Sheridan Baker: Sample Introductory Paragraph
From Sheridan Baker's Complete Stylist and Handbook (New York: Harper and Row, 1980), I borrow the following introductory paragraph:
Jefferson believed in democracy because he firmly believed in reason. He knew that reason was far from perfect, but he also knew that it was the best faculty we have. He knew that it was better than all the frightened and angry intolerances with which we fence off our own back yards at the cost of injustice. Thought must be free. Discussion must be free. Reason must be free to range among the widest possibilities. Even the opinion we hate, and have reasons for believing wrong, we must leave free so that reason can operate on it, so that we can advertise our belief in reason and demonstrate a faith unafraid of the consequences -- because we know that the consequences will be right. Freedom is really not the aim and end of Jeffersonian democracy: freedom is the means by which democracy can rationally choose justice for all. (Baker, Complete Stylist, 52)This is a good introductory paragraph for 'introducing' the standard form of an essay's introductory paragraph. It offers something of a 'hook' to catch the reader's attention -- a pairing of "democracy" with "reason," which two things often seem wildly unconnected to one another.
From that broad opening, the paragraph narrows down to its point, the thesis statement linking "freedom," "democracy," "reason" (i.e., "rationally"), and "justice" in an argument ready to be defended in the body of the essay to follow.
I'll be using this paragraph as a model in my summer writing course.