Tag Archives: essay

Starting a Writing Task

If you have trouble starting a writing task (and who doesn’t?), a kick-off task can help you get you warmed up and moving. Here’s a good one: Grab this “starting” idea and apply it to each part of the task by asking yourself questions like these: How will I begin my first sentence? How will I start each paragraph?

There’s another benefit to thinking about “beginnings” as you tackle a writing task: You can avoid many grammatical errors if you pay particular attention to how you start your sentences.

Here are a couple of tips:

-If you’re nervous about punctuation, try starting each sentence with a person, place, or thing. Because your sentences don’t have introductions, you don’t have to use commas. Just make sure there’s a period at the end.
Here’s another useful bit of advice about starting sentences: Avoid using an -ing word there. Yes, it’s perfectly correct to start a sentence that way–but long experience has shown me that many people tend to write dangling modifiers or fragments.
One more tip: “It” starts a new sentence. Wrong: The sky was dark, it looked like rain. Right: The sky was dark. It looked like rain.

-Stories are great starters for many writing tasks. If it’s a personal essay, think of a brief story from your own experience. If you’re writing a research paper or a report, find a story to put into your opening paragraph. News magazines like Time and Newsweek are great places to look for relevant stories.
So…suppose you were writing a research paper about the importance of educational programs in prisons. Your opening paragraph might be a story about an ex-con who was able to stay out of trouble after her release because she’d earned high-school equivalency diploma in prison.

-Paragraphs should begin with a sentence that does two jobs: Making a connection to your main idea and introducing what’s special about the paragraph.
In that paper about education in prison, you might start a paragraph with a sentence pointing out that ex-cons have greater earning power if they leave prison with an equivalency diploma. That sentence will set up your paragraph, which might include statistics and anecdotes to support your point.
Use the same strategy for each paragraph, and you’ll end up with a well-organized and well-developed paper.