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Persuasive essay (introducing your essay)

Watch this to develop your skills in writing introductions in Persuasive Writing for Higher English (and why trailers are better than the film)

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I love going to the cinema. The massive screen, the comfy chairs, the crystal-clear sound, and the overpriced popcorn; there really is nothing quite like it.

But the things I like most about the cinema may surprise you. I love watching the trailers.

Trailers are quite amazing when you think about them. They only have two or three minutes to generate interest in a film that could last over two hours. Yet, still they grab the audience’s attention, give them a clear idea of the tone of the film, and show just enough plot for them to want to find out more.

But what about our introductions to our persuasive essays. Like a film trailer, how can we grab our reader’s attention with our opening lines and make them keen to read on?

Got your popcorn?...

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Although your persuasive essay is mainly centered on fact and reason, we still need to ensure that our reader is emotionally invested in what we are saying.

The best way to do this is by opening our introduction with a hook.

The hook to your essay is a short section in which you engage your reader, before you even address your argument. It is entirely up to you as to how you do this but, generally, an anecdote, shocking statistic, or relevant quotation works really well.

An anecdote is a short and engaging retelling of someone’s personal experience of the issue you will be arguing. This is a particularly effective way to open a persuasive introduction as it allows you to use creative writing techniques, such as imagery and vivid description.

If an anecdote is not for you, or your writing style, then maybe have a look at including a shocking statistic. The key word in that sentence is shocking; don’t include a statistic for the sake of it because it must serve a purpose: to surprise us, to challenge us and, most importantly, to make us read on.
However, sometimes, someone else can say it better than you and this can be really effective. If this is the case, open your essay with a quotation. This can be the words of someone who is an expert in the field, or someone who experienced the topic about which you are writing. However, just as with the statistic, your quotation must be impactful; it must grab the reader’s attention.

So, now that we’ve hooked our reader. Let’s move on to our argument.

One of the most common issues that I come across with introductions is vagueness. Sometimes, I can get to the end of an introduction and, no matter how well-written it may be, I will still be clueless as to what the writer is actually arguing.

A good way to avoid this is to state your argument clearly, and in one sentence. Avoid using more than one sentence to state your argument; if it needs more than one sentence, then it is probably too complex to be addressed in your essay. Remember, the more straightforward your argument, the easier it is for the reader to follow.

Now that you’ve told your reader what you’re going to be arguing, you need to lay out how you are going to convince them. It’s time to summarise the main points of your essay.

Your overall argument should only include three (or maybe four) separate points. If you go for fewer, you cannot show a wide understanding of the issue. If you go for more, you will not have enough room in your word count to fully explore each point.

When summarising, brief is best. A sentence for each point is more than sufficient. Remember, you don’t need to argue anything in your introduction; there is plenty of time for that in the rest of your essay. Rather, you just need to point out the arguments that you will be making. Think of the summary of main points as a roadmap for your essay, letting the reader know what they will pass on the way to the conclusion. This is a good way to showcase your confidence in your argument and let the reader know that you know what you’re doing.

Your introduction really is the trailer for your essay. You can draw your reader in, give them a good idea of what you will be arguing and a little glimpse of how you are going to get it done. Just remember to follow the simple steps we discussed and then all the reader needs to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

This was thinkfour, thanks for watching.