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Leads: Introductions and the Art of Catching the Reader's Attention

You look up at the blue mountain sky and see your line wisp forward and back, further out and out, and then with the gentle grace of placing a feather on a book, you let the fly sink in the air. When the little artificial bug lands on the water's surface, you know you have about ten seconds to get a strike or not. Will the fly attract the fish's attention? Will it be believable? Will it look so good they will want to bite? Writing good introductions to our compositions is something like the art of fly-fishing. Everything we do with our introduction must be crafted in some way to reach the reader and capture their attention and interest.

Goals/Tasks of an Opening

        Connect with the reader

        Clarify the "question" or issue

        Present your point

Connect with the Reader
  Gain their attention and interest with leads that "hook"
  • A startling statistic or unusual fact
  • A vivid example that illustrates the issue or point you wish to make
  • A paradoxical statement
  • A quotation or bit of dialogue
  • A question
  • An analogy (comparison)
  • An illustrative story

Draw them into your topic by moving from general to specific--begin discussing or introducing the general subject or issue before narrowing to the "thesis" of the paper.



Speak from a context of an ongoing "conversation" or situation in which the reader is involved also (or should be involved).


Clarify the "question" or issue

Provide any needed background information



Restrict or narrow down to the question or issue at hand



Clearly state the issue of the paper (the essay question)


Present your Point

The point (thesis, position, main idea) should come at the end of the introduction.



Be sure that it is one point and not more than one.



The "thesis" is generally a statement of something that needs proving or developing--an opinion and not a statement of the obvious.



The "thesis statement" should be a clear, synthesized, sharp statement of your answer to the essay question. It should be like a smooth river stone-- easy for the reader to hold in the palm of their mind.

   See Donald Murray's exercise for writing leads

Example Titles and 1st Lines

More on Introductions from the Essay Zone


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