What are lead sentences and how do you use them to improve your essay writing?
Hi, I’m Tutor Phil, and if you’ve ever watched some of my other videos or read my blog at TutorPhil.com, then you probably have a pretty good idea of how to start writing an essay. You start out with a thesis stated clearly.
And how is a lead sentence related to a thesis? Put simply, a lead sentence is a sentence that opens and summarizes an essay, a section of an essay, or a paragraph perfectly.
I’d like to give you three examples of lead sentences – one for an entire essay, one for a section, and one for a paragraph.
Let’s say your professor wants you to write an essay about a movie. And you pick the movie “Titanic.”
Your lead sentence for the essay about the movie could be something like:
“Titanic is a very sad movie because it focuses on a relationship that ends tragically.”
This is a perfect lead sentence for this essay. At the same time this is also a perfect thesis.
What makes it good? Two parts. First, you state what exactly your main point is – and it’s that the movie is very sad. And second, you state why you believe the movie is sad – because it focuses on a relationship that ends tragically.
This makes a perfect lead sentence for an entire essay.
Now, what could be an interesting section of this essay? Remember – a section can contain many paragraphs. That’s why I differentiate between a section and a paragraph.
One section of the paper could focus just on the cinematography. And it could start with this lead sentence:
“Emotional ups and downs in the relationship between the main characters are masterfully conveyed through camera movement.”
And this entire section would be devoted to just that – camera movement that conveys emotions between the main characters.
Now, let’s zoom in even further and ask ourselves – what could make an interesting paragraph in this section?
Well, one paragraph could be devoted to camera movement during a certain scene – for example, when the ship begins to sink. And our lead sentence could be:
“Camera movement in the final scene helps intensify the main characters’ anguish.”
Please note that in each case, whether the lead sentence opens the entire essay or just a paragraph, its job is to summarize the contents perfectly.
Lead sentences really help you focus on the subject matter of what comes after them because they force your brain to concentrate on the subject matter of the essay, the section, or the paragraph.
They allow your reader to get a good idea of what’s to come in the paragraph.
This is the structure of a body paragraph with a lead sentence:
Here’s an example of a body paragraph with a lead sentence:
“Lead sentences are necessary in body paragraphs because they contain the main idea to be explained and illustrated in the paragraph. If the main idea is not clearly introduced, then the explanation lacks reference. In other words, the reader may follow the explanation without being clear on what this is an explanation of. To include examples or illustrations without providing a clear general idea first is also counterproductive. When the reader gets to an example, she may not understand what the example is supposed to illustrate without a general idea introduced in the lead sentence. For example, this paragraph is a perfect illustration of how to introduce a point in the beginning of a paragraph and support it with explanations and examples.”
Here’s a video of three examples of beautiful lead sentences and how they can vary in length and complexity: