Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs

Grab Your Reader With the First Words

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Nordquist, Richard. "Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs." ThoughtCo, Aug. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/introductory-paragraph-essays-and-reports-1691081. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, August 3). Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/introductory-paragraph-essays-and-reports-1691081 Nordquist, Richard. "Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/introductory-paragraph-essays-and-reports-1691081 (accessed October 24, 2017).
A good introductory paragraph offers readers a road map to the rest of the essay or report.
Nicholas Eveleigh / Getty Images

An introductory paragraph is designed to grab your reader's attention. It is the opening of a conventional essay, composition, or report and informs the reader about the topic, why they should care about it, and adds enough intrigue to get them to continue. In short, the opening paragraph is your chance to make a great first impression.

Writing a Good Introductory Paragraph

The primary purpose of an introductory paragraph is to pique the interest of your reader and identify the topic and purpose of the essay.

It often ends with a thesis statement.

If it's so important, how do you write a great opening? There are a number of tried and true ways that you can engage your readers right from the start. Posing a question, defining the key term, giving a brief anecdote, or pulling out an interesting fact are just a few approaches you can take. The key is to add intrigue along with just enough information so your readers want to read on and find out more.

One way to do this is to come up with a brilliant opening line. Even the most mundane topics are interesting enough to write about, otherwise, you wouldn't be writing about them, right?

When you begin writing a new piece, think about what your readers want to know. Use your knowledge of the topic to craft an opening line that will satisfy that need. You also don't want to fall into the trap of what writers call "chasers" that bore your readers. Your introduction should make sense and "hook" the reader right from the start.

Make your introductory paragraph brief. Typically, just three or four sentences are enough to set the stage for both long and short essays. You can go into supporting information in the body of your essay, so don't tell us everything all at once.

Should You Write the Intro First?

Keep in mind that you can always adjust your introductory paragraph later.

Sometimes you just have to start writing and you can start at the beginning or dive right into the heart of your essay.

Your first draft may not have the best opening, but as you continue to write new ideas will come to you and your thoughts will develop a clearer focus. Take note of these and, as you work through revisions, refine and edit your opening. 

If you're struggling with the opening, follow the lead of other writers and skip it. Many writers begin with the body and conclusion and come back to the introduction later. It's a great approach if you find yourself stuck on those first few words.

Examples of Introductory Paragraphs in Student Essays

You can read all the advice you want about writing a compelling opening, but it's often easier to learn by example. Let's see how some writers approached their essays and analyze why they work so well.

"As a lifelong crabber (that is, one who catches crabs, not a chronic complainer), I can tell you that anyone who has patience and a great love for the river is qualified to join the ranks of crabbers. However, if you want your first crabbing experience to be a successful one, you must come prepared."
(Mary Zeigler, "How to Catch River Crabs")

What did Mary do in her introduction? First of all, she wrote in a little joke but it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it set the stage for her slightly more humorous approach to crabbing, it also clarifies what type of "crabber" she's writing about. This is important if your subject has more than one meaning.

The other thing that makes this a successful introduction is the fact that Mary leaves us wondering. What do we have to be prepared for? Will the crabs jump up and latch onto you? Is it a messy job? What tools and gear do I need? She leaves us with questions and that draws us in because now we want answers.

"Working part-time as a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly has given me a great opportunity to observe human behavior. Sometimes I think of the shoppers as white rats in a lab experiment, and the aisles as a maze designed by a psychologist. Most of the rats--customers, I mean--follow a routine pattern, strolling up and down the aisles, checking through my chute, and then escaping through the exit hatch. But not everyone is so dependable. My research has revealed three distinct types of abnormal customer: the amnesiac, the super shopper, and the dawdler."
("Shopping at the Pig")

This revised classification essay begins by painting a picture of a very ordinary scenario. The grocery store doesn't seem like an interesting subject. When you use it as an opportunity to observe human nature, as this writer does, it turns from ordinary to fascinating.

Who is the amnesiac? Would I be classified as the dawdler by this cashier? The descriptive language and the analogy to rats in a maze add to the intrigue and we're left wanting more. For this reason, even though it's lengthy, this is a very effective opening.

"In March 2006, I found myself, at 38, divorced, no kids, no home, and alone in a tiny rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn’t eaten a hot meal in two months. I’d had no human contact for weeks because my satellite phone had stopped working. All four of my oars were broken, patched up with duct tape and splints. I had tendinitis in my shoulders and saltwater sores on my backside.

"I couldn’t have been happier. . . ."

(Roz Savage, "My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis." Newsweek, March 20, 2011)

Here we have an example of reversing expectations. The introductory paragraph is filled with doom and gloom. We feel sorry for the writer but are left wondering whether the article will be a classic sob story. It is in the second paragraph where we find out that it's quite the opposite.

Those first few words—which a reader cannot help but skim—draw us in. How can the narrator be happy after all that sorrow? This reversal compels us to find out what happened because it's something we can relate to.

Most people have had streaks where nothing seems to go right. Yet, it is the possibility of a turn of fortunes that compels us to keep going. This writer appealed to our emotions and a sense of shared experience to craft a very effective read.