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- How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples
How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.
The main goals of an introduction are to:
- Catch your reader’s attention.
- Give background on your topic.
- Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.
This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Table of contents
Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.
Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.
Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.
The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.
Examples: Writing a good hook
Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.
- Braille was an extremely important invention.
- The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly why the topic is important.
- The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
- The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.
Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.
Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.
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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:
- Historical, geographical, or social context
- An outline of the debate you’re addressing
- A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
- Definitions of key terms
The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.
How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:
Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.
This is the most important part of your introduction. A good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.
The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.
Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.
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As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.
For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.
When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.
It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.
To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .
You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.
Checklist: Essay introduction
My first sentence is engaging and relevant.
I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.
I have defined any important terms.
My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.
Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.
You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.
- Literary analysis
This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.
This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).
In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.
To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
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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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Sentence Starters: Ultimate List to Improve Your Essays and Writing
This blog post is going to be about … No. Too boring.
Today, I am going to talk to you about ... No. Too specific.
This is a blog post for all writers ... Nope. Too generic.
Has this ever been you while writing? I get it. Writing a good sentence can be hard, and when you have to string a whole lot of them together, the task can become daunting. So what do you do?
From the first sentence you write to the very last, you want each one to show your style and motivate your reader to keep reading. In this post, we are going to think about how you start your sentences.
What Is a Good Sentence Starter for an Essay Introduction?
What is a good sentence starter for a body paragraph, 25 useful transitions, can i repeat a sentence starter, how can i rephrase "in conclusion".
The first paragraph of a paper can make or break your grade. It is what gets your audience into the topic and sets the whole stage. Because of this, it is important to get your readers hooked early.
The first sentence of a paper is often called the hook. It shouldn’t be anything ordinary. It should have strong language and be a little surprising, with an interesting fact, story, statistic, or quote on the topic.
Because it is designed to pull the reader in and surprise them a little, it is often good to avoid pre-written sentence starter examples when writing your hook. Just get into it here, and worry about the flow later.
Here are some examples:
Spider webs were once used as bandages.
I taught myself to read when I was three. At least, that’s the story my parents tell.
Recent studies suggest that the average person lies at least once in every conversation.
“The world is bleeding and humans wield the knife,” or so says environmental scientist So Andso.
(P.S. Except for example 1, which is true, I just made all of these up to demonstrate my point. So, please don’t quote me on these!)
Once you jump right in with your hook, it is time to start working on ways to move sentences along. Here is where you may need some sentence starter examples.
In your first paragraph, you basically want to connect your hook to your thesis. You’ll do this with a few sentences setting up the stage for your topic and the claim you will make about it. To do that, follow the tips found in the next section on body paragraphs and general sentence starter tips.
Many of the tips I am about to discuss can be used anywhere in a paper, but they are especially helpful when writing body paragraphs.
Let’s start with one of the most important types of sentence starter in essay writing: transition words.
How Do I Use Transitions in an Essay?
If you want to start writing terrific sentences (and improve your essay structure ), the first thing you should do is start using transition words.
Transition words are those words or phrases that help connect thoughts and ideas. They move one sentence or paragraph into another, and they make things feel less abrupt.
The good thing about transition words is that you probably know a lot of them already and currently use them in your speech. Now, you just need to transition them into your writing. (See what I did there?)
Before we get into examples of what a good transition word is, let’s look at a paragraph without any transitions:
I went to the store. I bought bacon and eggs. I saw someone I knew. I said hello. I went to the cashier. They checked me out. I paid. I got my groceries. I went to my car. I returned home.
Yikes! That is some boring writing. It was painful to write, and I am sure it is even worse to read. There are two reasons for this:
- I start every sentence with the same word (more on this later)
- There are no signposts showing me how the ideas in the paragraph connect.
In an essay, you need to show how each of your ideas relate to each other to build your argument. If you just make a series of statements one after the other, you’re not showing your instructor that you actually understand those statements, or your topic.
How do we fix this? Transition words. Roughly 25% of your sentences should start with a transition word. If you can hit that number in your essay, you’ll know that you’ve made meaningful steps towards demonstrating your understanding.
Of course, hitting that number isn’t enough—those transitions need to be meaningful. Let’s look at the different types of transitions and how you can use them.
What Are Words Like First , Next , and Last Called?
You probably already use some transitions in your essays. For example, if you start a paragraph with firstly , you’ve used a transition word. But transitions can do so much more!
Here are 25 common transitional words and phrases that you could use in your essay:
- Additionally / In Addition
- Alternatively / Conversely
- As a result of
- At this time
- Contrary to
- First(ly), Second(ly), etc.
- In contrast
- On the other hand
- Particularly / In particular
- In other words
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it is a good start.
These words show different types of relationships between ideas. These relationships fall into four main categories: Emphasis , Contrast , Addition , and Order .
What Are Emphasis Transition Words?
These phrases are used when you want to highlight a point. Examples from my above list include clearly , particularly , and indeed . Want to see some more? Follow my bolded transitions: Undoubtedly , you understand now. It should be noted that you don’t need to worry.
How Do You Use Addition Transitions?
These words add on to what you just said. These are words like along with , moreover , and also . Here are some more: Not only are you going to be great at transitions after this, but you will also be good at writing sentences. Furthermore , everyone is excited to see what you have to say.
How Can I Use Transitions to Contrast Ideas?
This is the opposite of addition, and you use it when you want to show an alternative view or to compare things. Examples from my list include words like nonetheless , contrary to , and besides .
Here are some more: Unlike people who haven’t read this article, you are going to be really prepared to write great sentences. Even so , there is still a lot more about writing to learn.
How Do I Order Ideas in My Essay?
A good first step is using order transition words.
This set of transitions helps mark the passage of time or gives an order to events. From the list, think of things like first and finally . Now for some extras: At this time yesterday , you were worried about starting sentences. Following this , though, you will be an expert.
Now that you get the concept of transitions, let’s go back to that poorly written paragraph above and add some in to see what happens:
This morning , I went to the store. While I was there, I bought bacon and eggs. Then I saw someone I knew. So I said hello. After that , I went to the cashier. At that time , they checked me out. First , I paid. Next , I got my groceries. Following that , I went to my car. Finally , I returned home.
(Notice the use of commas after most of these transitions!)
This isn’t the best paragraph I’ve ever written. It still needs a lot of work. However, notice what a difference just adding transitions makes. This is something simple but effective you can start doing to make your sentences better today.
If you want to check your transition usage, try ProWritingAid’s Transitions report . You’ll see how many of each type of transition word you've used so you can pin-point where you might be losing your reader.
Sign up for a free ProWritingAid account to try it out.
What Are Some Linking Phrases I Can Use in My Essay?
As well as individual words, you can also use short phrases at the beginning of your sentences to transition between ideas. I just did it there— "As well as individual words" shows you how this section of the article is related to the last.
Here are some more phrases like this:
As shown in the example,
As a result of this,
After the meeting,
While this may be true,
Though researchers suggest X,
Before the war began,
Until we answer this question,
Since we cannot assume this to be true,
While some may claim Y,
Because we know that Z is true,
These short phrases are called dependent clauses . See how they all end with a comma? That's because they need you to add more information to make them into complete sentences.
- While some may claim that chocolate is bad for you, data from a recent study suggests that it may have untapped health benefits .
