay.
REMEMBER : the introduction is the first impression your reader gets of your argumentative essay. Make it impactful, clear, and concise, and you'll have set a strong foundation for the rest of your essay. If you're ever in doubt, reach out to our legal essay writing service , and we'll help guide you on your journey to mastering argumentative essays.
Case Study: Good vs. Bad Introduction
Bad Introduction : "The topic I am writing about is the use of social media. It is very popular. People are always on their phones checking their social media accounts. I am going to talk about if it is good or bad."
Analysis : This introduction falls flat for several reasons. It doesn't grab the reader's attention, and the thesis statement is unclear and broad. It doesn't offer any specific viewpoint or direction for the argument to follow.
Good Introduction : "Every minute, approximately 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, 347,222 stories are posted on Instagram, and 2.4 million snaps are created on Snapchat. The rise of social media platforms is more than a trend - it's a global phenomenon. But as these virtual communities continue to grow, a vital question arises: Is the widespread use of social media enhancing human connection or creating deeper isolation? This essay will delve into the multifaceted impacts of social media, arguing that despite its potential for fostering a global network, it often serves as a platform that promotes isolation and disconnection."
Analysis : This introduction starts with an attention-grabbing statistic, clearly showing the extent of social media usage. The background information provided is concise and relevant, offering enough context without overshadowing the argument. The thesis statement is clear, arguable, and offers a specific direction for the essay to take.
By comparing these two examples, you can see how a well-crafted introduction sets the tone for the entire essay, providing a clear, compelling roadmap for the argument to follow.
There you have it! Crafting an engaging introduction for an argumentative essay doesn't have to be an intimidating process. By understanding the crucial elements involved, practicing, and continuously refining your writing, you're well on your way to creating introductions that captivate your audience and set a strong precedent for your arguments.
- Start with a powerful hook.
- Provide necessary background information.
- State your thesis clearly and concisely.
- Set the stage for your main argument.
- And most importantly, revise and refine your introduction.
And there's one more thing to bear in mind: you're not alone in this journey. Writing can be challenging, but help is always within reach.
To further solidify your introduction writing skills and broaden your understanding of argumentative essays, here are some additional resources that are worth diving into:
Posts from Writers Per Hour Blog
- How to Write Conclusion for an Argumentative Essay
- How Significant Are Opposing Points of View in an Argument
- Argumentative Essay Topics Ideas
- Rebuttal in Argumentative Essay
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Introduction to Argumentative Essays
- University of North Carolina Writing Center: Introductions
- Harvard College Writing Center: How to Write an Essay
Remember, becoming proficient in writing argumentative essays is a journey, not a destination. It takes time, practice, and patience. But don't forget - if you ever find yourself in need of help, our argumentative essay writing service is here for you. Our American essay writing service is adept at crafting essays and can support you in reaching your academic goals.
Last edit at Nov 24 2023
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Table of Contents
How to Write a Great Opening Sentence
Examples of great first sentences (and how they did it), how to write a strong opening sentence & engage readers (with examples).
“I’ve never met you, but I’m gonna read your mind.”
That’s the opening line to The Scribe Method . It does what great opening sentences should: it immediately captures the reader’s attention. It makes them want to read more.
The purpose of a good opening line is to engage the reader and get them to start reading the book. That’s it.
It’s a fairly simple idea, and it works very well—but there are still a lot of misconceptions about book openings .
Many first-time Authors think they have to shock the reader to make them take note.
That’s not true. There are many ways to hook a reader that don’t require shocking them.
I also see Authors who think the purpose of the first paragraph is to explain what they’ll talk about in the book.
Not only is that wrong, it’s boring.
Readers can sense bullshit a mile away, so don’t try to beat them over the head with shock. Don’t give them a tedious summary. Don’t tell your life story. Don’t go into too much detail.
Use your first sentence to connect to the reader and make them want to keep reading.
This guide will help you write a great opening line so you can establish that authenticity and connection quickly.
Everyone knows some of the great opening lines from fiction novels:
- “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
- “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
- “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
- “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
The common thread between these opening lines is that they create a vivid first impression. They make the reader want to know more.
They’re punchy, intriguing, and unexpected.
The first words of a nonfiction book work the same way. You want to create an emotional connection with the reader so they can’t put the book down.
In some ways, nonfiction Authors even have an advantage. They’re writing about themselves and their knowledge while having a conversation with the reader.
