How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television . Penguin, 1982)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner , Summer 2007)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell . Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine , June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review , 2007)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review , Winter 2008)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun , February 2009)

Reveal a Secret or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." ( Richard Selzer , "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife . Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture . Westview Press, 1999)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time , July 31, 2000)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review , 2009)

  • 'Whack at Your Reader at Once': Eight Great Opening Lines
  • What Is a Compelling Introduction?
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
  • How To Write an Essay
  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
  • How to Write a Great Essay for the TOEFL or TOEIC
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How to Develop and Organize a Classification Essay
  • 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
  • A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right

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How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)   

essay introduction

The introduction of an essay plays a critical role in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. It sets the stage for the rest of the essay, establishes the tone and style, and motivates the reader to continue reading. 

Table of Contents

What is an essay introduction , what to include in an essay introduction, how to create an essay structure , step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction , how to write an introduction paragraph , how to write a hook for your essay , how to include background information , how to write a thesis statement .

  • Argumentative Essay Introduction Example: 
  • Expository Essay Introduction Example 

Literary Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Check and revise – checklist for essay introduction , key takeaways , frequently asked questions .

An introduction is the opening section of an essay, paper, or other written work. It introduces the topic and provides background information, context, and an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the work. 1 The key is to be concise and to the point, providing enough information to engage the reader without delving into excessive detail. 

The essay introduction is crucial as it sets the tone for the entire piece and provides the reader with a roadmap of what to expect. Here are key elements to include in your essay introduction: 

  • Hook : Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question to engage the reader. This could be a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a compelling anecdote. 
  • Background information : Provide context and background information to help the reader understand the topic. This can include historical information, definitions of key terms, or an overview of the current state of affairs related to your topic. 
  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your essay. 

Before we get into how to write an essay introduction, we need to know how it is structured. The structure of an essay is crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting them clearly and logically. It is divided as follows: 2  

  • Introduction:  The introduction should grab the reader’s attention with a hook, provide context, and include a thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.  
  • Body:  The body should consist of focused paragraphs that support your thesis statement using evidence and analysis. Each paragraph should concentrate on a single central idea or argument and provide evidence, examples, or analysis to back it up.  
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion should summarize the main points and restate the thesis differently. End with a final statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid new information or arguments. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: 

  • Start with a Hook : Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic. The hook should pique the reader’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. 
  • Provide Background Information : This helps the reader understand the relevance and importance of the topic. 
  • State Your Thesis Statement : The last sentence is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and directly address the topic of your essay. 
  • Preview the Main Points : This gives the reader an idea of what to expect and how you will support your thesis. 
  • Keep it Concise and Clear : Avoid going into too much detail or including information not directly relevant to your topic. 
  • Revise : Revise your introduction after you’ve written the rest of your essay to ensure it aligns with your final argument. 

Here’s an example of an essay introduction paragraph about the importance of education: 

Education is often viewed as a fundamental human right and a key social and economic development driver. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is the key to unlocking a wide range of opportunities and benefits for individuals, societies, and nations. In today’s constantly evolving world, education has become even more critical. It has expanded beyond traditional classroom learning to include digital and remote learning, making education more accessible and convenient. This essay will delve into the importance of education in empowering individuals to achieve their dreams, improving societies by promoting social justice and equality, and driving economic growth by developing a skilled workforce and promoting innovation. 

This introduction paragraph example includes a hook (the quote by Nelson Mandela), provides some background information on education, and states the thesis statement (the importance of education). 

This is one of the key steps in how to write an essay introduction. Crafting a compelling hook is vital because it sets the tone for your entire essay and determines whether your readers will stay interested. A good hook draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.  

  • Avoid Dry Fact : Instead of simply stating a bland fact, try to make it engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about the benefits of exercise, you could start with a startling statistic like, “Did you know that regular exercise can increase your lifespan by up to seven years?” 
  • Avoid Using a Dictionary Definition : While definitions can be informative, they’re not always the most captivating way to start an essay. Instead, try to use a quote, anecdote, or provocative question to pique the reader’s interest. For instance, if you’re writing about freedom, you could begin with a quote from a famous freedom fighter or philosopher. 
  • Do Not Just State a Fact That the Reader Already Knows : This ties back to the first point—your hook should surprise or intrigue the reader. For Here’s an introduction paragraph example, if you’re writing about climate change, you could start with a thought-provoking statement like, “Despite overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe in the reality of climate change.” 

Including background information in the introduction section of your essay is important to provide context and establish the relevance of your topic. When writing the background information, you can follow these steps: 

  • Start with a General Statement:  Begin with a general statement about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific focus. For example, when discussing the impact of social media, you can begin by making a broad statement about social media and its widespread use in today’s society, as follows: “Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of users worldwide.” 
  • Define Key Terms : Define any key terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers but are essential for understanding your argument. 
  • Provide Relevant Statistics:  Use statistics or facts to highlight the significance of the issue you’re discussing. For instance, “According to a report by Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025.” 
  • Discuss the Evolution:  Mention previous research or studies that have been conducted on the topic, especially those that are relevant to your argument. Mention key milestones or developments that have shaped its current impact. You can also outline some of the major effects of social media. For example, you can briefly describe how social media has evolved, including positives such as increased connectivity and issues like cyberbullying and privacy concerns. 
  • Transition to Your Thesis:  Use the background information to lead into your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your essay. For example, “Given its pervasive influence, it is crucial to examine the impact of social media on mental health.” 

good ways to start an essay about someone

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, or other type of academic writing. It appears near the end of the introduction. Here’s how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Identify the topic:  Start by identifying the topic of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the importance of exercise for overall health, your topic is “exercise.” 
  • State your position:  Next, state your position or claim about the topic. This is the main argument or point you want to make. For example, if you believe that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining good health, your position could be: “Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health.” 
  • Support your position:  Provide a brief overview of the reasons or evidence that support your position. These will be the main points of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about the importance of exercise, you could mention the physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and the role of exercise in disease prevention. 
  • Make it specific:  Ensure your thesis statement clearly states what you will discuss in your essay. For example, instead of saying, “Exercise is good for you,” you could say, “Regular exercise, including cardiovascular and strength training, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.” 

Examples of essay introduction 

Here are examples of essay introductions for different types of essays: 

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example:  

Topic: Should the voting age be lowered to 16? 

“The question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 has sparked nationwide debate. While some argue that 16-year-olds lack the requisite maturity and knowledge to make informed decisions, others argue that doing so would imbue young people with agency and give them a voice in shaping their future.” 

Expository Essay Introduction Example  

Topic: The benefits of regular exercise 

“In today’s fast-paced world, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. From improving physical health to boosting mental well-being, the benefits of exercise are numerous and far-reaching. This essay will examine the various advantages of regular exercise and provide tips on incorporating it into your daily routine.” 

Text: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 

“Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is a timeless classic that explores themes of racism, injustice, and morality in the American South. Through the eyes of young Scout Finch, the reader is taken on a journey that challenges societal norms and forces characters to confront their prejudices. This essay will analyze the novel’s use of symbolism, character development, and narrative structure to uncover its deeper meaning and relevance to contemporary society.” 

  • Engaging and Relevant First Sentence : The opening sentence captures the reader’s attention and relates directly to the topic. 
  • Background Information : Enough background information is introduced to provide context for the thesis statement. 
  • Definition of Important Terms : Key terms or concepts that might be unfamiliar to the audience or are central to the argument are defined. 
  • Clear Thesis Statement : The thesis statement presents the main point or argument of the essay. 
  • Relevance to Main Body : Everything in the introduction directly relates to and sets up the discussion in the main body of the essay. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

Writing a strong introduction is crucial for setting the tone and context of your essay. Here are the key takeaways for how to write essay introduction: 3  

  • Hook the Reader : Start with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. This could be a compelling question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or an anecdote. 
  • Provide Background : Give a brief overview of the topic, setting the context and stage for the discussion. 
  • Thesis Statement : State your thesis, which is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be concise, clear, and specific. 
  • Preview the Structure : Outline the main points or arguments to help the reader understand the organization of your essay. 
  • Keep it Concise : Avoid including unnecessary details or information not directly related to your thesis. 
  • Revise and Edit : Revise your introduction to ensure clarity, coherence, and relevance. Check for grammar and spelling errors. 
  • Seek Feedback : Get feedback from peers or instructors to improve your introduction further. 

The purpose of an essay introduction is to give an overview of the topic, context, and main ideas of the essay. It is meant to engage the reader, establish the tone for the rest of the essay, and introduce the thesis statement or central argument.  

An essay introduction typically ranges from 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 1,000-word essay, the introduction would be roughly 50-100 words. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the overall length of the essay.

An essay introduction is critical in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. To ensure its effectiveness, consider incorporating these key elements: a compelling hook, background information, a clear thesis statement, an outline of the essay’s scope, a smooth transition to the body, and optional signposting sentences.  

The process of writing an essay introduction is not necessarily straightforward, but there are several strategies that can be employed to achieve this end. When experiencing difficulty initiating the process, consider the following techniques: begin with an anecdote, a quotation, an image, a question, or a startling fact to pique the reader’s interest. It may also be helpful to consider the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how.   For instance, an anecdotal opening could be structured as follows: “As I ascended the stage, momentarily blinded by the intense lights, I could sense the weight of a hundred eyes upon me, anticipating my next move. The topic of discussion was climate change, a subject I was passionate about, and it was my first public speaking event. Little did I know , that pivotal moment would not only alter my perspective but also chart my life’s course.” 

Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your introduction paragraph is crucial to grab your reader’s attention. To achieve this, avoid using overused phrases such as “In this paper, I will write about” or “I will focus on” as they lack originality. Instead, strive to engage your reader by substantiating your stance or proposition with a “so what” clause. While writing your thesis statement, aim to be precise, succinct, and clear in conveying your main argument.  

To create an effective essay introduction, ensure it is clear, engaging, relevant, and contains a concise thesis statement. It should transition smoothly into the essay and be long enough to cover necessary points but not become overwhelming. Seek feedback from peers or instructors to assess its effectiveness. 

References  

  • Cui, L. (2022). Unit 6 Essay Introduction.  Building Academic Writing Skills . 
  • West, H., Malcolm, G., Keywood, S., & Hill, J. (2019). Writing a successful essay.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education ,  43 (4), 609-617. 
  • Beavers, M. E., Thoune, D. L., & McBeth, M. (2023). Bibliographic Essay: Reading, Researching, Teaching, and Writing with Hooks: A Queer Literacy Sponsorship. College English, 85(3), 230-242. 

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good ways to start an essay about someone

How to Start a College Essay to Hook Your Reader

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What’s Covered:

What is the purpose of the college essay introduction, tips for getting started on your essay, 6 effective techniques for starting your college essay.

  • Cliche College Essay Introduction to Avoid

Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free

Have you sat down to write your essay and just hit a wall of writer’s block? Do you have too many ideas running around your head, or maybe no ideas at all?

Starting a college essay is potentially the hardest part of the application process. Once you start, it’s easy to keep writing, but that initial hurdle is just so difficult to overcome. We’ve put together a list of tips to help you jump that wall and make your essay the best it can be.

The introduction to a college essay should immediately hook the reader. You want to give admissions officers a reason to stay interested in your story and encourage them to continue reading your essay with an open mind. Remember that admissions officers are only able to spend a couple minutes per essay, so if you bore them or turn them off from the start, they may clock out for the rest of the essay.

As a whole, the college essay should aim to portray a part of your personality that hasn’t been covered by your GPA, extracurriculars, and test scores. This makes the introduction a crucial part of the essay. Think of it as the first glimpse, an intriguing lead on, into the read rest of your essay which also showcases your voice and personality. 

Brainstorm Topics

Take the time to sit down and brainstorm some good topic ideas for your essay. You want your topic to be meaningful to you, while also displaying a part of you that isn’t apparent in other aspects of your application. The essay is an opportunity to show admissions officers the “real you.” If you have a topic in mind, do not feel pressured to start with the introduction. Sometimes the best essay openings are developed last, once you fully grasp the flow of your story.

Do a Freewrite

Give yourself permission to write without judgment for an allotted period of time. For each topic you generated in your brainstorm session, do a free-write session. Set a time for one minute and write down whatever comes to mind for that specific topic. This will help get the juices flowing and push you over that initial bit of writer’s block that’s so common when it comes time to write a college essay. Repeat this exercise if you’re feeling stuck at any point during the essay writing process. Freewriting is a great way to warm up your creative writing brain whilst seeing which topics are flowing more naturally onto the page.

Create an Outline

Once you’ve chosen your topic, write an outline for your whole essay. It’s easier to organize all your thoughts, write the body, and then go back to write the introduction. That way, you already know the direction you want your essay to go because you’ve actually written it out, and you can ensure that your introduction leads directly into the rest of the essay. Admissions officers are looking for the quality of your writing alongside the content of your essay. To be prepared for college-level writing, students should understand how to logically structure an essay. By creating an outline, you are setting yourself up to be judged favorably on the quality of your writing skills.

1. The Scriptwriter

“No! Make it stop! Get me out!” My 5-year-old self waved my arms frantically in front of my face in the darkened movie theater.

Starting your essay with dialogue instantly transports the reader into the story, while also introducing your personal voice. In the rest of the essay, the author proposes a class that introduces people to insects as a type of food. Typically, one would begin directly with the course proposal. However, the author’s inclusion of this flashback weaves in a personal narrative, further displaying her true self.

Read the full essay.

2. The Shocker

A chaotic sense of sickness and filth unfolds in an overcrowded border station in McAllen, Texas. Through soundproof windows, migrants motion that they have not showered in weeks, and children wear clothes caked in mucus and tears. The humanitarian crisis at the southern border exists not only in photographs published by mainstream media, but miles from my home in South Texas.

This essay opener is also a good example of “The Vivid Imaginer.” In this case, the detailed imagery only serves to heighten the shock factor. While people may be aware of the “humanitarian crisis at the southern border,” reading about it in such stark terms is bound to capture the reader’s attention. Through this hook, the reader learns a bit about the author’s home life; an aspect of the student that may not be detailed elsewhere in their application. The rest of the essay goes on to talk about the author’s passion for aiding refugees, and this initial paragraph immediately establishes the author’s personal connection to the refugee crisis.

3. The Vivid Imaginer

The air is crisp and cool, nipping at my ears as I walk under a curtain of darkness that drapes over the sky, starless. It is a Friday night in downtown Corpus Christi, a rare moment of peace in my home city filled with the laughter of strangers and colorful lights of street vendors. But I cannot focus. 

Starting off with a bit of well-written imagery transports the reader to wherever you want to take them. By putting them in this context with you, you allow the reader to closely understand your thoughts and emotions in this situation. Additionally, this method showcases the author’s individual way of looking at the world, a personal touch that is the baseline of all college essays.

good ways to start an essay about someone

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4. The Instant Plunger

The flickering LED lights began to form into a face of a man when I focused my eyes. The man spoke of a ruthless serial killer of the decade who had been arrested in 2004, and my parents shivered at his reaccounting of the case. I curiously tuned in, wondering who he was to speak of such crimes with concrete composure and knowledge. Later, he introduced himself as a profiler named Pyo Chang Won, and I watched the rest of the program by myself without realizing that my parents had left the couch.

Plunging readers into the middle of a story (also known as in medias res ) is an effective hook because it captures attention by placing the reader directly into the action. The descriptive imagery in the first sentence also helps to immerse the reader, creating a satisfying hook while also showing (instead of telling) how the author became interested in criminology. With this technique, it is important to “zoom out,” so to speak, in such a way that the essay remains personal to you.

5. The Philosopher 

Saved in the Notes app on my phone are three questions: What can I know? What must I do? What may I hope for? First asked by Immanuel Kant, these questions guide my pursuit of knowledge and organization of critical thought, both skills that are necessary to move our country and society forward in the right direction.

Posing philosophical questions helps present you as someone with deep ideas while also guiding the focus of your essay. In a way, it presents the reader with a roadmap; they know that these questions provide the theme for the rest of the essay. The more controversial the questions, the more gripping a hook you can create. 

Providing an answer to these questions is not necessarily as important as making sure that the discussions they provoke really showcase you and your own values and beliefs.

6. The Storyteller

One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering.

Beginning with an anecdote is a strong way to establish a meaningful connection with the content itself. It also shows that the topic you write about has been a part of your life for a significant amount of time, and something that college admissions officers look for in activities is follow-through; they want to make sure that you are truly interested in something. A personal story such as the one above shows off just that.

Cliche College Essay Introductions to Avoid

Ambiguous introduction.

It’s best to avoid introductory sentences that don’t seem to really say anything at all, such as “Science plays a large role in today’s society,” or “X has existed since the beginning of time.” Statements like these, in addition to being extremely common, don’t demonstrate anything about you, the author. Without a personal connection to you right away, it’s easy for the admissions officer to write off the essay before getting past the first sentence.

Quoting Someone Famous

While having a quotation by a famous author, celebrity, or someone else you admire may seem like a good way to allow the reader to get to know you, these kinds of introductions are actually incredibly overused. You also risk making your essay all about the quotation and the famous person who said it; admissions officers want to get to know you, your beliefs, and your values, not someone who isn’t applying to their school. There are some cases where you may actually be asked to write about a quotation, and that’s fine, but you should avoid starting your essay with someone else’s words outside of this case. It is fine, however, to start with dialogue to plunge your readers into a specific moment.

Talking About Writing an Essay

This method is also very commonplace and is thus best avoided. It’s better to show, not tell, and all this method allows you to do is tell the reader how you were feeling at the time of writing the essay. If you do feel compelled to go this way, make sure to include vivid imagery and focus on grounding the essay in the five senses, which can help elevate your introduction and separate it from the many other meta essays.

Childhood Memories

Phrases like “Ever since I was young…” or “I’ve always wanted…” also lend more to telling rather than showing. If you want to talk about your childhood or past feelings in your essay, try using one of the techniques listed earlier (such as the Instant Plunger or the Vivid Imaginer) to elevate your writing.