- Since we cannot assume that test conditions were consistent, it is impossible to reach a solid conclusion via this experiment .
- As a result of this, critics disagree as to the symbolism of the yellow car in The Great Gatsby .
The bolded text in each example could stand on its own as a complete sentence. However, if we take away the first part of each sentence, we lose our connection to the other ideas in the essay.
These phrases are called dependent clauses : they depend on you adding another statement to the sentence to complete them. When you use a sentence starter phrase like the ones above in your writing, you signal that the new idea you have introduced completes (or disrupts) the idea before it.
Note: While some very short dependent clauses don’t need a comma, most do. Since it is not wrong to use one on even short ones (depending on the style guide being used), it is a good idea to include one every time.
Along with missing transitions and repeating sentence structure, another thing that stops sentences from being great is too much repetition. Keep your sentences sharp and poignant by mixing up word choices to start your sentences.
You might start your sentence with a great word, but then you use that same word 17 sentences in a row. After the first couple, your sentences don’t sound as great. So, whether it is varying the transitional phrases you use or just mixing up the sentence openers in general, putting in some variety will only improve your sentences.
ProWritingAid lets you know if you’ve used the same word repeatedly at the start of your sentences so you can change it.
The Repeats Report also shows you all of the repeats in your document. If you've used a sentence starter and then repeated it a couple of paragraphs down, the report will highlight it for you.
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Now that you have your introduction sentences and body sentences taken care of, let’s talk a little about conclusion sentences. While you will still use transitions and clauses as in the body, there are some special considerations here.
Your conclusion is what people will remember most after they finish reading your paper. So, you want to make it stand out. Don’t just repeat yourself; tell them what they should do with what you just told them!
Use the tips from above, but also remember the following:
Be unique. Not only should you vary the words you use to start different sentences, but you should also think outside of the box. If you use the same conclusion sentence starter everyone else is using, your ideas will blend in too.
Be natural. Some of the best writing out there is writing that sounds natural. This goes for academic writing, too. While you won’t use phrases like "at the end of the day" in essay writing, stilted phrases like "in conclusion" can disrupt the flow you’ve created earlier on.
Here are some alternatives to "in conclusion" you could use in an essay:
- To review, ... (best for scientific papers where you need to restate your key points before making your final statement)
- As has been shown, ...
- In the final analysis, ...
- Taking everything into account, ...
- On the whole, ...
- Generally speaking, ...
If you’re looking for more ways to rephrase "in conclusion," take a look at our complete list of synonyms you can use.
There may not be a set word or words that you can use to make your sentences perfect. However, when you start using these tips, you’ll start to see noticeable improvement in your writing.
If you’ve ever heard people talk about pacing and flow in academic writing, and you have no idea what they mean or how to improve yours, then this is your answer. These tips will help your writing sound more natural, which is how you help your ideas flow.
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20 Editing Tips from Professional Writers
Whether you are writing a novel, essay, article, or email, good writing is an essential part of communicating your ideas., this guide contains the 20 most important writing tips and techniques from a wide range of professional writers..
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Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
Grab your reader's attention with the first words
- 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
An introductory paragraph, as the opening of a conventional essay , composition , or report , is designed to grab people's attention. It informs readers about the topic and why they should care about it but also adds enough intrigue to get them to continue to read. In short, the opening paragraph is your chance to make a great first impression.
Writing a Good Introductory Paragraph
The primary purpose of an introductory paragraph is to pique the interest of your reader and identify the topic and purpose of the essay. It often ends with a thesis statement .
You can engage your readers right from the start through a number of tried-and-true ways. Posing a question, defining the key term, giving a brief anecdote , using a playful joke or emotional appeal, or pulling out an interesting fact are just a few approaches you can take. Use imagery, details, and sensory information to connect with the reader if you can. The key is to add intrigue along with just enough information so your readers want to find out more.
One way to do this is to come up with a brilliant opening line . Even the most mundane topics have aspects interesting enough to write about; otherwise, you wouldn't be writing about them, right?
When you begin writing a new piece, think about what your readers want or need to know. Use your knowledge of the topic to craft an opening line that will satisfy that need. You don't want to fall into the trap of what writers call "chasers" that bore your readers (such as "The dictionary defines...."). The introduction should make sense and hook the reader right from the start .
Make your introductory paragraph brief. Typically, just three or four sentences are enough to set the stage for both long and short essays. You can go into supporting information in the body of your essay, so don't tell the audience everything all at once.
Should You Write the Intro First?
You can always adjust your introductory paragraph later. Sometimes you just have to start writing. You can start at the beginning or dive right into the heart of your essay.
Your first draft may not have the best opening, but as you continue to write, new ideas will come to you, and your thoughts will develop a clearer focus. Take note of these and, as you work through revisions , refine and edit your opening.
If you're struggling with the opening, follow the lead of other writers and skip it for the moment. Many writers begin with the body and conclusion and come back to the introduction later. It's a useful, time-efficient approach if you find yourself stuck in those first few words.
Start where it's easiest to start. You can always go back to the beginning or rearrange later, especially if you have an outline completed or general framework informally mapped out. If you don't have an outline, even just starting to sketch one can help organize your thoughts and "prime the pump" as it were.
Successful Introductory Paragraphs
You can read all the advice you want about writing a compelling opening, but it's often easier to learn by example. Take a look at how some writers approached their essays and analyze why they work so well.
"As a lifelong crabber (that is, one who catches crabs, not a chronic complainer), I can tell you that anyone who has patience and a great love for the river is qualified to join the ranks of crabbers. However, if you want your first crabbing experience to be a successful one, you must come prepared."
– (Mary Zeigler, "How to Catch River Crabs" )
What did Zeigler do in her introduction? First, she wrote in a little joke, but it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it set the stage for her slightly more humorous approach to crabbing, but it also clarifies what type of "crabber" she's writing about. This is important if your subject has more than one meaning.
The other thing that makes this a successful introduction is the fact that Zeigler leaves us wondering. What do we have to be prepared for? Will the crabs jump up and latch onto you? Is it a messy job? What tools and gear do I need? She leaves us with questions, and that draws us in because now we want answers.
"Working part-time as a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly has given me a great opportunity to observe human behavior. Sometimes I think of the shoppers as white rats in a lab experiment, and the aisles as a maze designed by a psychologist. Most of the rats—customers, I mean—follow a routine pattern, strolling up and down the aisles, checking through my chute, and then escaping through the exit hatch. But not everyone is so dependable. My research has revealed three distinct types of abnormal customer: the amnesiac, the super shopper, and the dawdler."
– "Shopping at the Pig"
This revised classification essay begins by painting a picture of an ordinary scenario: the grocery store. But when used as an opportunity to observe human nature, as this writer does, it turns from ordinary to fascinating.
Who is the amnesiac? Would I be classified as the dawdler by this cashier? The descriptive language and the analogy to rats in a maze add to the intrigue, and readers are left wanting more. For this reason, even though it's lengthy, this is an effective opening.
"In March 2006, I found myself, at 38, divorced, no kids, no home, and alone in a tiny rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn’t eaten a hot meal in two months. I’d had no human contact for weeks because my satellite phone had stopped working. All four of my oars were broken, patched up with duct tape and splints. I had tendinitis in my shoulders and saltwater sores on my backside.
