Good lead ins for essays examples

Good lead ins for essays examples

Good lead ins for essays examples

It is true that the first impression—whether it’s a first meeting with a person or the first sentence of a paper—sets the stage for a lasting impression. The introductory paragraph of any paper, long or short, should start with a sentence that peaks the interest of readers. In a typical essay, that first sentence leads into two or three other statements that provide details about the writer’s subject or process. All of these sentences build up to the essay’s thesis statement.

The introduction paragraph typically has:

Attention Getters & Lead-ins

To get a paper off to a great start, writers should try to have a first sentence that Engages their reader. This first sentence should be broadly related to the topic of the essay.

Ways writers can begin:
Paradoxical or Intriguing Statement
Shocking Statement or Statistic
Rhetorical Question
Statement of the Problem
Proverb, Maxim, or Strong Statement

Set Up for a Thesis

After the attention getter or lead-in, writers need to gradually narrow the broad subject towards the thesis.

Gradually narrowing can:
Provide Background information,
Explain underlying information,
Describe the Complexity of the issue,
Introduce various Layers of the subject, and
Help Transition from these more broad ideas to the narrow thesis.

A thesis statement manages to encapsulate an essay’s main argument in a succinct, one-sentence comment. Beginner writers often times find it useful to create an essay map thesis, where the thesis briefly lists the areas that will be discussed in the essay.

A Thesis Statement:
Has a clearly stated opinion,
But does Not bluntly announce the opinion («In this essay I will. «),
Is narrow enough to write a focused essay,
But is also broad enough to write at least 3 body paragraphs,
Is clearly stated in specific terms,
Is easily recognized as the main idea,
Is forceful and direct,
Is not softened with token phrases («in my opinion» or «I think»), and
Can List the 3 main points that will be made.

In the Introduction Paragraph

Bluntly announce the essay’s intent («In this essay I will. ),
Make unreasonable statements,
Apologize for the material that is being written («In my humble opinion. «),
Go into a Detailed account of the writing,
Include Random information that has nothing to do with the essay,
Use an encyclopedia or Dictionary definition («According to Webster’s. ), and
Dilly-dally . Get to it. Move confidently into the essay.

Question: How is this a graphical representation of an introduction Paragraph?

Answer: Because it starts broad, and gradually narrows towards a focused, but not overly specific thesis. The thesis is specific enough to fully explore the essay, but it’s not so specific that there is nothing more to write about.

Sample Introduction Paragraph

. [Attention-Getter] After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, the debate surrounding racial profiling in airports intensified. Many people believed that profiling was the best way to identify possible terrorists, but many others worried about violations of civil liberties. While some airports began to target passengers based solely on their Middle Eastern origins, others instituted random searches instead. [Begin setting-up the thesis] Neither of these techniques seems likely to eliminate terrorism. Now many experts in the government and in airport security are recommending the use of a national ID card or Safe Traveler Card. [Thesis] If every US citizen had such a card, airlines could screen for terrorists more effectively than they do now and avoid procedures that single out individuals solely on the basis of race.

Taken from College Writers pg. 727

Writing Using Lead-ins, Quotes, and Lead-Outs in paragraphs and multi-paragraph essays.

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1 Writing Using Lead-ins, Quotes, and Lead-Outs in paragraphs and multi-paragraph essays

2 Topic Sentence Every good paragraph has a topic sentence that directs the reader as to what will be discussed in the paragraph. A topic sentence should not begin with: “In this paragraph I am going to explain…” If you are writing only one paragraph, your topic sentence should restate the question in the form of an answer and then answer the question given. If you are writing a multi-paragraph essay, your topic sentence should address a part of your thesis.

3 LI, Q, LO When you write a well-developed paragraph, you will use a minimum of three quotes. Quotes must always be “sandwiched” in between a lead-in and a lead-out. The three work in sequence. LI, Q, LO is a sequence that keeps repeating between the topic and conclusion until you have given all of your evidence.

