The big idea
The introduction to your essay is crucial--it's the part that gets everything else moving in the right direction. If you're going to take control of the reader, you're probably going to do it here, but if you're going to lose the reader (and this is something you do NOT want to do), this is where it's going to happen.
Now, please don't tell me that you don't know how to begin your essay or that it's hard to get started. I know it's hard--even professional writers have trouble getting started. Also: don't ask me how you should begin. That's YOUR job. If I write your intro for you, then you haven't had the joy of doing it yourself, and that's what we're all about here: your joy.
What you should not do
I always try to remain positive, to say what you WILL do to be successful, but it is important to make a list, here and now, of ways that you WILL NOT begin an essay. All of these are old, used up, snarky and sure to lower your grade:
- Hi, my name is...
- I'm going to be writing about...
- I think that...
- My stupid teacher is making me write...
How to do it
The introduction has three main jobs:
- get the reader's attention--this is the hook. It can be done with humor, a personal story, or a bit of educational information;
- let the reader know what the topic is--usually in the last sentence of the intro;
- be an expert, mainly by being articulate and following all the language arts rules.
Conclusions have three jobs, as well:
- revisit the hook;
- restate the main ideas in a slightly different way than in the intro;
- leave the reader with a lasting thought; it should feel like an ending (this is tough to teach, but you know it when you read it).
A Sometimes-Helpful Tip:
Write the body of your essay first, then, once you have that done, you'll get an idea of what you can say in your introduction. Think about how hard it would be to introduce your friends to someone you don't know. The same is true for an essay. Once you're written the body, you know what your main points are and you'll be in a good position to introduce them. Remember: there's nothing saying you have to write the paragraphs of your essay in the same order in which they eventually appear!
Life in Antarctica is harsher than almost anyplace on earth. The temperature can go as low as 100 degrees below zero, and the winds can howl along at up to 200 miles per hour. It would seem nearly impossible for someone to go to the South Pole and survive, but some have gone there and lived to tell the tale. Two explorers, Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton, are well known for their feats of survival at the bottom of the world.
As you can see, Antarctica can be a hard, cold place, and both Amundsen and Shackleton have hair-raising tales of suffering and starvation to tell. Both men, though, survived their adventures, and show us how, if they put their minds to it, people can do just about anything.
I can remember times in my life that I was so hungry that my stomach rumbled loudly enough for other people to hear. I can also remember times that I was lost. Luckily, I've never had the bad fortune of having both things happen to me at once. Unfortunately for the crew of the whaleship Essex in 1819, that is precisely what happened to them, and the results were horrible.
As I've shown you, the crew of the whaleship Essex underwent three months of torture. They were drifting at sea in an open boat for most of that time, and they had to resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Their story will make me think twice before I go on any ocean voyage.
Explorers are insane. How else can you explain their need to put themselves through weeks, months or even years of pain and suffering, just so they can say they were the first person here or the discoverer of that place over there? Maybe it was this kind of insanity that drove Edmund Hillary to be the first person to climb Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world.
Hillary had the kind of insanity that made him a top mountain climber; it drove him to push himself to his limits. If he hadn't had this kind of wonderful insanity, someone else would have stepped up and been the first to climb the world's highest mountain.