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3 Uncommon Techniques for Writing Better Opening Paragraphs (With Examples)

Writing

Have you ever intended to only “taste” a food, but find yourself eating up the entire thing? That’s the power of writing a good opening paragraph

The opening paragraph is the writer’s biggest bet in getting the writing read. You’ve surely read some random articles that got you glued right from the first few sentences/words. And you’ve probably also read some that turned you off right from the first sentence. 

The opening paragraph is perhaps the most important part of your writing; it is like a first impression — you can’t have it twice. 

If the opening paragraph is good, you can be sure that your essay will be read and loved. On the contrary, if your opening paragraph is poor, getting people to even read the essay will be the hardest task in the world.

Who are these elusive creatures, the readers? They are people just like you, with an attention span of about 30 seconds. They are bombarded with tonnes of information and are required to digest all this information at an insane speed. This has made them very vicious whenever they come across a piece of writing. 

Whether it’s your English teacher, parent, or your friend, getting them to read any writing in this day and age is very difficult. That’s why you need a strong opening paragraph.

You only get one chance.

If on your first taste, you find out that a food tastes bad, you will immediately drop the spoon. 

The same thing applies to your writing: if your first few words/sentences taste bad, your readers will abandon your writing (or at least dislike it).

As a student, most of your essays are primarily graded by your teachers; and although they are compelled to read it to the end, a bad opening paragraph will immediately give them a bad impression of your essay that may affect all other parts.

So if the opening paragraph is very important, how should you write it? The following are different techniques to write an opening paragraph.

1. Empathy

As a reminder, empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. The empathy technique involves making your first paragraph one that shows concern or understanding for your readers or the audience you are addressing. It is full of emotions and affections that can be easily felt as soon as the paragraph is read. 

The empathy technique basically involves you showing empathy to a group of people. In other words, you are making the paragraph:

  • say something about them 
  • express their pain
  • Help them amplify their thoughts/feelings/aches

Examples

  1. Parenting is hard. No matter how much you shout and scream, it just doesn’t work. The kids are still going about with their normal behaviours, while you’ve been tagged the noisemaker on the street.
  2. Books are boring. Hard to accept, but to most young people, they just serve as potent sleeping pills. Especially when they are long…

2. Questions.

The question technique for writing better opening paragraphs involves asking one or more questions in your opening paragraph.

The question may be related or unrelated. The point is to pull in the reader and get them glued.

Why does this technique work? 

I. It engages your audience immediately. Questions are stimuli, and every stimulus naturally demands a response. By asking a question, you are tapping into a biological tendency of humans

II. It provides an active start to your writing. 

III. It sparks interest and curiosity in your reader. This makes them want to keep reading.

IV. It ‘turns on’ the reader’s brain to search for answers and pay attention.

Examples 

  1. What does it mean to lead a life of purpose? I understand “to leave a legacy behind”; that happens when one is no more. But what does it mean to truly lead a life of purpose? Why are some people successful and others aren’t? Is it luck, genetics, or just fate? … 

Source: The Infinite Life

  1. How many minutes a day does the average person spend on social media? Oh, I think I asked the wrong question. Here’s the right one: How many HOURS a day does the average person spend on social media? … 

Just in case you didn’t notice, this technique was used in the introductory paragraph of this essay.

3. Facts & Figures Technique.

This involves starting your essay with some facts and figures that are authentic and can be related to your topic.

Humans love new things, especially interesting things. Our brains are illuminated when we hear something we don’t know. That’s why this technique works so well.

Examples

  1. Two Million. That’s the number of articles published on the web every day. So, if you want to get a hang of your readers, you had better caught them from the opening sentence….
  2. The average reader only has an attention span of about 30 seconds. The writers that would successfully keep them longer than that are those who can arrest them from the first sentence.

Caution: When using this strategy, you must be very careful not to use facts & figures that are wrong or unconfirmed. It is also best to indicate where you got your fact or figure from at the end of the essay.

If you have 30 minutes to write an essay, it is worth it to spend 15 minutes writing your opening paragraph and then 15 minutes to do the other writing.

Your opening paragraph is this important because it determines how the rest of the piece would be read. Join our annual creative writing program to learn how to become a better writer and get the results you’ve always loved.

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