CollegeVine has a peer essay review page where peers can tell you if your introduction was enough to hook them. Getting feedback from someone who hasn’t read your essay before, and thus doesn’t have any context which may bias them to be more forgiving to your introduction, is helpful because it mimics the same environment in which an admissions officer will be reading your essay. 

Writing a college essay is hard, but with these tips hopefully starting it will be a little easier!

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How To Start An Essay

How To Start An Essay -The Only Guide You'll Need

good ways to start an essay about someone

How To Start An Essay

To begin an essay effectively, use a captivating hook, provide context, present a clear thesis statement, outline the essay's structure, transition smoothly to the body, be concise, and revise for alignment with the content. A strong introduction engages readers and sets the tone for your essay.

This guide will help you if you’re stuck, so read on. Starting an essay can be difficult, and we’ve all had major writer’s block occasionally. But we will demystify it and give you all the practical help and guidance you’ll need to power through.

To commence your essay effectively, consider adopting these approaches:

  • Engage Your Audience : Start with an engaging element to capture your audience's interest. This could be an unexpected fact, a provocative query, an impactful quote, or a vivid brief story.
  • Set the Scene : Quickly provide the necessary background to frame your topic, highlighting its significance or intrigue.
  • State Your Central Argument : Articulate your central thesis or primary argument clearly. This will guide the direction of your essay and clarify your purpose to the reader.
  • Preview Your Essay's Structure : Briefly outline the organization of your essay, indicating the key points or arguments you intend to explore.
  • Smooth Transition : Seamlessly lead into the body of your essay with transitional phrases, preparing the reader for the forthcoming content.
  • Keep it Brief and Focused : Maintain brevity and focus in your introduction. Steer clear of extensive details or protracted background exposition.
  • Refine and Enhance : Once your essay is complete, reassess your introduction to ensure it is aligned with the overall content and effectively sets up your topic.

‍ Understanding The Craft: How To Start An Essay

The introduction paragraph can set the ENTIRE tone for your essay, so it’s more than important. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to master it (hopefully).

The level of engagement your audience will feel throughout the essay and if they understand the message you’re conveying can be determined just by reading your introduction.

Remember how crucial an essay introduction is, as first impressions can be lasting. 

Sharp Eye: Analyzing The Prompt 

Before you go your ways to start an essay, you should fully grasp the prompt of the essay. By fully understanding the prompt, you won’t be led astray. Here’s a few simple things to remember: 

Breaking down the question

Deconstruct your prompt to understand it fully. Highlight key terms and consider what each word truly means.

Interpret instructions carefully

Depending on the instructions, you should be aware of the differences in what they’re asking you for.

For example, a prompt that instructs you to “describe” will want different results from a prompt that asks you to “analyze.”

Research first

To help you understand your prompt better, you can do some research. Collect information like background information and the current relevance of the prompt.

This will add context to your understanding of it. This will give you a better and fuller perspective as well. 

Creating A Hook That Hooks

A crucial part of your essay introduction and starting an essay is writing a good hook. Your hook is your attention-grabber, so it needs to literally hook your readers. Be mindful of these tips:

  • Use startling facts to shock readers.
  • Use provocative questions.
  • Use anecdotes or intriguing quotes.
  • Don’t forget to tailor your hook to your audience and your topic.

Writing A Great Thesis Statement 

You don’t know how to start an essay correctly if you don’t know how to write a great thesis statement. 

Need help? Writers at Studyfy will guide you with essay writing if you send a “ write an essay for me ” request, and they’ll do it instantly. Moving along, here’s what you need to keep in mind with your thesis statement:

Thesis concept

A thesis statement is a very clear and concise sentence.

It could be two sentences, too. It sums up and represents the core argument of your essay and serves as a guide for your writing and developing your arguments.

Do initial research to back up your thesis

By collecting evidence, examples, and facts, you can refine your essay and make it more accurate, compelling, and sophisticated. 

Positioning your thesis

Ideally, you’d want to position your thesis statement at the end of your introduction.

It allows for a smooth reading flow, and it introduces the main argument and purpose of the essay before the reader moves on to the body paragraph.

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How To Begin An Essay: Outlining Your Main Points

An outline is like a roadmap. It can guide you and help you remember and set clear expectations for your essay's development. Here are a few things to consider: 

  • Outline your main points in the introduction.
  • Make an outline that helps you write in intriguing detail and keeps your essay introduction concise.
  • Ensure that all points in your introduction paragraph directly back up or relate to your thesis statement.

Techniques For Creating A Dynamic Essay Introduction Paragraph

If you want more techniques on how to start a paper effectively, here are some valuable techniques you can employ in your essay writing. 

As we’ve stated, your essay introduction is a crucial pillar you’ll need to develop, so let’s take a look at more writing tips you can apply to it:

  • Use the ACTIVE Voice : Write in the active voice, where the subject performs the action. Active voice makes your writing clearer, direct, dynamic, and engaging.
  • Avoid Common Mistakes : Steer clear of cliches, generalizations, and irrelevant information. Stay on-topic in your introduction.
  • Set the Proper Tone : Match the tone of your essay introduction with the rest of your essay. If your essay is formal, keep the introduction formal; if it's persuasive, make the introduction persuasive.
  • Smooth Transitions : Ensure a smooth transition from the essay introduction to the body to maintain the flow of your writing

And don’t forget, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this information, you can buy custom essay services on Studyfy right now and get expert help.

So, what exactly can we do to employ smooth transitions? Here are a few helpful pointers: 

  • Employ Transitional Phrases : Use phrases like "this leads us to" or "with that in mind" to facilitate seamless transitions from the introduction to the body.
  • Re-use a Key Term : Consider re-using a key term introduced in the first sentence of your introduction in the last sentence. This creates continuity and maintains smoothness in your writing.
  • Leverage Logical Progression : Organize your points logically to ensure a coherent and clear progression in your essay.

‍ Mastering The Essay’s Introduction

Now you know all that you NEED to know about starting an essay. Let’s go over a brief recap of the key takeaways:

  • Analyze your prompt thoroughly.
  • Create a captivating hook.
  • Use effective transitional phrases.
  • Use logical flow for coherence.
  • Introduce key points and make sure they align with your thesis statement.

We hope this guide has helped you. Don’t forget to seek feedback from professors and peers. They might give you additional tips and insights that can be valuable. 

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Which strategies can I use to start an essay?

The best way to start an essay is to analyze the prompt thoroughly. This will give you an idea of your essay's general purpose. If you need help, you can pay for an essay right now and get expert help.

The prompt is essential background information for your narrative essay or your persuasive essay introductions, as well as other types of academic writing.

How can I craft a strong thesis statement?

A key component of how to start an essay is a strong thesis statement. You can create a strong one by identifying the key theme/question and then narrowing it down to your main argument.

What's a good way to hook a reader in my introduction? What are good essay introduction examples?

A good way to start an essay is by making a compelling hook in your introduction paragraph. You can start your introduction by providing a shocking fact, a provoking question, an intriguing quote, or a personal anecdote.

To maintain the reader's attention, center your essay writing process, both how the essay begins and the entire essay, around the reader's curiosity. The reader's attention should lead your essay introductions, how you incorporate relevant background information, and write other academic essays.

What are common mistakes I should avoid when writing my introduction?

The best way to start an essay is by avoiding common pitfalls in the introduction. Don't use broad statements or cliches. Don't make your intro too long. Have a clear thesis statement ready. 

When it comes to the intro, whether an argumentative essay introduction or expository essay introduction, what matters is igniting the mentioned reader's attention.

A big mistake is to dull down the reader's curiosity right at the beginning. Instead, open with passion. A few examples might be interesting facts, shocking statistics, or other intriguing ways to get a strong introduction.

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College Essays

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If you've been sitting in front of a blank screen, unsure of exactly how to start a personal statement for college, then believe me—I feel your pain. A great college essay introduction is key to making your essay stand out, so there's a lot of pressure to get it right.

Luckily, being able to craft the perfect beginning for your admissions essay is just like many other writing skills— something you can get better at with practice and by learning from examples.

In this article, I'll walk you through exactly how to start a college essay. We'll cover what makes a great personal statement introduction and how the first part of your essay should be structured. We'll also look at several great examples of essay beginnings and explain why they work, how they work, and what you can learn from them.

What Is the College Essay Introduction For?

Before we talk about how to start a college essay, let's discuss the role of the introduction. Just as your college essay is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions office of your target college, your essay's beginning is your chance to introduce your writing.

Wait, Back Up—Why Do Colleges Want Personal Statements?

In general, college essays make it easier to get to know the parts of you not in your transcript —these include your personality, outlook on life, passions, and experiences.

You're not writing for yourself but for a very specific kind of reader. Picture it: your audience is an admissions officer who has read thousands and thousands of essays. This person is disposed to be friendly and curious, but if she hasn't already seen it all she's probably seen a good portion of it.

Your essay's job is to entertain and impress this person, and to make you memorable so you don't merely blend into the sea of other personal statements. Like all attempts at charm, you must be slightly bold and out of the ordinary—but you must also stay away from crossing the line into offensiveness or bad taste.

What Role Does the Introduction Play in a College Essay?

The personal statement introduction is basically the wriggly worm that baits the hook to catch your reader. It's vital to grab attention from the get-go—the more awake and eager your audience is, the more likely it is that what you say will really land.

How do you go about crafting an introduction that successfully hooks your reader? Let's talk about how to structure the beginning of your college essay.

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How to Structure a Personal Statement Introduction

To see how the introduction fits into an essay, let's look at the big structural picture first and then zoom in.

College Essay Structure Overview

Even though they're called essays, personal statements are really more like a mix of a short story and a philosophy or psychology class that's all about you.

Usually, how this translates is that you start with a really good (and very short) story about something arresting, unusual, or important that happened to you. This is not to say that the story has to be about something important or unusual in the grand scheme of things—it just has to be a moment that stands out to you as defining in some way, or an explanation of why you are the way you are . You then pivot to an explanation of why this story is an accurate illustration of one of your core qualities, values, or beliefs.

The story typically comes in the first half of the essay, and the insightful explanation comes second —but, of course, all rules were made to be broken, and some great essays flip this more traditional order.

College Essay Introduction Components

Now, let's zero in on the first part of the college essay. What are the ingredients of a great personal statement introduction? I'll list them here and then dissect them one by one in the next section:

  • A killer first sentence: This hook grabs your readers' attention and whets their appetite for your story.
  • A vivid, detailed story that illustrates your eventual insight: To make up for how short your story will be, you must insert effective sensory information to immerse the reader.
  • An insightful pivot toward the greater point you're making in your essay: This vital piece of the essay connects the short story part to the part where you explain what the experience has taught you about yourself, how you've matured, and how it has ultimately shaped you as a person.

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How to Write a College Essay Introduction

Here's a weird secret that's true for most written work: just because it'll end up at the beginning doesn't mean you have to write it first. For example, in this case, you can't know what your killer first sentence will be until you've figured out the following details:

  • The story you want to tell
  • The point you want that story to make
  • The trait/maturity level/background about you that your essay will reveal

So my suggestion is to work in reverse order! Writing your essay will be much easier if you can figure out the entirety of it first and then go back and work out exactly how it should start.

This means that before you can craft your ideal first sentence, the way the short story experience of your life will play out on the page, and the perfect pivoting moment that transitions from your story to your insight, you must work out a general idea about which life event you will share and what you expect that life event to demonstrate to the reader about you and the kind of person you are.

If you're having trouble coming up with a topic, check out our guide on brainstorming college essay ideas . It might also be helpful to read our guides to specific application essays, such as picking your best Common App prompt and writing a perfect University of California personal statement .

In the next sections of this article, I'll talk about how to work backwards on the introduction, moving from bigger to smaller elements: starting with the first section of the essay in general and then honing your pivot sentence and your first sentence.

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How to Write the First Section of Your College Essay

In a 500-word essay, this section will take up about the first half of the essay and will mostly consist of a brief story that illuminates a key experience, an important character trait, a moment of transition or transformation, or a step toward maturity.

Once you've figured out your topic and zeroed in on the experience you want to highlight in the beginning of your essay, here are 2 great approaches to making it into a story:

  • Talking it out, storyteller style (while recording yourself): Imagine that you're sitting with a group of people at a campfire, or that you're stuck on a long flight sitting next to someone you want to befriend. Now tell that story. What does someone who doesn't know you need to know in order for the story to make sense? What details do you need to provide to put them in the story with you? What background information do they need in order to understand the stakes or importance of the story?
  • Record yourself telling your story to friends and then chatting about it: What do they need clarified? What questions do they have? Which parts of your story didn't make sense or follow logically for them? Do they want to know more, or less? Is part of your story interesting to them but not interesting to you? Is a piece of your story secretly boring, even though you think it's interesting?

Later, as you listen to the recorded story to try to get a sense of how to write it, you can also get a sense of the tone with which you want to tell your story. Are you being funny as you talk? Sad? Trying to shock, surprise, or astound your audience? The way you most naturally tell your story is the way you should write it.

After you've done this storyteller exercise, write down the salient points of what you learned. What is the story your essay will tell? What is the point about your life, point of view, or personality it will make? What tone will you tell it with? Sketch out a detailed outline so that you can start filling in the pieces as we work through how to write the introductory sections.

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How to Write the First Sentence of Your College Essay

In general, your essay's first sentence should be either a mini-cliffhanger that sets up a situation the reader would like to see resolved, or really lush scene-setting that situates your audience in a place and time they can readily visualize. The former builds expectations and evokes curiosity, and the latter stimulates the imagination and creates a connection with the author. In both cases, you hit your goal of greater reader engagement.

Now, I'm going to show you how these principles work for all types of first sentences, whether in college essays or in famous works of fiction.

First Sentence Idea 1: Line of Quoted Direct Speech

"Mum, I'm gay." ( Ahmad Ashraf '17 for Connecticut College )

The experience of coming out is raw and emotional, and the issue of LGBTQ rights is an important facet of modern life. This three-word sentence immediately sums up an enormous background of the personal and political.

"You can handle it, Matt," said Mr. Wolf, my fourth-grade band teacher, as he lifted the heavy tuba and put it into my arms. ( Matt Coppo '07 for Hamilton College )

This sentence conjures up a funny image—we can immediately picture the larger adult standing next to a little kid holding a giant tuba. It also does a little play on words: "handle it" can refer to both the literal tuba Matt is being asked to hold and the figurative stress of playing the instrument.

First Sentence Idea 2: Punchy Short Sentence With One Grabby Detail

I live alone—I always have since elementary school. ( Kevin Zevallos '16 for Connecticut College )

This opener definitely makes us want to know more. Why was he alone? Where were the protective grown-ups who surround most kids? How on earth could a little kid of 8-10 years old survive on his own?

I have old hands. ( First line from a student in Stanford's class of 2012 )

There's nothing but questions here. What are "old" hands? Are they old-looking? Arthritic? How has having these hands affected the author?

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre )

There's immediately a feeling of disappointment and the stifled desire for action here. Who wanted to go for a walk? And why was this person being prevented from going?

First Sentence Idea 3: Lyrical, Adjective-Rich Description of a Setting

We met for lunch at El Burrito Mexicano, a tiny Mexican lunch counter under the Red Line "El" tracks. ( Ted Mullin '06 for Carleton College )

Look at how much specificity this sentence packs in less than 20 words. Each noun and adjective is chosen for its ability to convey yet another detail. "Tiny" instead of "small" gives readers a sense of being uncomfortably close to other people and sitting at tables that don't quite have enough room for the plates. "Counter" instead of "restaurant" lets us immediately picture this work surface, the server standing behind it, and the general atmosphere. "Under the tracks" is a location deeply associated with being run down, borderline seedy, and maybe even dangerous.

Maybe it's because I live in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where Brett Favre draws more of a crowd on Sunday than any religious service, cheese is a staple food, it's sub-zero during global warming, current "fashions" come three years after they've hit it big with the rest of the world, and where all children by the age of ten can use a 12-gauge like it's their job. ( Riley Smith '12 for Hamilton College )

This sentence manages to hit every stereotype about Wisconsin held by outsiders—football, cheese, polar winters, backwardness, and guns—and this piling on gives us a good sense of place while also creating enough hyperbole to be funny. At the same time, the sentence raises the tantalizing question: maybe what is because of Wisconsin?

High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. (David Lodge, Changing Places )

This sentence is structured in the highly specific style of a math problem, which makes it funny. However, at the heart of this sentence lies a mystery that grabs the reader's interest: why on earth would these two people be doing this?

First Sentence Idea 4: Counterintuitive Statement

To avoid falling into generalities with this one, make sure you're really creating an argument or debate with your counterintuitive sentence. If no one would argue with what you've said, then you aren't making an argument. ("The world is a wonderful place" and "Life is worth living" don't make the cut.)

If string theory is really true, then the entire world is made up of strings, and I cannot tie a single one. ( Joanna '18 for Johns Hopkins University )

There's a great switch here from the sub-microscopic strings that make up string theory to the actual physical strings you can tie in real life. This sentence hints that the rest of the essay will continue playing with linked, albeit not typically connected, concepts.

All children, except one, grow up. (J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan )

In just six words, this sentence upends everything we think we know about what happens to human beings.

First Sentence Idea 5: The End—Making the Rest of the Essay a Flashback

I've recently come to the realization that community service just isn't for me. ( Kyla '19 for Johns Hopkins University )

This seems pretty bold—aren't we supposed to be super into community service? Is this person about to declare herself to be totally selfish and uncaring about the less fortunate? We want to know the story that would lead someone to this kind of conclusion.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. (Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude )

So many amazing details here. Why is the Colonel being executed? What does "discovering" ice entail? How does he go from ice-discoverer to military commander of some sort to someone condemned to capital punishment?

First Sentence Idea 6: Direct Question to the Reader

To work well, your question should be especially specific, come out of left field, or pose a surprising hypothetical.

