You’re staring at a blank foolscap paper, a million thoughts running through your mind. You scribble something, then strike it out. And then you try again, hesitant. What’s the best way to start this essay, you wonder.
The introduction of any essay is your golden chance to make or break that first impression. From the tone of writing to the subject matter, your introduction tells it all. Perhaps one of the biggest functions of your opening is whether it can engage your audience and make them want to read the rest of your essay.
You might know some techniques to start a good narrative essay. But what about expository essays? While most topics may not seem as ‘exciting’ as writing a creative story, there are still ways to make that introduction stick.
Below, we share some of the best ideas for starting an expository essay. Try them out!
3 ways to start an expository essay
1. Quote by famous person
Quotes are a great way to bring a point across succinctly. By borrowing the words of a famous person, you also add credibility to your point of view. But to do this, of course, you’ll need to be careful about who you are quoting.
Famous figures like philosophers (e.g. Aristostle, Socrates), literary figures (e.g. Shakespeare, Orwell), politicians (e.g. Lee Kuan Yew, Barack Obama) are often popular and good choices to quote, because they are thought leaders and people with influence.
You will also want to ensure that your quote is relevant and adds value to the topic. Don’t just leave the quote there and expect your reader to ‘get it’. Explain a little, and make sure you draw the link to your topic.
Statistics are great when used as hard-hitting facts to show the reader the scale of the issue you are writing about. Take for example an essay about climate change. Why would the writer be interested in reading about climate change? What statistic can you use to show the urgency of why this topic is important?
Not all statistics are equally effective. For bigger impact, choose statistics that people can easily relate to, or rephrase the statistic to do that. Here are some examples of what we mean.
Instead of: In 2019, global average carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere was 409.8 parts per million. — Most readers won’t be able to react to this statement because they likely won’t know if 409.8 parts per million is a large or small number.
Consider this: The year 2019 recorded the highest global average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in 800,000 years. — Numbers on either extreme, like ‘highest’ in this case, immediately tell readers about the scale of the matter. The number ‘800,000 years’ is in a familiar unit and the large number impresses.
Instead of: Elderly persons aged 65 and older will make up 47% of Singapore’s population by 2050. — The percentage doesn’t sound very spectacular, and the reader has no point of reference.
Consider this: Almost half of Singapore’s population will be 65 years and older by 2050, a stark contrast to the 15% they take up today. — ‘Half’ is very straightforward and sounds more impactful than 43%. Also, note the comparison given, which offers a point of reference for the reader (showing that the number is rising).
An anecdote is a short recount of an interesting incident, usually used to illustrate a point. While some anecdotes may come from actual personal events, it can also be experiences of other people that you obtain through the news or books.
Ideally, you should select an anecdote that is immediately intriguing or thought-provoking. It could be something unexpected, or something that makes the reader curious. Execution is key here – don’t forget to link it back properly to your topic. Otherwise, you might end up with an essay that is too heavily narrative-based rather than expository.
We’ve touched upon 3 good ways to begin your expository essay. But what next? Besides having a good hook, your introduction paragraph also needs to fulfil a few other important functions.
When you are writing or checking your essay, here are some things you want to make sure you’ve included in the introduction:
- Thesis statement: A sentence that conveys the central idea of your entire essay. If the essay prompt is a question, the thesis statement should answer it.
- Set the stage: Define the context of your essay and topic. What is the background of this issue? Why is this topic worth discussing?
- Key points: You can briefly list out your key points or provide an overview of the direction you will be going for the rest of your essay.
- Tone/voice: Depending on the topic, ensure that the writing style you use is suitable. For example, most teachers recommend avoiding the use of ‘I’ or ‘you’ in expository essays, unless the question explicitly asks for your personal experience.
Putting those first few words on paper can be nerve-wracking, but we hope this guide will put you in a better position to make those starting lines count! The ideas we’ve provided are by no means exhaustive, so feel free to experiment and find a few approaches that you are comfortable writing.
Not sure if you are on the right track? Improving your writing is easier when you have access to direct feedback and targeted suggestions on how to improve. We have secondary school English tutors on board to help you with that!
With frequent essay practice and individual comments by our experienced tutors, students find themselves growing in language confidence more quickly than if they had no help at all. Students in IP schools also need not worry, as we have IP English tuition classes catered to you too!