They can establish the connection even more immediately because they don’t have to set a fictional scene. They can jump right in and use the first person “I.”
Let’s go back to The Scribe Method ‘s opening paragraph:
I’ve never met you, but I’m gonna read your mind. Not literally, of course. I’m going to make an educated guess about why you want to write a book.
When you read that, at a minimum, you’re going to think, “All right, dude, let’s see if you really know why I want to write a book .” And you’re going to keep reading.
At best, you’re going to think, “Wow. He’s inside my head right now.” And you’re going to keep reading.
In both cases, I’ve managed to create an emotional connection with the reader. Even if that emotion is skepticism, it’s enough to hook someone.
So where do you start when you’re writing your book? How do you form that connection?
The best hooks usually start in the middle of the highest intensity.
In other words, lead with the most emotional part of the story.
If you’re starting your book with a story about how you got chased by the police, don’t begin with what you had for breakfast that day. Start with the chase.
A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader.
Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don’t think you can say, but you still want to say.
Like, “This book will change your life.”
Or, “I’ve come up with the most brilliant way anyone’s ever found for handling this problem.”
Your opening sentence isn’t the time for modesty (as long as you can back it up!).
You want to publish a book for a reason . Now’s your chance to show a reader why they should want to read it.
That doesn’t mean you have to be cocky. You just have to be honest and engaging.
When you’re trying to come up with a great opening line, ask yourself these 3 things:
- What will the audience care about, be interested in, or be surprised by?
- What is the most interesting story or inflammatory statement in your book?
- What do you have to say that breaks the rules?
The best opening lines are gut punches.
They summarize the book, at least in an oblique way. But they’re not dry facts. They’re genuine, behind-the-scenes glimpses into a human life. They establish who you are and what you’re about, right from the beginning.
Human beings respond to genuine connection. That means being vulnerable. You have to break down any barriers that you might usually keep around you.
That’s one of the hardest things to do as an Author, but it makes for a great book.
Reading about perfection is boring, especially because we all know there’s no such thing.
In the next section, I’ll go through examples of great first sentences and explain why they work.
Every one of these strategies helps create an instant, authentic connection with readers. You just have to pick the one that makes the most sense for your book.
1. Revealing Personal Information
When most people think about comedian Tiffany Haddish, they think of a glamorous celebrity.
They don’t think about a kid who had trouble in school because she had an unstable home life, reeked of onions, and struggled with bullying.
From the first line of her book, Tiffany reveals that you’re going to learn things about her that you don’t know—personal things.
I mean, really personal.
The book’s opening story concludes with her trying to cut a wart off her face because she was teased so much about it (that’s where the “unicorn” nickname came from).
That level of personal connection immediately invites the reader in. It promises that the Author is going to be honest and vulnerable, no holds barred.
This isn’t going to be some picture-perfect memoir. It’s going to be real, and it’s going to teach you something.
And that’s what forms a connection.
2. Mirroring the Reader’s Pain
Geoffrey and I chose this opening sentence because it let readers know right away that we know their pain.
Not only that, we knew how to fix it .
If a reader picked up the book and didn’t connect to that opening line, they probably weren’t our target audience.
But if someone picked it up and said, “This is exactly what I want to know!” we already had them hooked.
They would trust us immediately because we proved in the first sentence that we understood them.
In this sentence, Geoffrey and I are positioned as the experts. People are coming to us for help.
But you can also mirror your reader’s pain more directly. Check out this example from Jennifer Luzzato’s book, Inheriting Chaos with Compassion :
That’s a gut punch for anyone. But it’s an even bigger one for Jennifer’s target audience: people who unexpectedly lose a loved one and are left dealing with financial chaos.
Jennifer isn’t just giving the reader advice.
She’s showing that she’s been through the pain. She understands it. And she’s the right person to help the reader solve it.
3. Asking the Reader a Question
Readers come to nonfiction books because they want help solving a problem.
If you picked up a book about team-building, culture, and leadership, you likely want answers to some questions.
Daniel Coyle’s book shows the reader, right off the bat, that he’s going to give you answers.
His question also isn’t a boring, how-do-organizations-work type of question.
It’s compelling enough to make you keep reading, at least for a few more sentences. And then ideally, a few sentences, pages, and chapters after that.
Starting with a question is often a variation on tactic number 2.
If the reader picked up your book hoping to solve a certain problem or learn how to do something, asking them that compelling question can immediately show them that you understand their pain.
