3 Cliches to Avoid in Writing Essay Introductions

Remember when you first were introduced to the concept of essay writing? It was probably back in elementary school or middle school.

At the time, your teacher may have given you a few suggestions of ways to start your essay to “draw your readers in.” When you were in middle school, those suggestions may have been acceptable.

But if you want people to take your writing seriously today, it’s time to abandon the cliched writing crutches you’ve been relying on for years. Here are three you should consider giving the boot to in 2013.

1. The Definition Essay Introduction


“Merriam-Webster defines a INSERT YOUR TOPIC HERE as DEFINITION.” From there you’ll go on to say why your paper will support that definition, further explain it, or reject it in some way.

The truth is, knowing what a dictionary says about a specific topic does little to frame your argument and almost nothing to draw your readers in. Also, unless you’re talking about something that’s incredibly obscure, it’s likely your readers already know the definition of what you’re writing about.

2. The Quote

You may have been told at some point that starting your essay with a quote can be a simple and effective way to begin your assignment. That’s true -- it can be --  but you need to determine if it really adds anything to your intro, or merely takes up space.

Diving into an essay on Hamlet? Starting it out with "to be or not to be…" may seem like a good idea, but that doesn't really say much about your essay's argument -- unless your essay is on this specific passage. On the other hand, it can be really helpful to use a quote if it succinctly presents the issue your essay will be about.

Quotes and passages are a great way to support your argument or points in your essay, but they don't always do a fantastic job introducing why your topic is important or why your reader should care -- so use them sparingly.

3. The Grand Statement


How many times have you started an essay with "Since the beginning of time…. " or "Man has always wondered…" There are many big and interesting topics that humans have grappled with.

But if you don't follow such a big statement with something equally grand, your intro will fall a little flat. A cousin of the grand statement introduction is the "look back in time" intro. Something like "If people in the year 3,000 looked back at 2013, they'd be surprised to see that everyone was still…." Again - don't do it.


Coming up with a good, non cliche introduction to your essay isn't an easy thing. If you can't think of something when you start writing, don't worry about it.

The best thing to do is to start writing. Write the body of your paper, write the conclusion -- just start putting words on the page. Most likely, as you write, an argument will make itself evident in your prose.

Once you have a few paragraphs written,  it will be much more natural to simply and clearly state your argument in your introduction.

Guest Post By: Laura Oppenheimer lives in San Francisco, where she works for an online physics tutoring company.

So, What Do You Have To Say About Essay Introductions? Share Your Thoughts, Insights, Frustrations, & Comments Below!

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