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Writing the Introduction Last
I love this little piece of advice. Because it’s such a simple bit of advice that can be so helpful for some students. Writing the introduction last is surprising, sometimes. Why would you write the introduction at the end? That doesn’t make sense, right? Well, let’s consider typing versus handwriting.
If you are writing an essay by hand, then you have to write every word. So here is my essay and I’m writing, writing, writing. And then after I finish this paragraph, well now, I have a full paragraph of text. Imagine this is English and not just scribbles. I have a full paragraph of text, if I want to edit, I can go in and I can erase a word and write a different word.
Or I can erase a full sentence, maybe, that’s a little hard sometimes, and write a different sentence. But this needs to be at the beginning. I can’t just move it down, right? Because this is on the first part of the paper, on this beginning of this paper.
It’s already there. So I need to write the introduction first, if I’m writing by hand. But on a computer, that’s not true. You can write your body paragraph at the beginning. Say this is the box that you’re working within and you start at the beginning. But then after that, you move that body paragraph down and we’re just going to redraw this here.
And now, you have space here, and you can continue writing, and you can put in an introduction in the beginning. So you can start by writing this and then write this. And that’s advantageous, it’s an advantage, for a few reasons. First, the first reason, it saves time. Body paragraphs are easier to write, and they are more important.
So you want to spend your time doing the more important thing, right? Why spend all that time on an introduction, if it’s only the introduction? The body paragraph is where the main ideas are, where your main arguments are. So you want to spend your time on the important stuff. That said, if you get stuck on the introduction, you can imagine that if you are spending time thinking about how do I phrase this, what word do I need, you are spending, spending, spending time, and not writing the important thing.
So this is a common problem that people have. They start writing the introduction and then they get stuck. It’s also very helpful because you’ll know what you want to in your introduction, if you already wrote the body. So your introduction is supposed to connect to everything. Your intro should have in it some information which is then explained in the body paragraphs.
So you have your intro information and then you have body details. Now, if you have already written the details, then it’s easy to go back and write the more general introduction. On the other hand, if you write the general introduction first, sometimes in the details things change a little bit and then the information in that general introduction is not true anymore, or it’s not so connected.
Those ideas changing while you write can cause a problem. You want to know exactly what you should say during the intro when you write it. So it’s easier to make those connections after you write the body paragraphs. And on the same note, very similarly, it means that you don’t have to prepare quite as much. Sometimes students get stuck preparing.
They think for too long about what they will write. And they don’t start writing. So imagine that you are sitting at your computer on test day during your TOEFL, and three minutes pass, and you have an outline that is explaining why newspapers will continue to exist. This is an essay about how we will not eliminate newspapers, and you have one reason.
Your reason is that newspapers are useful. They’re useful, for example, on the subway, or for example, when you have no internet connection. Okay, great, but where is your second reason? This is body paragraph one. Where’s body paragraph two?
Doesn’t matter. If you’ve spent this time already, if you’ve spent three minutes planning, it’s time to start writing. If you begin writing body paragraph one, then while you write, you might be able to come up the exact thing you need, which is the topic for body paragraph two.
So let’s say, for example, I’m writing about how when there’s no Internet I can use a newspaper. And then I’m thinking while I’m writing about how this is kind of relaxing. I like being away from the internet sometimes, because I don’t have to check my email. I don’t have to worry about my job maybe.
So that’s kind of nice, and now I have body paragraph two here. I can write about how it’s relaxing, and how I don’t have to check my email and do work, if there’s no internet. And newspapers are useful because you can relax. So you only should do this if you need the time, right? If you spend those three or more minutes at the beginning planning, and you only have one, then it’s fine to start writing one and think of two while you write.
Ideally, you should have both of these in the outline before you start writing, because then you can make cleaner connections between body paragraph one and two while you write. So just to recap, if you start writing that body paragraph at the beginning instead of the intro, then it’s a little faster, you’ll know exactly what you want to say when you do write the introduction, and it’s possible to start sooner, only half prepared.
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