What are the best ways to begin an essay?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The introductory paragraph of an essay establishes the tone and voice of the writer and lays out what is called the "blueprint" of the essay. Especially if the essay is for a class assignment or the answer to an essay question, the outline of the five-paragraph essay as explained in The Practical Writer is a valuable guide. According to authors Edward P. Bailey and Philip A. Powell, the introduction should have three parts:

  1. a motivator
  2. a thesis statement
  3. a blueprint

The "motivator" begins the essay and is all but the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. As the name suggests, the purpose of this motivator is to hook the readers' interest and curiosity, thus motivating them to read the essay. The last sentence of the introduction is the thesis, with the "blueprint" which gives what will be the topic sentences of each paragraph of the essay; i.e. the three opinions that relate to the thesis and will substantiate it. An introductory paragraph is brief--4 or 5 sentences.

Motivators can be the following:

  1. a personal observation that relates to the topic, leading to its relevance to the topic by means of an explanation in general terms of the topic
  2. a pertinent citation from the work that is to be analyzed or discussed in the essay, along with authorial comments relevant to the topic
  3. an anecdote that is humorous or thought-provoking that also relates to the thesis with a short explanation
  4. a question followed by some thought-provoking ideas relevant to the thesis
farida-22 | Student

Before starting your introduction, you should first mind your audience and topic so as to choose the right words for writing either informal or formal. Mainly, what makes an introduction organized is writing about the general topic like technology, just to pave the way for your main topic which may be mobile phones, for example. By that way, you will address the audience perfectly to your topic. Moving to the "way" to write this, you may try starting your essay by an interesting anecdote, sarcastic situation or even ironic statements. You may begin with other things like rhetorical questions or performing a counter argument. In other words, what is really important is to make your introduction the strongest paragraph because that is what the teacher begins to read at first, so as to have a good impression.

Best of Luck

thewanderlust878 | Student

To begin an essay well, you have to find what works for you. Everyone starts out their essays differently, and everyone has their own voice when writing. What works for you and sounds great in your essays may not work for someone else. It is all about trial and error, and after writing a few essays you will figure out what sounds the best at the beginning of your essays. To get you started, here are a few suggestions on how to start:

  1. Don't jump right into the essay. Ease the reader in, perhaps by starting with a sentence or two that relates to your topic, but isn't going to be what you will be stating later in the essay
  2. Grab the reader's attention. Start with a statistic, a shocking or intriguing fact, or something to that nature. You want them to want to read the rest of the essay
  3. Ask your teacher! English teachers are there to help you get better at English- which in turn means how to write essays properly. They will have many great suggestions for what you can improve on. 

Hope this helps, and good luck

tahiya | Student

The beginning of an essay mainly depends on the genre of essay you are doing. Commonly funnel approach is followed. It is a method where you start from general statement and chronologically approach towards the topic. For example, if you are writing an essay on ''Benefits of Friendship" you can start with, "Man cannot live alone, so he lives in a society. In society he meets many people. But few of them become his/her friend." So you are starting from the context of a man and then slowly approaching towards his social companions and then friends. And there is another method where you can start with a story or your personal experience, then make it relevant to the topic. For example, an essay about "Causes and Effects of Weak Performance In the Exam",can be started with a personal experience. Like, "Whenever I have exams knocking on my door I start having nightmares. I see that everyone else is writing in the exam hall except me and I end up submitting an empty answer script. Along with nervousness many other causes are responsible for weak performance in the exam and the effect is always negative." Another important thing is that you have a clear thesis statement so the teacher can understand what you are writing about. The thesis statement gives an idea what you are writing about or it is the central idea of an essay. You can start with a question in argumentative essay, it is a common method to use in this type of essay. 

chrisyhsun | Student
Assuming this is a class assignment, you know that this essay will definitely be read by your teacher. However, it is a good practice to use the beginning of the essay to attract readers to continue reading because in the future, the audience will not necessarily be “forced” to read what you wrote. There are several ways that I learned how to accomplish this:
  • Start with a quote: Depending on the tone of your essay and topic overall, this quote can range from something really profound to something with a high shock value.
  • Start with a bang: Going along the lines of the first “hook”, say something surprising or shocking to immediately grab your reader’s attention, even if the statement isn’t a quote. A good way of accomplishing this is to slightly exaggerate and use vivid imagery.
  • Start with a question: This one is really cliché, and I have personally never used it because the rhetorical question often comes off as childish when I try, but I can imagine instances when this might be the best approach.
zumba96 | Student

For me whenever I start an essay I try to plan it out. I try to make an outline of each paragraph I am trying to do and if I want to branch out those paragraphs into something more and include more details I do that accordingly. I also make sure I have an introduction that hooks the reader right away. If I am making a point I substantiate it with evidence and include the importance of that issue. My conclusion is usually a short summary on my paper and doing a quick outline of the major points I have hit to finalize my essay. Do not forget transitions, they are extremely helpful.