Beginning

The beginning, or opening, is one of the most important sections of your writing. It should grab the reader's attention and make them want to read on.

For instance, which of the following is the best beginning for a ghost story?

  • The house was built in 1975. It was a typical semi-detached, but it did have quite an impressive front door. Most of the windows were double glazed and the garden was quite neat.
  • The creaking door swung open to reveal an empty hall. Ben shivered as he stepped inside, his footsteps echoing on the cold tile floor.

There are no prizes for guessing that the second one is scarier. However, if your purpose was to describe the house and nothing else, then the first extract is better, because it is objective and gives straightforward facts.

Writing tips

When writing an opening, think about the context, audience and purpose or CAP.

You should try to 'set a context', which is like setting the scene. So if it is a speech, you might start by asking your audience a question to get them engaged and on board with your topic. But if it's a news article, you’ll need to write about what happened, where, how and so on, very early on.

Task

Which of these openings is more effective in these two examples?

Question

1. A persuasive letter to local residents

a) The subject I am going to write about today is why the local park should not be closed.

b) Have you ever stopped to wonder how many hundreds of people make regular use of our Memorial Park?

2. A newspaper report on a park closure meeting

a) It is unlikely that newspaper readers who enjoy all the things that our park has to offer will want it to disappear forever under tonnes of concrete.

b) "Ashfield Park will be ruined," claim protestors who held a meeting last night to organise opposition to the council's plans for a car park.

The ‘b’ versions are better - they fit the style required by their genre.

The writer has worked through the needs of context, audience, purpose (CAP) to help make their writing work. Remember - you should try to make your writing lively and engaging right from the start.