Does this happen to you?
You have to write an essay but your mind is blank. You look at the computer monitor or white piece of paper. There are no words. You start to panic. You ask yourself, “How can I write this essay?” This is how many students start to write an essay. When the words don’t come out, writing can be difficult and a little scary.
How to start an essay
In this lesson, you will learn how to start an essay – quickly – by using a paragraph format. A format tells you what sentences you need and how to write your ideas. I call this the 1-2-3 Paragraph Format. This format is useful for writing projects where you have to say why you like one thing more than another thing. This is called expressing a preference. The 1-2-3 Paragraph Format has three benefits for you:
- It gives you a starting point. So, you will always know how to begin a new writing project.
- It’s flexible. You change the words the way you like them. Make your story and make it great.
- You don’t copy my ideas, you learn how to create. The 1-2-3 Paragraph Format teaches you the structure of the first paragraph.
1-2-3 Paragraph Format
Here is the first paragraph of an essay using the 1-2-3 Paragraph Format.
In my country, there is a long and serious debate about the best place to grow up as a kid. Some people say it is better for children to grow up in the countryside because rural areas provide safe streets to play and a clean environment. Other people argue that the city is a better place to raise a family because urban centers have more choices for entertainment and education. Both places have advantages and disadvantages to be sure. In my opinion, the city is a better place to raise a child because of personal, academic and professional reasons.
The paragraph has three parts.
- Part 1: The first sentence tells the reader the topic. This sentence says there are two different opinions about the best place to raise children.
- Part 2: The second and third sentences briefly explain the two different points of view. There is no detail. It’s just a summary.
- Part 3: This is the last sentence of the paragraph. This sentence explains your opinion. This is your thesis.
Now you try
Download the worksheet here and practice writing paragraphs using this format. The worksheet has three topic questions. I have also included three samples that show you how the 1-2-3- Paragraph Format can be changed to answer all kinds of questions. Your answers may be different from mine. That’s good. Good luck.
Doesn’t the title itself already encourage you to start writing straight away? Just kidding! I guess you need a stronger push than just a title. Well, I can provide this little push in the form of real examples of my students’ essays after following all these 5 steps. Just skip to Step 4 if you don’t believe me and bear in mind when you read their essays, they are B1 (intermediate) students.
Step 1. The difference between an opinion essay and a persuasive essay.
Opinion essay: in an opinion essay the writer states his opinion and supports it with facts, evidence and examples but he doesn’t try to convince the reader.
Persuasive essay: in a persuasive essay the writer tries to convince the reader to agree with his opinion. The author uses logic and facts, definitions and examples in order to persuade the reader to share his point of view.
Step 2. Top tips for writing an opinion essay
1 Basic do’s when writing an opinion essay
- Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence, outlining the main ideas.
- Do not write about advantages or disadvantages or points for or against.
- Write in formal style.
2. Basic don’ts when writing an opinion essay
- Don’t use colloquial expressions.
- Don’t use short forms.
- Don’t use emotive vocabulary.
3. Decide whether you agree or disagree with the title. Try to think of at least two or three good reasons to support your opinion, including examples of why you think the alternative point of view is wrong.
4. Organise your essay into clear paragraphs.
- Introduction: Introduce the topic and give your opinion. Say whether you agree or disagree with the statement.
- Body: 2 or 3 paragraphs. For each paragraph give a reason to support your opinion.
- Conclusion: Summarize your ideas and repeat your opinion using different words.
5. There is a process to writing. Try to follow it. It will help you a lot
The writing process from cristinaca
Step 3. Useful expressions and linkers
Download the pdf here
Step 4. Examples of opinion essays written by B1 students
Three essays written by B1 students to help you get started.
Step 5. 22 opinion essays to choose from
Your turn! Choose from one of the options and write an opinion essay.
Plan your content and organise it in four or five paragraphs (introduction, reasons and conclusion).