How does an agnostic Jew living in the Diaspora connect to Israel? ( Essay #3 from Carleton College's sample essays )

This is a thorny opening, raising questions about the difference between being an ethnic Jew and practicing the religion of Judaism, and the obligations of Jews who live outside of Israel to those who live in Israel and vice versa. There's a lot of meat to this question, setting up a philosophically interesting, politically important, and personally meaningful essay.

While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe? ( First line from a student in Stanford's class of 2012 )

There's a dreamy and sci-fi element to this first sentence, as it tries to find the sublime ("the universe") inside the prosaic ("daily path of life").

First Sentence Idea 7: Lesson You Learned From the Story You're Telling

One way to think about how to do this kind of opening sentence well is to model it on the morals that ended each Aesop's fable . The lesson you learned should be slightly surprising (not necessarily intuitive) and something that someone else might disagree with.

Perhaps it wasn't wise to chew and swallow a handful of sand the day I was given my first sandbox, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. ( Meagan Spooner '07 for Hamilton College )

The best part of this hilarious sentence is that even in retrospect, eating a handful of sand is only possibly an unwise idea—a qualifier achieved through that great "perhaps." So does that mean it was wise in at least some way to eat the sand? The reader wants to know more.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina )

This immediately sets readers to mentally flip through every unhappy family they've ever known to double-check the narrator's assertion. Did he draw the right conclusion here? How did he come to this realization? The implication that he will tell us all about some dysfunctional drama also has a rubbernecking draw.

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How to Write a Pivot Sentence in Your College Essay

This is the place in your essay where you go from small to big—from the life experience you describe in detail to the bigger point this experience illustrates about your world and yourself.

Typically, the pivot sentence will come at the end of your introductory section, about halfway through the essay. I say sentence, but this section could be more than one sentence (though ideally no longer than two or three).

So how do you make the turn? Usually you indicate in your pivot sentence itself that you are moving from one part of the essay to another. This is called signposting, and it's a great way to keep readers updated on where they are in the flow of the essay and your argument.

Here are three ways to do this, with real-life examples from college essays published by colleges.

Pivot Idea 1: Expand the Time Frame

In this pivot, you gesture out from the specific experience you describe to the overarching realization you had during it. Think of helper phrases such as "that was the moment I realized" and "never again would I."

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation. ( Stephen '19 for Johns Hopkins University )

This is a pretty great pivot, neatly connecting the story Stephen's been telling (about having to break into a car on a volunteering trip) and his general reliance on his own resourcefulness and ability to roll with whatever life throws at him. It's a double bonus that he accomplishes the pivot with a play on the word "click," which here means both the literal clicking of the car door latch and the figurative clicking his brain does. Note also how the pivot crystallizes the moment of epiphany through the word "suddenly," which implies instant insight.

But in that moment I realized that the self-deprecating jokes were there for a reason. When attempting to climb the mountain of comedic success, I didn't just fall and then continue on my journey, but I fell so many times that I befriended the ground and realized that the middle of the metaphorical mountain made for a better campsite. Not because I had let my failures get the best of me, but because I had learned to make the best of my failures. (Rachel Schwartzbaum '19 for Connecticut College)

This pivot similarly focuses on a "that moment" of illuminated clarity. In this case, it broadens Rachel's experience of stage fright before her standup comedy sets to the way she has more generally not allowed failures to stop her progress—and has instead been able to use them as learning experiences. Not only does she describe her humor as "self-deprecating," but she also demonstrates what she means with that great "befriended the ground" line.

It was on this first educational assignment that I realized how much could be accomplished through an animal education program—more, in some cases, than the aggregate efforts of all of the rehabilitators. I found that I had been naive in my assumption that most people knew as much about wildlife as I did, and that they shared my respect for animals. ( J.P. Maloney '07 for Hamilton College )

This is another classically constructed pivot, as J.P. segues from his negative expectations about using a rehabilitated wild owl as an educational animal to his understanding of how much this kind of education could contribute to forming future environmentalists and nature lovers. The widening of scope happens at once as we go from a highly specific "first educational assignment" to the more general realization that "much" could be accomplished through these kinds of programs.

Pivot Idea 2: Link the Described Experience With Others

In this pivot, you draw a parallel between the life event that you've been describing in your very short story and other events that were similar in some significant way. Helpful phrases include "now I see how x is really just one of the many x 's I have faced," "in a way, x is a good example of the x -like situations I see daily," and "and from then on every time I ..."

This state of discovery is something I strive for on a daily basis. My goal is to make all the ideas in my mind fit together like the gears of a Swiss watch. Whether it's learning a new concept in linear algebra, talking to someone about a programming problem, or simply zoning out while I read, there is always some part of my day that pushes me towards this place of cohesion: an idea that binds together some set of the unsolved mysteries in my mind. ( Aubrey Anderson '19 for Tufts University )

After cataloging and detailing the many interesting thoughts that flow through her brain in a specific hour, Aubrey uses the pivot to explain that this is what every waking hour is like for her "on a daily basis." She loves learning different things and finds a variety of fields fascinating. And her pivot lets us know that her example is a demonstration of how her mind works generally.

This was the first time I've been to New Mexico since he died. Our return brought so much back for me. I remembered all the times we'd visited when I was younger, certain events highlighted by the things we did: Dad haggling with the jewelry sellers, his minute examination of pots at a trading post, the affection he had for chilies. I was scared that my love for the place would be tainted by his death, diminished without him there as my guide. That fear was part of what kept my mother and me away for so long. Once there, though, I was relieved to realize that Albuquerque still brings me closer to my father. ( Essay #1 from Carleton College's sample essays )

In this pivot, one very painful experience of visiting a place filled with sorrowful memories is used as a way to think about "all the other times" the author had been to New Mexico. The previously described trip after the father's death pivots into a sense of the continuity of memory. Even though he is no longer there to "guide," the author's love for the place itself remains.

Pivot Idea 3: Extract and Underline a Trait or Value

In this type of pivot, you use the experience you've described to demonstrate its importance in developing or zooming in on one key attribute. Here are some ways to think about making this transition: "I could not have done it without characteristic y , which has helped me through many other difficult moments," or "this is how I came to appreciate the importance of value z, both in myself and in those around me."

My true reward of having Stanley is that he opened the door to the world of botany. I would never have invested so much time learning about the molecular structure or chemical balance of plants if not for taking care of him. ( Michaela '19 for Johns Hopkins University )

In this tongue-in-cheek essay in which Michaela writes about Stanley, a beloved cactus, as if "he" has human qualities and is her child, the pivot explains what makes this plant so meaningful to its owner. Without having to "take care of him," Michaela "would never have invested so much time learning" about plant biology. She has a deep affinity for the natural sciences and attributes her interest at least partly to her cactus.

By leaving me free to make mistakes and chase wild dreams, my father was always able to help ground me back in reality. Personal responsibilities, priorities and commitments are all values that are etched into my mind, just as they are within my father's. ( Olivia Rabbitt '16 for Connecticut College )

In Olivia's essay about her father's role in her life, the pivot discusses his importance by explaining his deep impact on her values. Olivia has spent the story part of her essay describing her father's background and their relationship. Now, she is free to show how without his influence, she would not be so strongly committed to "personal responsibilities, priorities and commitments."

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College Essay Introduction Examples

We've collected many examples of college essays published by colleges and offered a breakdown of how several of them are put together . Now, let's check out a couple of examples of actual college essay beginnings to show you how and why they work.

Sample Intro 1

A blue seventh place athletic ribbon hangs from my mantel. Every day, as I walk into my living room, the award mockingly congratulates me as I smile. Ironically, the blue seventh place ribbon resembles the first place ribbon in color; so, if I just cover up the tip of the seven, I may convince myself that I championed the fourth heat. But, I never dare to wipe away the memory of my seventh place swim; I need that daily reminder of my imperfection. I need that seventh place.

Two years ago, I joined the no-cut swim team. That winter, my coach unexpectedly assigned me to swim the 500 freestyle. After stressing for hours about swimming 20 laps in a competition, I mounted the blocks, took my mark, and swam. Around lap 14, I looked around at the other lanes and did not see anyone. "I must be winning!" I thought to myself. However, as I finally completed my race and lifted my arms up in victory to the eager applause of the fans, I looked up at the score board. I had finished my race in last place. In fact, I left the pool two minutes after the second-to-last competitor, who now stood with her friends, wearing all her clothes.

(From "The Unathletic Department" by Meghan '17 for Johns Hopkins University )

Why Intro Sample 1 Works

Here are some of the main reasons that this essay's introduction is super effective.

#1: It's Got a Great First Sentence

The sentence is short but still does some scene setting with the descriptive "blue" and the location "from my mantel." It introduces a funny element with "seventh place"—why would that bad of a showing even get a ribbon? It dangles information just out of reach, making the reader want to know more: what was this an award for? Why does this definitively non-winning ribbon hang in such a prominent place of pride?

#2: It Has Lots of Detail

In the intro, we get physical actions: "cover up the tip," "mounted the blocks," "looked around at the other lanes," "lifted my arms up," and "stood with her friends, wearing all her clothes." We also get words conveying emotion: "mockingly congratulates me as I smile," "unexpectedly assigned," and "stressing for hours." Finally, we get descriptive specificity in the precise word choice: "from my mantel" and "my living room" instead of simply "in my house," and "lap 14" instead of "toward the end of the race."

#3: It Explains the Stakes

Even though everyone can imagine the lap pool, not everyone knows exactly what the "500 freestyle" race is. Meghan elegantly explains the difficulty by describing herself freaking out over "swimming 20 laps in a competition," which helps us to picture the swimmer going back and forth many times.

#4: It Has Great Storytelling

We basically get a sports commentary play-by-play here. Even though we already know the conclusion—Meghan came in 7th—she still builds suspense by narrating the race from her point of view as she was swimming it. She's nervous for a while, and then she starts the race.

Close to the end, she starts to think everything is going well ("I looked around at the other lanes and did not see anyone. 'I must be winning!' I thought to myself."). Everything builds to an expected moment of great triumph ("I finally completed my race and lifted my arms up in victory to the eager applause of the fans") but ends in total defeat ("I had finished my race in last place").

Not only that, but the mildly clichéd sports hype is hilariously undercut by reality ("I left the pool two minutes after the second-to-last competitor, who now stood with her friends, wearing all her clothes").

#5: It Uses a Pivot Sentence

This essay uses the time expansion method of pivoting: "But, I never dare to wipe away the memory of my seventh place swim; I need that daily reminder of my imperfection. I need that seventh place." Coming last in the race was something that happened once, but the award is now an everyday experience of humility.

The rest of the essay explores what it means for Meghan to constantly see this reminder of failure and to transform it into a sense of acceptance of her imperfections. Notice also that in this essay, the pivot comes before the main story, helping us "hear" the narrative in the way she wants us to.

Sample Intro 2

"Biogeochemical. It's a word, I promise!" There are shrieks and shouts in protest and support. Unacceptable insults are thrown, degrees and qualifications are questioned, I think even a piece of my grandmother's famously flakey parantha whizzes past my ear. Everyone is too lazy to take out a dictionary (or even their phones) to look it up, so we just hash it out. And then, I am crowned the victor, a true success in the Merchant household. But it is fleeting, as the small, glossy, plastic tiles, perfectly connected to form my winning word, are snatched out from under me and thrown in a pile with all the disgraced, "unwinning" tiles as we mix for our next game of Bananagrams. It's a similar donnybrook, this time ending with my father arguing that it is okay to use "Rambo" as a word (it totally is not).

Words and communicating have always been of tremendous importance in my life: from silly games like Bananagrams and our road-trip favorite "word game," to stunted communication between opposing grandparents, each speaking a different Indian language; from trying to understand the cheesemonger behind the counter with a deep southern drawl (I just want some Camembert!), to shaping a script to make people laugh.

Words are moving and changing; they have influence and substance.

From an Essay by Shaan Merchant ‘19 for Tufts University

Why Intro Sample 2 Works

Let's take a look at what qualities make this essay's introduction particularly memorable.

With the first sentence, we are immediately thrust into the middle of the action —into an exciting part of an argument about whether "biogeochemical" is really a word. We're also immediately challenged. Is this a word? Have I ever heard it before? Does a scientific neologism count as a word?

#2: It Shows Rather Than Tells

Since the whole essay is going to be about words, it makes sense for Shaan to demonstrate his comfort with all different kinds of language:

  • Complex, elevated vocabulary, such as "biogeochemical" and "donnybrook"
  • Foreign words, such as "parantha" and "Camembert"
  • Colorful descriptive words, such as "shrieks and shouts," "famously flakey, "whizzes past," and "hash it out"
  • "Fake" words, such as "unwinning" and "Rambo"

What's great is that Shaan is able to seamlessly mix the different tones and registers these words imply, going from cerebral to funny and back again.

#3: It Uses a Pivot Sentence

This essay uses the value-extraction style of pivot: "Words and communicating have always been of tremendous importance in my life." After we see an experience linking Shaan's clear love of his family with an interest in word games, he clarifies that this is exactly what the essay will be about—using a very straightforward pivoting sentence.

#4: It Piles On Examples to Avoid Vagueness

The danger of this kind of pivot sentence is slipping into vague, uninformative statements, such as "I love words." To avoid making a generalization the tells us nothing, the essay builds a list of examples of times when Shaan saw the way that words connect people: games ("Bananagrams and our road-trip favorite ‘word game,'"), his mixed-language family ("grandparents, each speaking a different Indian language"), encounters with strangers ("from trying to understand the cheesemonger"), and finally the more active experience of performing ("shaping a script to make people laugh").

But the essay stops short of giving so many examples that the reader drowns. I'd say three to five examples is a good range—as long as they're all different kinds of the same thing.

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The Bottom Line: How to Start a College Essay

The college essay introduction should hook your reader and make her want to know more and read more.

Good personal statement introductions will contain the following features:

  • A killer first line
  • A detailed description of an experience from your life
  • A pivot to the bigger picture, in which you explain why and how this experience has shaped you, your point of view, and/or your values.

You don't have to write the introduction first, and you certainly don't have to write your first sentence first . Instead, start by developing your story by telling it out loud to a friend. You can then work on your first sentence and your pivot.

The first sentence should either be short, punchy, and carry some ambiguity or questions, or be a detailed and beautiful description setting an easily pictured scene. The pivot, on the other hand, should answer the question, "How does the story you've told connect to a larger truth or insight about you?"

What's Next?

Wondering what to make of the Common Application essay prompts? We have the complete list of this year's Common App prompts with explanations of what each is asking as well as a guide to picking the Common App prompt that's perfect for you .

Thinking of applying to the University of California system? Check out our detailed guide on how to approach their essay prompts and craft your ideal UC essay .

If you're in the middle of the essay-writing process, you'll want to see our suggestions on what essay pitfalls to avoid .

Working on the rest of your college application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers.

Introduce the Essay.  The beginning lets your readers know what the essay is about, the  topic . The essay's topic does not exist in a vacuum, however; part of letting readers know what your essay is about means establishing the essay's  context , the frame within which you will approach your topic. For instance, in an essay about the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, the context may be a particular legal theory about the speech right; it may be historical information concerning the writing of the amendment; it may be a contemporary dispute over flag burning; or it may be a question raised by the text itself. The point here is that, in establishing the essay's context, you are also limiting your topic. That is, you are framing an approach to your topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. Thus, when you determine your context, you simultaneously narrow your topic and take a big step toward focusing your essay. Here's an example.

The paragraph goes on. But as you can see, Chopin's novel (the topic) is introduced in the context of the critical and moral controversy its publication engendered.

Focus the Essay.  Beyond introducing your topic, your beginning must also let readers know what the central issue is. What question or problem will you be thinking about? You can pose a question that will lead to your idea (in which case, your idea will be the answer to your question), or you can make a thesis statement. Or you can do both: you can ask a question and immediately suggest the answer that your essay will argue. Here's an example from an essay about Memorial Hall.

The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road. And whether you focus your essay by posing a question, stating a thesis, or combining these approaches, by the end of your beginning, readers should know what you're writing about, and  why —and why they might want to read on.

Orient Readers.  Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Orienting is important throughout your essay, but it is crucial in the beginning. Readers who don't have the information they need to follow your discussion will get lost and quit reading. (Your teachers, of course, will trudge on.) Supplying the necessary information to orient your readers may be as simple as answering the journalist's questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may mean providing a brief overview of events or a summary of the text you'll be analyzing. If the source text is brief, such as the First Amendment, you might just quote it. If the text is well known, your summary, for most audiences, won't need to be more than an identifying phrase or two:

Often, however, you will want to summarize your source more fully so that readers can follow your analysis of it.

Questions of Length and Order.  How long should the beginning be? The length should be proportionate to the length and complexity of the whole essay. For instance, if you're writing a five-page essay analyzing a single text, your beginning should be brief, no more than one or two paragraphs. On the other hand, it may take a couple of pages to set up a ten-page essay.

Does the business of the beginning have to be addressed in a particular order? No, but the order should be logical. Usually, for instance, the question or statement that focuses the essay comes at the end of the beginning, where it serves as the jumping-off point for the middle, or main body, of the essay. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced. In other words, the order in which you accomplish the business of the beginning is flexible and should be determined by your purpose.

Opening Strategies.  There is still the further question of how to start. What makes a good opening? You can start with specific facts and information, a keynote quotation, a question, an anecdote, or an image. But whatever sort of opening you choose, it should be directly related to your focus. A snappy quotation that doesn't help establish the context for your essay or that later plays no part in your thinking will only mislead readers and blur your focus. Be as direct and specific as you can be. This means you should avoid two types of openings:

  • The history-of-the-world (or long-distance) opening, which aims to establish a context for the essay by getting a long running start: "Ever since the dawn of civilized life, societies have struggled to reconcile the need for change with the need for order." What are we talking about here, political revolution or a new brand of soft drink? Get to it.
  • The funnel opening (a variation on the same theme), which starts with something broad and general and "funnels" its way down to a specific topic. If your essay is an argument about state-mandated prayer in public schools, don't start by generalizing about religion; start with the specific topic at hand.

