Things to Avoid in Your Introductions
- Avoid opening with questions, especially rhetorical questions. You want to open with a powerful, specific statement, not a weak question.
- Do not open with a quotation as the opening line. You may use a brief (2-3 word) phrase, especially in poetry essays, but a whole quote belongs as evidence in the body of the essay.
- Do not open with a general statement about humankind or the nature of the universe. (Human beings often struggle with the idea of change.)
- Do not open with a general statement about literature. (Poets often write about feelings.)
- Do not use the author and title as the opening of your essay. They should appear in the introduction, but not in the opening sentece, especially not the opening words.
What Should Your Introductions Be Like?
- They should let the author of the original piece do the heavy lifting. Use his/her ideas or words to give the introduction quality.
- They should be short. The focus of your essay must be on the argumentative body, not the introduction. 4 sentences is a good maximum.
- They should open with action oriented verbs or powerful adjectives that will immediately engage the reader.
- They should be brief, interesting and contain some punch.
- They should be based on a specific point of analysis, one that you do not intend to return to in the body of your essay.
Sample Introduction for the Free Response Essay
Battered blind in a boxing ring, the Invisible Man soon discovers that the true nature of blindness lies within himself.
Sample Introduction for the Poetry Response
Black, slack, earthsoup: poet Mary Oliver’s rich, evocative language forces the reader to examine the question of the nature of life, using the most unlikely symbol, a swamp. Using figurative language and tone, Oliver effectively conveys the profound idea that, while life may appear to bind and even trap us, it always offers the potential for renewal and hope.