"I couldn’t have been happier...."
– Roz Savage, " My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis ." Newsweek , March 20, 2011
Here is an example of reversing expectations. The introductory paragraph is filled with doom and gloom. We feel sorry for the writer but are left wondering whether the article will be a classic sob story. It is in the second paragraph where we find out that it's quite the opposite.
Those first few words of the second paragraph—which we cannot help but skim—surprise us and thus draw us in. How can the narrator be happy after all that sorrow? This reversal compels us to find out what happened.
Most people have had streaks where nothing seems to go right. Yet, it is the possibility of a turn of fortunes that compels us to keep going. This writer appealed to our emotions and a sense of shared experience to craft an effective read.
- Understanding General-to-Specific Order in Composition
- How to Structure an Essay
- The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right
- 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
- The Ultimate Guide to the 5-Paragraph Essay
- How to Write a Great Process Essay
- Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
- What Is a Compelling Introduction?
- 3 Changes That Will Take Your Essay From Good To Great
- How To Write an Essay
- How to Write a Great Book Report
- Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
- How to Write a Great Essay for the TOEFL or TOEIC
- How to Write and Format an MBA Essay
- How to Help Your 4th Grader Write a Biography
- Understanding Organization in Composition and Speech
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- 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays
To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.
Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.
This article is suitable for native English speakers and those who are learning English at Oxford Royale Academy and are just taking their first steps into essay writing.
Learn world-class essay writing and research skills on our Oxford Royale Summer School 2024
Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.
1. In order to
Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”
2. In other words
Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”
3. To put it another way
Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”
4. That is to say
Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”
5. To that end
Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”
Adding additional information to support a point
Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.
Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”
Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”
8. What’s more
Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”
Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”
Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”
11. Another key thing to remember
Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”
12. As well as
Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”
13. Not only… but also
Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
14. Coupled with
Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”
15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…
Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.
16. Not to mention/to say nothing of
Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”
Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast
When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.
Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”
18. On the other hand
Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”
19. Having said that
Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”
20. By contrast/in comparison
Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”
21. Then again
Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”
22. That said
Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”
Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”
Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations
Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.
24. Despite this
Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”
25. With this in mind
Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”
26. Provided that
Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”
27. In view of/in light of
Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”
Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”
Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”
Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”
Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.
31. For instance
Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”
32. To give an illustration
Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”
When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.
Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”
Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”
Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”
You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.
36. In conclusion
Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”
37. Above all
Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”
Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”
Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”
40. All things considered
Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”
How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.
At Oxford Royale, we offer a number of summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , politics , business , medicine and engineering .
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105 Best Words To Start A Paragraph
The first words of a paragraph are crucial as they set the tone and inform the reader about the content that follows.
Known as the ‘topic’ sentence, the first sentence of the paragraph should clearly convey the paragraph’s main idea.
This article presents a comprehensive list of the best words to start a paragraph, be it the first, second, third, or concluding paragraph.
Words to Start an Introduction Paragraph
The words you choose for starting an essay should establish the context, importance, or conflict of your topic.
The purpose of an introduction is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the topic, its significance, and the structure of the ensuing discussion or argument.
Students often struggle to think of ways to start introductions because they may feel overwhelmed by the need to effectively summarize and contextualize their topic, capture the reader’s interest, and provide a roadmap for the rest of the paper, all while trying to create a strong first impression.
Choose one of these example words to start an introduction to get yourself started:
- The debate surrounding [topic]…
- [Topic] has garnered attention due to…
- Exploring the complexities of [topic]…
- The significance of [topic] lies in…
- Over the past decade, [topic] has…
- The critical question of [topic]…
- As society grapples with [topic]…
- The rapidly evolving landscape of [topic]…
- A closer examination of [topic] reveals…
- The ongoing conversation around [topic]…
Don’t Miss my Article: 33 Words to Avoid in an Essay
Words to Start a Body Paragraph
The purpose of a body paragraph in an essay is to develop and support the main argument, presenting evidence, examples, and analysis that contribute to the overall thesis.
Students may struggle to think of ways to start body paragraphs because they need to find appropriate transition words or phrases that seamlessly connect the paragraphs, while also introducing a new idea or evidence that builds on the previous points.
This can be challenging, as students must carefully balance the need for continuity and logical flow with the introduction of fresh perspectives.
Try some of these paragraph starters if you’re stuck:
- Building upon previous research…
- As [source] suggests, [topic]…
- Analyzing [topic] through [theory]…
- Considering the impact of [policy]…
- Delving deeper into [topic]…
- Drawing from [author]’s findings…
- [Topic] intersects with [related topic]…
- Contrary to popular belief, [topic]…
- The historical context of [topic]…
- Addressing the challenges of [topic]…
Words to Start a Conclusion Paragraph
The conclusion paragraph wraps up your essay and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
It should convincingly summarize your thesis and main points. For more tips on writing a compelling conclusion, consider the following examples of ways to say “in conclusion”:
- In summary, [topic] demonstrates…
- The evidence overwhelmingly suggests…
- Taking all factors into account…
- In light of the analysis, [topic]…
- Ultimately, [topic] plays a crucial role…
- In light of these findings…
- Weighing the pros and cons of [topic]…
- By synthesizing the key points…
- The interplay of factors in [topic]…
- [Topic] leaves us with important implications…
Complete List of Transition Words
Above, I’ve provided 30 different examples of phrases you can copy and paste to get started on your paragraphs.
Let’s finish strong with a comprehensive list of transition words you can mix and match to start any paragraph you want:
- Secondly, …
- In addition, …
- Furthermore, …
- Moreover, …
- On the other hand, …
- In contrast, …
- Conversely, …
- Despite this, …
- Nevertheless, …
- Although, …
- As a result, …
- Consequently, …
- Therefore, …
- Additionally, …
- Simultaneously, …
- Meanwhile, …
- In comparison, …
- Comparatively, …
- As previously mentioned, …
- For instance, …
- For example, …
- Specifically, …
- In particular, …
- Significantly, …
- Interestingly, …
- Surprisingly, …
- Importantly, …
- According to [source], …
- As [source] states, …
- As [source] suggests, …
- In the context of, …
- In light of, …
- Taking into consideration, …
- Given that, …
- Considering the fact that, …
- Bearing in mind, …
- To illustrate, …
- To demonstrate, …
- To clarify, …
- To put it simply, …
- In other words, …
- To reiterate, …
- As a matter of fact, …
- Undoubtedly, …
- Unquestionably, …
- Without a doubt, …
- It is worth noting that, …
- One could argue that, …
- It is essential to highlight, …
- It is important to emphasize, …
- It is crucial to mention, …
- When examining, …
- In terms of, …
- With regards to, …
- In relation to, …
- As a consequence, …
- As an illustration, …
- As evidence, …
- Based on [source], …
- Building upon, …
- By the same token, …
- In the same vein, …
- In support of this, …
- In line with, …
- To further support, …
- To substantiate, …
- To provide context, …
- To put this into perspective, …
Tip: Use Right-Branching Sentences to Start your Paragraphs
Sentences should have the key information front-loaded. This makes them easier to read. So, start your sentence with the key information!
To understand this, you need to understand two contrasting types of sentences:
- Left-branching sentences , also known as front-loaded sentences, begin with the main subject and verb, followed by modifiers, additional information, or clauses.
