How to Start an Essay

If you’ve spent any amount of time around anyone over the age of forty, you’ve likely heard the phrase ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, the same ideology can be applied to writing an essay. In fact, there are over a dozen different types of essays, most of which can be grouped into four major categories:

  1. The Narrative Essay
  2. The Descriptive Essay
  3. The Expository Essay
  4. The Persuasive Essay

Just as there are multiple types of essays, there are also multiple ways and steps to write an essay – the most widely used being the hamburger essay.

As depicted in the hamburger format, the concluding paragraph is simply a reiteration of the introductory statement. The most pertinent information will be found in the body of the essay.

Think of the introduction and conclusion of the essay as being the hamburger bun and the meat of the burger being all of the important facts and statements found in the body paragraphs.

Continue reading to learn how to begin an essay.

Good Ways to Start an Essay

Prior to starting an essay, it is important to create an outline of what you intend to write about. Authors of all calibres view outlines as pseudo roadmaps to not only help them stay on topic and organized, but also to ensure that they are touching on all of the key elements of the message that they intend to deliver.

Here is an example of the format of an essay outline:

  1. Select the essay topic and two or three possible titles;
  2. Develop the thesis (or the main point that you are trying to convey);
  3. Create the framework for the introduction, body and summary paragraphs.
    1. Introductory Paragraph: What is the hook for essay? What is the thesis? How does this link to the information found in the body?
    2. Body (normally three paragraphs): What is the main idea or point of the paragraph? What is the supporting information? What is the conclusion?
    3. Conclusion: Review the main points from each paragraph. Reiterate the thesis. Develop a closing statement.

How to Start Your Essay

Now that you’ve determined what your topic and key points will be, it is time to create your essay. It might surprise you to know that, when it comes to essays and other academic papers, it may actually be in your benefit to write the body before you write your introduction. Why is this? By waiting until you’ve completed the body of the essay, you will be able to develop a better grasp of the content and supporting facts and create a better introduction that strengthens your argument and peaks the interest of the reader, drawing them to the body of the paper.

How to Start an Essay Introduction

An introduction does much more than introduce a paper, it grabs the attention of the reader and lays the groundwork for the argument that will be made.

A solid introduction should be viewed as a first impression. And, as we all know, first impressions are everything. Consider an introductory paragraph that is riddled with spelling mistakes and is a jumbled mess of disorganized information – who is going to want to continue reading?

The objective of the introductory paragraph is to not only draw the reader in, but also to present your viewpoint (or argument) on the topic of discussion.  However, prior to making your thesis statement, the essay should start with a hook that baits the reader into wanting to continue reading. Examples of hooks might be attention grabbing statistics or quotes that relate to the topic.

Once you’ve successfully grabbed the attention of the reader, it is time to move on to the thesis statement. Your statement should be clear, concise and ideally no more than a single sentence explanation of where you stand on the topic of your essay.

After the thesis has been written, next you should draft an outline of examples that will be used to support the thesis throughout the remainder of the paper. This outline will help the reader to better understand what the essay is about.

The final sentence of the introductory paragraph should be used to help guide the reader into the first paragraph of the body of the essay. Most introductory paragraphs should be no longer than three or four sentences.

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How to Start the Body Paragraphs

As mentioned earlier, the body of the essay serves as the ‘meat’ of the burger and exists to clarify and support the thesis statement.

Ideally, the body of an essay consists of three paragraphs, the first paragraph being used to support the strongest argument. (The exception being in the case of chronological explanations) The starting sentence should be the topic of the paragraph that most closely relates to the points mentioned in the framework for the introduction.

A single sentence paragraph that gives the example of “Taylor Swift” or “Peppa Pig” or “Neon LED signs” will not suffice. Instead, it is necessary to provide supporting information by explaining clearly who or what the example is and why that is a relevant piece of information.

Regardless of how widely known the example might be, it is still important to provide context. The read needs to know who they are, what they’ve done, and what the point of the example is and, as the author, it is your job to deliver that information clearly and concisely. As a rule of thumb, deliver five relevant facts about the subject that clearly explain why they are important.

