PHONE Etiquette

*Want Effective Introductions? Then Do This…

Hello. Our focus this week is on creating effective introductions for essay write-ups. In a future column, we will focus on writing introductions and conclusions for non-academic writings, such as memos, emails, business reports, and technical documents.

Every essay you write has an introductory paragraph which tells your reader what the write-up is about. Your intention for writing an introduction is to capture your readers’ attention and get them hooked until they read the last word of your essay. 

How can you go about creating an effective introduction that helps you achieve this feat, seeing that many people are busy or have short attention span? There are several strategies that you could deploy to make your introduction stand out. Try dividing your introduction into three major parts: beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning of your introduction details the broad topic to be discussed (this is not your title). This is the point where you can get your reader hooked. Try telling a short story in your introduction (if this works for your write-up) and see how that makes your reader want to know how the story ended – we all love stories! 

Another way to get your reader hooked is to share powerful quotes by respectable people – your reader would likely want to know how that connects with the point of discourse. Additionally, you could share a shocking fact that people may not have considered before, and it would likely grab their attention for sure. Adding statistics to your introduction is a no-brainer because it shows you are credible and knowledgeable – ensure your numbers are accurate and factual.

Other ways to start off your introduction include asking questions – not yes/no kind of questions but informational questions that get people thinking about the answers and make them willing to read on until they get your answers. You could also take your readers on a mental excursion by asking them to imagine scenarios. And as you paint such mental pictures and get them to ride with you, you very likely will succeed in getting them hooked to your writing. 

After getting your readers hooked, you want to proceed to share some background information with them. This helps you narrow down that generalised topic that you hinted at in the beginning part of your introduction. The background information serves to help you project your key ideas which you would be discussing throughout the essay; it helps you give adequate context to your essay.

Think about attending to the middle part of your introduction by listing information related to the 5 W’s and 1 H – that is, why, when, what, where, who, and why. This gives relevance to your introduction and sets its tone, as your reader is prepared for what is to come. 

Finally, the concluding part of your introductory paragraph should contain your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is that one statement in your introduction that highlights the specific argument of your essay – your point of view on the general topic under consideration. You should aim to have it stated concisely and accurately, devoid of errors of generalisation. The body paragraphs will speak to the thesis statement by breaking it further down and giving it support. 

Next week we will illustrate how using the three-part strategy of hooking your readers, narrowing down the information you share with them, and stating your thesis statement works in writing an effective introduction for your essay. 

*Dr. Oji is a Senior Lecturer of English at the Institute of Humanities, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos

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