- Right-branching sentences , or back-loaded sentences, start with modifiers, introductory phrases, or clauses, leading to the main subject and verb later in the sentence.
In academic writing, left-branching or front-loaded sentences are generally considered easier to read and more authoritative.
This is because they present the core information—the subject and the verb—at the beginning, making it easier for readers to understand the main point of the sentence.
Front-loading also creates a clear and straightforward sentence structure, which is preferred in academic writing for its clarity and conciseness.
Right-branching or back-loaded sentences, with their more complex and sometimes convoluted structure, can be more challenging for readers to follow and may lead to confusion or misinterpretation.
Take these examples where I’ve highlighted the subject of the sentence in bold. Note that in the right-branching sentences, the topic is front-loaded.
- Right Branching: Researchers found a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function after analyzing the data from various studies.
- Left-Branching: After analyzing the data from various studies, a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function was found by researchers.
- The novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes , which captivated the audience from the very first chapter.
- Captivating the audience from the very first chapter, the novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes.
The words you choose to start a paragraph are crucial for setting the tone, establishing context, and ensuring a smooth flow throughout your essay.
By carefully selecting the best words for each type of paragraph, you can create a coherent, engaging, and persuasive piece of writing.
Chris Drew (PhD)
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ Montessori vs Reggio Emilia vs Steiner-Waldorf vs Froebel
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 15 Meritocracy Examples
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 21 Types of Teaching Styles
- Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/admin/ 5 Best Laminators for Teachers, Reviewed!
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Starting Sentences for Essays & Tips for Opening Sentences
Starting sentences for essays.
A good opening sentence can make or break your essay. It’s what catches the reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. Before you start writing, here are some tips to help you come up with a great opening sentence for your essay:
Make it clear what the essay is about
State your main argument clearly in this sentence. This will help the reader understand what they’re going to read, and it will set the tone for the rest of your essay.
Make it interesting
Your first sentence needs to grab the reader’s attention, so think about how you can make it interesting. A good way to do this is by using an anecdote or story as part of your opening sentence.
For example, you could say “One day when I was running late for school…” or “When I was younger, my dad used to tell me never to leave home without my keys…”
Start with action
Sometimes it can be hard to come up with a catchy opening line that also includes some action. Try starting with something like “I remember the first time I ever set foot on an airplane…” or “When I was a kid, my mom always told me…”
There are many reasons for starting a topic sentence, but the most common is to catch the reader’s attention.
A topic sentence can be an anecdote, a quote or an interesting fact. It can be a question that you raise in your essay and answer throughout the rest of your essay.
The topic sentence should be placed at the beginning of your paragraph to create interest and draw readers in. In order to do that, it needs to be relevant and specific enough to relate only to the following paragraphs, but broad enough that it provides an overview of everything that follows.
A good essay starts with a strong introduction. Here are some examples of introductory sentences that you can use to get your reader interested in your topic:
- I have always been fascinated by the idea of time travel.
- The first time I went to Paris was in 2007, just after my graduation from high school, when I visited my brother’s family who had moved there a few years before.
- In the 19th century, many women were confined to the home with no opportunity for education or socialization beyond their immediate family and neighbors; however, things have changed dramatically since then and today women are just as likely as men to pursue careers outside the home and even run for political office at all levels of government in many Western countries including Canada and the United States.
- I’m not sure why we have to write an essay in this class.
- I think that a lot of people are going to get hurt by this new policy.
- The world would be a better place if everyone had respect for each other’s feelings and beliefs.
- In my opinion, teenagers today are more stressed than ever before because they have so many pressures from school, work, socializing and family life that they don’t even know what to do with themselves anymore.
- It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
- The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.
- There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.
- One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
- All happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
- The reason why I love my job is because it gives me the opportunity to help people.
- In my life, there are many things that I want to achieve, but the one thing that I want to achieve more than anything else is being able to help other people.
- Apart from my family and friends, the most important thing in my life is helping other people.
- I have always felt a strong desire to help other people, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to realize this dream by becoming a doctor.
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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.
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Tips to Start Writing Strong Opening Sentences
Table of Contents
Coming up with strong examples of opening sentences can be challenging — even for the most experienced writers
A strong opening sentence is what gets a reader to turn the pages and keep reading. But what makes a good opening sentence? Part of the key is that it’s specific.
It lets the reader envision where you’re going with the story and want to know more about the subject at hand. In this article, you’ll learn practical examples of opening sentences to instantly hook the audience.
What Is an Opening Sentence?
An opening sentence is the first statement in a paragraph that sparks an emotion in the reader. It might be an interesting thought that provokes a question, an anecdote about someone in the author’s life.
It could also be a line of text used to introduce the topic of the paragraph or chapter. They need to be concrete and specific, capturing the attention of readers right away.
Why Is an Opening Sentence Important?
An opening sentence is important because it is the first sentence that entices and invites interest in what your speech will offer. Written works such as blog posts, magazine articles, or newspaper stories are introduced through a sentence or sentence fragment. This is because before you can grasp the meaning of what you are reading, you must be engaged in the introduction.
Six Tips to Write a Strong Opening Sentence
To have a stronger opening sentence, you need to focus on your target audience rather than on you and what you want to say. This will help you to write more effective openings that resonate with your target audience.
Here are some practical tips for establishing an instant connection with the reader. Choose the one that best fits your situation.
1. Reflect the Pain of the Reader
Mirroring the reader’s pain is a common technique in the persuasive writing community. It is meant to evoke empathy from the reader and can be done using specific words, phrases, and imagery or tone. There are a few different ways to mirror the pain of the reader:
- captivating people with the power of imagery
- playing on the emotions
- comparing a familiar problem to the reader’s issue.
2. Be Honest and Sympathetic
Being honest in your writing means that you should be able to connect with the emotional side of your readers. Your audience will trust you if you can show you actually have feelings for them and are genuinely trying to help through your writing. This is crucial for establishing an emotional and intellectual connection with your audience.
3. Disclose Personal Information
A strong opening sentence has the power to bring readers in from the first few lines. Opening sentences of your article or speech must include what readers should expect, how to proceed with the content, and an alluring statement.
Revealing personal information about yourself creates authenticity and tells the reader that what you have to say isn’t just a sales pitch.
4. Shock or Intrigue the Reader
A good opener will either shock or intrigue the reader or draw the reader in to read the rest of the article. The goal is to create a connection to the “what’s next.”
Once that connection is made, curiosity will dial you in because you are enjoying the ride. Create an opening sentence that creates a sense of mystery. You can also use an attention-grabbing opening sentence to draw certain emotions from the reader.
5. Pose Questions to the Readers
Nonfiction books are sought after by readers who need help in problem-solving. The reader might pick up your book hoping to solve a particular problem or learn how to do things.
Asking them that compelling question immediately shows them that you understand their pain. Other ways to utilize questions in your opening sentences are to have them learn something new and to reveal a truth or secret information.
6. Start With a Bold Claim
Don’t give your readers the opportunity to leaf through your work and pass judgment on whether it’s worth their time to stick around.
Start strong with a bold claim that is aimed at causing a reaction . A strong assertion not only clarifies your point but also captures the reader’s attention.