It can set the stage for the whole book.
You can also pique the reader’s interest by asking them a question they’ve never thought about.
Nicholas Kusmich ‘s book Give starts with the question,
It’s a unique question that hooks a reader.
But the answer still cuts straight to the heart of his book: “Both entrepreneurs and superheroes want to use their skills to serve people and make the world a better place.”
The unexpected framing gives readers a fresh perspective on a topic they’ve probably already thought a lot about.
4. Shock the Reader
I said in the intro to this post that you don’t have to shock the reader to get their attention.
I never said you couldn’t .
If you’re going to do it, though, you have to do it well.
This is the best opening to a book I’ve ever read. I’m actually a dog person, so this shocked the hell out of me. It was gripping.
As you read, the sentence starts making more sense, but it stays just as shocking. And you can’t help but finish the page and the chapter to understand why. But my God, what a way to hook a reader (in case you are wondering, the dogs were licking up blood from dead bodies and giving away the soldiers’ positions to insurgents. They had to kill the dogs or risk being discovered).
I read this opening sentence as part of an excerpt from the book on Business Insider .
I plowed through the excerpt, bought the book on Kindle, canceled two meetings, and read the whole book.
5. Intrigue the Reader
If you don’t read that and immediately want to know what the realization was, you’re a force to be reckoned with.
People love reading about drama, screw-ups, and revelations. By leading with one, Will immediately intrigues his readers.
They’ll want to keep reading so they can solve the mystery. What was the big deal?
I’m not going to tell you and spoil the fun. You’ll have to check out Will’s book to find out.
There are other ways to be intriguing, too. For example, see the opening line to Lorenzo Gomez’ Cilantro Diaries :
Again, the Author is setting up a mystery.
He wants the reader to rack his brain and say, “Well, if it’s not the famous stuff, what is it?”
And then, when Lorenzo gets to the unexpected answer—the H-E-B grocery store—they’re even more intrigued.
Why would a grocery store make someone’s top-ten list, much less be the thing they’d miss most?
That kind of unexpected storytelling is perfect for keeping readers engaged.
The more intrigue you can create, the more they’ll keep turning the pages.
6. Lead with a Bold Claim
There are thousands of books about marketing. So, how does an Author cut through the noise?
If you’re David Allison, you cut right to the chase and lead with a bold claim.
You tell people you’re going to change the world. And then you tell them you have the data to back it up.
If your reader is sympathetic, they’re going to jump on board. If they’re skeptical, they’re still going to want to see if David’s claim holds up.
Here’s the thing, though: only start bold if you can back it up.
Don’t tell someone you’re going to transform their whole life and only offer a minor life hack. They’ll feel cheated.
But if you’re really changing the way that people think about something, do something, or feel about something, then lead with it.
Start big. And then prove it.
7. Be Empathetic and Honest
One Last Talk is one of the best books we’ve ever done at Scribe. And it shows right from the first sentence.
Philip starts with a bold claim: “If you let it, this book will change your life.”
But then he gives a caveat: it’s not going to be fun.
That’s the moment when he forms an immediate connection with the reader.
Many Authors will tell their readers, “This book will change your life. It’s going to be incredible! Just follow these steps and be on your way!”
Not many Authors will lead with, “It’s going to be worth it, but it’s going to be miserable.”
By being this upfront about the emotional work the book involves, Philip immediately proves to his readers that he’s honest and empathetic.
He understands what they’re going to go through. And he can see them through it, even if it sucks.
One piece of advice we give at Scribe is to talk to your reader like you’re talking to a friend.
Philip does that. And it shows the reader they’re dealing with someone authentic.
8. Invite the Reader In
Joey starts the book by speaking directly to the reader.
He immediately creates a connection and invites the reader in. This makes the book feel more like a conversation between two people than something written by a nameless, faceless Author.
The reason this tactic works so well is because Joey’s whole book is about never losing a customer.
He immediately puts the book’s principles into action.
From the first sentence, Joey’s demonstrating exactly what the reader is there to learn.
The Scribe Crew
Read this next.
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How to Choose the Best Ghostwriting Company for Your Nonfiction Book
How to Choose a Ghostwriter for a Finance Book
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How to Write an Opening Statement
Last Updated: December 10, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Clinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD . Clinton M. Sandvick worked as a civil litigator in California for over 7 years. He received his JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1998 and his PhD in American History from the University of Oregon in 2013. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 786,204 times.
