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Wednesday, September 14, 2016 The First Sentence

Students often lament over what to write for their first sentence. In fact, most first sentences are redundant and completely unnecessary. I can almost promise you that when your first sentence starts out with “in today’s society,” “many people wonder,” or “a great man once said,” your professor will immediately discount it. These openings are definitely improvable, so let’s look at some guidelines.

Kate L. Turabian’s 8th edition of "A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations" gives several suggestions about writing the first sentence of your paper to actually be awesome. It might still be a little difficult to get going, but these will give you a kick-start.

A Prominent Quotation

Don’t use something cliché for this like “Carpe diem” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because, again, your professor will skip riiiiiiight over it. Make it memorable! Say something like “Aristotle noted that the world would fall to ruins in 2017 due to ‘the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from political rants.’” Just make sure it’s relevant to your paper and that it’s EXCITING!!!           

An Outstanding Fact

“Ten percent of all recyclable plastic ends up in the ocean” is a sentence that could intro a paper about why people should be careful with plastics. Just make sure the fact is actually true and that you cite it later in your paper.

An Applicable Narration

“On February 2, 1997, Roger Mint shredded every single document in his office because he believed in his ability to protect himself from fraud. His intentions seemed less crazy after some robbers broke into his office that night, only to discover a pile of shredded paper.” In a paper on identity theft, you could use an anecdote to explain or give context to the situation you are describing. I used a fictional example, but your anecdotes should be historically accurate and directly relevant to your topic. 

In the end, if you still can’t figure it out, try completely deleting your first sentence and using the second sentence as the first sentence. This works more often than you might think!

Emily Childers is a Family and Consumer Sciences major and a writing coach at Liberty's Undergraduate Writing Center. 

Posted at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)
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