4 Lead-ins Every good paragraph has lead-in sentences that introduce the quotes. The lead in should give context for the quote (any pertinent information that the reader needs to know before reading the quote) It should also summarize what is in the quote. It may be more than one sentence.

5 Quotes Every good paragraph has quotes that back up the topic sentence. It is important that quotes are well chosen and that you can fully explain them in the lead-out. Remember that a quote is NOT the same as dialogue.

6 How to cite a quote in-text
Use parenthetical citation (MLA style) when citing the quote. Use quotation marks around the sentence you are quoting. Put the author and page number in parentheses after the quotation marks. Punctuation goes after the citation.

7 What is a quote? Quote—any phrase, sentence, or group of sentences taken directly from a piece of literature in the author’s exact words. Once you take the phrase, sentence, etc. and copy it into your paragraph or paper, you need to put it in quotation marks to show that the words are not your own. If you don’t put it in quotation marks, it is plagiarism.

8 What is dialogue? Dialogue—words that are in quotation marks in the book because characters are speaking them out loud. If you choose to quote a piece of dialogue from the literature, you must triple quote it in your paper. That means you will use single quotation marks around the dialogue, and then regular quotation marks around the entire quote. You will still cite the author in parentheses at the end of the quote; never cite the character’s name.

9 Integrating Quotations
Adapted from: Rambo, Randy. Integrating Quotations into Sentences. 1 Aug Illinois Valley Community College. 7 Sept Web. After the lead-in, you will need to make a transition into a quotation. Each transition requires the use of different punctuation. You must decide the best way to integrate a quote depending on the quotation you are using. There are four ways to integrate quotations.

10 1. Introduce the quotation with a complete sentence (lead-in), followed with a colon.
This is an easy rule to remember: if you use a complete sentence to introduce a quotation, you need a colon after the sentence. Albert Einstein reminds us all to never waste our life being selfish: “Only a live lived for others is worth living.”

11 2. After your lead-in, use an introductory or explanatory phrase, but not a complete sentence, separated from the quotation with a comma. You should use a comma to separate your own words from the quotation when your introductory or explanatory phrase ends with a verb such as «says,» «said,» «thinks,» «believes,» «pondered,» «recalls,» «questions,» and «asks» (and many more). You should also use a comma when you introduce a quotation with an attribution phrase such as «According to Mr. Ditch.“ Homer Simpson shouted, “I am so smart, I am so smart. S-M-R-T! I mean, S-M-A-R-T!”

12 3. Make the quotation a part of your own sentence without any punctuation between your own words and the words you are quoting. Notice that the word «that» is used in examples. When it is used as it is in the example, «that» replaces the comma which would be necessary without «that» in the sentence. You usually have a choice, then, when you begin a sentence with a phrase such as «Thoreau says.» You either can add a comma after «says,» or you can add the word «that» with no comma. Jerry Seinfield once said that there are “Four Levels of Comedy: make your friends laugh, make strangers laugh, get paid to make strangers laugh, and make people talk like you because it’s so much fun.»

13 4. Use short quotations—only a few words—as part of your own sentence.
When you integrate quotations in this way, you do not use any special punctuation. Instead, you should punctuate the sentence just as you would if all of the words were your own. An Irish saying reminds us that friends that “gossip with you” may also be friends that gossip about you.

14 Lead-Outs The lead out explains why the quote is important and how it is related to your thesis. A strong lead out should identify the key words or parts of the quote that support your point and relate the information back to your thesis. The length of your lead out should reflect the length of the quotation-the longer the quote the more lead outs you will need to explain it.

15 Conclusion The conclusion sentences summarize why the question/topic you addressed is important. In a multi-paragraph essay, it can also transition into your next paragraph. It should restate your main idea. It should not be the exact words used in your topic sentence.