An opening statement is the most important points in a trial and it provides an attorney with an opportunity to engage with the jury about their case. An opening statement should always include an introduction; a body, which includes a story and a discussion of disputes and weaknesses; and a conclusion.
Preparing to Write
- Present a clear picture of the case . Your opening statement is one of the only times at trial you will be able to tell a complete, uninterrupted story. After your opening statement, the case will unfold in bits and pieces and may seem unorganized to the jurors.
- Arouse the interest of your jury . You want the jury to be engaged and interested in the case. If they are not, you may find your jury getting bored and becoming inattentive during your presentation of witnesses and evidence.
- Build rapport with your jurors . You want the jurors to like you, as you will ultimately ask them to decide the case in your favor. You want to speak to them as the intelligent people they are, and you want to be sincere in the beliefs you convey.
- Discuss the facts of your case . Your opening statement should be limited to a discussion of the anticipated evidence and what the main issues are. You must not exaggerate or misstate your evidence, you must not refer to inadmissible evidence, and you must not discuss matters that will not be a part of your own case.
- Avoid arguing during your opening statement .Because the point of your opening statement is to introduce the jury to your case, you do not want to turn your opening statement into a series of legal arguments. So long as you are assisting the jury in understanding your evidence, your comments should be permissible. However, once you begin asking the jury to make inferences, interpret facts in your favor, and/or resolve disputes, you are most likely making impermissible arguments.
- Avoid discussing the law in detail during your opening statement . Your opening statement can most likely have a brief introduction to the legal issues on which your case depends. However, you should avoid discussing how the law should be interpreted, and you should avoid applying any of the facts of your case to the law.
Writing Your Opening Statement
- Consider the following example: "On January 23, 2001, Chris McGuigan walked into Riverdale Hospital through the front door to have a minor operation to remove a growth on her arm. One week later, on January 30, she was carried out of the back door dead. What happened in that short week to turn a routine operation into a life and death struggle, and why it never should have happened, is what this case is all about."
- Consider this good example: "At 9:00, Jim McCutcheon left the steak house, and got into his car to head home. The car was in good condition, and Jim was alert, sober and not at all tired. He had drunk two beers with his dinner, but was still in full control of his faculties. He would not have driven if he had been feeling any effects from the beer. Jim won’t even drive with a cell phone on."  X Research source
- Look at this example to see how to effectively summarize your case and ask the jury for a verdict: "The bottom line is that the evidence will show that the defendant knew what he was doing when he killed Boyd Farnam. He killed Boyd for revenge - an eye for an eye - because he blamed Boyd for the death of his daughter. The people of this state will therefore ask you at the close of the evidence to find him guilty of murder."  X Research source
Practicing Your Opening Statement
- Write your opening statement exactly as you want to present it;
- Reduce it to a general outline; then
- Reduce it one last time to a key word outline that you may or may not use during your opening statement itself.
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- Be confident and deliver the opening statement you prepared and practiced. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
- Keep your opening statement short and sweet. Depending on the complexity of your case, your opening statement may be longer or shorter than 15 minutes. The closer you can get to a 15 minute opening statement, the better off you will be. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- State and federal law will dictate exactly what can and cannot be said during an opening statement, so be sure to conform to the necessary rules when writing and delivering your opening statement. Thanks Helpful 10 Not Helpful 5
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- ↑ https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/trial-practice/practice/2015/5-tips-for-engaging-opening-statements/
- ↑ https://www.law.indiana.edu/instruction/tanford/web/reference/04open.pdf
- ↑ https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/publications/youraba/2017/july-2017/10-tips-for-effective-opening-and-closing-arguments/
- ↑ https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/resources/newsletters/trial-evidence/tips-developing-effective-opening-statement/
- ↑ https://www.howtoseparate.ca/10-preparing-court/105-opening-statement
About This Article
To write an opening statement, start with your introductory remarks that summarize the case, state your theme, and intrigue the jurors. Then, go on to introduce your client, as well as any other witnesses involved in the case. Next, identify the main points of contention in the case and tell the jury your story of what happened from your client's point of view. You should also briefly mention any weaknesses in your case to lessen their impact when your opponent brings them up. Finally, conclude your opening statement by summarizing the theme of your case and asking the jury for a specific verdict. To learn how to rehearse and deliver your opening statement, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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