Good Opening Lines For An Essay

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There’s no shortage of advice on how to tackle writing a tricky opening sentence.

At least, not if you’re a novelist, short story writer, journalist, or even a blogger. It’s something we don’t talk about very often because it seems somehow petty.

This may mean bigger changes to other parts of your introductory paragraph than the opening sentence, but it’s no bad thing to come back to it once the whole essay is written.

Making sure it’s clear from the very first sentence what the essay will cover and what it will argue can only make it easier for your tutor to identity and give you credit for the work you’ve put in.

Instead of something broad like “Women have been second-class citizens throughout history” – which could only be backed up by a far broader study than possible in an undergraduate essay – it would be better to keep more focused.

For example: “The proper place of women in British society was a contentious issue in the years following the First World War.” Once again here, the important thing is not to promise more than you’re going to deliver in the rest of the essay.You probably have a decent idea what the purpose of the introduction is: to establish what will be covered, and perhaps also what will be argued, in the essay.At this point you’re not making the case, but simply stating it.First impressions count, which is why it’s so tempting to demonstrate your sophistication in the first sentence.Unfortunately, this is usually counter-productive as it can obscure what you’re actually trying to say.Those are things you’ll be penalised for getting wrong.A howler of an opening line will be overlooked if you’re solid on those, which is why so many howlers go without comment. Common mistakes often boil down to writing the opening to the essay before you quite know what you want to say, over-complicating in an attempt to impress or simply trying to do too much.This opening line makes it clear that farce is in force.“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.” — G. Chesterton, Astute observations accompanied by a implied sigh of disgust are tricky to master, but Chesterton, one of the most multifaceted men of letters, lights the way for you with this sample of the form.Here are a few things to keep in mind when penning that surprisingly difficult opening line.It’s worth remembering that every sentence in an essay has a purpose.


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