Create an attention-grabbing introduction to your essay that entices the listener's interest. This could be a question, a surprising statistic, a personal anecdote, or something else that can "hook" the reader.
A few examples from speeches and written pieces are below: Question: (From Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk) “I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes. But before I give it away, I want to ask you to right now do a little audit of your body and what you're doing with your body. So how many of you are sort of making yourselves smaller? Maybe you're hunching, crossing your legs, maybe wrapping your ankles. Sometimes we hold onto our arms like this. Sometimes we spread out. (Laughter) I see you. So I want you to pay attention to what you're doing right now. We're going to come back to that in a few minutes, and I'm hoping that if you learn to tweak this a little bit, it could significantly change the way your life unfolds.” Surprising statistic: “According to National Geographic, beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate and change their environment.” Note that I cited where the fact came from. This could be an opening to an essay or speech about beavers, environmental conservation, climate change, animal protection, etc. Personal anecdote: When I was three or four years old, I’m told, I had to share a bed with my older sister on a visit to my grandparents’ house. I idolized my sister and I was very excited to have a ‘sleepover’ with her. I wanted to stay up late to talk and play, but she, as a very serious six-year-old, wanted to sleep. We argued for a while until I crawled under the blanket and bit her big toe. As the story goes, she appeared at the top of the stairs looking down on my adult family members in the living room, and said, "Darcy bit my toe!" Everyone laughed so much that I was not even punished. This could be an opening to a speech about the importance of family, of passing down stories, of raising children, etc.
Establish why the author portrays a character, or characters, the way he or she does.
In her short story "Sweat," Zora Neale Hurston portrays Delia and Syke with strongly worded descriptions that highlight the difference between the characters. Delia is described as a faithful churchgoer who makes the best of her situation. She is shown to be a hard worker, constantly taking in washing and running the household. Meanwhile, Hurston depicts Syke as an aggressive, ungrateful man who cheats on his wife and even hurts her: "Two months after the wedding, he had given her the first brutal beating" (2). The other characters in the story gossip as Syke flaunts his mistress, while Delia receives none of his income. By using such extreme contrasts between the protagonists, Hurston demonstrates a moral in just a few pages when Delia's prediction that Syke will get what he deserves comes true, and he dies of a snakebite intended for her.
Revise this sentence to state its meaning in fewer words. Avoid passive voice, needless repetition, and wordy phrases and clauses. "The dog was walked by the girl later than usual on account of the fact that first it was necessary for her to pick up her younger brother from day care."
The first problem with the sentence is its use of passive voice. To change passive voice to active voice, place the subject first: "The girl walked the dog later than usual on account of the fact that first it was necessary for her to pick up her younger brother from day care." Next, we can write more concisely, by replacing "on account of the fact that" with "because": "The girl walked the dog later than usual because first it was necessary for her to pick up her younger brother from day care." We can also replace "it was necessary for her to," changing it to "she had to": "The girl walked the dog later than usual because first she had to pick up her younger brother from day care." By using active voice and writing as concisely as possible, the reader can more easily understand what is happening in the sentence.