The StorytellerEveryone loves a good story, but some stories are just plain lame. To start an essay with one can give a rubbishy first impression. Now, I'm not saying you can't start an essay with a new, astonishing story that will captivate the reader, etc., etc., but the Boy Who Cried Wolf isn't going to impress anyone. Trust me.
Example:There once was a rabbit and a tortoise. One day, the rabbit challenged the tortoise to a race. The rabbit had the upper hand at first. Suddenly, the sweet aroma of carrots lured the rabbit behind a tree. He was astonished to discover rows of carrots lying on the ground! He ate and he slept, thinking it would take the tortoise a lot of time to catch up. When he finally woke up, he saw the tortoise nearing the end. The rabbit tried to overtake the tortoise, but in vain. He had lost the race. What does this story tell us? ... ... ... ... ... ... Hey, what's with those dots? What do you think this is? morse code?
Straight to the PointGoing straight to the point shows that you don't care for traditional, mind-numbing beginnings, but at the same time, it can give your essay a matter-of-fact or even dull tone. It also isn't very creative. When you copy directly from the rubrics, well, I think you can guess what will become of your essay, copycat.
Example:Question: 'The Paris Peace Conference was a main cause of the Second World War. Explain. Your essay: The Paris Peace Conference was a main cause of the Second World War. My explanation is that...
(If you didn't understand the picture, try clicking on it.)
The Old QuoteGot a new, exciting quote that will make everyone leap with joy? Awesome! Got an well-known quote but planning to interpret it in a new and exciting way? Great! Got an old, over-quoted quote that will make everyone fall asleep? Yawn. Seriously, we do NOT need to be reminded that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. With all due respect to the founder of Daoism and one of the greatest thinkers in world history, I think the version with broken tyres is more interesting.
Examples of quotes that will likely put people to sleep:To be or not to be, that is the question.Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. (Not meaningless, but abused way too often. A: @#$% *&^*($@! B: You shouldn't swear. A: Hey, you may not agree with swearing, but you're supposed to defend to the death my right to say it. Voltaire said that!)
Examples of quotes that are good:To be or not to be, that isn't the question unless you or your twin brother is called Toby.Genius is 1% perspiration and 99% commerce.I disagree with what you say, and what you say is way over the mark, and I don't approve of that.
Background NoiseYes, we all know that we shouldn't dive in without telling the reader what's going on. However, that doesn't mean you should spend five paragraphs on the background, do you? (OK, maybe you should, but only if you're writing thirty pages.) Your reader isn't going to be impressed with your extensive knowledge of the Arab Spring, the Franco-Prussian War or even the development of the flushing toilet (weird, huh)?
Especially bad are the essay openings which describe a current affair in extensive detail when it's barely even related to the issues at hand. If you've got a lot to say about the teenage drug problem, you don't have to waste your ink on one recent incident.
Bad example:Not long ago, I opened the paper to find an eye-catching title (not): Teenage Boy Found Smoking Pot In Secret. Goose bumps crept up my spine as I read the words of the haunting article (because of the air conditioning). How could such a young boy engage in such an activity? The boy had a bright future before him, and he was lured into destroying it completely by consuming a dangerous drug? (Extensive detail about the police investigation, the boy's family history up to five generations, nearly everyone at his school, the story of the boy's life, etc., etc., etc.)(ten pages later)This type of incident should not be allowed to happen again. Therefore, I propose that the following measures be taken...
The Rhetorical QuestionDoesn't everyone know the evils of rhetorical questions? Don't they make you sound totally uncreative? A little arrogant too, perhaps? Or just plain silly? Isn't it particularly stupid when you answer the question afterwards? Why do we even need the question in the first place? Aren't you put off especially by a series of rhetorical questions? Especially when they don't seem to be related, right? One rhetorical question can be tolerated, but not a whole bunch of them at the beginning of an essay, isn't it?
I admit, rhetorical questions - even a whole bunch of them - can sometimes be good. An example of a acceptable series of rhetorical questions (though I personally find them boring) can be found in Liang Qichao's speech about responsibility. He starts with a series of rhetorical questions about the bitterest thing in life. After stating in the form of rhetorical questions that death, poverty, ageing and falling out of favour weren't what he was having in mind, he proceeded to explain why bearing unyielded responsibilities was the bitterest. Following his model, however, will probably make you another Dongshi - a really ugly woman who tried to imitate the movements of a famously pretty woman, Xishi. Dongshi ended up looking even worse and scared everyone away or back to their homes (true story)
Examples of bad rhetorical questions:
What is the meaning of life? Is it eating? No. Is it drinking? No. Is it drugs? No. Is it video games? No. Is it (censored)? No. The meaning of life is not to satisfy any of these mundane desires, but to (insert absolutely meaningless 'meaning' here).
(Title: It's more blessed to give than receive) Is it more blessed to give than receive? Do you think it gives more pleasure to receive than give? I don't think so.
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