The Alpha & Omega of Writing : (more sophisticated) Introductions and Conclusions Introductions and Conclusions How can I write an intro? There are three basic ways to write an introduction: ◦ You can write the introduction after you write the body of your essay. ◦ You can write the introduction before you write the body of your essay. ◦ You can rough out the introduction first and then focus and revise it once you have written your essay. ◦ If you are in a timed writing situation, you often are forced to write it first, so here are some tips. SAMPLE PROMPT Writing Situation: The principal of your school has suggested that watching TV causes students ’ grades to drop. Directions for Writing: Think about the effect watching TV has on your grades and your friends ’ grades. Now write to convince your principal whether watching TV causes students ’ grades to drop. Professional writers who write for magazines and receive pay for their work use six basic patterns to grab a reader's interest: ◦ historical review ◦ anecdotal ◦ surprising statement ◦ famous person ◦ analogy ◦ create an image Wait, where are the other patterns I already know? Common openers for young writers include ◦ Dictionary definitions (“Webster’s defines courage as….”) ◦ Opening with a question (“Did you know.…”) ◦ Surprising statistic (which may not be that surprising OR true) (“Teenagers spend over 250 hours a week watching television….”) We are going to practice new ones that are more interesting. Historical Review Some topics are better understood if a brief historical review of the topic is presented to lead into the discussion of the moment. Such topics might include "a biographical sketch of a war hero,“ "an upcoming execution of a convicted criminal,“ "drugs and the younger generation." It is important that the historical review be brief so that it does not take over the paper. Example Historical Review When TV was first introduced to America in the 1950’s, no one imagined it would become such a cultural phenomenon. Families would gather around to watch old black and white variety shows like Ed Sullivan; now, kids have hundreds of channels to choose from, and many of them choose educational programming on channels like Discovery, the Food Network, and Health TV. While television does still provide a variety of entertainment, its educational possibilities are endless and can actually help children learn about the world. Anecdotal: An anecdote is a little story. Everyone loves to listen to stories. Begin a paper by relating a small story that leads into the topic of your paper. Your story should be a small episode, not a full blown story with characters and plot and setting. Read some of the anecdotes in the Reader's Digest special sections such as "Life in These United States" to learn how to tell small but potent stories. If you do it right, your story will capture the reader's interest so that he or she will continue to read your paper. One caution: be sure that your story does not take over the paper. Remember, it is an introduction, not the paper. Example Young Brian walked into class, shoulder’s slumped and eyes half-closed. As he took his seat, his head fell slightly. “Take out your homework,” the teacher requested. The young boy realized that he’d forgotten the assignment on his desk at home. He stayed up late to watch Monday Night Football and was extremely tired while getting ready. The paper didn’t make it into his backpack. Brian has allowed TV to interfere with his grades. Like Brian, television claimed the academic life of many young pupils, distracting them from their studies, creating difficultly in staying focused and filling students’ minds with sometimes useless knowledge. Surprising statement: A surprising statement is a favorite introductory technique of professional writers. Sometimes the statement is surprising because it is disgusting. Sometimes it is joyful. Sometimes it is shocking. Sometimes it is surprising because of who said it. Professional writers have honed this technique to a fine edge. It is not used as much as the first two patterns, but it is used. Despite what you have been told, do NOT make up facts to startle your reader—even on the FCAT. It will damage your credibility as a writer. Example My dog watches television. She enjoys Animal Planet, CSI, and any news show with a news crawl at the bottom. Her eyes remain fixed at the screen for minutes at a time (a long time for a dog). The same is true for many teenagers. Many remain fixed on the screen for three to four hours a night (a long time for a teenager). Television has claimed the life of many teenagers (and my dog), distracting them from their studies, creating difficulty in staying focused and filling students’ minds with sometimes useless knowledge. Famous person: People like to know what celebrities say and do. Dropping the name of a famous person at the beginning of a paper usually gets the reader's attention. It may be something that person said or something he or she did that can be presented as an interest grabber. You may just mention the famous person's name to get the reader's interest. The famous person may be dead or alive. The famous person may be a good person like the Pope, or he or she may be a bad person like John Wilkes Booth. Of course, bringing up this person's name must be relevant to the topic. Even though the statement or action may not be readily relevant, a clever writer can convince the reader that it is relevant. Example Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park and many other suspenseful, well written books. He also developed the TV show, ER. Both True Blood and Bones TV series are based off of books. So when people argue that TV is just a bunch of useless drivel, I would argue that watching quality television shows with solid story development, good characters, and even scientific or historical facts would benefit students’ academic performance. Analogy/figurative language: An analogy is a comparison between two unlike things. This technique is a hallmark of an inventive writer. It sets up the feeling that the essay will be original, thought provoking, insightful. Be careful to avoid clichés (“Life is like a box of chocolates….”) Example Like in the movie The Ring, televisions can be mysterious things. In the movie, a frightening, ghost-like girl crawls out. In real life, we often crawl in—getting lost in imaginary worlds that take us to far away places. These imaginary worlds often challenge us to solve crimes, examine society’s problems, and laugh at ourselves. The value of television lies in its ability to challenge students to think creatively, use their imaginations, and understand satire and social criticism. Create an image: “Showing” details area always better than “telling” about something. Painting a picture in the reader’s mind is a great way to capture your readers’ attention, but only if the image is relevant and clearly described. Example With eyes swollen and heavy, the student stares intently at the 65 inch flat screen. His copy of To Kill a Mockingbird lies untouched on the coffee table before him next to the can of Mountain Dew and the crusts from his late night sandwich. The 20 pages of reading just didn’t get done. Television claimed the academic life of many young pupils like this one, distracting them from their studies, creating difficultly in staying focused and filling students minds with useless knowledge. Your assignment: Reread your COURAGE essay. Select three different methods for writing introductions and rewrite your introduction to your “COURAGE” using each method. Label your introductions. Double space MLA format.