Remember.  After working your way through the whole draft, testing your thinking against the evidence, perhaps changing direction or modifying the idea you started with, go back to your beginning and make sure it still provides a clear focus for the essay. Then clarify and sharpen your focus as needed. Clear, direct beginnings rarely present themselves ready-made; they must be written, and rewritten, into the sort of sharp-eyed clarity that engages readers and establishes your authority.

Copyright 1999, Patricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph About a Person (With Examples)

How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph About a Person (With Examples)

4-minute read

  • 7th January 2023

Describing a person or character is difficult for even the most successful authors. It requires a balance of words to make sure they shine through without the language being too heavy. In this article, we’ll look at how to write a descriptive paragraph about a person, share some examples, and talk about different strategies.

1.   Brainstorm Your Ideas

Brainstorming is crucial to any writing process. It’s the process in which you think of ideas for what you’d like to write about. In this case, you’re writing a descriptive paragraph about a person. It’s important to use adjectives to describe the features or characteristics you want to focus on.

One way to come up with ideas for a descriptive paragraph about a person is to go through the five senses. Use the questions below to get some ideas for what you want to highlight about your person.

Appeal to your reader’s senses – smell, taste, sound, sight, and touch

Smell: How does the person smell? Do they wear perfume? Are they doing an activity that would make them have a certain smell?

Taste: Do you associate a certain food with this person? Does it make you think of a specific taste? Can you taste something due to a certain smell they have?

Sound: Do they have a unique voice or laugh? Are they doing an activity that has distinctive sounds?

Sight: What prominent features do they have? For example, think about their dressing style, their smile, or their surroundings. What do you see them doing in your mind when you see a photo of them? What memories do you have of this person? Does this person remind you of something or someone?

Touch: What textures do you see? For example, imagine their skin or clothing. How does it feel if you hug them?

2.   Begin With a Short and Snappy Sentence

Like with any type of writing, you want to hook your reader so that they want to continue reading. In this case, you can use a topic sentence, if appropriate, to introduce your reader to the person. For example:

Or, if you want to be more creative, you can reel them in with a short and snappy sentence about this person. This is called a writing hook . This sentence should focus on a stand-out detail or characteristic about the person you’re describing. For example:

3.   Describe the Person

Now, this is the hard part. But, if you’ve brainstormed plenty of ideas and know which ones you want to focus on, it will be easier. Let’s look at some examples to get a better idea of how to write a descriptive paragraph about a person using the prompt “describe a person you admire.”

Comments: This paragraph is pretty typical of most students. It gives lots of visual details of the person and uses a simile or two (“ Her eyes are like the color of honey” and “Her smile shines like the sun” ). While this strategy gets the job done, it’s not very exciting to read. In fact, it can be quite boring!

Let’s look at how we can rewrite this to make it more exciting.

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Comments: In this example, we focused on one defining characteristic of the person we are describing — her laugh. This strategy places more focus on the person you’re describing, rather than the adjectives you use to describe them.

4.   Edit and Revise

After you write your descriptive paragraph, be sure to read it over. Read it out loud. Read it in a funny voice. Doing this will help you to hear the words and identify which parts do not work or sound awkward.

5.   General Tips for Descriptive Writing

●  Avoid using too many descriptive words.

●  Remember to show the reader, not tell.

●  Appeal to the reader’s five senses – smell, touch, taste, sight, and sound.

●  Focus on a striking or defining characteristic.

●  Use contrasting details from other people or surroundings for emphasis.

●  Use literary devices (metaphors, similes etc.) sparingly and with intention.

●  Use a hook to reel your reader in.

●  Use a variety of short and long sentences.

●  Practice creative writing exercises to improve your descriptive writing skills.

●  Always edit and revise your writing.

If you need more help with writing a descriptive paragraph or essay , send your work to us! Our experts will proofread your first 500 words for free !

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good ways to start an essay about someone

How to Write an Essay about a Person

In this tutorial you will learn how to write a biographical essay – an essay about a person.  

This method will work for writing about anyone:

  • Your friend or a loved one
  • A public or historical figure
  • Anyone else you respect and admire.

How to Structure a Biographical Essay 

The biggest challenge in writing a biography essay is coming up with material. And the easiest way to keep your ideas flowing is to break your topic into subtopics.

Do you recall the saying, “Divide and conquer?” This military concept states that in order to conquer a nation, you must divide it first. 

We’ll use this idea in our approach to writing about a person. Remember, a person, a human being is our main subject in a biographical essay. 

And to discuss a person effectively, we must “divide” him or her. 

How would we go about dividing our subject into subtopics?

The Power of Three

The easiest way to break up any subject or any topic is to use the Power of Three. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

When you have just one subject, undivided, that’s a recipe for being stuck. Dividing into two is progress. 

But three main supporting ideas, which correspond to three main sections of your essay, are the perfect number that always works. 

Note that the three supporting points should also be reflected in your thesis statement . 

Let’s see how it would work when talking about a person.

What does any person have? What are the aspects of any human being?

Any person has emotions. 

In fact, humans are very emotional creatures. This part deals with how the person feels. 

This section or part of the essay will answer some of the following questions: 

“How emotional is this person in her decision making?”

“What emotions predominate in this person? Is this person predominantly positive or negative? Calm or passionate?”

You can discuss more than one emotion with regards to this person.

Any person has an intellect.

The intellect is the ability to think rather than feel. This is an important difference. 

Something that is very important to remember when dividing your topic into subtopics is to make sure that each subtopic is different from the others. 

Thinking is definitely different from feeling , although they are related because they are both parts of human psychology. 

This part of the essay will answer the questions:

“How smart is this person?”

“How is this person’s decision making affected by her intellect or logic?”

“What intellectual endeavors does this person pursue?”

Any person has a body, a physicality.

This sounds obvious, but this is an important aspect of any human being about whom you choose to write. 

This part of your essay answers these questions:

“What are this person’s physical attributes or qualities?”

“How do this person’s physical qualities affect her and others?”

“How do they affect her life?”

“Is this person primarily healthy or not?”

And there are many more questions you can ask about this person’s physicality or physical body. 

As a result of dividing our subject into three distinct parts, we now have a clear picture of the main structure of this essay.

good ways to start an essay about someone

Another Way to Divide a Subject – Change

Another great way to talk about a person is to discuss a change, any kind of a change. 

Change as an idea lends itself very well to the Power of Three because it involves three parts. 

Think of a person who has lost weight, for example. What are the three parts of that change?

First, it’s how much the person weighed in the past, before the change. Second, it is the agent of change, such as an exercise program. And third, it is the result; it’s how much the person weighs after the change has happened. 

This structure is applicable to any kind of a change. 

In this part of the essay, you can discuss anything that is relevant to the way things were before the change took place. It’s the “before” picture.

Some of the questions to ask are:  

“How did this person use to be in the past?”

“How did the old state of things affect her life?”

The Agent of Change

This can be anything that brought about the change. In the case of weight loss, this could be a diet or an exercise program. In the case of education, this could be college. 

Some of the question to ask are the following:

“What happened? What are the events or factors that made this person change?”

“What actually brought about the change in this person?”

Maybe the person went to college, and college life changed this person.

Maybe this person went to prison. That can change a person’s life for the better or worse. 

Maybe she underwent some interesting sort of a transformation, such as childbirth or a passing of a loved one. It could even be a car accident or some other serious health hazard. 

The Present

This is the “after” picture. In this section, you would describe the state of this person after the change has taken place. 

This part of the essay would answer the questions: 

“How is this person now?”

“What has changed?”

Note that the resulting change doesn’t have to be set in the present day. This change could have happened to a historical figure, and both the “before” and “after” would be in the past. 

And there you have it. You have three parts or three sections, based on some kind of a change. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

This is a wonderful way to discuss any person, especially if you’re writing a biography of a public or historical figure.

A Third Way to Divide a Subject – Personal Qualities

A great way to discuss a person, especially someone you know personally, is to talk about their qualities of character. 

A person can have many character qualities. And in this case, the Power of Three helps you narrow them down to three of the most prominent ones. 

Let’s pick three personal qualities of someone you might know personally.

In this section, you could simply provide examples of this person showing courage in times of trouble. 

Here, you would talk about the goals and dreams this person has and how she plans to achieve them. 

Here, just provide examples of acts of kindness performed by this person. 

Three major qualities like these are enough to paint a pretty thorough picture of a person. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

Discussing personal qualities is a great way to add content to your biographical essay. And it works in a discussion of any human being, from a friend to a distant historical figure. 

How to Write a Longer Biography Essay

At this point, you have all the building blocks to write an excellent essay about a person. 

By the way, if you struggle with essay writing in general, I wrote a detailed guide to essay writing for beginners . 

In this section, I want to show you how to use what you’ve learned to construct one of those big papers, if that’s what you need to do. 

If you have to write a basic essay of about 600-1000 words, then just use one of the simple structures above. 

However, if you need to write 2,000 – 5,000 words, or even more, then you need a deeper structure. 

To create a deeper, more complex structure of a biography essay while still keeping the process easy to follow, we’ll simply combine structures we have already learned.   

Combining Change and Human Attributes

Let’s say that you decided that your main point will be about this person’s change as a result of some event. 

Then, you will have three main sections, just like I showed you in writing about any change. 

In effect, you will be discussing:

  • How this person was in the past (before the change)
  • The actual change
  • What happened as the result

You now have divided your essay into three parts. And now, you can use the Power of Three again to divide each main section into subsections.  

Section 1. You can talk about how this person was in the past, in terms of:

  • Physicality

good ways to start an essay about someone

Section 2. When you talk about change, you can still use the Power of Three.

You can ask the question, “What were the drivers of change?”

You can be even more specific here and ask, “What were the three drivers of change?”

And then you answer that question.

For example, if this person went to college, some of the factors of change could have been:

  • The pressure of having to submit work on time.

And those factors changed this person.

good ways to start an essay about someone

Section 3 . As a result of the change, how is this person now, in terms of:

Other Ways to “Divide and Conquer”

Note that there are many more aspects of any person that you can discuss.

Some of them include:

  • Outer vs Inner life.
  • Personal vs Professional life. 
  • Abilities or Skills. 

You can pick any other aspects you can think of. And you can use the Power of Three in any of your sections or subsections to write as much or as little as you need. 

Tips on Writing a Biographical Essay

You can apply any of these techniques to writing about yourself..

When you’re writing about yourself, that’s an autobiographical essay. It is simply a piece of writing in which you reveal something about your life. 

You can take any of the ways we just used to divide a human being or her life into parts and apply them to yourself. 

This can work in a personal statement or a college admissions essay very well. 

Here’s a list of things to narrow your autobiographical essay topic:

  • One significant event in your life
  • A change that you decided to make
  • A person you met who changed your life (or more than one person)
  • The biggest lesson you’ve ever received in life
  • Your goals and aspirations (talking about the future)

Structure your essay as if it is an argumentative essay.

Most of the research papers and essays you’ve written up to date have probably been expository. This means that you stated an argument and supported it using evidence.

A biographical essay is not necessarily expository. You don’t always have something to argue or prove. You could simply tell the reader a story about yourself or describe a period in your life. 

But you can and probably should still use the structures presented in this tutorial because this will make it much easier for you to organize your thoughts. 

Stay focused on your subject.  

Once you know your structure, just stick to it. For example, if you’ve chosen to talk about a person’s courage, ambition, and kindness, these three qualities will carry your essay as far as you want.

But don’t sneak in another quality here and there, because that will dilute your argument. Be especially careful not to write anything that contradicts your view of this person.

If you use contradictory information, make sure it is a counterargument, which is a great technique to add content. You can learn how to use counterarguments in this video:

Hope this helps. Now go write that biography essay!

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How to Write Great Essay Hooks (Tips + Examples)

How to Write Great Essay Hooks (Tips + Examples)

Table of contents

good ways to start an essay about someone

Yona Schnitzer

Blank screen. Cursor blinks. Clock ticks. Brain freezes.

You stressfully wonder, “How will I ever finish this essay?”

I’ve been there. 

Every time you write an essay, you want to catch your readers’ undivided attention from the very first word. The opening hook has to be *perfect* — no compromises. 

But, instead of reeling under pressure to come up with this elusively perfect essay hook at the eleventh hour, I’ve found a better way to write great essay hooks. 

In this guide, I’ll tell you what it takes to write the most compelling and attention-grabbing hooks. I’ll also break down six awesome types of essay hooks you can experiment with and share examples to inspire your next opening statement.

What is an Essay Hook?

An essay hook is the opening statement of an essay, written to capture readers' attention and nudge them to learn more about the topic. Also known as a lede or lead, this hook introduces readers to the topic/theme of the essay and piques their curiosity to continue reading. 

The hook creates the entire narrative for your essay. It tells readers what to expect from the rest of the essay and creates context around your main argument or thesis statement. 

6 Types of Essay Hooks You Can Experiment With

I’ve created this handy list of six different types of essay hooks. You can choose the one that best fits your essay’s context and create a stellar opening statement within minutes. 

1. Compelling fact or statistic

Lead with evidence and use a powerful fact or statistic as your essay hook. It’s one of the best ways to capture readers’ attention from the start and keep them intrigued throughout your essay. 

For example, if you’re writing about the importance of time management for freelancers, you have two options to create your opening sentence:

Generic : “Managing time as a freelancer is no easy feat.”

Impactful : “Nearly 70% of freelancers struggle to effectively divide and manage their time between multiple clients.” 

This data point, linked to the original research, sets a strong tone for your essay and draws people in to read more. It communicates  

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  • Open the Wordtune editor and add your essay title. 
  • Type in any content you've written, click on 'Add spice,' and select the 'Expand on' option.
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good ways to start an essay about someone

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2. Bold claim hook

When working on an argumentative essay , I always write with the mindset that nobody has the time to read my thoughts from start to finish. So, I have to get to the point quickly and make a solid argument worth people’s time. 

That's when opening with a bold claim works best. Condense all your views on the topic into a few thought-provoking lines that would make readers go, hmmm…

But remember, you can't open with a claim that people already know and accept as fact. It has to be something original and unique to make your readers tick, nudging them to dive deeper into your essay. 

For example, if you’re writing about water crisis, you have two options to open your essay: 

‍ "In some regions, there is not enough clean water for people to use."
‍ "Imagine a world where every drop of water is a battle, a precious commodity fought over by scores of people and animals alike. This can become a reality as early as 2050."

This bold claim presents a convincing argument about the global water crisis. It also emphasizes the urgency of this argument with a research-backed statistic.

Create a bold claim suggestion using AI

Can’t think of a strong opening sentence for your essay? Wordtune can translate your thoughts into a bold claim and create a compelling essay hook. 

Open your Wordtune editor and write a few lines related to your topic. These sentences should have a consensus among your audience. Then, choose the 'Counterargument' option from the list of suggestions. 

And you’ll have a bold claim for your essay with no effort at all!

good ways to start an essay about someone

3. Story/Anecdote hook

In all my years of writing, I’ve noticed how stories have a unique effect on people. A good story can resonate with a bigger audience, pique their curiosity, and deliver a more personal message. 

That's why you can cite a personal anecdote or talk about a publicly known story as a good hook for your essay. This hook allows you to play with words and work in more storytelling . 

One of my favorite writing tips applies here: enter the scene as late as possible and leave as early as possible. You have to keep it crisp instead of rambling on and on. 

Consider these two examples:

good ways to start an essay about someone

Either of these hooks could work fine if we were just writing a personal essay about a move to a new place. But if we’re specifically writing about the sky, the second example is better. It sticks to the point — the sky and the color of the sky — and doesn’t stray into irrelevant details. 

Create a compelling story with AI

I get it—not all of us are natural storytellers. But you can use AI to your advantage to create a concise and exciting story for your essay.  

Wordtune can help you write a short story from scratch or trim down your writing into a quick anecdote. Click on the expand or shorten button to edit your story any way you like. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

4. Question Hook

Humans have a tendency to immediately look for answers every time they come across fascinating questions. Using questions as essay hooks can reel people into your essay and feed their curiosity.

But questions are also fairly overused in essays. You don't want to use a generic question that makes people say, " Not another question ." 

Instead, think of questions that approach your topic from a fresh angle. This means honing in on what was especially interesting or surprising from your research—and maybe even brainstorming different questions to find the most fascinating one.

For example, if you’re writing about the psychology behind why we buy, you have two options to open your essay:

‍ “Do you know what factors compel us to buy certain things?”

Plugged in :

“Before buying anything, have you ever taken a moment to pause and think about possible reasons driving you to this purchase?”

The latter is more descriptive and creates a realistic scenario for readers to truly think about the topic of the essay.

5. Description hook

A descriptive hook works best when writing an explanatory or opinion-led essay. Descriptive hooks, as the name suggests, illustrate a topic in detail to create context for the essay. It's a good way to build awareness for and educate readers on lesser-known themes.

But a descriptive hook can easily become too plain or unexciting to read. To make it work, you have to write an engaging description using imagery, analogies, and other figures of speech. 

Remember to make your hook reader-friendly by avoiding passive voice, mainstream cliches, and lengthy sentences.

Consider this example:

good ways to start an essay about someone

Describing a sunset is too cliche, so cross that one off the list. Describing the sky as it is on a normal day wouldn't be shocking or unexpected, so scratch that one, too.

This example creates something unique by using analogies to describe the color of the sky and painting a beautiful picture. 

Write a gripping description with AI

Writing an exciting hook for a boring topic is more challenging than it looks. But Wordtune makes it a breeze with just two steps:

  • Open the Wordtune editor and write your essay topic.
  • Click on Explain or Emphasize and let it work its magic.

You can also change the tone of voice to make the text more in tune with your theme. 

good ways to start an essay about someone

6. Metaphor hook

One of my favorite essay hooks is to open with a persuasive metaphor to contextualize the topic. Metaphors can help you approach the topic from a completely different lens and wow your readers with interesting insight. 

