How do I write the introduction to a personal essay?   This personal essay, in the body, contains traits, activities, abilities, interests, and my beliefs.  However, writing the introduction...

How do I write the introduction to a personal essay?  

This personal essay, in the body, contains traits, activities, abilities, interests, and my beliefs.  However, writing the introduction seems to be difficult as this isn't a narrative where I describe a single or multiple events in my life.

I've really never written a personal essay before, so some advice would really help.  

Thanks in advance! 

Asked on by anubisroop

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caledon's profile pic

caledon | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Typically I only see personal essays appear in three forms: as a college or other admission requirement, as a writing assignment for a class, or as a personal testament for a publication. I'm assuming yours is either an admission essay or an assignment, and I think the distinction is important. For the admission essay, your focus is always on selling yourself. For the writing assignment, you can afford to be a little more introspective and honest. Keep this in mind as you're writing.

There's a lot of flexibility for the introduction, but the focus is still on providing a hook, just like with an argumentative essay. The reader needs to have a reason to invest in the rest of the essay and take interest in your activities, abilities, etc. You might do this by giving a memorable story as an example, or a brief soundbite of your life, e.g. "My grandmother always said to chew each bite 36 times, and this is the motto I live by." This is a case-by-case thing though, depending upon the criteria for the assignment. I know that the instruction to "be creative" isn't very helpful, but one of the more interesting things to come to light recently is the fact that college admissions boards report seeing personal essays that are all largely the same, with very little creative storytelling or identity. 

You could also try something that alters the way the narrative is presented, if the opportunity is within the bounds of your assignment. One of my more successful essays was a "message in a bottle" format, where the introduction paragraph actually described the reader discovering the essay and reading about the life of the person who wrote it (me). 

cel2133's profile pic

cel2133 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

A really great way to start off a personal essay is to tell a story of something that happened in your life that brings up some of the key traits you are discussing in the body of your essay. If you are claiming to be a hard worker and someone who is able to come up with innovative solutions under pressure, start with a story where you did so. For example you could say, when I was 15 my father fell and broke his leg while we were hiking and I had to think of a way to get help. It doesn't have to be that dramatic. Avoid negativity when possible, the story should be of a time where you learned a lesson or overcame something. Stories are always a great way to begin a personal essay.

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