Today's blog is all about one thing: creating a kick-ass introductory paragraph that gets your essay noticed and adored by your professors. A clear, concise, and dare I say kick-ass opening paragraph truly sets up your essay for success. Your intro paragraph can help organize your essay. Below you will find my best tips for being concise, relevant, humorous, professional, and enticing in your introductory paragraph. You don't have to use every single suggestion, but listen up y'all, we are going on an adventure in writing land.
As a sociology student, I write a lot of papers. Every week in my Violence & Society class we are assigned a 2-page single spaced paper (aka about 1400 words a week, ouch!) Writing a great introductory paragraph is my key to starting my essays off with a bang, and I want to show you how to do that today.
Having a concise introductory paragraph is key to a great introductory paragraph. This paragraph doesn't need to be long, but it needs to set up the entire essay. The easiest way to be concise? List exactly what you will be talking about.
As you can see in the introductory paragraph above I stated:
Below you will find my best tips for being concise, relevant, humorous, professional, and enticing in your introductory paragraph.
As you can tell by now, these are my goals; this is what I want you to learn as you scroll through my article. A reader should be able to see your introductory paragraph and know precisely what you intend to talk about throughout the essay. This is introductory paragraph 101, but using this method in my introductory paragraph has never steered me wrong, even as I am working on my Master's degree.
Being concise also means that you should stick to a sentence limit (five sentence paragraph, yes please!), make sure you proofread to cut out sentences that repeat or don't add value to your writing, and that you are sharing your best work first. A great introductory paragraph can boost the mood of the entire paper honestly.
Intro paragraph length does change as you create longer articles. For example, when your article is 25+ pages, you're introduction will likely be much longer than five sentences. Make sure that your intro paragraph is concise as it relates to the larger goal of your paper. Longer page lengths require more setup and a longer intro.
The reason that I want you to be relevant is simple–including current events makes a statement. A few months ago I did a paper on gun control and gun violence for my Violence & Society class, and it was around the time of Sarah Palin's Donald Trump rally speech, so I included the following in my paper:
We have a lot of gun violence, but is gun control the right way to go about this issue? Also what exactly does our 2nd Amendment right give us the right to? What about the Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution that Sarah Palin was talking about? How does that fit into the gun violence debate?
The reason I love including current events in my introduction paragraph is that it ties the issues discussed in the reading to events happening now. Your professor will appreciate the injection (where appropriate) of more current stories into the papers that you write. Most of all it shows that you can make connections between what you are writing about and real-life events. Especially in the liberal arts field, I believe that being able to make connections is essential. It shows that you can apply what you read and research to real-life situations.
Your professors are reading a lot of papers usually when they read for class, why not give them a little humor in your paper to make the time grading seem a bit less harsh. In the example I gave above I used humor in bringing up a recent event in the introduction of my paper on gun violence and gun control.
Humor is one of those topics that I feel is important when writing, but using the correct amount and type of humor is important. You don't want to be unnecessarily crude in your papers–after all this is a professional paper. Injecting a few funny words here and there is a great way to get on your professor's good side.
When writing, I think we all need to remember to be professional! Yes, you want to do a lot of other things in your college papers, but above all else, you want to keep it professional.
- Be mindful of contractions: If you are like me, I love a good contraction. I love to say y'all, isn't, ain't, and everything else. Contractions and I are best friends, but it's just simply not professional. We are great friends here on The Happy Arkansan, so I'm not going to clean up my contractions here (sorry, not sorry) but be sure that you are keeping up with contraction use in your introductory paragraph and your college papers as a whole.
- Grammar and Spelling Matters: Besides contractions, other grammar and spelling matters in college writing. Be sure that you run your paper through a spelling and grammar checker. Run your paper by a friend or two as well. You get used to writing your paper and miss grammar and spelling errors after a while.
- Remember to use your writing center: This is such an important part of writing a professional intro, but also a professional paper. Your universities writing center has a ton of amazing people hired to help you write better articles. If you need help with any of the following things you can get that help from your writing center.
Last, but not least, be enticing. Why should someone want to continue to read your paper? Your professors are going to read your paper anyway, but why not give them a great paper to read instead of a boring one? Entice your professor by giving away just the right amount of content in your introductory paragraph, the right amount of humor, the right amount of relevance, etc. This is so important if you want to use your paper for something in the future like a conference or something of that nature. There will come a time where people won't have to continue to read your paper after they read your introduction if they don't want to. You want to make sure you entice those people too.