Metaphors are also super versatile to make your writing more impactful. You can write a one-line metaphor or create a scenario comparing one thing to another and linking it to your topic. 

For example, if you’re writing about the experience of working at a startup, you can open your essay with these two options:

Short & sweet: "Joining a startup is like strapping into a rollercoaster: be ready to witness thrilling highs and sinking drops."

Long & descriptive : “Picture a small sailboat navigating the unpredictable winds and tides in a vast ocean. That’s a startup operating in a massive market. And with the right vision, this journey is filled with risks and rewards.” 

Create a convincing metaphor with AI

Writing good metaphors takes up a lot of creative brain power. You can always use Wordtune to find some extra inspiration if you're out of creative ideas. 

Type your opening line in the Wordtune editor and click on the 'Give an analogy' option. You can ask for as many suggestions as you want till you find the best one! 

good ways to start an essay about someone

What to Know About Your Essay (and Topic) Before You Write the Hook

Whether you’re writing a research paper on economics, an argumentative essay for your college composition class, or a personal essay sharing your thoughts on a topic, you need to nail down a few things before you settle on the first line for your essay.

‍ Let me break them down for you. 

1. Gain in-depth knowledge of your topic

good ways to start an essay about someone

Before you start writing your essay, you need to know your topic — not just in name, but in-depth. You don't have to become a subject matter expert overnight. But you do need to research the topic inside out 

Your research will help you:

  • Narrow your focus
  • Build an argument
  • Shape the narrative

Your research insights determine your essay’s structure and guide your choice of hook. 

After organizing your research in a neat outline, think to yourself: ‍Did you uncover a shocking fact? A compelling anecdote? An interesting quote? Any of those things could be your hook.

⚡ ‍ Take action: After finishing your research, review your notes and think through your essay. Mark or make a list of anything compelling enough to be a good lead.

2. Type of essay

good ways to start an essay about someone

In academic settings, there are generally three kinds of essays:

  • Argumentative: Making the case for a certain stance or route of action.
  • Expository: Explaining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of some phenomenon.
  • Narrative: Telling a true story as a way to explore different ideas.

‍ The type of essay you’re writing is key to choosing the best hook for your piece. 

A serious argumentative essay can start with a shocking statistic or a bold claim. And an expository essay can open with a descriptive hook while a metaphor hook would work best for a narrative essay.

⚡ ‍ Take action: Go through your list of potential hooks and cross out anything that doesn't fit the type of essay you're writing, whether it's persuasive , argumentative, or any other type.

3. Audience and tone

A best practice I often share with writers is to think of one reader and keep yourself in their shoes . This exercise can tell you so much about your audience — what kind of tone they like, what matters the most to them, what topics interest them, and so on. 

You can use these insights to create a compelling essay hook. Here’s how:

  • For an argumentative essay, you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t agree with you that what you’re claiming is right or, at least, reasonable. You don’t want to turn them off with snarky or offensive language — but you do want to be authoritative. Your hook should match that tone and support your effort.
  • A narrative essay is likely to welcome more lyrical language, so starting with a colorful description or an anecdote might make more sense than, say, a bold claim or surprising fact. Whatever tone you choose for your narrative essay — comical or gentle or bold — should be used for your hook.
  • ‍ Expository essays can use all sorts of tones and be written to a variety of audiences, so think carefully about the tone that best fits your subject matter. An essay explaining how the human body shuts down when overdosed will likely require a different tone than one on the lives of circus masters in the late 1800s. 

⚡ ‍ Take action: Look at your list. Can you write these potential hooks in a tone that suits your subject and audience?

4. Length of essay

Are you writing a 10-page paper or a three-page reflection? Or is this your senior thesis, pushing over 100 pages?

‍ If you’re writing a shorter paper, you’ll want to keep your hook quick and snappy.  

Readers are expecting a quick read, and they don’t want to spend five minutes only going through the introduction. 

In contrast, you can approach a longer essay — like a senior thesis or a term paper — with a longer hook. Just make sure your hook relates to and supports the core point of your essay. You don’t want to waste space describing a scene that ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of your piece.

⚡ ‍ Take action: If you write out the items on your list, how long will they be? A sentence or paragraph? Perfect. Two to five paragraphs? Unless your essay is on the longer side, you may want to save that information for later in the piece.

‍ Now that you know the basic facts about what you’re writing, let’s look at some approaches you could use to catch those readers — and reel them in.

3 Approaches to Avoid When Writing Hooks 

I’ve read hundreds of essays — enough to recognize lazy writing from the first few words. It’s equally easy for readers to discard your essays as ‘poorly written’ just by reading the first line. 

So, I made a list of three types of essay hooks you want to avoid at all costs because these hooks can only disappoint your readers. 

1. Quotations

Quotes are probably the most overused type of hook in any form of writing. What's even worse is rinsing and repeating the same old quotes from Abraham Lincoln or Nelson Mandela in your essays. 

No matter how powerful a quote sounds, you shouldn’t slap it at the opening of your essay. It doesn’t give readers the excitement of reading something original and looks lazy.

For example, if you’re writing an essay on productivity, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work” – Stephen King
Did you know that consuming 100 gms of sugar can slash your productivity levels by over 50% in a day?  

2. Definitions

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a hook as "a thing designed to catch people's attention." 

If I opened my article with this dictionary definition of a hook, you’d have either dozed off or left this page long back to find something more interesting. 

Here's the thing: definitions put people to sleep. Readers don't want to see a formal, jargon-heavy definition of a topic as the very first line of an essay. Your opening statement should have some personality in it to show readers they're in for an exciting read. 

For example, if you’re writing about happy hormones, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

Happy hormones are known to boost the happiness levels in your body by creating positive feelings.
Ever wondered why cat videos make you instantly happy, and ice creams give you an extra dose of energy? It's all about how happy hormones control our brain chemistry.

3. “Imagine this”

Opening your essay with "Imagine this" used to be an interesting way to put your readers in a scenario and set the context for your essay. But now, it's far too cliched and just another lazy attempt to write an essay hook. 

You can create a relatable scenario for users without asking them to imagine or picture it. Use the descriptive hook format with an interesting choice of words to convey the same ideas more creatively.

For example, if you’re writing an essay on preparing for higher studies abroad, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

Imagine this: You’ve been applying to multiple universities, writing SOPs, and preparing for exams without guidance. Everything can go south any minute. 
College application season is officially here. But with each passing day, you’re under more and more stress to apply to your chosen colleges and tick all the items off your list.

‍Our Go-To Trick for Writing Catchy Hooks

This opening statement can make or break your entire essay. While I’ve broken down my best tips to create the best essay hooks, here’s a surefire way to write compelling openings :

Go through your notes and either outline your essay or write the whole thing. This way, you’ll know the central thread (or throughline) that runs throughout your piece. 

Once your essay or outline is complete, go back through and identify a particularly compelling fact, claim, or example that relates to that central thread.

‍Write up that fact, claim, or example as the hook for your essay using any of the methods we’ve covered. Then revise or write your essay so the hook leads smoothly into the rest of the piece and you don’t repeat that information elsewhere.

Does your hook spark curiosity in you? 

Did that fact surprise you in the research stage? 

Chances are, your readers will have the same reaction.

And that’s exactly what you want.

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Rafal Reyzer

How To Start An Essay (With 20 Great Examples)

Author: Rafal Reyzer

Starting your essay is probably the most difficult thing to do in the whole writing process.

Facing a blank page and unsure how to start your essay? Crafting a compelling essay isn’t innate for everyone. While it’s about presenting clear ideas, even top students can struggle. For many, meeting deadlines or ensuring quality becomes daunting, leading them to consult professionals like do my essay cheap . These experts whip up top-tier essays swiftly. A standout essay can elevate your academic status, with the introduction being the pivotal hook. Many opt to hire essay writers for that impeccable start. But crafting an engaging intro is doable. Want to captivate your readers immediately? Or impress academic panels? If the task still feels daunting, there’s always the option to buy assignments online for guaranteed quality. But let’s explore ways to start an essay on your own.

How to start your essay? – The most straightforward advice

In his famous book  “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” , Stephen King said: “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” So the best thing to do is to start writing as soon as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just sit down and write anything, because the Muse comes to those who are brave enough to start. Maybe you’ll throw half of it away, but at least you’ll have something to hang on to.

How to begin your essay? – The lengthier and more appropriate advice

The aim of an academic essay is usually to persuade readers to change their minds about something. It can also be a descriptive, expository, argumentative, or narrative essay .

But regardless of the  format of the essay , the introduction should still have these basic ingredients:

  • Introduce the topic – let the reader know what is it about straight away.
  • Put the topic in an appropriate context. Frame it, and provide some background information.
  • Narrow down the focus. If your essay is too broad, you’ll lose the interest of the reader and fail to address the important issue.
  • Answer an important question or make a strong statement which you’ll defend throughout the essay.
  • Orientate the reader. In the beginning, you need to answer questions like who, what, when, and how. Remember that the reader probably doesn’t know all the facts that you do.
  • Briefly mention the main ideas you are going to discuss in the essay.

How long should an essay introduction be?

It all depends on the overall length of your essay. If it’s a standard, five-paragraph  college essay , the introduction should only take one paragraph or 60-80 words. But if you’re writing something longer, for example, a five-page interpretation of a literary work, the introduction could take two to three paragraphs or 120-150 words. You can measure the length using a simple word counter but don’t obsess too much about the number. The crucial thing is to say what you need to say and impact the reader.

The aim of the introductory paragraph

The first paragraph is always tricky because it serves a double purpose. It has to state what the essay will be about, but it needs to hook the readers and motivate them to read on. That’s why you need a perfect balance between clinical precision and artistic flair.

If you truly want to learn how to begin an essay, there are three best ways to do it:

  • Read as many  great essays as possible
  • Write as many great essays as possible
  • Check examples of great essay introductory paragraphs (that’s what you can see below)

20 Great examples and tips on how to start an essay:

1. describe a setting and start with an emotional punch.

“I’ve been to Australia twice so far, but according to my father, I’ve never actually seen it. He made this observation at the home of my cousin Joan, whom he and I visited just before Christmas last year, and it came on the heels of an equally aggressive comment.” – David Sedaris, Laugh, Kookaburra

2. Start with a deeply personal story from your childhood

“One Sunday morning when I was a boy, my father came out of his office and handed me a poem. It was about a honeybee counseling a flea to flee a doggy and see the sea. The barbiturates my father took to regulate his emotions made him insomniac, and I understood that he’d been awake most of the night, laboring over these lines, listing all the words he could think of ending in a long “e.” – Charles D’Ambrosio – Documents

3. Create a mysterious atmosphere

“Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy-blossom which the commonest yellow-underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us.” – Virginia Woolf – Death of the Moth

4. Throw the reader straight into the middle of the events

“Earlier this summer I was walking down West End Avenue in Manhattan and remembered, with a sadness that nearly knocked me off my feet, just why I came to New York seven years ago and just why I am now about to leave.” – Meghan Daum – My Misspent Youth

5. Start with universal questions of life and death

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state.” – Roger Ebert – Go Gentle Into That Good Night

6. Start with a question and then answer it

“What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn’t afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul.” – Emily R. Grosholz – On Necklaces

7. Start with irony

“In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people – the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.” – George Orwell – Shooting an Elephant

8. Begin by creating great expectations of what’s to come (use the introduction as bait)

“At a dinner party that will forever be green in the memory of those who attended it, somebody was complaining not just about the epic badness of the novels of Robert Ludlum but also about the badness of their titles. (You know the sort of pretentiousness: The Bourne Supremacy, The Aquitaine Progression, The Ludlum Impersonation, and so forth.) Then it happily occurred to another guest to wonder aloud what a Shakespeare play might be called if named in the Ludlum manner.” – Christopher Hitchens – Assassins of The Mind

9. Start with a puzzle (notice how you start to wonder who is she talking about in this introduction)

“The first time I heard her I didn’t hear her at all. My parents did not prepare me. (The natural thing in these situations is to blame the parents.) She was nowhere to be found on their four-foot-tall wood veneer hi-fi. Given the variety of voices you got to hear on that contraption, her absence was a little strange.” – Zadie Smith – Some Notes on Attunement

10. Start with dark humor

“When I was young, I thought Life: A User’s Manual would teach me how to live and Suicide: A User’s Manual how to die.” – Édouard Levé – When I Look at a Strawberry, I Think of a Tongue

11. Start with an unusual question that will pull the readers in

“Do you know what a twerp is? When I was in Shortridge High School in Indianapolis 65 years ago, a twerp was a guy who stuck a set of false teeth up his butt and bit the buttons off the back seats of taxicabs. (And a snarf was a guy who sniffed the seats of girls’ bicycles.)” – Kurt Vonnegut – Dispatch From A Man Without a Country

12. Commence by taking the reader into the world of mystery and awe

“The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality.” – Susan Sontag – Against Interpretation

13. State your thesis at the very beginning – be clear about it

“Science has beauty, power, and majesty that can provide spiritual as well as practical fulfillment. But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way providing easy answers, casually pressing our awe buttons, and cheapening the experience.” – Carl Sagan – Does Truth Matter – Science, Pseudoscience, and Civilization

14. Start with the obvious that’s not so obvious after all

“To do something well you have to like it. That idea is not exactly novel. We’ve got it down to four words: “Do what you love.” But it’s not enough just to tell people that. Doing what you love is complicated.” – Paul Graham – How To Do What You Love

15. Be unpredictable and highly intellectual

“Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.” – Joan Didion – On Self Respect

16. Get straight to the point

“The enormous, pungent, and extremely well marketed Maine Lobster Festival is held every late July in the state’s mid-coast region, meaning the western side of Penobscot Bay, the nerve stem of Maine’s lobster industry.” – David Foster Wallace – Consider The Lobster

17. Start in a deeply emotional, poetic manner

“The collie wakes me up about three times a night, summoning me from a great distance as I row my boat through a dim, complicated dream. She’s on the shoreline, barking. Wake up. She’s staring at me with her head slightly tipped to the side, long nose, gazing eyes, toenails clenched to get a purchase on the wood floor. We used to call her the face of love.” – Jo Ann Beard – The Fourth State of Matter

18. Begin by describing the place and circumstances in great detail

“Two blocks away from the Mississippi State Capitol, and on the same street with it, where our house was when I was a child growing up in Jackson, it was possible to have a little pasture behind your backyard where you could keep a Jersey cow, which we did. My mother herself milked her. A thrifty homemaker, wife, and mother of three, she also did all her cooking. And as far as I can recall, she never set foot inside a grocery store. It wasn’t necessary.” – Eudora Welty – The Little Store

19. Start by presenting an original idea (frame it in a way that the reader never considered before)

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases. In Gandhi’s case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity — by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power — and to what extent did he compromise his principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud?” – George Orwell – Reflections on Gandhi

20. Be clear-headed and approach the subject as objectively as possible

“Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of stricter gun laws often seem unable to understand why a good person would ever want ready access to a loaded firearm. Between these two extremes, we must find grounds for a rational discussion about the problem of gun violence.” – Sam Harris – The Riddle of The Gun

Looking for an answer on how to start an essay is always tricky. You can get inspiration from many sources, but if you want to create an essay that packs a powerful punch from the very beginning, look inside yourself and come up with at least a few openings. Then, do your best to revise the opening paragraphs a couple of times so you end up with something truly impactful and attention-grabbing. Good luck! Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to write a great 500-word essay .

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Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started RafalReyzer.com to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here , and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.

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  • 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays

good ways to start an essay about someone

To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.

Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.

If you’re interested in developing your language and persuasive skills, Oxford Royale offers summer courses at its Oxford Summer School , Cambridge Summer School , London Summer School , San Francisco Summer School and Yale Summer School . You can study courses to learn english , prepare for careers in law , medicine , business , engineering and leadership.

General explaining

Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.

1. In order to

Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”

2. In other words

Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”

3. To put it another way

Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”

4. That is to say

Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”

5. To that end

Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”

Adding additional information to support a point

Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.

6. Moreover

Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”

7. Furthermore

Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”

8. What’s more

Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”

9. Likewise

Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”

10. Similarly

Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”

11. Another key thing to remember

Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”

12. As well as

Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”

13. Not only… but also

Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

14. Coupled with

Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”

15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…

Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.

16. Not to mention/to say nothing of

Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”

Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast

When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.

17. However

Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”

18. On the other hand

Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”

19. Having said that

Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”

20. By contrast/in comparison

Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”

21. Then again

Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”

22. That said

Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”

Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”

Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations

Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.

24. Despite this

Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”

25. With this in mind

Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”

26. Provided that

Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”

27. In view of/in light of

Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”

28. Nonetheless

Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”

29. Nevertheless

Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”

30. Notwithstanding

Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”

Giving examples

Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.

31. For instance

Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”

32. To give an illustration

Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”

Signifying importance

When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.

33. Significantly

Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”

34. Notably

Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”

35. Importantly

Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”

Summarising

You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.

36. In conclusion

Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”

37. Above all

Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”

38. Persuasive

Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”

39. Compelling

Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”

40. All things considered

Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”

How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.

At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a number of  summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , business , medicine  and engineering .

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How To Start A College Essay About Yourself

How To Start A College Essay About Yourself

The Silicon Review 17 April, 2024

Writing a college essay about yourself can be an intimidating task. It's your one chance to make an impression on the admissions officers and convince them that you're the right fit for their school. But where do you even begin? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Beginning a college essay about yourself involves capturing your unique voice and experiences in a compelling introduction that hooks the reader's attention, and having someone at Academized to write my essay ensures expert guidance and support to kickstart your narrative with confidence and clarity. In this post, we'll guide you through the process of starting a college essay about yourself, from brainstorming ideas to creating an introduction.

