Start Your Essay with a Quote

Writing GuidesEssay Writing
Alex Ponomarenko
Jul 9, 2019

The success of your essay depends heavily on your introduction, as this is the only opportunity where you can convince your audience to carry on and read the rest. This reason alone makes writing an effective introduction quite intimidating. There are many ways to begin an introductory paragraph , and many go with the route of using anecdotes. The oldest trick in the book, though, may be writing one using a quotation. Though the idea has been used many times over, finding the right quotation still offers charm that will ensure your essay’s great start. Learning to use it well, especially learning to weave it around the framework of your essay’s entirety, will surely hook your readers.

Starting Your Essay With a Quote

Finding the Perfect Quote

Know your target audience

The effectiveness of your use of the quotation should be determined by your chosen audience, as only then will you be able to choose the most appropriate one in accordance to the context of your essay. 

  • Consider if whether or not your audience will be familiar with the person you are quoting. If it is someone who’s relatively unknown or you deem they may not be familiar with, consider providing important details, but make sure they’re brief.
  • Never use an offensive quotation, unless you plan to contradict it.
  • Work on achieving the perfect balance between hypothesizing that your audience knows both nothing and everything. Write clearly and informatively, but never insult the intelligence of your reader.

Avoid choosing cliché and hackneyed quotations 

Choosing a quote that you’ve heard, read, and continue to see everywhere will bore your reader and discourage them to continue. It will send a message that perhaps you were far too lazy to plan your essay carefully, in which your readers will deem your essay not worthy of their attention. Choosing a cliché can also suggest that you have not considered your audience, which is vital to the overall success of your essay. Find a way to add variety to your writing.

  • Make sure to look up on the quote’s context. Being aware of the context in which the quotation was used originally is integral to using it appropriately. This will also aid you in determining whether or not it’ll serve as an effective introduction. 
  • More importantly, make sure that your chosen quotation actually contributes to your essay. Choosing a quote merely for its snappiness won’t help set your topic, or choosing an unrelated one will distract your reader from the essay’s focus.

Using Quotes Correctly

Ensure that the quotation is introduced appropriately

Quotes should never stand alone in your paper, as they are too weak if unsupported and without elaboration. They add charm and context to your essay, but a bulk of your entire work’s effectiveness relies on the content. Choose words that will properly introduce the quotation , which usually comes before the quote. Here are some ways:

  • You have the option to use the quote as a predicate, where the subject of the sentence will be the person who delivered the quotation. For instance: “Jim Hopper said. “…..””.
  • Write a preview the content of the quote. Make a sentence to paraphrase the quote’s content, and then insert a colon or a comma, which will be followed by the quotation. For example: "Once, Jim Hopper said something utterly moving: '…………..'"
  • Simply begin your essay with the quote. If you choose this route, be sure to place a comma after the quote complete with a verb and the attribution to the source. For example: "……,' said Jim Hopper."

Make sure to punctuate the quote properly

Quotations should always be presented with quotation marks around them, as failing to use quotation marks may result to plagiarism.

  • The quote only needs to be capitalized if it begins the sentence. It can also be capitalized if the first word of the quote is a proper noun, such as the name of a place or person.
  • In the American context, the end punctuation should be placed inside the quotation marks. For example: “This is the quote.”
  • Paraphrased content does not need quotation marks around it, but must it be attributed to the original speaker.
  • If you choose to introduce the quote with the speaker’s name along with a verb, write a comma before the beginning of the quotation. For example: "Jim Hopper once said,...'".

Remember to attribute the quote correctly 

This part may seem too obvious, but ensure that the person you’re quoting actually said the quote. Not all sources of information out there are authentic, so remember to evaluate academic sources thoroughly, as some internet sources can be unreliable. Beginning your paper with such blatant mistake will set a bad precedent for the rest of your paper, and if a reader recognizes your mistake, your reputation will suffer horribly, something that would not be easy to shake off. 

  • Be particularly wary of quotations. They are easily found on social media sites such as Pinterest, or on quote collectors such as Brainyquote. These websites are notorious for constructing famous quotes, as well as wrongly attributing quotes.

In the name of academic honesty, stay true to the meaning and context of the quote 

Do not attempt to manipulate a quotation for the mere sake of it fitting to your purposes. Manipulation can manifest by leaving out and adding words, as well as misleading the audience about the context of the quotation.

If faced with a long quote, only use a fragment of it 

If the quotation is too long, or you find that you only need a part of it to demonstrate a point, you can leave sections out by utilizing ellipses (…). Make sure to keep the original context and intent of the quote as you make necessary changes. These changes should only be made to change length or preserve clarity, and never to manipulate the content.

Contrary to what most believe, starting your essay with a quotation is not an easy task. While starting your essays off with quotations seemed revolutionary at some point in time, the original charm it added to your paper has now worn off. The use of it now can do more harm than good, but figuring out a way to do it properly truly pays off. Choosing the best one for your paper, for one, will already lead you to writing a good essay – the rest follows! And if all these is not enough, you can always seek the help of professional writers!

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Written by
Alex Ponomarenko
I am a content manager from California, US. I started as a content writer intern eleven years ago and became a content manager six years after. I joined CustomEssayMeister five years ago and enjoy being a part of the team every day.

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