Examples of Opening Sentences
Coming up with the perfect opening line can be challenging. Here are some widely used examples of opening sentences to start strong in your writing and engage the readers.
- Would you rather have ___ or ___?
- The more you ___, the easier ___ gets.
- The only way to ___.
- Are you afraid to ___?
- Most ___ are trying to ___ and failing every time.
- If I were to ask you ___, what would you say?
- Unlike most people, I didn’t plan my/to ___.
- The best thing about ___ is that you ___, too.
- I always told myself that ___. Here’s why I was wrong.
- It’s easy to ___, but did you ever think about ___?
Sometimes getting started with a project sounds easy in theory, but in practice, it can be a struggle. Keeping in mind these tips for writing a well-fitting opening sentence can make a difference in your writing. Also, don’t forget about the research and writing that come after the opening sentence. It might be easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of your first sentence. Hope you find this article helpful!
Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.
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Traditionally, the introduction of an essay communicates the thesis statement, intention, and the scope of the content so that it can ultimately hook the reader and extricate interest within them. Customarily “Today I will speak about…” or “I would like to begin this essay by…” are the two most commonly observed sentences utilised at the beginning of conventional essays.
However, these sentences are stereotypic and overworked; thus, they do not generate the same charm as intended to. Therefore, it is recommended that students develop creative and unique ways to articulate and draw out a well-rounded, effective, and intricately written introductory paragraph.
Students often underestimate the impact and the need for originating a well-crafted, sophisticated, precise, and informative introduction as they don’t understand the significance of writing a good beginning. As a consequence, they suffer academically and lose out on essential marks. However, sometimes students recognise this mistake and take the alternative option of hiring a professional writer of the best essay writing service available on the internet to generate an impactful introduction for them. They avail this measure to compensate for their inadequate academic expertise. Furthermore, these writers are highly qualified and experienced which further assures their skill level and credibility.
Hence, to write an impressive and efficacious introduction, you must follow the tricks discussed below.
- Begin by formulating fascinating and innovative questions: You may begin your academic piece by generating interesting questions that inquire the knowledge of the readers regarding the subject or topic that you’re discussing. This way, you’re allowing the readers to invest in what you’re trying to convey. You can even answer the queries in the next sentence to keep the impact strong because by lingering it further, the reader might lose interest.
- State an interesting fact: Another way to grab the attention of the reader is by stating enticing and captivating facts which might stimulate the readers. Hence, you should never miss a chance to inform the reader about enriching information.
- Present counter-arguments in a creative manner: You may begin the introductory paragraph by presenting opposing views regarding the topic. This is a perfect hook for an argumentative piece as it will in a way communicate the thesis statement as well. Moreover, you can even phrase two different believes with the ambition to prove a personal opinion.
- Write about an interesting experience or memory: It is observed that various students choose to start an essay by narrating a memorable experience that stimulated them on a spiritual level. This trick is extremely effective as you can even describe a humorous incident.
- Give a historical present tense: Conventionally, students pick historical information and incorporate it at the beginning of their essay to differentiate between the past and future. This tip is articulated well if you’re writing a reflective or an argumentative essay.
- Open with a joke or quotation : There’s nothing more eccentric than a joke or a riveting quotation by a known personality. Hence, if you’re out of ideas, this might do the trick.
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Writing advice for small business
How to Captivate Hurried Readers with a Magic Opening Line
by Henneke | 97 enchanting opinions, add yours? :)
A good opening line sets the tone and invites readers into your story, making them eager to read on.
This article discusses how to write an opening sentence:
How to write an opening sentence
Let’s say you skip reading the first few sentences and start with the fourth?
I don’t like the pressure of writing a first sentence.
What if I fail to engage readers ? What if I’m boring them? What if I’ve wasted my time on this article because my first line sucks?
The task of writing a catchy first sentence can paralyze even the most acclaimed writers. In an interview with the Atlantic , Stephen King admits he can spend months, or even years, on writing the opening lines for a new book.
Sounds crazy, right?
As business writers, we don’t have the luxury of time. We have other things to do than worrying about one line of text.
So what can we do?
Let me share with you a trick for writing a first sentence super-fast. But first, let’s define what a good opening line is.
What makes an opening sentence good?
This is how the novel “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga starts:
I was not sorry when my brother died.
Why is this sentence good?
It entices you to read on.
That first sentence creates drama because it instantly raises two compelling questions in readers’ minds: Why did the brother die? And why was the author not sorry? A reader reads on because he wants to find out the answers to these two questions.
Stephen King says it like this:
An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.
One of the most famous opening sentences
This is how “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger starts:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
This famous opening line is 63 words long.
Is such a long sentence a good idea?
Ben Blatt analyzed what makes a good novel great, and he also reviewed first sentences. His conclusions are not clear cut, as he summarizes in his book “Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve:”
The first sentence is only as popular as the rest of the book, and brevity alone will not make a first sentence great.
Our literary heroes may write lengthy first sentences.
But when writing for the web, we need to remember our readers. They’re not curled up on a comfy sofa with a book and a glass of Rioja. They’re hurrying across the web, searching for interesting articles to read and share. Who has the patience to start reading a block of text?
Examples of short opening sentences
Instead of following J.D. Salinger’s 63-word mammoth sentence, take your cue from Toni Morrison, the master of short first sentences, like this one from “Tar Baby:”
He believed he was safe.
They shoot the white girl first.
From “God Help the Child:”
It’s not my fault.
Each of these sentences makes you curious to read on.
Your first sentence has two purposes. First, get people to read your first sentence—a short sentence works better because it’s easy to read. Then, make sure they want to read your second sentence.
The worst opening lines
Ben Blatt quotes the opening line of the book “Paul Clifford” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton as one of the most ridiculed opening lines ever:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Not only is that sentence awfully long, its worst crime is that nothing happens. Nothing grabs attention. Nothing makes me curious. It’s simply a description of the weather. So what?
Of course, in business we rarely write about the weather, but you may have come across similar opening lines that fail to whet your appetite for reading more. For instance:
Many ways exist to choose your words.
As you know, Rome wasn’t built in one day.
In business, you have to take risks.
The above opening lines may be short, but they’re obvious statements, killing readers’ interest. There’s no incentive to read on.
A little-known shortcut for catchy opening sentences
Getting nervous about writing a good first sentence?
No need for nerves, when you know this blog writing trick …
Unlike novels, a blog post is often a conversation with our readers. And what easier way to engage readers than asking them a question?
A few examples:
Do you hear that nagging voice, too? ( source )
Do you ever feel a pang of envy? ( source )
Has it happened to you, too? ( source )
In a face-to-face meeting, you often start a conversation with a question, like: Cup of tea? How did your meeting go? Or: How’s business?
Why not do the same in your writing?
The one magic opening line doesn’t exist
So, no need to search for it anxiously.
Instead, remember your reader.
Imagine him hurrying across the web. He’s feeling restless. He’s impatient because he’s been wasting his time reading lousy blog posts.
How can you engage him? How can you make him read your first sentence? And then the next?
A good writer draws a reader in, and doesn’t let him go until the last word.
Bonus examples of great opening lines
The first sentence of How to Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina:
The first kidnapping wasn’t my fault.