Good lead ins for essays examples

I can’t think of a better way to start a post about leads than with this:

“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” — William Zinsser, On Writing Well

No one wants a dead article! A story that goes unread is pointless. The lead is the introduction — the first sentences — that should pique your readers’ interest and curiosity. And it shouldn’t be the same as your radio intro, which t ells listeners what the story is about and why they should care. In a written story, that’s the function of the “nut graph” (which will be the subject of a future post) — not the lead.

The journalism lead’s main job (I’m personally fond of the nostalgic spelling, “lede,” that derives from the bygone days of typesetting when newspaper folks needed to differentiate the lead of a story from the lead of hot type) is to make the reader want to stay and spend some precious time with whatever you’ve written. It sets the tone and pace and direction for everything that follows. It is the puzzle piece on which the rest of the story depends. To that end, please write your lead first — don’t undermine it by going back and thinking of one to slap on after you’ve finished writing the rest of the story.

Coming up with a good lead is hard. Even the most experienced and distinguished writers know this. No less a writer than John McPhee has called it “the hardest part of a story to write.” But in return for all your effort, a good lead will do a lot of work for you — most importantly, it will make your readers eager to stay awhile.

There are many different ways to start a story. Some examples of the most common leads are highlighted below. Sometimes they overlap. (Note: These are not terms of art.)

Straight news lead

Just the facts, please, and even better if interesting details and context are packed in. This kind of lead works well for hard news and breaking news.

“After mass street protests in Poland, legislators with the country’s ruling party have abruptly reversed their positions and voted against a proposal to completely ban abortion.” (By NPR’s Camila Domonoske)

“The European Parliament voted Tuesday to ratify the landmark Paris climate accord, paving the way for the international plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions to become binding as soon as the end of this week.” (By NPR’s Rebecca Hersher)

“The United States announced it is suspending efforts to revive a cease-fire in Syria, blaming Russia’s support for a new round of airstrikes in the city of Aleppo.” (By NPR’s Richard Gonzales)

All three leads sum up the news in a straightforward, clear way — in a single sentence. They also hint at the broader context in which the news occurred.

Anecdotal lead

This type of lead uses an anecdote to illustrate what the story is about.

Here’s a powerful anecdotal lead to a story about Brazil’s murder rate and gun laws by NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

“At the dilapidated morgue in the northern Brazilian city of Natal, Director Marcos Brandao walks over the blood-smeared floor to where the corpses are kept. He points out the labels attached to the bright metal doors, counting out loud. It has not been a particularly bad night, yet there are nine shooting victims in cold storage.”

We understand right away that the story will be about a high rate of gun-related murder in Brazil. And this is a much more vivid and gripping way of conveying it than if Lulu had simply stated that the rate of gun violence is high.

Lulu also does a great job setting the scene. Which leads us to …

Scene-setting lead

Byrd Pinkerton, a 2016 NPR intern, didn’t set foot in this obscure scholarly haven, but you’d never guess it from the way she draws readers into her story:

“On the second floor of an old Bavarian palace in Munich, Germany, there’s a library with high ceilings, a distinctly bookish smell and one of the world’s most extensive collections of Latin texts. About 20 researchers from all over the world work in small offices around the room.”

This scene-setting is just one benefit of Byrd’s thorough reporting. We even get a hint of how the place smells.

First-person lead

The first-person lead should be used sparingly. It means you, the writer, are immediately a character in your own story. For purists, this is not a comfortable position. Why should a reader be interested in you? You need to make sure your first-person presence is essential — because you experienced something or have a valuable contribution and perspective that justifies conveying the story explicitly through your own eyes. Just make sure you are bringing your readers along with you.

Here, in the spirit of first-personhood, is an example from one of my own stories:

“For many of us, Sept. 11, 2001, is one of those touchstone dates — we remember exactly where we were when we heard that the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I was in Afghanistan.”