Once this has been done, it is necessary to illustrate why exactly it is that this particular example proves the point that you are trying to make in your thesis. The merit of this step cannot be overlooked – this is, for all intents and purposes, why you have offered the example to begin with.

Following the succession of the examples provided in the introduction, move along from the second most important to the third or least important in the second and third body paragraphs. Transitional phrases such as ‘furthermore’ or ‘in contrast’ can be used show where one paragraph, or section, ends and where the next begins. This can be helpful when introducing new sets of ideas. Essentially, they direct the reader from one section to the next.

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How to start a conclusion in an essay

Just because the conclusion, or closing statement, is made at the end of an essay that doesn’t mean that it should be viewed as ‘the end’. The closing statement represents your final opportunity to prove your point and, as such, should follow a highly methodical format.

More often than not, the conclusion is a reiteration of the opening statement because it contains all of the same information. It is easy to get carried away when writing closing remarks, ideally the conclusion of an essay should be no longer than four sentences.

Remember to start the concluding sentence with a transition phrase such as ‘in conclusion’ or ‘in summation’ and to relate it to the hook used to bait the reader in the opening paragraph. Next, tie everything up by restating your thesis statement.

Since you will have already restated your thesis statement four or five times, be cautious not to repeat your statement verbatim and, instead, use a variety of verbiage to deliver the same message but in a different format. Repeating the thesis statement will help to not only reinforce the argument, but also serves as a lead in to the next element of a conclusion paragraph – a brief two or three word highlight of the chief facts of the body of the essay.

Having nearly completed the conclusion, the final step is to create a ‘call to action’ that not only tells the reader that the essay has concluded but also leaves them with something to ponder.

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How to Start an Essay Examples

Given how many different essay formats that exist, understanding the best way to start an essay is important.  Here is an overview of three different types of essays and the best essay structure for each.

Argumentative Essay

The argument essay requires that the author deploys a writing structure that enables them to successfully argue that their stance on a controversial issue or topic is the right one.

If you were writing this type of essay, you would want to start by picking a topic that you can easily argue, investigate all of the possible reasons that someone would either be for or against the issue, decide which position you will take, research and compile as much supporting evidence as possible and start to write your intro paragraph.

An Essay About Yourself

Writing an essay about yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’d think you could call upon you repertoire of achievements and experiences and simply start writing, but there is more to it than that.

You will want to start by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses; be they mental, physical, spiritual or even emotional and any special talents or qualities you may have, people you look up to – all of the things that make you yourself.

Next you will need to decide which essay format is best suited. More often than not, the five paragraph essay will suffice. In a five paragraph essay there is an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs and a conclusion paragraph.

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How to Start a Paragraph

When starting a new paragraph, it is helpful to use transition words or phrases to alert the reader that one point has ended and another has begun.

Examples of transition words are:

  • Although
  • As a result
  • At the same time
  • By the same token
  • Consequently
  • Conversely
  • …etc.

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Essay Writing Tips

Don’t skip the outline: It may seem like a waste of time, but proper planning really does make a world of difference when it comes to writing an excellent essay versus one that is just ‘okay’. Brainstorming before starting your essay will allow you to uncover the best supporting ideas – rather than just regurgitating the first thing that pops into your head – and will enable you to make clear and well thought out arguments.

Pull out the thesaurus: Variety is the spice of life, and the same can be said about the use of vocabulary in effective writing. Try to avoid using the same words over and over again. For example, instead of saying ‘very important’ say ‘tremendous’ or instead of ‘money’ use ‘wealth’.  You don’t need to use words that are so uncommon or academic that no one understands them – but mix it up a little bit.

Stay on topic: It is easy to veer off topic or start spouting out so much information that the delivery of the content becomes messy and disorganized. This point only further substantiates the importance of the essay outline – know what message you want to deliver and what facts are the most important and stick to the plan.

Proof read:  Nothing turns a reader off more than poor grammar and spelling mistakes. Take the time to proofread your essay to make sure that it is not only easy to read and understand but also free from spelling mistakes, poor punctuation and other grammatical errors.

Learning how to do an essay isn’t hard. Pick your topic, research a few great introduction examples and get started!