The Importance of a First Line

The best day of her life was also the worst day of her life. Exhausted, tears chased each other down her cheeks, and while a smile threaded her lips it did not quite reach her eyes.

clip-art-reading-556419Are you still reading? Then the first line has done its job!

Has anyone ever told you, “Once you get past the first few chapters, this book is awesome!”? Then that book has not delivered for its readers. The first chapter should knock the reader off his or her feet and keep them wanting more. The first line of any piece of writing should enrapture and interest. Without that initial interest, readers will not be excited to keep going.

The example used in the first lines of this post is geared more towards a creative writing piece. However, any type of writing, whether it be an essay, admission letter, research proposal or novel, deserves a killer first line.

Some ways to begin a piece of writing can include:

  • Quotations – A thought-provoking quotation that hones in on the central theme of your piece is a great way to start. Sometimes, someone has already said it best! Use their words and always give credit by putting their words in quotes, followed by the speaker’s name.
  • Questions – If you want your reader to stop and think for a moment after the first line, start with a question. If you are writing a college admission essay about the importance of a family recipe, you may want to ask the reader “Do you remember the aroma of your favorite food growing up? That feeling of family, and the anticipation of the delicious dish that is about to tickle your taste buds?” The reader should experience a more sensory attachment to your writing, and most importantly continue reading.
  • 9781599869513_p0_v1_s260x420In medias resIn medias res is Latin for “into the middle of a narrative; without preamble” according to Oedipus the King is a famous example of in medias res. As the story begins, Oedipus steps out of the royal palace of Thebes and is greeted by a procession of priests, who are in turn surrounded by the impoverished and sorrowful citizens of Thebes. Thebes has been struck by a plague, the citizens are dying, and no one knows how to put an end to it. There is no preamble to introduce Oedipus or his city; by starting in the middle of the action the reader is intrigued to both learn the back-story of Oedipus and the future of Thebes and its King.
  • Images – A descriptive adjective is a vivid way to begin a piece. You can describe candlelight flickering, a torch’s firelight dancing, or a match’s top struggling to give it beholder enough warmth.

What is your favorite way to deliver a first line? Happy Writing!

By Ally Evans

Ally Evans is a recent college graduate living in New Jersey. She is currently a Festival Coordinator for an arts program. When she is not at the office, Ally loves reading, writing, playing volleyball and going out to eat with friends. Her favorite books include The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Shining by Stephen King. She is excited to bring her passion for reading and writing to ESL Write Away LLC!


Compare and Contrast Essays

Comparing and contrasting can be tricky and can often sound a bit redundant. Your two keywords for any compare and contrast essay are “SIMILARITIES” and “DIFFERENCES.”




When you are assigned this type of essay, your best friend for brainstorming is something called the Venn Diagram. You can make a VENN DIAGRAM for any number of things to compare or contrast. All you must do are draw overlapping circles– one circle for each item that you are asked to compare/contrast. Label each circle with one item.  In the outer parts of the circle, write the things that are unique to that item (the differences). In the overlapping part, write the things that are similarities.

Venn Diagram

Now let’s do an example. Let’s pretend you are given an assignment to compare and contrast two modern fantasy films. You choose Superman and Harry Potter. Here is a very basic example of how your Venn Diagram brainstorm for this essay might look:

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Now that you’ve organized your thoughts a bit, you can move on to outline what your essay will look like. While it may seem silly to map out your essay before writing it, this really helpful to keep your essay together and it will make it easier to put your basic ideas into full essay sentences. If you are writing your essay in English– brainstorm and outline your essay in English so that way you get the tedious translation process out of the way before going to write. Here’s a basic outline of a compare and contrast essay:

Paragraph (P) 1: Introduction

***Your thesis statement should state your larger conclusion about the differences and similarities of your compare/contrast items***

P2: DIFFERENCES Item A (Harry Potter circles)

P3: DIFFERENCES Item B (Superman circles), drawing connections to what you mentioned in P2.

P4: SIMILARITIES Items A and B (Overlapping circle)

P5: Conclusion– reinforce your ***thesis*** are there more similarities or differences?

Another version of a compare and contrast essay outline might look like this:

P1: Introduction

P2: SIMILARITIES Items A and B (Overlapping circle)

P3: DIFFERENCES Items A and B (Harry Potter and Superman Outside circles)

P4: Conclusion

Which essay outline you choose will have mainly to do with whether you have more similarities or differences between the items. Choose whichever feels right based on your brainstorm research and information.


There are a lot of keywords, phrases and transitions that are particularly awesome for writing compare and contrast essays in English! Here are just a few:

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Can you think of any others? Leave a comment below with your suggestions 🙂

Happy writing!