Guest Post: How to Write an introduction

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing.  If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

Understanding how to write an introduction effectively is essential to generate a reader’s interest, to convince them that the subject you’ve chosen to write about is important or relevant. A good introduction should pull the reader straight in and make them want to read more. Also, learning how to write a good introduction can be very helpful in overcoming “starting anxiety,” one of the major causes of writer’s block. This article provides some guidelines on the different types of introductions as well as some tips that will not only help you succeed in drawing in readers, but will also make starting your essays much easier.

photo by arquera

photo by arquera

Types of essay introductions

Here are some of the types of introductions you can use:

1.   Ask a question – Questions engage readers and often make excellent introductions. The question you use could be the very same question you asked yourself before writing the essay.

2.   Paint an image – If you’re writing about the tragedies that take place in a war-torn country, write an introduction in the form of a short, provocative scene that describes the horrors of that country’s war in vivid detail. You can then move into your thesis about how such a scene could be prevented.

3.   Use an anecdote – People are always curious about other people. Provide the reader with an experience from your own life that’s relevant to whatever subject you wish to talk about. Anecdotes are generally humorous or amusing, but you can also write about a serious experience you may have had.

4.   State your thesis – Sometimes the best way to write an introduction is to have no introduction at all. Make your thesis statement the first sentence of your essay. Theses that work well for this kind of introduction are often controversial or humorous.

5.   State a problem – Use some statistic, personal observation or description of an event to let the reader know that a problem exists. Lead the reader from the description of the problem to your thesis statement, which could be your suggested solution.

6.   Emphasize importance – If you’re writing about water conservation you may want to alert us about how precious drinkable water is. Such an introduction could easily lead into an essay on how to conserve water.

7.   Quotes – You could start by mentioning a relevant quote to the subject of your essay. If you’re writing about the future of technology, for example, you might quote Bill Gates. If you’re writing about cooking, you might quote Julia Child.

8.   Outline first – Tell the reader what they’re going to get in the form of bullet points at the beginning of your essay. This isn’t a traditional introduction, but it’s very effective when writing for the web. As much as we’d like to think web surfers read every word, often the reader will only want or need a single part of your entire essay. Provide hyperlinked bulleted points in an outline which lead to a corresponding parts of your essay.

Other Tips and Tricks

1.   Make it relevant – When you write an introduction it should relate directly or at least indirectly to whatever subject you’re writing about.

2.   Lead into the thesis – Make sure that your introduction leads quickly and efficiently into your thesis. No rambling.

3.   Make it short – Write an introduction of no more than 200 words for a 1500 word essay. Get the reader’s attention, then quickly get to the point.

4.   Provoke an emotion, thought or image – An introduction should get the reader engaged, either emotionally or mentally.

5.   Write it later – Writing introductions should not be the hardest part of writing the essay, but for some reason it often is. One of the biggest reasons for this is because we’re worried about whether we can finish the essay or not. Skip the intro and write the body of your essay first. You can always go back to the introduction later when you have a better handle on your subject.

6.   Try several introductions – If you’re having trouble deciding how to start, you can try several different introductions and see which one works best.

Choosing Wisely

Ultimately, whichever type of introduction you use is up to you. It’s important, however, to choose wisely. An anecdote might work well for a humorous essay but could be very out of place if you’re writing about some serious issue. Try to get a feel for the different types of introductions so that you can develop a sense of which one might be most appropriate for your context.

For many, the introduction can be the most difficult part of an essay to write. Once you learn how to write a good introduction, however, not only will more people read your work, but you may find that starting an essay will become the easiest part.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he’s regained his sanity, quit his job, and currently blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He’s currently developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on twitter @KenjiCrosland.

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