How Long Should Your Introduction Be?

Wondering how long you should make the introduction to your essay?  Like many things about writing, the right answer varies.  There are some guidelines you can use to make it of reasonable length, though.

  1. It should be brief relative to the essay.  If you’re writing a short, five-paragraph essay, then an introduction with three to four sentences will likely suffice.
  2. Make sure the introduction introduces the main thesis, as well as gives  the reader an idea of how the argument will be developed.  Many times, a paragraph with three to five sentences can accomplish this successfully.
  3. Include only background information necessary to your target reader.  For class essays where the teacher may already be knowledgeable on the background of the topic, you can skip including any such information.  Only put in material that will be necessary for the target reader to understand your main points.
  4. If the necessary background information is too long, put it in a second paragraph.  Opening paragraphs that grow too long can end up intimidating readers.
  5. Never make statements that are self-referential.  You know, stuff like “This essay will focus on…” and “The succeeding discussion will show…”  You are writing an essay, not an opening statement at a trial.  Doing self-references will only lengthen an essay unnecessarily.