How do I write an interesting and effective introductory paragraph?

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Answered by: Michael, An Expert in the Writing Quality Essays Category
Many writers struggle with the problem of the first paragraph. Often, the hardest part of writing a quality essay is getting started and coming up with an effective introductory paragraph. However, there are a few things that can be done (and avoided!) to ensure that the first paragraph of an essay is both effective and engaging.

In most forms of writing, it is important to avoid writing an introduction which spends most of its time discussing something that has little to do with the actual topic of the essay. Often, writers tend to write broad, sweeping statements (especially the dreaded “In today’s society…” opening line) that tell the reader nothing at all about what the next several pages are actually going to be about. These vague generalities tend to bore and frustrate the reader, and teachers especially find them headache-inducing.

There are a few strategies that writers often use to make an introduction more engaging. Just remember that with each of these strategies, the most important thing to do is actually discuss the topic of the essay in some way. How that topic is incorporated may change depending on the strategy, but an essay about effective dog training should, in most cases, not begin with a paragraph about the history of dog ownership.

The first strategy to write a powerful introduction is to tell an anecdote. The anecdotal introduction tells the reader a story about the topic, either from the writer's personal experiences or those of another (sometimes entirely fictional) person. This story should illustrate the significance of the topic that will be discussed. For example, a writer trying to write that essay about dog training might begin an essay with the story of his or her bulldog who refused to learn how to "stay". This story would demonstrate why a reader might be interested in learning more about training a dog, and it should draw him or her in emotionally.

Another strategy for effective introductory paragraphs is to begin with an arresting statistic or quotation. This calls for the writer to find a quotation or statistic that is directly relevant to the topic at hand and open his or her essay with it. This statistic or quotation should be surprising or profound, so as to immediately grab the reader's attention. Next, that statistic or quotation needs to be explained, and from there, the main idea about the topic can be presented. For example, the (completely made-up) statistic that 76% of domesticated dogs are improperly trained would make many readers want to find out what they can do to make sure they aren't part of that number.

Finally, there is one tip which many writers often do not consider: if you're struggling to write your introduction, why not skip it? Especially if the rest of an essay's main points are already fleshed out, beginning with the first body paragraph and continuing from there can make it much easier to write the introduction later on. Next time you're staring at a blank page, try coming back to it later, finding an interesting statistic, or telling a story. You will find yourself with an interesting and worthwhile introduction before you know it!

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