Brainstorming Topics

The first step in starting a college essay about yourself is to brainstorm potential topics. This is where you'll want to think about what makes you unique and what experiences have shaped who you are today. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • A significant challenge you've faced and how you overcame it
  • A personal accomplishment you're proud of
  • A life-changing event or experience
  • Your cultural background and how it has influenced you
  • A person who has had a significant impact on your life
  • A passion or interest that drives you

As you brainstorm, think about the stories and experiences that best showcase your personality, values, and goals. Remember, the essay is an opportunity to give the admissions officers a glimpse into who you are beyond just your grades and test scores.

Choosing a Compelling Topic

Once you've brainstormed a list of potential topics, it's time to narrow it down to the one that you think will make for the most compelling essay. Here are some things to consider when choosing your topic:

  • Significance: Choose a topic that has had a significant impact on your life or has helped shape who you are today.
  • Uniqueness: While it's okay to write about a common experience, try to find a unique angle or perspective that sets your essay apart.
  • Personal growth: Look for a topic that showcases how you've grown or learned from the experience.
  • Passion: Choose a topic that you're passionate about, as this will make your essay more engaging and authentic.

Writing a Strong Introduction

Writing a college essay about yourself requires an engaging opening that showcases your personality and sets the tone for your narrative, and referencing insightful resources like https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-essay-writing-services-top-5-paper-websites-mary-walton can provide valuable inspiration and guidance to help you create a memorable introduction with confidence.

With your topic selected, it's time to start writing your essay. The introduction is arguably the most important part, as it sets the tone for the rest of the piece and hooks the reader's attention. Here are some tips for writing a strong introduction:

The Personal Anecdote

One effective way to start your essay is with a personal anecdote or story that relates to your chosen topic. This can be a powerful way to draw the reader in and set the scene for the rest of your essay. For example, if you're writing about a significant challenge you've faced, you could start with a vivid description of the moment when you first realized the challenge ahead of you.

The Thought-provoking Question

Another option is to start with a thought-provoking question that relates to your topic. This can pique the reader's curiosity and get them thinking about the issue or experience you'll be exploring in your essay. For example, if you're writing about a passion or interest that drives you, you could start with a question like, "What is it that makes us passionate about certain things in life?"

The Surprising Statement

You could also grab the reader's attention with a surprising statement or statistic that relates to your topic. This can be a great way to challenge the reader's assumptions and set up the rest of your essay as an exploration of that surprising idea. For example, if you're writing about your cultural background, you could start with a statement like, "While many people assume that culture is something that's passed down from generation to generation, my experience has shown me that it's something that's constantly evolving."

Finding Your Voice

No matter which approach you choose for your introduction, it's important to find your voice and write in a way that feels authentic and true to who you are. Don't try to sound like someone you're not, or use language that feels unnatural or forced. The admissions officers want to get to know the real you, so let your personality shine through in your writing.

Developing the Body

With a strong introduction in place, it's time to move on to the body of your essay. This is where you'll expand on the topic you've chosen and provide the details and examples that support your main idea or argument. Here are some tips for developing a strong body:

Use Vivid Details

To make your essay more engaging and memorable, be sure to use vivid details and descriptions. This could include sensory details (sights, sounds, smells, etc.), dialogue, or specific examples that help illustrate your points.

Show, Don't Tell

Rather than simply telling the reader what happened or what you learned, show them through your writing. Use concrete examples and anecdotes to bring your experiences to life and demonstrate the lessons or insights you've gained.

Structure and Flow

Pay attention to the structure and flow of your essay. Use transitions to smoothly move from one idea to the next, and consider using subheadings or other organizational techniques to help guide the reader through your essay.

Personal Growth and Reflection

Throughout the body of your essay, be sure to emphasize how the experience or topic you're writing about has impacted you personally. Share your thoughts, feelings, and insights, and reflect on how the experience has shaped who you are today or influenced your goals and aspirations for the future.

As you wrap up your essay, it's important to bring your ideas together in a strong conclusion. This is your chance to leave a lasting impression on the reader and reinforce the main themes or lessons you've explored throughout your essay.

Summarize Key Points

In your conclusion, you'll want to briefly summarize the key points or experiences you've discussed in the body of your essay. This helps to reinforce the main ideas and ensures that the reader walks away with a clear understanding of your central message or argument.

Final Thoughts and Insights

Use the conclusion as an opportunity to share any final thoughts or insights you've gained from the experience or topic you've written about. This could include lessons learned, personal growth, or how the experience has influenced your goals or perspectives.

Call to Action

Finally, consider including a call to action or a statement that encourages the reader to think more deeply about the topic or theme you've explored. This could be a question for them to ponder or a challenge to approach a similar situation or experience with a new perspective.

Revising and Editing

Once you've drafted your college essay, it's important to take the time to revise and edit your work. This will help ensure that your essay is polished, well-organized, and free of errors.

Read it Out Loud

One helpful technique is to read your essay out loud. This can help you catch awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, or other issues that you might have missed when reading silently.

Get Feedback

It can also be valuable to have someone else read your essay and provide feedback. This could be a friend, family member, teacher, or even a writing tutor. They may be able to offer fresh perspective and insights that can help you improve your essay.

Check for Clarity and Focus

As you revise, make sure that your essay has a clear focus and that each paragraph and idea contributes to your overall message or argument. Remove any unnecessary or tangential information that doesn't directly support your main point.

Polish Your Writing

Finally, take the time to polish your writing and ensure that your essay is free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. These small details can make a big difference in how your essay is perceived by the admissions officers.

Writing a college essay about yourself can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this post, you'll be well on your way to creating a compelling and authentic essay that showcases who you are and what you have to offer. Remember to take your time, focus on finding your unique voice, and don't be afraid to share your personal experiences and insights. With dedication and effort, you can create an essay that will make a lasting impression on the admissions officers and help you stand out in the competitive college application process.

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Opinion | Reaching its limits: CNN’s Gayle King-Charles Barkley show ends

A once-a-week show on wednesday at 10 p.m. eastern who thought this was a good idea.

good ways to start an essay about someone

Well, that didn’t last long.

CNN’s idea to put Gayle King and Charles Barkley together for a once-a-week, Wednesday 10 p.m. Eastern show seemed like a good idea. Wait, check that. I meant to say, who thought this was a good idea?

King is a TV pro. Barkley is typically must-see TV. But this show — called “King Charles,” in which King and Barkley talked about a variety of topics, including politics, TV, music, pop culture and important issues — never seemed to click with viewers, maybe in large part because it just seemed like it was thrown on at an odd time.

All along, CNN said it was a limited series, but Monday, it reached the end. The show lasted six months and 14 episodes.

This comes as no surprise. According to the New York Post’s Ariel Zilber , “King Charles” averaged less than 460,000 viewers. Meanwhile, its cable news competitors — Fox News and MSNBC — are drawing above 1.5 million viewers each in the same time slot.

The odd Wednesday time was mostly due to Barkley’s schedule, much of which is tied up working on TNT’s popular NBA studio show, “Inside the NBA.” Then there’s King and her early morning hours as co-host of “CBS Mornings.” I had originally written in this post that CNN had “pulled the plug” on the show.

A CNN spokesperson told me Tuesday, “‘King Charles’ has come to the end of its limited run, as we announced when it launched last fall that it would run through spring. The show was a great addition to CNN’s lineup, with the youngest, most affluent, and most diverse P2+ audience in its cable news time period and brought new audiences to CNN. It’s inaccurate to report that the show was canceled as it went through its full run and duration of the limited series. We hope to work with both of these incredible talents in the future as they balance their very busy schedules.”

I asked earlier who thought this was a good idea. The show was the brainchild of then-CNN boss Chris Licht, who was looking to shake up prime time in hopes of helping CNN catch up in the ratings with Fox News and MSNBC.

But with Licht long gone (CNN parted ways with him last June), and Mark Thompson now in charge, the show didn’t stand a chance with such dismal viewership numbers.

Turning up no answers

In January, Daniel Boguslaw and Ryan Grim — reporters from the nonprofit news outlet The Intercept — wrote that The New York Times shelved an episode of its popular “The Daily” podcast “amid a furious internal debate about the strength of the paper’s original reporting” about sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas last Oct. 7.

The Times then launched an investigation to try and learn who leaked that information to The Intercept. The results of that investigation were announced Monday. And the answer? The Times doesn’t know.

Times executive editor Joe Kahn told staff in a note Monday, “We did not reach a definitive conclusion about how this significant breach occurred. We did identify gaps in the way proprietary journalistic material is handled, and we have taken steps to address these issues.”

Kahn added, “I want to reiterate the central concern in this case, which is that we need to be able to rely on our colleagues to maintain confidentiality during the reporting and editing process. Reporters, editors and producers need to be able to have candid exchanges and disagreements about the best way to tackle a difficult piece of journalism with the understanding that those exchanges will strengthen the story, not become the story.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Bruell wrote, “Charlotte Behrendt, director of policy and internal investigations at the Times, oversaw the probe, interviewing close to 20 people over the course of many weeks. The investigation became contentious at times, with the union filing a grievance alleging that the company was targeting a group of staffers of Arab and Middle Eastern descent. Times leaders said the allegations are false.”

The memo, obtained here by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple , concluded with Kahn saying, “The breach that occurred should upset anyone who wants to have transparency in our editorial processes and to encourage candid exchanges about stories as they evolve. We work together with trust and collegiality everyday on everything we produce, and I have every expectation that this incident will prove to be a singular exception to an important rule.”

Four years ago

Veteran media writer Brian Stelter has a new piece out. This one is in Vanity Fair: “Here’s What Donald Trump’s America Was Actually Like Four Years Ago.”

It centers on Trump’s question, which is so often asked by those trying to unseat the current president: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?

Well, exactly four years ago we were in the still-early stages of what turned out to be the COVID-19 pandemic. And it was around this time four years ago that Trump, who was president then, was seemingly dismissing the seriousness of COVID-19 and wanting life to carry on as normal — that is, not wanting to shut everything down.

This is where the media comes in, pointing out exactly what was happening four years ago. In other words, answering the question asked by Trump and many of his supporters.

Stelter wrote, “In an emergency, leaders can either help or hurt. They can rise to the occasion or fail to lead at all. Trump’s record speaks for itself. But Politico deputy managing editor for politics Sam Stein recently observed that, according to polling data, many voters give Trump a pass for the COVID year of his presidency. Or, at least, don’t really hold him responsible for it. I get it. I don’t want to revisit the COVID year of Trump’s presidency either. But it’s crucial to remember.”

Civil War on film

I haven’t seen Alex Garland’s new film “Civil War,” but Los Angeles Times culture columnist and critic Mary McNamara has and she writes, “In trying to hedge its politics, ‘Civil War’ betrays its characters — and the audience.”

That’s the headline. In her review, McNamara writes, “It is a powerful film, which Garland has said he made to underscore the importance of journalism: to remind us that much of what we know about the world is a direct result of journalists telling and showing us what is going on at any given moment. Even if their lives and/or mental health are at stake.”

Later, McNamara writes, “By attempting to keep his film ‘above’ the current political fray, Garland comes close to the both sides-ism that too many journalists are expected (or have chosen) to embrace in an attempt to prove lack of bias. But the arbitrary demand for ‘balance’ should never be confused with objectivity, which requires, among many qualities, an understanding that not all things are equal in importance, relevance or, if it comes to that, blame.”

And here’s The Guardian’s Adrian Horton with “From Scoop to Civil War: why is it so hard to portray journalism on screen?”

Remember his attack

Author Salman Rushdie is out with a new book today called “Knife,” which revolves around the August 2022 incident in which he was attacked by a man with a knife during a lecture appearance at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York.

Rushdie, 76, was stabbed in the face, neck, chest, abdomen, thigh and hand. He lost his right eye in the attack. He told Anderson Cooper on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” that he didn’t want to write a book about what happened, but felt he had no choice.

Rushdie said, “I need to focus on, you know, to use the cliché, the elephant in the room. And the moment I thought that, kinda something changed in my head. And it then became a book I really very much wanted to write.”

Rushdie told Cooper that he had a premonition two days before the incident on stage. He nearly canceled his appearance but decided to go through with it.

Rushdie writes in his book that he remembers being on stage and, “Then, in the corner of my right eye — the last thing my right eye would ever see — I saw the man in black running towards me down the right-hand side of the seating area.”

He added, “I confess, I had sometimes imagined my assassin rising up in some public forum or other, and coming for me in just this way. So my first thought when I saw this murderous shape rushing towards me was, ‘So it’s you. Here you are.’”

The attack lasted 27 seconds. Rushdie survived, but said there were no revelations from his near-death experience, telling Cooper, “there’s no revelation to be had.”

For more on Rushdie and his new book, check out The New York Times’ Sarah Lyall with “He Was Blinded in One Eye, but Salman Rushdie’s Vision Is Undiminished.”

Sing us a song, you’re the …

good ways to start an essay about someone

Singer-songwriter Billy Joel, shown here in 2018. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Billy Joel fans are losing their marbles because CBS cut short a taped concert that aired Sunday night. The concert, originally recorded on March 28, celebrated Joel’s 100th show of his long-running residency at New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden.

The airing on CBS started a bit late because The Masters golf tournament ran a little long earlier in the evening. So the Joel special was cut short in the Eastern and Central Time Zones, right in the middle of his classic song, “Piano Man.” ( Here’s what it looked like.)

That’s when Joel’s fans blew up social media, and CBS, with their complaints.

Look, I’m fine with Billy Joel, but are we really complaining about not hearing a full version of “Piano Man” for the 10 billionth time?

CBS put out an apology on Monday, saying, “A network programming timing error ended last night’s Billy Joel special approximately two minutes early in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. We apologize to Mr. Joel, his fans, our affiliated stations, and our audience whose viewing experience was interrupted during the last song.”

To make up for it, CBS announced it will broadcast the concert in its entirety on Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Media tidbits

  • The New York Times’ Matthew Goldstein and Joe Rennison with “Trump Media Stock Plunges, Extending Recent Losses.”
  • And speaking of that, The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell with “Small-time investors in Trump’s Truth Social reckon with stock collapse.”
  • Mediaite’s Diana Falzone with “Daily Beast Shakeup: Barry Diller Taps Two Media Vets To Turn Site Around.”
  • The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch writes about the CBS broadcaster who covered his 40th and final Masters this past weekend: “In Verne Lundquist’s final Masters moment, the hour belonged to him.”
  • The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand writes that longtime New York Yankees radio voice John Sterling is retiring. And Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina talked with the radio legend .
  • For Harper’s Magazine, Daniel Bessner with “The Life and Death of Hollywood. Film and television writers face an existential threat.”

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Update: The lead item was updated to include CNN’s response that the network had always intended for the “King Charles” show to end in the spring of 2024, and that it would be inaccurate to say the network “pulled the plug” on the show.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] .

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What to know about the crisis of violence, politics and hunger engulfing Haiti

A woman carrying two bags of rice walks past burning tires

A long-simmering crisis over Haiti’s ability to govern itself, particularly after a series of natural disasters and an increasingly dire humanitarian emergency, has come to a head in the Caribbean nation, as its de facto president remains stranded in Puerto Rico and its people starve and live in fear of rampant violence. 

The chaos engulfing the country has been bubbling for more than a year, only for it to spill over on the global stage on Monday night, as Haiti’s unpopular prime minister, Ariel Henry, agreed to resign once a transitional government is brokered by other Caribbean nations and parties, including the U.S.

But the very idea of a transitional government brokered not by Haitians but by outsiders is one of the main reasons Haiti, a nation of 11 million, is on the brink, according to humanitarian workers and residents who have called for Haitian-led solutions. 

“What we’re seeing in Haiti has been building since the 2010 earthquake,” said Greg Beckett, an associate professor of anthropology at Western University in Canada. 

Haitians take shelter in the Delmas 4 Olympic Boxing Arena

What is happening in Haiti and why?

In the power vacuum that followed the assassination of democratically elected President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, Henry, who was prime minister under Moïse, assumed power, with the support of several nations, including the U.S. 

When Haiti failed to hold elections multiple times — Henry said it was due to logistical problems or violence — protests rang out against him. By the time Henry announced last year that elections would be postponed again, to 2025, armed groups that were already active in Port-au-Prince, the capital, dialed up the violence.

Even before Moïse’s assassination, these militias and armed groups existed alongside politicians who used them to do their bidding, including everything from intimidating the opposition to collecting votes . With the dwindling of the country’s elected officials, though, many of these rebel forces have engaged in excessively violent acts, and have taken control of at least 80% of the capital, according to a United Nations estimate. 

Those groups, which include paramilitary and former police officers who pose as community leaders, have been responsible for the increase in killings, kidnappings and rapes since Moïse’s death, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University in Sweden. According to a report from the U.N . released in January, more than 8,400 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in 2023, an increase of 122% increase from 2022.

“January and February have been the most violent months in the recent crisis, with thousands of people killed, or injured, or raped,” Beckett said.

Image: Ariel Henry

Armed groups who had been calling for Henry’s resignation have already attacked airports, police stations, sea ports, the Central Bank and the country’s national soccer stadium. The situation reached critical mass earlier this month when the country’s two main prisons were raided , leading to the escape of about 4,000 prisoners. The beleaguered government called a 72-hour state of emergency, including a night-time curfew — but its authority had evaporated by then.

Aside from human-made catastrophes, Haiti still has not fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed about 220,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, many of them living in poorly built and exposed housing. More earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have followed, exacerbating efforts to rebuild infrastructure and a sense of national unity.

Since the earthquake, “there have been groups in Haiti trying to control that reconstruction process and the funding, the billions of dollars coming into the country to rebuild it,” said Beckett, who specializes in the Caribbean, particularly Haiti. 

Beckett said that control initially came from politicians and subsequently from armed groups supported by those politicians. Political “parties that controlled the government used the government for corruption to steal that money. We’re seeing the fallout from that.”

Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence

Many armed groups have formed in recent years claiming to be community groups carrying out essential work in underprivileged neighborhoods, but they have instead been accused of violence, even murder . One of the two main groups, G-9, is led by a former elite police officer, Jimmy Chérizier — also known as “Barbecue” — who has become the public face of the unrest and claimed credit for various attacks on public institutions. He has openly called for Henry to step down and called his campaign an “armed revolution.”

