Writing Tips

Intros and Conclusions – Open with a Quotation

In the Overarching Themes section, we touched on some of the purposes of the introduction and conclusion. Specifically, we discussed how an introduction can orient the reader to the ideas the essay will undertake, and, more briefly, how the conclusion could be useful in synthesizing those ideas. At that point, we were most concerned about coherence of your essay’s structure.

In this section, our purpose becomes slightly narrower for the introduction and broader for the conclusion. That is, having covered one of the two major aspects of the introduction already, we will now focus on the other: how to draw the reader in. On the other hand, since we have not yet covered the conclusion in depth, we will focus here on defining its purpose and offering tips on how to achieve that purpose.

EssayEdge Extra: Opening With A Quotation

“Another example of a potential mistake is the urge to begin with a quote. We’re more interested in what you have to say than in what you’ve found that some famous person or writer has to say.” — Admissions Officer, Harvard Law School

There is no approach more hackneyed than opening with a quotation. The ones we see at EssayEdge are almost always just marginally clever expressions of the most obvious lessons about hard work, persistence, and fulfilling one’s dreams—often barely relevant to the rest of the essay. Occasionally someone will find a quote that’s worth a pause, but even then the reader will not be impressed. The very sight of quotation marks at the beginning of your essay might elicit a cringe or sigh.

The admissions committee wants to know what you have to say. If you find some fascinating quotation by another person, using it won’t make your case for admission any more compelling. In fact, an impatient reader might simply write you off as unoriginal. Neither does quoting a philosopher or Shakespeare make you appear well read, because anyone can consult Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to find something that sounds smart.

Finally, even quoting your grandmother or some other wise relative has been done too many times. This is not to say that you shouldn’t use dialogue if you’re describing a particular episode, but anything that sounds like an aphorism is only going to add triteness to your essay—no matter how perfectly your life illustrates that theme.

Next: Introductions

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