This article offers tips on how to nail the all-important introduction of your paragraphs — the sentence that gives purpose to them and by extension your entire nonfiction book — and ends with some examples for your reference.
Paragraph Introduction Basics
As a nonfiction writer, your job is to convey your thoughts in as clear a way as possible, and that requires that your unit of thought — the paragraph — be centered on a single idea. The first sentence of each paragraph must introduce the topic that you’ll be developing.
Here are some tips:
Paragraph Introduction Do’s
- The job of your paragraph introduction is to pique the interest of your readers
- Try to make it sound intriguing: use a controversial statement, use humor, ask an interesting question
- Make your paragraph introduction inspiring — grab your reader’s attention and keep them glued to the page
Paragraph Introduction Don’ts
- Don’t bore your reader with uninspiring introductory language, such as “This book will talk about…,” “The purpose of this book is to…,” etc.
- Don’t state an opinion or use otherwise doubtful or weak language, such as “I think this topic will be useful for people who….” “I hope that you learn…,” etc.)
- Don’t meander, get straight to the point of introducing your topic without unnecessary detours
Nonfiction Paragraph Examples
Here are some examples of nonfiction paragraphs, one for each of the three most common paragraph styles used in the genre (paragraph introduction sentences are highlighted with italics):
Expository Paragraph Example
This style is used to inform and educate your reader.
“The fundamental question of work and leisure raised by Weiss is particularly relevant as a generation called Millennials moves firmly into the workforce. I know many Millennials and in general they’re hard-working, passionate young men and women who are eager to work, but they want to enjoy and draw meaning from their jobs. Most are sensible enough to have a day-job to pay the bills, but many have a “side hustle” – a hobby or a business idea into which they pour their passion and hope to one day monetize. Weiss recognizes this trend in workers, but an interesting disconnect between Weiss’ article and today is the discussion of self-employment. Weiss notes that self-employed workers are generally most satisfied even if they earn less, but also makes the observation that self-employment has significantly declined.”
Narrative Paragraph Example
This style is used to take the reader through an emotional journey.
“Christopher Reeve was one courageous person who fully accepted an unexpected change in direction in his life. The icon of superhuman strength in the 80’s, he was the quintessential Superman. An actor of great appeal and talent, he represented the ideal combination of manliness, strength, seeker of justice, and savior of humankind. In May 1995, he was horse jumping and had a serious fall. The accident seriously damaged his spinal cord and shocked the world. How could Superman be rendered a quadriplegic? It was unfathomable. After many months of grueling physical therapy, he learned how to function in this new altered state. Within a year, he had founded a charitable organization called the Christopher Reeve Foundation in order to raise money for research on spinal cord injuries and made it his life mission to find a way for all victims of these devastating injuries to walk again.”
Persuasive Paragraph Example
This style is used to inspire the reader to take action.
“‘I’m too old’ or ‘It’s too late to change’ are nothing but limiting beliefs. Like any other beliefs, they’re fully under your control and are totally replaceable. In the end, you’re the one who truly runs the show, as much as you’re taught to believe the opposite. When it comes to making changes in your life, you have the ultimate say. If you end up doing what others think you should, it’s only because on some level you’ve made the decision to believe that their ideas are more worthy than your own.”
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.