Sunday, April 19, 2009

Writing an introduction

It may be the last thing you write in your composition.

Introductions can be the most difficult thing to write in any essay.

In fact, I empathise with you – facing a clean sheet of foolscap paper with absolutely no words on it.

At the same time, you hear the clock hands tickling away. Perspiration oozes out from the pores of your palm.

A thousand things run through your brain as you attempt to overcome the inertia of your cerebral gears.

Are you still reading? Do you find yourself wanting to read on?

Most forms of writing demand an introduction. For your examination, which require you to write a short essay of not more than 800 words, your introduction should consist of no more than one paragraph.

Ever asked yourself - why do we need an introduction for essay writing? You don’t need to write an introduction for your blog entry. You don’t need to write introduction when you write a letter to a friend.

Remember, the examiner (who might be someone living on the other side of the globe) does not know you. That is why need to create a bridge - one that links your world to his or hers.

An introduction therefore,
- Gives the reader(s) an idea of what you are going to say for the rest of your essay.

- Entices the reader to read on.

- If you are doing expository or argumentative essay, your introduction should be a good map for the rest of your paper.

A good introduction is half the battle won.

There are two sides to this - an introduction can be an opportunity for you to create good impression, or, it can bore your reader and lead to the downfall of your article, and eventually, your marks.

The introduction must be written with sound grammar and strong vocabulary. If you have always been weak in English, keep it simple then!

Your introduction should make sense and be logical.

How to capture attention then?

It often begins with a question or statement called the “thesis statement”. Pay attention to your first sentence; make sure it says something useful.

1. Create conflict – say something that goes against common belief. Read the first sentence of this article again, for example.

2. Provoke the reader – ask a question. Or a rhetorical question. Invite them to read on for answer. e.g. “Is democracy dead in Singapore?”, “Do we live to eat, or eat to live?”

3. Avoid clich├ęs and offensive or baseless claims.

4. Assert – say what you want to say with confidence.

Give your examiner a good reason to read your paper. You rarely get a chance to tell a stranger a story in less than 800 words. Make sure you tell them things that matter.

You lose credibility when you make silly grammar errors. Errors such as “I did not saw that coming”, “Freddy and Jason is not exactly the best of friends” will not be tolerated. These are very basic errors we have been going through for the past few sessions.

In general, avoid:

1. “Dictionary definitions” – Oxford dictionary defines … (It does not sound interesting, original and you run the risk of citing an inaccurate definition)

2. Repeating the question – why repeat the question in writing again when it is already printed on the question paper? Restating the topic in your own word is o.k.

3. Stating the obvious – e.g. “Happiness is a good feeling”, “I study in a secondary school”. Say something more effective instead.

While you deliberate on your essay introduction, please note that you should write legibly and neatly. Keep track of the time you have. If you have to, you may leave some space in front and write your introduction last.

Good luck!

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