But caught in the crossfire are the residents of Haiti. In just one week, 15,000 people have been displaced from Port-au-Prince, according to a U.N. estimate. But people have been trying to flee the capital for well over a year, with one woman telling NBC News that she is currently hiding in a church with her three children and another family with eight children. The U.N. said about 160,000 people have left Port-au-Prince because of the swell of violence in the last several months. 

Deep poverty and famine are also a serious danger. Gangs have cut off access to the country’s largest port, Autorité Portuaire Nationale, and food could soon become scarce.

Haiti's uncertain future

A new transitional government may dismay the Haitians and their supporters who call for Haitian-led solutions to the crisis. 

But the creation of such a government would come after years of democratic disruption and the crumbling of Haiti’s political leadership. The country hasn’t held an election in eight years. 

Haitian advocates and scholars like Jemima Pierre, a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, say foreign intervention, including from the U.S., is partially to blame for Haiti’s turmoil. The U.S. has routinely sent thousands of troops to Haiti , intervened in its government and supported unpopular leaders like Henry.

“What you have over the last 20 years is the consistent dismantling of the Haitian state,” Pierre said. “What intervention means for Haiti, what it has always meant, is death and destruction.”

Image: Workers unload humanitarian aid from a U.S. helicopter at Les Cayes airport in Haiti, Aug. 18, 2021.

In fact, the country’s situation was so dire that Henry was forced to travel abroad in the hope of securing a U.N. peacekeeping deal. He went to Kenya, which agreed to send 1,000 troops to coordinate an East African and U.N.-backed alliance to help restore order in Haiti, but the plan is now on hold . Kenya agreed last October to send a U.N.-sanctioned security force to Haiti, but Kenya’s courts decided it was unconstitutional. The result has been Haiti fending for itself. 

“A force like Kenya, they don’t speak Kreyòl, they don’t speak French,” Pierre said. “The Kenyan police are known for human rights abuses . So what does it tell us as Haitians that the only thing that you see that we deserve are not schools, not reparations for the cholera the U.N. brought , but more military with the mandate to use all kinds of force on our population? That is unacceptable.”  

Henry was forced to announce his planned resignation from Puerto Rico, as threats of violence — and armed groups taking over the airports — have prevented him from returning to his country.  

An elderly woman runs in front of the damaged police station building with tires burning in front of it

Now that Henry is to stand down, it is far from clear what the armed groups will do or demand next, aside from the right to govern. 

“It’s the Haitian people who know what they’re going through. It’s the Haitian people who are going to take destiny into their own hands. Haitian people will choose who will govern them,” Chérizier said recently, according to The Associated Press .

Haitians and their supporters have put forth their own solutions over the years, holding that foreign intervention routinely ignores the voices and desires of Haitians. 

In 2021, both Haitian and non-Haitian church leaders, women’s rights groups, lawyers, humanitarian workers, the Voodoo Sector and more created the Commission to Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis . The commission has proposed the “ Montana Accord ,” outlining a two-year interim government with oversight committees tasked with restoring order, eradicating corruption and establishing fair elections. 

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CORRECTION (March 15, 2024, 9:58 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated which university Jemima Pierre is affiliated with. She is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, not the University of California, Los Angeles, (or Columbia University, as an earlier correction misstated).

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Patrick Smith is a London-based editor and reporter for NBC News Digital.

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Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race.

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NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism

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David Folkenflik

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NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument. Uri Berliner hide caption

NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument.

NPR has formally punished Uri Berliner, the senior editor who publicly argued a week ago that the network had "lost America's trust" by approaching news stories with a rigidly progressive mindset.

Berliner's five-day suspension without pay, which began last Friday, has not been previously reported.

Yet the public radio network is grappling in other ways with the fallout from Berliner's essay for the online news site The Free Press . It angered many of his colleagues, led NPR leaders to announce monthly internal reviews of the network's coverage, and gave fresh ammunition to conservative and partisan Republican critics of NPR, including former President Donald Trump.

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo is among those now targeting NPR's new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the network. Among others, those posts include a 2020 tweet that called Trump racist and another that appeared to minimize rioting during social justice protests that year. Maher took the job at NPR last month — her first at a news organization .

In a statement Monday about the messages she had posted, Maher praised the integrity of NPR's journalists and underscored the independence of their reporting.

"In America everyone is entitled to free speech as a private citizen," she said. "What matters is NPR's work and my commitment as its CEO: public service, editorial independence, and the mission to serve all of the American public. NPR is independent, beholden to no party, and without commercial interests."

The network noted that "the CEO is not involved in editorial decisions."

In an interview with me later on Monday, Berliner said the social media posts demonstrated Maher was all but incapable of being the person best poised to direct the organization.

"We're looking for a leader right now who's going to be unifying and bring more people into the tent and have a broader perspective on, sort of, what America is all about," Berliner said. "And this seems to be the opposite of that."

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Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month. Stephen Voss/Stephen Voss hide caption

Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month.

He said that he tried repeatedly to make his concerns over NPR's coverage known to news leaders and to Maher's predecessor as chief executive before publishing his essay.

Berliner has singled out coverage of several issues dominating the 2020s for criticism, including trans rights, the Israel-Hamas war and COVID. Berliner says he sees the same problems at other news organizations, but argues NPR, as a mission-driven institution, has a greater obligation to fairness.

"I love NPR and feel it's a national trust," Berliner says. "We have great journalists here. If they shed their opinions and did the great journalism they're capable of, this would be a much more interesting and fulfilling organization for our listeners."

A "final warning"

The circumstances surrounding the interview were singular.

Berliner provided me with a copy of the formal rebuke to review. NPR did not confirm or comment upon his suspension for this article.

In presenting Berliner's suspension Thursday afternoon, the organization told the editor he had failed to secure its approval for outside work for other news outlets, as is required of NPR journalists. It called the letter a "final warning," saying Berliner would be fired if he violated NPR's policy again. Berliner is a dues-paying member of NPR's newsroom union but says he is not appealing the punishment.

The Free Press is a site that has become a haven for journalists who believe that mainstream media outlets have become too liberal. In addition to his essay, Berliner appeared in an episode of its podcast Honestly with Bari Weiss.

A few hours after the essay appeared online, NPR chief business editor Pallavi Gogoi reminded Berliner of the requirement that he secure approval before appearing in outside press, according to a copy of the note provided by Berliner.

In its formal rebuke, NPR did not cite Berliner's appearance on Chris Cuomo's NewsNation program last Tuesday night, for which NPR gave him the green light. (NPR's chief communications officer told Berliner to focus on his own experience and not share proprietary information.) The NPR letter also did not cite his remarks to The New York Times , which ran its article mid-afternoon Thursday, shortly before the reprimand was sent. Berliner says he did not seek approval before talking with the Times .

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

Berliner says he did not get permission from NPR to speak with me for this story but that he was not worried about the consequences: "Talking to an NPR journalist and being fired for that would be extraordinary, I think."

Berliner is a member of NPR's business desk, as am I, and he has helped to edit many of my stories. He had no involvement in the preparation of this article and did not see it before it was posted publicly.

In rebuking Berliner, NPR said he had also publicly released proprietary information about audience demographics, which it considers confidential. He said those figures "were essentially marketing material. If they had been really good, they probably would have distributed them and sent them out to the world."

Feelings of anger and betrayal inside the newsroom

His essay and subsequent public remarks stirred deep anger and dismay within NPR. Colleagues contend Berliner cherry-picked examples to fit his arguments and challenge the accuracy of his accounts. They also note he did not seek comment from the journalists involved in the work he cited.

Morning Edition host Michel Martin told me some colleagues at the network share Berliner's concerns that coverage is frequently presented through an ideological or idealistic prism that can alienate listeners.

"The way to address that is through training and mentorship," says Martin, herself a veteran of nearly two decades at the network who has also reported for The Wall Street Journal and ABC News. "It's not by blowing the place up, by trashing your colleagues, in full view of people who don't really care about it anyway."

Several NPR journalists told me they are no longer willing to work with Berliner as they no longer have confidence that he will keep private their internal musings about stories as they work through coverage.

"Newsrooms run on trust," NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben tweeted last week, without mentioning Berliner by name. "If you violate everyone's trust by going to another outlet and sh--ing on your colleagues (while doing a bad job journalistically, for that matter), I don't know how you do your job now."

Berliner rejected that critique, saying nothing in his essay or subsequent remarks betrayed private observations or arguments about coverage.

Other newsrooms are also grappling with questions over news judgment and confidentiality. On Monday, New York Times Executive Editor Joseph Kahn announced to his staff that the newspaper's inquiry into who leaked internal dissent over a planned episode of its podcast The Daily to another news outlet proved inconclusive. The episode was to focus on a December report on the use of sexual assault as part of the Hamas attack on Israel in October. Audio staffers aired doubts over how well the reporting stood up to scrutiny.

"We work together with trust and collegiality everyday on everything we produce, and I have every expectation that this incident will prove to be a singular exception to an important rule," Kahn wrote to Times staffers.

At NPR, some of Berliner's colleagues have weighed in online against his claim that the network has focused on diversifying its workforce without a concomitant commitment to diversity of viewpoint. Recently retired Chief Executive John Lansing has referred to this pursuit of diversity within NPR's workforce as its " North Star ," a moral imperative and chief business strategy.

In his essay, Berliner tagged the strategy as a failure, citing the drop in NPR's broadcast audiences and its struggle to attract more Black and Latino listeners in particular.

"During most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding," Berliner writes. "In recent years, however, that has changed."

Berliner writes, "For NPR, which purports to consider all things, it's devastating both for its journalism and its business model."

NPR investigative reporter Chiara Eisner wrote in a comment for this story: "Minorities do not all think the same and do not report the same. Good reporters and editors should know that by now. It's embarrassing to me as a reporter at NPR that a senior editor here missed that point in 2024."

Some colleagues drafted a letter to Maher and NPR's chief news executive, Edith Chapin, seeking greater clarity on NPR's standards for its coverage and the behavior of its journalists — clearly pointed at Berliner.

A plan for "healthy discussion"

On Friday, CEO Maher stood up for the network's mission and the journalism, taking issue with Berliner's critique, though never mentioning him by name. Among her chief issues, she said Berliner's essay offered "a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are."

Berliner took great exception to that, saying she had denigrated him. He said that he supported diversifying NPR's workforce to look more like the U.S. population at large. She did not address that in a subsequent private exchange he shared with me for this story. (An NPR spokesperson declined further comment.)

Late Monday afternoon, Chapin announced to the newsroom that Executive Editor Eva Rodriguez would lead monthly meetings to review coverage.

"Among the questions we'll ask of ourselves each month: Did we capture the diversity of this country — racial, ethnic, religious, economic, political geographic, etc — in all of its complexity and in a way that helped listeners and readers recognize themselves and their communities?" Chapin wrote in the memo. "Did we offer coverage that helped them understand — even if just a bit better — those neighbors with whom they share little in common?"

Berliner said he welcomed the announcement but would withhold judgment until those meetings played out.

In a text for this story, Chapin said such sessions had been discussed since Lansing unified the news and programming divisions under her acting leadership last year.

"Now seemed [the] time to deliver if we were going to do it," Chapin said. "Healthy discussion is something we need more of."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Business Editor Emily Kopp and Managing Editor Gerry Holmes. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no NPR corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

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The Opening Days of Trump’s First Criminal Trial

Here’s what has happened so far in the unprecedented proceedings against a former u.s. president..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

It’s the first day of the Trump trial and just walking out the door in my house. It’s a beautiful day, 6:11 AM. The thing that keeps running through my head is it’s kind of amazing that hundreds of jurors are going to show up at the Manhattan courthouse. And some of them are going to know what they’re there for — probably talking to their friends, their relatives about it.

Some of them are going to learn this morning talking to other jurors in line, asking what all the fuss is about. But I really do imagine that there’s going to be at least one potential juror who, headphones on, getting into court. Here they’re going to be there for the first criminal trial of Donald J. Trump. And just, I mean, how would you react?

[MUSIC PLAYING]

From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.” Today, what it’s been like inside the lower Manhattan courtroom, where political and legal history are being made? My colleague, Jonah Bromwich, on the opening days of the first criminal trial of a US President. It’s Thursday, April 18.

Is that his mic? Hi, there.

Hello. How are you?

I’m doing good.

OK. Thank you for coming in, Jonah —

Thank you for having me.

— in the middle of a trial. Can you just explain why you’re able to even be here?

Sure. So we happen to be off on Wednesdays during trial, so.

We being not “The New York Times,” but the courts.

That’s right.

Which is why we’re taping with you. And because we now have two full court days of this history-making trial now under our belts. And the thing about this trial that’s so interesting is that there are no cameras in the courtroom for the wider world.

There’s no audio recordings. So all we really have is and your eyes and your notebook, maybe your laptop. And so we’re hoping you can reconstruct for us the scene of the first two days of this trial and really the highlights.

Yeah, I’d be happy to. So on Monday morning, I left the subway. It’s before 7:00 AM. The sun is just rising over these grandiose court buildings in lower Manhattan.

I’m about to turn left onto Center Street. I’m right in front of the big municipal building.

And I turn onto Center Street. That’s where the courthouses are.

I’m crossing.

And I expected to see a big crowd. And it was even bigger than I had anticipated.

Here we go. Here we go. Here we go. Now, I finally see the crowd.

You have camera banks. You have reporters. You have the beginnings of what will eventually become a protest. And you have this most New York thing, which is just a big crowd of people.

[CHUCKLES]: Who just know something is going on.

That’s right. And what they know is going on is, of course, the first trial of an American president.

All right, I’m passing the camera, folks. Camera, camera, camera, camera. Here we go.

Let’s start with Sharon Crowley live outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

I want to get right to ABC’S Aaron Katersky who’s outside of the courthouse.

Robert Costa is following it outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Bob, I saw the satellite trucks lined up all in a row. Good morning.

Talk to us how we got here exactly.

So this is the case that was brought by the Manhattan district attorney. So prosecutors have accused Donald Trump of covering up the actions of his former fixer, Michael Cohen, after Cohen paid hush money to Stormy Daniels. Stormy Daniels had a story about having had sex with Donald Trump, which Trump has always denied.

Cohen paid her money, and then Trump reimbursed Cohen. And prosecutors say that Trump essentially defrauded the American people because he hid this information that could have been very important for the election from those people when he reimbursed Cohen.

Right. And as I remember it, he also misrepresented what that reimbursement was. Claimed it was a legal fee when, in fact, it was just reimbursing Michael Cohen for a hush money payment.

Exactly, yeah. He definitely didn’t say reimbursement for hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. It’s a cover up case. It’s a case about hiding information you don’t want people to see.

Right. And of course, the context of all this is that it is in the middle of a presidential election. It’s 2016. Trump wants to keep this secret, prosecutors allege, so that the American public doesn’t know about it and potentially hold it against him.

Right. And prosecutors are telling a story about election interference. They’re saying that Trump interfered with an election. And Trump himself is also using the phrase “election interference.” But he’s painting the trial itself as election interference as he now runs again in 2024.

Fascinating.

And because we’re in Manhattan, and because the jury pool is going to be largely Democratic, and the judge is a Democrat, and the district attorney is a Democrat, Trump keeps claiming he cannot get a fair shake. This is democrat central. And in democrat central, Trump doesn’t have a chance.

OK. So, what happens once you actually enter the courthouse?

Outside, there’s all this fanfare. But inside, it’s a little bit business as usual. So I go up to the 15th floor, and I walk into the courtroom, and I sit down, and it’s the same old courtroom. And we’re sitting and waiting for the former president.

Around 9:30, Trump walks in. He looks thin. He looks a little tired, kind of slumping forward, as if to say with his body like let’s get this over with. Here we go.

The judge walks in a little bit after that. And we think we’re all set for the trial to start, but that’s not what happens here. And in fact, there are a series of legal arguments about what the trial is going to look like and what evidence is going to be allowed in.

So, for example, prosecutors ask that they be allowed to admit into evidence headlines from “The National Enquirer” that were attacks on Trump’s 2016 opponents — on Ted Cruz, on Marco Rubio, on Ben Carson.

Because prosecutors are in some sense putting Trump’s 2016 campaign on trial. These headlines are a big part of that because what prosecutors say they show is that Trump had this ongoing deal with “The National Enquirer.” And the publisher would promote him, and it would publish damaging stories about his opponents. And then crucially, it would protect Trump from negative stories. And that’s exactly what prosecutors say happened with Stormy Daniels. That “The National Enquirer” tipped Cohen off about Stormy Daniels trying to sell her story of having had sex with Donald Trump, which he denies. And that led to the hush money payment to her. So what prosecutors are doing overall with these headlines is establishing a pattern of conduct. And that conduct, they say, was an attempt to influence the election in Trump’s favor.

And the judge agrees. He’s going to admit this evidence. And this is a pretty big win for the prosecution. But even though they win that one, they’re not winning everything.

They lose some important arguments here. One of them was that after the Access Hollywood tape came out, there were allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump. And you know this, Michael, because you reported two of them — two of the three in question at this very trial.

Prosecutors had hoped to talk about those during trial in front of the jury to show the jurors that the Trump campaign was really, really focused on pushing back against bad press in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump seemed to describe sexual assault. That was a big problem for the campaign. Campaign did everything it could to push back, including against these allegations that surfaced in the wake of the tape.

But the judge, saying that the allegations are hearsay — that they’re based on the women’s stories — says absolutely not. That is incredibly prejudicial to the defendant.

Interesting.

And that Donald Trump would actually not get a fair trial were those allegations to be mentioned. And so he will not let those in. The jurors will not hear about them.

So this is a setback, of course, for the prosecution, a victory for Trump’s legal team.

