Let’s share a secret that all great writers are already aware of: you’ve got to get your reader hooked from the off. In fact, every line must leave the reader wanting more, but it is the first sentence that must make the biggest impact.
This may always have been true, but we live in the Twitter age where impressions must be made quicker than ever. Fortunately, essayists ae not usually faced with such impatience, but the art of an expertly crafted opening salvo is as valuable as ever.
So, don’t bore the reader to tears (and lose them) by dully stating what your essay will set out to achieve. Instead, unleash a stylish first sentence that will leave a ravenous audience hungry for more.
1. “There can be no doubt”
Example sentence: There can be no doubt that while social media has brought about many issues that society is struggling to deal with, it has fundamentally changed the way we communicate.
Typical structure: There can be no doubt that __________.
Note: Being categorical in your assertion, whether the reader agrees with you or not, is an attractive quality in an essay, and immediately provokes interest.
2. Introduce surprising outcomes with conjunctions of contrast or conditionals
Example sentence: Despite the increasing pressures of parenting in the digital age, becoming a parent continues to be one of the joys of life.
Typical structure: Despite/In spite of/Even though__________, __________ continue(s) to __________.
Note: Conjunctions of contrast are ready-made for introducing surprising statistics or facts that hook the reader into wanting to discover the reason for this phenomenon. Similarly, conditional sentences using ‘if’ are effective in revealing surprise results.
3. “It is not this, but it is this”
Example sentence: Prioritizing is not a component of good management, it is an essential building block.
Typical structure: __________ is not a __________, it is a __________.
Note: Being categorical is a consistent theme when it comes to great essay beginnings, and here is another example. Inform the reader of a typical misconceptions with this highly impactful opening.
4. “All but vanished”
Example sentence: Humility has all but vanished from the celebrity-riddled world of modern politics.
Typical structure: __________ has all but vanished from ___________.
Note: Something has not completely disappeared if it has all but vanished, but is a dying concept, and often something that will be greatly missed or enthusiastically celebrated when it has gone. This opening leads the reader to lament the loss of a positive quality or feel relief as to the soon-to-be departed negative, and either way results in them wanting to discover what the future holds.
5. Make an impactful statement of equality using “just as”
Example sentence: Just as music can help relax us in times of stress, it can also lead to improved workout performance.
Typical structure: Just as __________, it can also___________.
Note: This structure allows a statement of equality but in a way that reveals it in a way that is both emphasized and dramatic in its delivery – both very attractive attributes of a successful opening sentence.
6. “Imagine a world without something, where everything is better/worse”
Example sentence: Imagine a world without bigotry, where people respect each other’s beliefs without question.
Typical structure: Imagine a world without __________, where __________.
Note: Appealing to a reader’s base emotions is a long-cherished technique used by dramatists, novelists and essayists, and there can be no greater example than appealing to a reader to imagine a world without something they hold dear, or indeed provoke ideas of a better world free from a particular evil.
7. Categorically announce the need for something being ubiquitous
Example sentence: People’s need for love is the same wherever in the world you may visit.
Typical structure: __________’s need for _________ is __________.
Note: Once again, this is a real statement of intent that your essay will be unwavering it its opinions. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees, interest is piqued.
8. State how most/the majority of people would agree on something
Example sentence: Most people would agree that supermarkets have had a detrimental effect on the high street shopping experience.
Typical structure: Most/The majority of people would agree that ________.
Note: This type of brave opening sentence works equally effectively if the reader agrees or disagrees – both are valuable assets when you are encouraging a reader to stay with you. And you are deliberately avoiding the use of all people, so it is very difficult to argue against it one way or the other.
9. Provoke a reaction by stating that someone or something is often accused or something
Example sentence: Politicians have often been accused of making populist policies.
Typical structure: _______ is/are often accused of ________.
Note: Once again, this particularly structure can work if the reader agrees or disagrees with the assertion – both are desirable reactions.
10. Introduce fatalism by stating that something is an inherent aspect of the human psyche
Example sentence: The desire to protect one’s family against the perceived threat of outsiders in an inherent aspect of the human psyche.
Typical structure: _____ is an inherent aspect of the human psyche.
Note: Stating things that may or may not be an inherent part of the human psyche is a topic of great debate, and the possibilities are almost limitless. Either way, that’s a great way to get the reader involved, and you are making a bold statement that they can relate to.