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Writing Effective Introduction and Details

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Writing Effective Introduction and Details

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[edit section] SAT Essay Writing Guide

  1. Your Strategy for Excelling on the Essay
  2. Writing Effective Introduction and Details
  3. Demonstrating Mastery of Language

[edit section] Writing Effective Introduction and Details

In this lesson, we will take a look at strategies for writing effective introductions and body paragraphs. We will be working with the following prompt for this guide:

“If we are dissatisfied with our circumstances, we think about changing them. But the most important and effective changes—in our attitude—hardly occur to us. In other words, we should worry not about how to alter the world around us for the better but about how to change ourselves in order to fit into that world.”

Adapted from Michael Hymers, "Wittgenstein, Pessimism and Politics"


Is it better to change one's attitude than to change one's circumstances? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

[edit section] Writing an Effective Introduction

There are two key components to the effective introduction:

  • Grabs the attention of the reader
  • Firmly states the response (thesis)

There is no single way to do either of the two, so let us look at ways to grab the attention of the reader first. The first sentence that a scorer reads will typically have the most impact when compared to any other sentence. It is therefore in your interest to create an opening sentence that has a great deal of impact, catches your reader’s attention, and relates directly to the response you will make. Here are some examples of ways to write an effective opening (attention-grabbing) sentence:

  • Hyperbolic statement: Use a far-fetched, wild, extremist, or exaggerated statement that is likely to be a little controversial or imaginative. For example, “For thousands of years of human history, optimists have used religion, politics, and culture to try to change the attitudes of millions. They have miserably failed.”
  • Statistic: Employ a statistic that relates to your response. “Self-described optimists are five times more likely to be happy and satisfied than their pessimist counterparts.”
  • Personal experience: Include an example of how an experience you have had relates to your opinion on the response. “When I was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, the doctor told me I would concede to the wiles of destiny – instead, I made a choice to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life than I ever had before.”
  • Folksy/Common Statement: Include a saying that is common and then apply it to an uncommon response. For example, “They say that if you aren’t an optimist, the glass is half-empty. And, if you’re a pessimist, it probably has cyanide in it anyway.”
  • Quote: Include a quote from a well-known source (other than the one given to you) that relates to your response. “Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun." These were wise words from Colleen C. Barrett

Of course, there are probably a thousand other ways to grab the reader’s attention. We’ve just listed a few to spark your creative juices.

Regardless of how you choose to open your essay, you should incorporate your thesis statement (response) worded as strongly as possible. Make sure that it is not wishy-washy and directly answers the question given to you in the prompt.

Ideally, this introduction should be about five sentences long and should span about half a page, depending on how large you write. The key is that you should, by writing an effective introduction, interest the grader and inform him of the point you are trying to make.

[edit section] Detail and Description

The “meat” of your essay is found in the paragraphs between your introduction and your conclusion – the so-called “body” of the essay. It is this body section that will ultimately make or break you based on your ability to include plenty of detail while using appropriate, clear, and concise language.

The prompt always asks you to support your response using “examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.” Take this to heart. A great strategy is to make a note of these four categories and try to include two examples of each. That is, cite two books you’ve read, two classes you’ve been in, two personal experiences, and two observations about the world. Of course, this is not an iron law, and it is very much flexible, but with eight solid details (each around two sentences) you should have enough information to create a solid and lengthy essay.

How do you properly employ detail and examples? You should first recognize that the grader wants some organization to your paper, so a random spattering of information will not help. You should include detail to support general logical points – for example:

1. A positive change in attitude can effect a change in conditions

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Non-Violence
  • Jesus Christ and Christianity

2. Having a positive attitude allows you to make the best of a situation

  • When I broke my leg and couldn’t play basketball, I studied harder
  • The movie Little Miss Sunshine

3. Negative attitudes historically yield bad results

  • Marlowe in Heart of Darkness
  • Decline of Roman Empire

While you are probably not familiar with all of the details listed above, the idea is that you should have a basic outline of the relation between the points you will be making and the details you plan to include.

Second, you should “lead-in” and “lead-out” of any included detail. The formula is:

1. Lead-in: Transition to the example you are about to include

2. Detail: Include example

3. Lead-out: Relate example to the point you make

For example:

(Lead-in) “Maintaining a positive attitude in a negative environment can actually change your environment for the better. In fact, people who can maintain positive attitudes have created a difference and made the world around them better.”

(Detail) “One such person was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the Civil Rights Movement in America through a strategy of nonviolence and non-confrontation. His work eventually allowed Blacks in the US more rights.”

(Lead-out) “His involvement and non-violence philosophy shows that even though he could have become angry and violent towards the white establishment, his positive attitude allowed him to effect bigger and better changes.”

Of course, this is an exceedingly long detail, but it was created to show you the full extent of the lead-in/lead-out system.

[edit section] Moving Along

In our next lesson, we will take a look at employing figurative language and transitions to demonstrate your mastery of the English language to the graders.

[edit section] SAT Essay Writing Guide

  1. Your Strategy for Excelling on the Essay
  2. Writing Effective Introduction and Details
  3. Demonstrating Mastery of Language

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