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Tip Four: Engage Your Reader

Read the four sample openings below:


Paragraph AParagraph B
He didn't have a rocky childhood, a bad marriage, or a low I.Q. He liked his job and loved his children. In fact, on the surface, he looked like a man who had everything. So, why did he do it? Why did a man whose life was full of promise choose to turn his back on his family, his friends, and his country?

— Sonia Pastoriza, CUNY student
from the introduction to "An American Spy," a report for a course in Political Science.
Webster's Dictionary defines courage as the "mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship." Throughout history, people have exhibited mental and moral strength in different ways. Some have fought against tyranny. Others have struggled with poverty.

— Morrie Rolin Klein, CUNY student "The Courage to Change", a persuasive essay written for a Composition Course.


Paragraph CParagraph D
If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one contemporary art work, it would be a picture of a starry sky, a spiderweb, or a choppy ocean by Vija Celmins — a smallish painting, drawing, or print that is sombre, tingling with intelligence, and very pure. I imagine that the work's charge of obdurate consciousness would give my sanity a fighting chance against the island's lonely nights, insect industry, and engirdling, unquiet waves.

— Peter Schjeldahl "Dark Star: The Intimate Grandeur of Vija Celmins" The New Yorker, June 4, 2001
Complexion. My first conscious experience of sexual excitement concerns my complexion. One summer weekend, when I was around seven years old, I was at a public swimming pool with the whole family. I remember sitting on the damp pavement next to the pool and seeing my mother, in the spectator's bleachers, holding my younger sister on her lap. My mother, as I noticed, was watching my father as he stood on a diving board, waving to her....

— Richard Rodriguez "Complexion" Hunger of Memory: The Educaton of Richard Rodriguez, 1982



Step 1: Of all the openings above, which one really grabbed your attention? Which one made you want to keep reading? Which was your favorite?

Answer below:


When writing introductions:

• Avoid the simple dictionary definition. Try instead to create an expanded defintion that explains your term and how it specifically applies to your topic.

• Avoid the sweeping panorama and sweeping statement such as "Down through history, wars have caused suffering" or "It goes without saying that money often corrupts." If it goes without saying, don't say it!


   More on engaging your reader in the introduction »



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