It’s a setback. And it also just shows you how these pre-trial motions shape the context of the trial. Think of the trial as a venue like a theater or an athletic contest of some sort. And these pre-trial motions are about what gets led into the arena and what stays out. The sexual assault allegations — out. “The National Enquirer” headlines — in.

OK. And how is Trump sitting there at the defense table reacting to these pre-trial motion rulings from the judge?

Well, as I’ve just said, this is very important stuff for his trial.

Right. Hugely important.

But it’s all happening in legal language, and I’m decoding it for you. But if you were sitting there listening to it, you might get a little lost, and you might get a little bored. And Trump, who is not involved in these arguments, seems to fall asleep.

Seems to fall asleep — you’re seeing this with your own eyes.

What we’re seeing, overall, including our colleague, Maggie Haberman, who’s in the overflow room and has a direct view of Trump’s face — I’m sitting behind him in the courtroom, so I can’t see his face that well.

You guys are double teaming this.

That’s right. I’m sitting behind him, but Maggie is sitting in front of him. And what she sees is not only that his eyes are closed. That wouldn’t get you to he is asleep.

And we have to be really careful about reporting that he’s asleep, even if it seems like a frivolous thing. But what happens is that his head is dropping down to his chest, and then it’s snapping back up. So you’ve seen that, when a student —

I’ve done that.

(CHUCKLES) Yeah. We all kind of know that feeling of snapping awake suddenly. And we see the head motion, and it happens several times.

Lawyers kind of bothering him, not quite shaking him, but certainly trying to get his attention. And that head snapping motion, we felt confident enough to report that Trump fell asleep.

During his own criminal trial’s opening day.

Does someone eventually wake him up?

He wakes up. He wakes up. And in fact, in the afternoon, he’s much more animated. It’s almost as if he wants to be seen being very much awake.

Right. So once these pre-trial motions are ruled on and Trump is snapped back to attention, what happens?

Well, what happens in the courtroom is that the trial begins. The first trial of an American president is now in session. And what marks that beginning is jurors walking into the room one by one — many of them kind of craning their necks over at Donald Trump, giggling, raising their eyebrows at each other, filing into the room, and being sworn in by the judge. And that swearing in marks the official beginning of the trial.

The beginning is jury selection, and it’s often overlooked. It’s not dramatized in our kind of courtroom dramas in the same way. But it’s so important. It’s one of the most important parts of the case. Because whoever sits on the jury, these are the 12 people who are going to decide whether Trump is guilty or whether Trump is innocent.

So how does jury selection actually look and feel and go?

So, jury selection is a winnowing process. And in order to do that, you have to have these people go through a bunch of different hurdles. So the first hurdle is, after the judge describes the case, he asks the group — and there are just short of 100 of them — whether they can be fair and impartial. And says that if they can’t, they should leave. And more than half the group is instantly gone.

So after we do this big mass excusal, we’re left with the smaller group. And so now, jurors are getting called in smaller groups to the jury box. And what they’re going to do there is they’re going to answer this questionnaire.

And this part of the process is really conducted by the judge. The lawyers are involved. They’re listening, but they’re not yet asking questions of the jurors themselves.

And what’s on the questionnaire?

Well, it’s 42 questions. And the questions include, their education, their professional histories, their hobbies, what they like to do whether you’re a member of QAnon or Antifa.

Whether you’re far left or far right.

That’s right. Whether you’ve read “The Art of the Deal,” Trump’s book, which some prospective jurors had.

Right. It was a bestseller in its time.

That’s right. And some of it can be answered in yes/no questions, but some of it can be answered more at length. So some of the prospective jurors are going very, very fast. Yes, no, no, no, yes.

Right. Because this is an oral questionnaire.

That’s right. But some of them are taking their time. They’re expanding on their hobbies. So the potential juror in seat 3, for example, is talking about her hobbies. And she says some running, hiking. And then she said, I like to go to the club, and it got a huge laugh. And you get that kind of thing in jury selection, which is one of the reasons it’s so fun. It’s the height of normality in this situation that is anything but normal.

Right. The most banal answer possible delivered in front of the former president And current Republican nominee for president.

Well, that’s one of the fascinating parts about all this, right? is that they’re answering in front of Trump. And they’re answering questions about Trump in front of Trump. He doesn’t react all that much. But whenever someone says they’ve read “The Art of the Deal —” and there are a few of those — he kind of nods appreciatively, smiles. He likes that. It’s very clear. But because there are so many questions, this is taking forever, especially when people are choosing to answer and elaborate and digress.

This is when you fall asleep.

This Is. When I would have fallen asleep if I were a normal person.

And by the end of the day. Where does jury selection stand?

Well, the questionnaire is another device for shrinking that jury pool. And so the questionnaire has almost these little obstacles or roadblocks, including, in fact, a question that jurors have seen before — whether they would have any problem being fair and impartial?

Hmm. And they ask it again.

They’re asked it again. And they’re asked in this more individualized way. The judge is questioning them. They’re responding.

So, remember that woman who said she liked to go to the club got a big laugh. She reaches question 34. And question 34 reads, “Do you have any strong opinions or firmly-held beliefs about former President Donald Trump or the fact that he is a current candidate for president that would interfere with your ability to be a fair and impartial juror?” She said, yes, she does have an opinion that would prevent her from being fair and impartial. And she, too, is excused.

So that’s how it works. People answer the questionnaire, and they get excused in that way, or they have a scheduling conflict once they reach the jury box. And so to answer your question, Michael. At the end of day one, given all these problems with the questionnaire and the length of time it’s taken to respond to and people getting dismissed based on their answers, there is not a single juror seated for this trial.

And it’s starting to look like this is going to be a really hard case for which to find an impartial jury.

That’s the feeling in the room, yeah.

We’ll be right back.

So Jonah, let’s turn to day 2. What does jury selection look like on Tuesday?

So when the day begins, it looks almost exactly like it looked when the day ended on Monday. We’re still with the questionnaire, getting some interesting answers. But even though it feels like we’re going slow, we are going.

And so we’ve gone from about 100 people to now there’s about 24 the room there’s 18 the jury box. And by the time we hit lunch, all those people have answered all those questions, and we are ready for the next step in the process.

Voir dire. And what it is the heart of jury selection. This is the point where the lawyers themselves finally get to interview the jurors. And we get so much information from this moment because the lawyers ask questions based on what they want out of the jurors.

So the prosecution is asking all these different kinds of questions. The first round of wajir is done by a guy named Joshua Steinglass, a very experienced trial lawyer with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. And he’s providing all these hypotheticals. I’ll give you one example because I found this one really, really interesting. He provides a hypothetical about a man who wants his wife killed and essentially hires a hitman to do it. And what he asked the jurors is, if that case were before you, would you be able to see that the man who hired the hitman was a part of this crime?

And of course, what he’s really getting at is, can you accept that even though Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, made this payment, Trump is the guy who hired him to do it?

That’s right. If there are other people involved, will jurors still be able to see Donald Trump’s hands behind it all?

Fascinating. And what were some of the responses?

People mostly said, yes, we accept that. So that’s how the prosecution did it.

But the defense had a totally different method of voir dire. They were very focused on their client and people’s opinions about their client.

So what kind of questions do we get from them?

So the lawyer, Todd Blanche, is asking people, what do you make of President Trump? What do you think of President Trump?

And what are some of the responses to that?

Well, there’s this incredible exchange with one of the jurors who absolutely refuses to give his opinion of Donald Trump. They go back and forth and back and forth. And the juror keeps insisting you don’t need to know my opinion of him. All you need to know is that I’m going to be fair and impartial, like I said. And Blanch pushes, and the guy pushes back. And the only way the guy budges is he finally kind of confesses almost at the end that, yes, I am a Democrat, and that’s all we get.

And what ends up happening to this potential juror?

Believe it or not, he got dismissed.

[LAUGHS]: I can believe it. And of course, it’s worth saying that this guy and everybody else is being asked that question just feet from Trump himself.

That’s right. And you might think you were going to get a really kind of spicy, like, popcorn emoji-type exchange from that. But because these are now jurors who have said they can be fair and impartial, who, to some extent, want to be on this jury or at least wouldn’t mind being on this jury, they’re being very restrained.

Mostly, what they are emphasizing — much like that guy just described dis — is that they can be fair. They can be impartial. There’s one woman who gives this really remarkable answer.

She says, I thought about this last night. I stayed up all night. I couldn’t sleep, thinking about whether I could be fair. It’s really important to me, and I can.

What ends up happening to that particular juror?

She’s also dismissed. And she’s dismissed without any reason at all. The defense decides it doesn’t like her. It doesn’t want her on the jury. And they have a certain number of chances to just get rid of jurors — no questions asked.

Other jurors are getting dismissed for cause — I’m doing air quotes with my hands — which means that the lawyers have argued they actually revealed themselves through their answers or through old social media posts, which are brought up in the courtroom, to be either non-credible, meaning they’ve said they can be fair and they can’t, or somehow too biased to be on the jury.

Wait, can I just dial into that for a second? Are lawyers researching the jurors in real time going online and saying — I’m making this up — but Jonah Bromwich is a potential juror, and I’m going to go off into my little corner of the courtroom and Google everything you’ve ever said? Is that what’s happening in the room?

Yeah, there’s a whole profession dedicated to that. It’s called jury consultant, and they’re very good at finding information on people in a hurry. And it certainly looked as if they were in play.

Did a social media post end up getting anybody kicked off this jury?

Yes, there were posts from 2016 era internet. You’ll remember that time as a very heated one on the internet, Facebook memes are a big thing. And so there’s all kinds of lock him up type memes and rhetoric. And some of the potential jurors here have used those. And those jurors are dismissed for a reason.

So we have these two types of dismissals, right? We have these peremptory dismissals — no reason at all given. And we have for cause dismissals.

And the process is called jury selection. But you don’t actually get selected for a jury. The thing is to make it through all these obstacles.

You’re left over.

Right. And so when certain jurors are not dismissed, and they’ve made it through all these stages, by the end of the day, we have gone from zero juror seated to seven jurors who will be participating in Donald Trump’s trial.

Got it. And without going through all seven, just give us a little bit of a sketch of who so far is on this jury. What stands out?

Well, not that much stands out. So we’ve got four men. We’ve got three women. One lives on the Upper East Side. One lives in Chelsea. Obviously, they’re from all over Manhattan.

They have these kind of very normal hobbies like spending time with family and friends. They have somewhat anonymous jobs. We’ve got two lawyers. We’ve got someone who’s worked in sales.

So there’s not that much identifying information. And that’s not an accident . One of the things that often happens with jury selection, whether it be for Donald Trump or for anyone else, is the most interesting jurors — the jurors that kind of catch your attention during the process — they get picked off because they are being so interesting that they interest one or the other side in a negative way. And soon they’re excused. So most of the jurors who are actually seated —

Are not memorable.

Are not that memorable, save one particular juror.

OK. All right, I’ll bite. What do I need to know about that one particular juror?

So let me tell you about a prospective juror who we knew as 374, who will now be juror number five. She’s a middle school teacher from Harlem. And she said that she has friends who have really strong opinions about Trump, but she herself does not. And she insisted several times, I am not a political person.

And then she said this thing that made me quite surprised that the prosecution was fine with having her on the jury. She said, quote, “President Trump speaks his mind, and I’d rather that than someone who’s in office who you don’t know what they’re thinking.”

Hmm. So she expressed approval of President Trump.

Yeah, it was mild approval. But the thing is, especially for the defense in this trial, all you need is one juror. One juror can tie up deliberations in knots, and you can end with a hung jury. And this is actually something that I saw firsthand. In 2019, I was the foreperson on a jury.

How you like that?

Yeah. And the trial was really complicated, but I had thought while we were doing the trial, oh, this is going to be a really easy decision. I thought the defendant in that case was guilty. So we get into deliberations, but there’s this one juror who keeps gumming up the works every time we seem to be making progress, getting a conversation started.

This juror proverbially throws up his hands and says, I am not convicting. This man is innocent. And we talked and we talked. And as the foreperson, I was trying to use all my skills to mediate.

But any time we made any progress, this guy would blow it up. And long story short, hung jury — big victory for the defense lawyer. And we come out of the room. And she points at this juror. The guy —

The defense lawyer.

The defense lawyer points at this juror who blew everything up. And she said, I knew it. I knew I had my guy.

OK. I don’t want to read too much into what you said about that one juror. But should I read between the lines to think that if there’s a hung jury, you wonder if it might be that juror?

That’s what everyone in the courtroom is wondering not just about this juror, but about every single person who was selected. Is this the person who swings the case for me? Is this the person who swings the case against me?

These juries are so complex. It’s 12 people who don’t know each other at the start of the trial and, by the end of the trial, have seen each other every morning and are experiencing the same things, but are not allowed to have talked about the case until deliberations start. In that moment when deliberations start —

You’re going to learn a whole lot about each other.

That’s right. There’s this alchemical moment where suddenly, it all matters. Every personality selected matters. And that’s why jury selection is so important. And that’s why these last two days are actually one of the most important parts of this trial.

OK. So by my math, this trial will require five more jurors to get to 12. I know also they’re going to need to be alternates. But from what you’re saying what looked like a really uphill battle to get an impartial jury or a jury that said it could be impartial — and Trump was very doubtful one could be found — has turned out to not be so hard to find.

That’s right. And in fact, we went from thinking, oh, boy, this is going awfully slowly, to the judge himself saying we could be doing opening arguments as soon as Monday morning. And I think that highlights something that’s really fascinating both about this trial and about the jury selection process overall.

One of the things that lawyers have been arguing about is whether or not it’s important to figure out what jurors’ opinions about Donald Trump are. And the prosecution and, I think, the judge have really said, no, that’s not the key issue here. The key issue is not whether or not people have opinions about Donald Trump.

Right. Who doesn’t have an opinion about Donald Trump?

Exactly. They’re going to. Automatically, they’re going to. The question is whether or not they can be fair and impartial. And the seven people we already have seated, and presumably the five people that we’re going to get over the next few days and however many alternates — we expect six — are all going to have answered that question, not I hate Trump; I love Trump, but I can weigh in on the former president’s innocence or guilt, and I can do it as fairly as humanly possible.

Now, Trump is not happy about this. He said after court yesterday, quote, We have a highly conflicted judge, and he’s rushing this trial.” And I think that he is going to see these beats of the system the criminal justice system as it works on him as he is experiencing it as unfair. That is typically how he talks about it and how he views it.

But what he’s getting is what defendants get. This is the system in New York, in the United States. This is its answer to how do you pick a fair jury? Well, you ask people can you be fair? And you put them through this process, and the outcome is 12 people.

And so I think we’re going to see this over and over again in this trial. We’re going to see Trump experience the criminal justice system.

And its routines.

Yeah, openings, witnesses, evidence, closings. He’s going to go through all of it. And I think, at every turn, it makes sense to expect him to say, well, this is not fair. Well, the judge is doing something wrong. Well, the prosecutors are doing something wrong. Well, the jury is doing something wrong.

But at the end of the day, he’s going to be a defendant, and he’s going to sit, mostly silently if his lawyers can make him do that, and watch this process play itself out. So the system is going to try and treat him like any other defendant, even though, of course —

— he’s not. And he is going to fight back like no other defendant would, like no other defendant could. And that tension, him pushing against the criminal justice system as it strives to treat him, as it would anyone else, is going to be a defining quality of this trial.

Well, Jonah, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Of course. Thanks so much for having me. [MUSIC PLAYING]

PS, have you ever fallen asleep in a trial?

I have not.

[CHUCKLES]:

Here’s what else you need to know today.

It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act. We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible and in a way that, as I said —

During a visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday, Britain’s foreign Secretary left little doubt that Israel would retaliate against Iran for last weekend’s aerial attack, despite pressure from the United States and Britain to stand down. The question now is what form that retaliation will take? “The Times” reports that Israel is weighing several options, including a direct strike on Iran, a cyber attack, or targeted assassinations. And —

Look, history judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now, critical time on the world stage.

In a plan that could threaten his job, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson will put a series of foreign aid bills up for a vote this weekend. The bills, especially for aid to Ukraine, are strongly opposed by far-right House Republicans, at least two of whom have threatened to try to oust Johnson over the plan.

I can make a selfish decision and do something that’s different, but I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important. I really do. I really — [MUSIC PLAYING]

Today’s episode was produced by Rikki Novetsky, Will Reid, Lynsea Garrison, and Rob Zubko. It was edited by Paige Cowett, contains original music by Marion Lozano, Elisheba Ittoop, and Dan Powell, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly Lake.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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Hosted by Michael Barbaro

Featuring Jonah E. Bromwich

Produced by Rikki Novetsky ,  Will Reid ,  Lynsea Garrison and Rob Szypko

Edited by Paige Cowett

Original music by Dan Powell ,  Marion Lozano and Elisheba Ittoop

Engineered by Chris Wood

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

Political and legal history are being made in a Lower Manhattan courtroom as Donald J. Trump becomes the first former U.S. president to undergo a criminal trial.

Jonah Bromwich, who covers criminal justice in New York, explains what happened during the opening days of the trial, which is tied to Mr. Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star.

On today’s episode

good ways to start an essay about someone

Jonah E. Bromwich , who covers criminal justice in New York for The New York Times.

Former president Donald Trump sitting in a courtroom.

Background reading

Here’s a recap of the courtroom proceedings so far.

Mr. Trump’s trial enters its third day with seven jurors chosen.

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We aim to make transcripts available the next workday after an episode’s publication. You can find them at the top of the page.

The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Dan Powell, Sydney Harper, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Lanman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong, Devon Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Thomad, Olivia Natt, Daniel Ramirez and Brendan Klinkenberg.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchman, Lisa Tobin, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sofia Milan, Mahima Chablani, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda, Renan Borelli, Maddy Masiello, Isabella Anderson and Nina Lassam.

Jonah E. Bromwich covers criminal justice in New York, with a focus on the Manhattan district attorney’s office and state criminal courts in Manhattan. More about Jonah E. Bromwich

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