This sentence conjures up so many questions that I couldn’t help myself to read on. Who was kidnapped? How was the protagonist involved? What happened after the first kidnapping? And how and why were the subsequent kidnappings his fault? All these questions made me read on.
This is the opening line from Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones:
My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.
Do you also want to know more? Why was her father a bigamist? How did the protagonist find out her father was a bigamist? What happened with the two marriages? Were their children in both marriages?
Sometimes, a long first sentence is great. like this one from The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett:
The morning one of the lost twins returned to Mallard, Lou LeBon ran to the diner to break the news, and even now, many years later, everyone remembers the shock of sweaty Lou pushing through the glass doors, chest heaving, neckline darkened with his own effort.
Why were the twins lost? Why did one return? And why did everyone remember?
Recommended reading on writing good sentences:
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October 27, 2022 at 3:24 am
Why was her father an bigamist? / FYI- it should read “a” bigamist…
Great suggestions. Still in learning mode…some volunteer pieces published… Thanks.
October 27, 2022 at 9:22 am
Well spotted! I’ve updated it. Thank you.
August 3, 2022 at 12:35 pm
Today has been my Opening Paragraph study time (as l follow your writing techniques format).
I have always wondered about a few things which you fully answered. Though l got a little confused with this particular post.
– With an accidental one, l chances upon, Why your titles are always different? (one in the feed and on the actual post)
– l suppose the opening line is “Can l skip the opening sentence of of this post?
Qn, is this an I or you approach based blog? – Starting from the above sentence ” Can l skip…’ to the 5th sentence. I didn’t get the flow.
Why? I always feel you speaking to me, the reader whenever l read your posts.
And that’s daily.
– But in this one, it’s like you were musing to yourself..
Please, help me clarify on this… I am doing loooots of learning. Thank you 🙏🙏
August 3, 2022 at 4:29 pm
I write usually 3+ headline variations for different goals (SEO, at the top of the blog post, and for social media), as the length and importance of keyword differs.
I often use templates for writing opening paragraphs but not always. Sometimes, an opening just turns out differently or sometimes I want to try a variation. Sometimes it works, sometimes less so. Sometimes an opening resonates with some readers and less with others. I also developed the templates by trial and error.
While templates are useful, they should never be a straitjacket.
January 25, 2022 at 9:09 pm
Love this. Nicking it right now for a lesson on great opening sentences for a lost group of kids who struggle to read. Any chance we can send you our attempts to comment on? Would be a great motivator!! Thank you!
January 26, 2022 at 11:05 am
Mrs. Maccormac, you’re welcome to use my article in your class. I wish I were able to help out with giving feedback but I’ve learned that’s just not possible. I work only part-time. I try to be generous with the tips I share here on my blog but just don’t have the time to help everyone with free feedback. I wouldn’t have time left to write my next blog post!
August 19, 2021 at 4:48 pm
This is a post I keep coming back to Henneke. And, like magic, it gets me thinking (of the obvious, right?) and boom! My sentence pops up. Thank you so much for that!
August 19, 2021 at 9:16 pm
That’s so wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing that, Lia. I appreciate it!
April 23, 2021 at 9:35 pm
I’ve been trying to write a story for 4 weeks now and all I have is the title and who it’s by. This really helped me thank you so much.
April 25, 2021 at 8:12 pm
I’m glad this helped you get unstuck. Happy writing!
December 8, 2020 at 6:47 pm
Hello and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom in such a palatable way. I often have a hard time using your advice though. Mostly I can’t seem to find a way to apply it to my field. I’m a web developer and I write articles about code. It seems writing advice is often targeted at more “exciting” topics: “learn to write better”, “increase your income”, “learn to sell anything to anybody”. But when it comes to “make your website responsive” or “learn PHP” I have a hard time making things exciting. Any advice?
December 9, 2020 at 9:57 am
Writing doesn’t always need to be exciting. The basic requirement is that you help readers achieve their goals, solve their problems, and answer their questions. Well laid out information that’s helpful and easy to consume is key, and often that’s enough.
If you want to add more interest, think about telling stories. For instance, what happens when a site isn’t responsive? How does that make web visitors feel? How can you compare it to other experiences in life? E.g., is an unresponsive website similar to trying to reach a call center all afternoon, waiting to get through the call queue while listening to terrible music? And now, when you make a site responsive, how does that experience change? Imagine, calling customer service and they pick up before the first ring; you hear a friendly voice: What can I do for you?
That’s just a quick example!
December 9, 2020 at 5:35 pm
This is a terrific example. I would never have thought of it. Thank you!
October 20, 2020 at 8:38 am
“A good writer draws a reader in, and doesn’t let him go until the last word.” You’re the best writer to my mind! Really. I never take-off (I’m not sure that is the perfect word – I’m french) BEFORE the last word. Thank you so much, Henneke, for inspiring me everyday.
October 20, 2020 at 8:33 pm
That’s a lovely compliment. Thank you so much, Natacha.
April 19, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Thank u so much. This article gives me a lot of ideas for creative articles on my site.. Next, I hope you’ll create articles with examples like this again. I can’t wait to read it again next time.
April 19, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Thank you, Gginanjar. Happy writing!
January 18, 2020 at 9:59 am
“We were drinking champagne in the kitchen when the nun telephoned.” Opening sentence of my first novel, “Singing Bird”. I hope it draws the reader in.
January 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm
It’ll make people want to know what the nun called about. Congrats on your first novel!
January 8, 2020 at 2:45 am
Thank you for this. It will help greatly in the story I’m writing.
January 8, 2020 at 7:33 pm
Happy storytelling, Foxy!
April 22, 2021 at 2:47 pm
Thanks Henneke .I’m just new born writer trying to survive in the literature world with a lot of characters in my brain. And I have seen that this will help me no end. Again thank you
April 22, 2021 at 6:45 pm
I’m glad you found it useful. Happy writing!
June 13, 2019 at 1:56 pm
For me it is quite opposite than posted. Examples in the article are artsy and pretentious and those ‘wrong’ are interesting. I suppose it depends on what does one expect from book. Those ‘right’ first sentences remind me of intrusive commercials, or speak of boring casual events or author’s/hero’s ideas exposed too soon and too explicitly. Rather than that I prefer to get to know with their minds indirect, through depictions and longer storyline. Usually if somebody wants to flash already at the beginning, he/she has a complex to cover. Those who has valuable content do not need a commercial or flashing.
June 14, 2019 at 12:26 pm
Defining good writing is always a subjective matter. No objective rules exists. So, you’ll always a couple of people who have different preferences.
I’m impressed you read on after reading my first sentence!
June 13, 2018 at 12:05 am
Loved this post! Get their attention, first impressions are key.
June 13, 2018 at 1:52 pm
That’s it! 🙂 Thank you, Matthew.
April 23, 2018 at 6:57 am
Thank you, Henneke. Again, nicely done. 🙂
April 23, 2018 at 9:00 am
Thank you, Lucas 🙂
April 20, 2018 at 3:49 pm
I recommend Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton for writing epic opening lines! It might be for fiction but the principles are similar.
April 20, 2018 at 7:23 pm
Thank you so much for the recommendation, LJ. I’ve added it to my reading list and look forward to reading it!