On a historic date, I was in a place where very few Americans were present, meaning I’m able to serve as a guide to that place and time. Rather than stating I was in Afghanistan in the first sentence, I tried to draw in readers by reminding them that the memory of Sept. 11 is something many of us share in common, regardless of where we were that day.

Observational lead

This kind of lead steps back to make an authoritative observation about the story and its broader context. For it to work, you need to understand not just the immediate piece you’re writing, but also the big picture. These are useful for stories running a day or more after the news breaks.

Here’s one by the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, a political reporter with decades of experience:

“At the lowest point of Donald Trump’s quest for the presidency, the Republican nominee might have brought in a political handyman to sand his edges. Instead, he put his campaign in the hands of a true believer who promises to amplify the GOP nominee’s nationalist message and reinforce his populist impulses.”

And here’s another by NPR’s Camila Domonoske, who knows her literary stuff, juxtaposing the mundane (taxes) with the highbrow (literary criticism):

“Tax records and literary criticism are strange bedfellows. But over the weekend, the two combined and brought into the world a literary controversy — call it the Ferrante Furor of 2016.”

Zinger lead

Edna Buchanan, the legendary, Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter for the Miami Herald, once said that a good lead should make a reader sitting at breakfast with his wife “spit out his coffee, clutch his chest and say, ‘My god, Martha. Did you read this?’”

That’s as good a definition as any of a “zinger” lead. These are a couple of Buchanan’s:

“His last meal was worth $30,000 and it killed him.” (A man died while trying to smuggle cocaine-filled condoms in his gut.)

“Bad things happen to the husbands of Widow Elkin.” (Ms. Elkin, as you might surmise, was suspected of bumping off her spouses.)

After Ryan Lochte’s post-Olympic Games, out-of-the-water escapades in Rio, Sally Jenkins, writing in the Washington Post, unleashed this zinger:

“Ryan Lochte is the dumbest bell that ever rang.”

Roy Peter Clark, of the Poynter Institute, deconstructs Jenkins’ column here, praising her “short laser blast of a lead that captures the tone and message of the piece.”

Here are a few notes on things to avoid when writing leads:

  • Clichés and terrible puns. This goes for any part of your story, and never more so than in the lead. Terrible puns aren’t just the ones that make a reader groan — they’re in bad taste, inappropriate in tone or both. Here’s one example.
  • Long, rambling sentences. Don’t try to cram way too much information into one sentence or digress and meander or become repetitive. Clarity and simplicity rule.
  • Straining to be clever. Don’t write a lead that sounds better than it means or promises more than it can deliver. You want your reader to keep reading, not to stop and figure out something that sounds smart but is actually not very meaningful. Here’s John McPhee again: “A lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring: After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole, blinking.”
  • Saying someone “could never have predicted.” It’s not an informative observation to say someone “could never have imagined” the twists and turns his or her life would take. Of course they couldn’t! It’s better to give the reader something concrete and interesting about that person instead.
  • The weather. Unless your story is about the weather, the weather plays a direct role in it or it’s essential for setting the scene, it doesn’t belong in the lead. Here’s a story about Donald Trump’s financial dealings that would have lost nothing if the first, weather-referenced sentence had been omitted.

One secret to a good lead

Finally, good reporting will lead to good leads. If your reporting is incomplete, that will often show up in a weak lead. If you find yourself struggling to come up with a decent lead or your lead just doesn’t seem strong, make sure your reporting is thorough and there aren’t unanswered questions or missing details and points. If you’ve reported your story well, your lead will reflect this.

  • A Poynter roundup of bad leads
  • A classic New Yorker story by Calvin Trillin with a great lead about one of Buchanan’s best-known leads.
  • A long read by John McPhee, discussing, among other things, “fighting fear and panic, because I had no idea where or how to begin a piece of writing for The New Yorker.” It happens to everyone!

Hannah Bloch is a digital editor for international news at NPR. She also wrote this post on writing short.