April 20, 2018 at 10:50 am
Excellent hook leading off this post Henneke. If you spend a moment to think through the opening line, or, a bit longer, you reel readers in. Kudos to Stephen King for spending such time getting his open down cold. Reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s works. Genius writers take their time to make a seismic impact.
April 23, 2018 at 11:17 am
Thank you, Ryan. I’m glad you enjoyed the hook 🙂 And yes, I agree with you, spending a little more time on writing an opening line can pay off.
Thank you for stopping by!
April 18, 2018 at 9:41 am
Hi Henneke I love reading everything about everything on blogs and you’re right, what makes me want to continue is how the writer captures my attention at the beginning.I am going to do this on my blog. Thank you
April 18, 2018 at 8:01 pm
Great! Many people may be skimming blog posts, but with a good opening we have a chance of engaging readers, so they actually read from our first to our last word. Happy blogging, Jane! And thank you for stopping by.
April 17, 2018 at 1:33 am
This is an awesome article. Thanks so much for shining a light on a subject that strikes fear into the hearts of most writers.
April 17, 2018 at 3:26 pm
Thank you, Cary. Happy writing!
April 15, 2018 at 1:20 pm
More often I’ll write my opening sentence after I’ve written the main body of the article. It saves sweating hours over the crucial opening before you have anything down on paper (aka the screen).
I’m also fond of using questions, although I challenge myself to use different openings, so I don’t become too predictable. And if I’m not mistaken, when you write for Social Media Examiner I believe you have to use two questions at the beginning of your article. (Take a peep, and you’ll see what I mean.)
Thanks for sharing your tips. – David
April 15, 2018 at 7:19 pm
I do exactly the same. I write the main body of the article, and then the next day I write the intro and final paragraph. It feels more doable that way.
The Social Media Examiner openings feel quite formulaic, don’t you think? Or maybe it’s just me.
Have you noticed I used one (!) exclamation mark in this post? Especially for you 🙂
Thank you for stopping by, David (and for tweeting!)
April 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm
I didn’t like to mention it… But it fits perfectly! (oops)
April 15, 2018 at 8:07 pm
April 13, 2018 at 8:15 am
This is the perfect post for me at the perfect time. Thanks for the well articulated tips. Going try this for my next post. Thank you much for the great inspiration.
April 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm
Great. It makes me happy that you feel inspired. Thank you, Rosie!
April 12, 2018 at 2:30 pm
I’ve found that the way that works the best for me is to imagine I’m talking to someone. If I write conversationally, then I get better results and that definitely applies to the first line too!
April 12, 2018 at 4:06 pm
That sounds like a great approach as you can’t forget that you’re writing for your reader.
Thank you for stopping by, Sarah. I appreciate it.
April 11, 2018 at 11:31 pm
Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. We become focused on getting the information on paper and our first sentence can overwhelm.
And it can be a pain to create but with examples like the ones you’ve provided Henneke, there’s a road to follow. Thank you for the clarity.
April 12, 2018 at 3:54 pm
I’m glad you’ve found the examples helpful, Judy 🙂
One other trick is to skip writing the introductory paragraph of a post. I find this the most difficult part to write, so I prefer writing the main body first. Then, the opening becomes more doable.
Thank you for stopping by.
April 11, 2018 at 12:52 pm
When I write the fiction – I often write something off. And it intrigues the reader.
Adam is guy who killed. And she kills it.
And then I write a story about feminine Adam who kills it in fashion industry. And apparently is murdered.
It is a fun game for me. And an interesting opening line for readers.
Thanks Henneke, keep writing more…
April 11, 2018 at 8:54 pm
You got it!
Maybe one day I try writing fiction, too. I’ve never tried it. There’s still enough non-fiction for me to write 🙂
Thank you for stopping by, Rohan.
April 11, 2018 at 7:22 am
This one is great, I usually find myself forgetting the captivating role of the first sentence. I now know how to keep them by my side from start and hopefully through the end. Can it apply in a news-style writing? Thanks so much Henneke.
April 11, 2018 at 10:07 am
News-style writing is usually a bit different as it doesn’t aim to get people to read from start to finish. So, in news reporting, you often get the main message of the article in the first sentence. Journalists call it the inverted pyramid: you put your most important information first, and your least important information at the end.
April 11, 2018 at 7:21 am
This is great. Often, i start my posts with one or two questions to intrigue my readers. I’ll try to experiment with other opening lines.
April 11, 2018 at 10:05 am
Great! I hope you’ll enjoy your experiment 🙂
Thank you for stopping by, Vincent.
April 10, 2018 at 11:19 pm
I read recently that using headlines that can be answered NO is a bad idea because people don’t want to click to read on… It was specific to headlines, but I’m wondering if it applies to to opening lines also. Thoughts?
Yes, that’s especially true when writing sales copy. In sales copy, you only want to use questions that people answer YES to. When you get them in the mode of agreeing with you (nodding Yes), then you increase the chance that they may agree to take up your sales offer, too. In contrast, if they think NO, then you risk them turning away.
In blog writing, you have perhaps a little more leeway, as long as you invite readers to read on.
April 11, 2018 at 11:05 am
Thanks! Always finding a question that can’t be answered no is tough, so I’m glad to read that inviting along once they’ve arrive is also good.
April 11, 2018 at 11:23 am
When trying to think of the right question, think of your ideal reader (or buyer persona). Only your ideal reader has to say (or think) YES. It doesn’t matter if people outside your target audience say NO. The question acts as a filter, so you only attract the right people.
My first sentence could have been: “Struggling to write a compelling first sentence?” The blog post isn’t written for the people who think NO, so it’s okay if the question makes them click away.
April 10, 2018 at 9:45 pm
Ironic, I was just studying ‘first lines’ myself! And the common theme was…”make it inviting”. Not iconic. Exactly what you’ve said here. If it happens to get that label, fine. That’s out of our control. But we can write a sentence that makes a reader curious enough to keep going.
April 11, 2018 at 10:02 am
What a coincidence!
I like the suggestion that your first sentence doesn’t need to be iconic. My feeling is that a first sentence can’t even be iconic. It’s the book that makes famous opening lines so memorable. For instance, a lot of people say “Call me Ishmael” is their favorite first line. I haven’t read Moby Dick (yes, I know, something wrong in my education), so I don’t get at all why that first sentence would be so good. It’s the book that makes the line memorable.
April 10, 2018 at 9:32 pm
Great one, Henneke! It’s far better to have trouble thinking of a great opening line, than it is to think you ARE writing one and be wrong! Haha! I think your great suggestions also could apply to the excerpt we might apply when sharing on social media. If we are sharing an excerpt, the opening line of the article might not appear for the viewer. It’s something to think about. I have a couple of questions, though. For the loyal repeat reader, would the constant use of a startling or a questioning first line become tiresome? If we use a question for the title, is it redundant to use one for the opening line? So far my most-visited posts have straight-forward titles and first lines. I’m excited to see what I can drum up with the new, improved versions.
April 11, 2018 at 9:59 am
I think the key is the word that Stephen King uses: inviting. As long as your opening sentence (or opening question) invites the reader to start reading, it doesn’t become tiresome. But if you try to be too clever or repeat a similar phrase too often, then it might become tiresome to loyal readers.
I try mixing it up. Sometimes using questions, sometimes inviting statements.
If you have a question for the title, then the opening line could be a follow on question but it can be an inviting sentence, too.
April 10, 2018 at 8:58 pm
Hi Henneke, Every time i read your posts, i learn so much. Thanks for doing such a great job always.
April 10, 2018 at 9:15 pm
Thank you so much, Sola. I appreciate your compliment 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 8:06 pm
Even as I clicked the link I found myself thinking “this time for sure she’ll let me down” even while a chuckle escaped my lips as once again I was caught up from the first sentence.
I’d hate to disappoint you, Marie. I’m glad I didn’t 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 7:53 pm
Thanks. I enjoyed the Stephen King article.
I especially like the tip to start with a question? Although I’ve discovered editors do not like this approach because it often gets edited out.
What do you think?
BTW, you reminded my favorite opening line fail: “It goes with saying …
April 10, 2018 at 9:14 pm
That is a fantastic fail. I wish I had thought of that 🙂
With editors, I think it’s a matter of style and education. Editors with a journalism or academic background may have different views on what sounds right. But blogging is quite different from academic writing or newspaper reporting.
I just checked my old Copyblogger posts, and more than half of them start with a question, so their editors haven’t edited the questions out.
April 10, 2018 at 9:19 pm
Yes, that makes sense. Those were editors with traditional print magazine backgrounds.
Copyblogger is one of my reference points too. 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 6:39 pm
I loved reading this article, and have shared it with my writers! We forget that first impressions count, both in life and in the world of words!
April 10, 2018 at 9:09 pm
Thank you so much for sharing, Shane. And yes, first impressions count 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 5:03 pm
I’ve always loved your posts. This one included. In signature Henneke style you deal with this worthwhile topic with perfection! That was going to be my opening line. But now that you’ve reminded me of the importance of brevity, I’m thinking that it may have been too long to grab you. 🙂 Your description of changing things up when you feel you’re getting into a first-sentence-pattern resonates with me. I was horrified when my partner said “It’s good…but why do you always start the same?” after reading a blog post I’d written. That was my wake-up call to watch out for those sneaky little patterns that try to park themselves in our writers’ brain!!
April 10, 2018 at 9:08 pm
It’s really easy for a sneaky pattern to go on repeat. It has worked and you know it works, so you keep doing it. I think it happens to all of us from time to time.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Lee.
April 10, 2018 at 4:33 pm
April 10, 2018 at 4:50 pm
Thank you, Stephen. Was there something specific that appealed to you?
April 10, 2018 at 4:29 pm
Although I agree we need to get people’s attention, I’ve changed how I write for the web. I used to try to write clever opening lines and titles in my blog posts, but changed all that for better SEO. According to my SEO app (Yoast) the opening line of a blog post, post title, subtitles, and also YouTube videos and video descriptions (according to YouTube’s own best practices guidelines) has to contain your keyword/key phrase. And that’s not usually the most eye-grabbing sentence. There really is no way around this unless you get lucky with your keyword/key phrase.
I also use the Yoast app for SEO. This allows me to write two blog title versions – a slightly more interesting version that you see at the top of the blog post (How to Captivate Hurried Readers with a Magic Opening Line), and a keyword-focused version specifically for SEO. In the case of this blog post, the SEO version is: How to Write a Good Opening Sentence (With Examples).
I’m no SEO expert, but I don’t think it’s necessary to have your keyword in the very first sentence; just the first paragraph is okay. Even so, I still often ignore this rule and Yoast still gives me a “green light.” I seem to get good rankings as long as I tick a few of the SEO boxes but not necessarily all.
April 10, 2018 at 6:48 pm
It’s definitely an area I struggle with, but the results (especially on YouTube) speak for themselves. Possibly because I write/create videos more about tech stuff. And I use other tools than Yoast for YouTube SEO. Maybe writing in a non-boring way while keeping SEO happy, is a good topic for a future blog post.
April 10, 2018 at 9:11 pm
I can imagine YouTube is different and I have no experience there. But I can write about the balance between readers vs SEO for blog writing. I’ve noted it down. Thank you for the idea 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm
Yes, the dreaded opening stumps me too. I love your examples, Henneke. Even Stephen King gets stumped. (I feel better).
“It was a dark and stormy night” is so famous (and bad) it inspired an annual fiction contest. Would be fun to give it a try this year. What do you think? http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/
April 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm
That contest sounds like so much fun. We have until the end of June to enter 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 6:07 pm
Okay, I’m marking my calendar. We’ll put bad intro writing to the test 🙂
I’ve marked my calendar, too. Let’s do it 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 2:52 pm
Brilliant! Thank you.
April 10, 2018 at 3:15 pm
Thank you, Shirley 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 1:00 pm
Great post. And great opening line too!
I can see what you did there 😉 You voice your own discomfort about writing opening lines, and hey presto, you’ve got an excellent opening!
Emotion and authenticity: works every time.
April 10, 2018 at 1:05 pm
It was definitely authentic. I was seriously feeling the pressure and was thinking to myself, “I really don’t want to write this first sentence.” And that’s when I wondered how I could skip it 🙂
I like how you phrase the combination: emotion and authenticity.
Thank you for adding your thoughts, Bart 🙂
April 10, 2018 at 12:27 pm
Another great post from you! It is indeed difficult to strum up an opening line – be it an email or a blog post.
I noticed an error in an otherwise amazing write-up and thought I’ll let you know – The ‘Cather’ in the Rye.
Keep writing brilliant stuff!
April 10, 2018 at 12:37 pm
Oops. Good catch. Thank you for letting me know. I’ve corrected it.
April 10, 2018 at 11:59 am
Henneke, you’re a mind reader! I was wrestling with the opening of a short post and strayed towards my inbox to distract myself and there I see your email titled “how to write a magic opening line …” !! Thank you for compiling great and lousy openings, as it would’ve taken me years to do this myself 🙂 Awesome!
April 10, 2018 at 12:04 pm
Yes, I’m a mind reader 😉
I’m glad the post came at exactly the right time for you.
By the way, another trick is to write your first line last.
Happy writing, Syed!
April 10, 2018 at 11:54 am
April 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm
April 10, 2018 at 11:51 am
I never paid attention to the opening lines until three years ago when a content manager at a company told me to entice readers a little with the opening line of the blog post.
The best part is that I did experiments with different versions of the opening lines.
I figured out that it’s an art, meaning, you have to understand the nuances — you should be enticing the readers by giving something away and holding some part of the story to keep them reading.
I’ve experimented with questions, short-sentences, and telling a story right away at the beginning of the article.
I must say it’s important to put out the right words/lines to get started with your article.
Great topic and article. Thank you.
I totally agree with you on experimentation. I try not to get stuck with one type of opening lines as it feels like it becomes too predictable. I’m not sure readers would notice if they read a post every other week. But when it feels to me like I’ve used a particular technique too often, I try something different.
Thank you for adding your thoughts. I appreciate it.
April 11, 2018 at 1:59 pm
I’m glad to hear that.
April 10, 2018 at 10:35 am
‘Remember your reader’ — great , genuine advice!
I often start my intros with a question mark, it gets readers interested to hear more…
April 10, 2018 at 11:22 am
Yep, “remember your reader” is the essence of good writing (but it’s easy to forget).
Thank you for stopping by, Codrut! 🙂
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