How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television . Penguin, 1982)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner , Summer 2007)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell . Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine , June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review , 2007)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review , Winter 2008)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun , February 2009)

Reveal a Secret or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." ( Richard Selzer , "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife . Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture . Westview Press, 1999)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time , July 31, 2000)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review , 2009)

  • 'Whack at Your Reader at Once': Eight Great Opening Lines
  • What Is a Compelling Introduction?
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • How To Write an Essay
  • How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
  • How to Write a Great Essay for the TOEFL or TOEIC
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How to Develop and Organize a Classification Essay
  • 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
  • A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right

How to Start a Letter (With Professional Greeting Examples)

Melissa Ling / The Balance

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Options for Starting a Letter

  • Examples of Professional Greetings

Try to Find a Contact Person

  • Greetings to Use When You Don't Have a Contact Person

Greetings to Avoid Using

Tips for writing and sending a letter.

What's the best way to start a letter? When writing a letter for professional purposes, an appropriate greeting is essential. Your greeting sets the tone for your letter or email, and is an indicator of your written communication skills.

Review information on options for starting a letter, including professional and personal greetings, examples of the best salutations, and what to do when you don't have a contact person.

When deciding  which salutation to use , you should consider whether, and how well, you know the person you're writing to. The answer will determine how you start your letter. It's important to use a formal and professional greeting when you don't know your letter or email recipient well.

Personal Greetings

When to use a person's first name: If you are writing to someone in a professional capacity that you have known personally for many years, it is appropriate to use only their first name.

Professional Greetings

When to use a professional greeting: If you don't know the person well, it is best to use  Mr., Ms., or Dr.  as an  appropriate business letter salutation . When you don't know the recipient's gender, you can use their first and last name. If you have any doubts about which greeting you should use, err on the side of caution and use the more formal style of address.

Use a Formal Salutation

Keep it formal: Try to avoid the temptation to begin your professional letter with informal salutations like "Hello," "Greetings," "Hi There," or "Good Morning" if you don't know the name of your contact person.

While those informal greetings are fine for casual emails to friends or even for more formal emails you might send to groups of people, in a professional letter you'll need to use a personal salutation with either a first and/or last name ("Dear Mr. Doe") or a job title ("Dear Hiring Manager").

Always be sure to double-check the spelling of the recipient's name. Otherwise, you'll be making a poor impression from the start of your letter.


Also remember to include the period after "Mr." and "Ms." and follow your salutation with a colon or comma (e.g., "Dear Ms. Doe:" or "Dear Jamie Chen,").

Examples of Professional Letter Greetings

These greetings are all suitable for professional communications.

When you know the person well:

When you know the person's name:

  • Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname; e.g., Dear Mr. Dolan or Dear Ms. Butler
  • Dear Mr./Ms. Firstname Lastname; e.g., Dear Mr. Martin Haynes or Dear Ms. Melissa Tandor
  • Dear Firstname Lastname; e.g., Dear Michael Cairns

When you don't know the person's gender: When you have a name but are unsure of the gender of the person you are writing to, it is acceptable to leave out the honorific, and use the first and last names alone. For example:

  • Dear Robin Miller
  • Dear Jamieson Cavanaugh

If at all possible, use a contact name when you write. This makes your letter more personal, and it creates an immediate relationship with the reader. If you don't have a contact name, do some research to find out the  right person to address your letter to .

It doesn't take much extra time to make an attempt to find a name, and the sentiment it conveys is worth it. It's worth a try, even if you aren't successful.

Sometimes the name will be on the company website, or you may be able to find the right person on LinkedIn. Perhaps one of your colleagues or contacts knows who the appropriate person might be. You can also call the office of the unknown person you are writing to and ask the receptionist for the name by explaining your reason for calling.

For example:  "I am applying for a job with your company. Can you please tell me the name of your Hiring Manager so that I know to whom I should address my cover letter?"

Greetings to Use When You Don't Have a Contact Person

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just can't find a name to address your letter to. In that case, you have a variety of choices, all of which are professional and appropriate.

The more information you have about where you are sending the letter, the better. (For example, the human resources department of the company, or the manager of the department related to your inquiry.) This way, you can make a more targeted choice when selecting your greeting.

If you don't have a contact person, there are a variety of options to choose from:

  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear Human Resources Manager
  • Dear Recruiting Team
  • Dear [Company Name] Recruiter; e.g., Dear ABC Company Recruiter
  • Dear [Department Name] Recruiter; e.g., Dear IT Support Recruiter
  • Dear [Department Name] Team; e.g., Dear Product Recruiter
  • Dear Sir or Madam (this is outdated, so avoid if possible)
  • To Whom It May Concern (use if you have no other workable options)

The following greetings aren't appropriate for formal letters or email messages:

  • Good Morning or Afternoon (you don't know when they'll receive the letter or email message)

Start your letter with an appropriate greeting, as listed above.

First Paragraph

After your greeting, begin your first paragraph, which is usually an introduction that lets the reader know who you are and what you are writing about. If you have a mutual acquaintance who referred you to the reader, you should mention them at this time.

Body of Letter

The body of your letter normally consists of a paragraph or two of text. Here, you can elaborate on the theme of your letter and provide supporting details for the subject.

You'll want to keep it concise and pertinent to the person and the topic.

Be thorough but don't repeat yourself or go on and on about unimportant details.

Next, you'll need to sum up your letter. Your summary should include a thank you to the person for his or her time and consideration. If you plan to follow up later, you can also provide the details of when and how you will contact him or her.

Closing Options

Finish your  professional letter with a closing , such as "Sincerely" or "Regards." If you plan on sending the letter by postal service, your signature should be followed by your typed name.

If you're sending an email, your typed name should be followed by your contact information, which you can type in manually or have it done automatically for you. Here's  how to set up an automatic email signature .

Key Takeaways

  • Choose a formal greeting. When you don't know the person you're writing to well, don't use a casual greeting.
  • Try to find a contact person. If you can't find a contact person, it's fine to use a generic greeting.
  • Proofread your letter or email. When you're sending professional correspondence, it's important to carefully proofread your document before you send it.
  • How to Address a Business or Professional Letter
  • Business Letter Salutation Examples
  • Sample Professional Letter Formats
  • How to Introduce Yourself in an Email (With Examples)
  • Email Etiquette Tips for Job Seekers
  • Business Letter Format With Examples
  • Job Interview Thank-You Letter Template
  • Types of Professional Business Letters
  • Sample Sickness Excuse Letters and Emails
  • Sample Absence Excuse Letters and Emails for Work
  • Formal Letter Closing and Signature Examples
  • Professional Letter and Email Examples
  • How to Write and Send Professional Emails
  • Letter and Email Salutations and Greetings
  • Missing Work Excuse Email and Letter Examples
  • Sample Email Message Formats for Job Searching

how to start off a letter essay

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how to start off a letter essay

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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105 Best Words To Start A Paragraph

words to start a paragraph, explained below

The first words of a paragraph are crucial as they set the tone and inform the reader about the content that follows.

Known as the ‘topic’ sentence, the first sentence of the paragraph should clearly convey the paragraph’s main idea. 

This article presents a comprehensive list of the best words to start a paragraph, be it the first, second, third, or concluding paragraph.

Words to Start an Introduction Paragraph

The words you choose for starting an essay should establish the context, importance, or conflict of your topic.

The purpose of an introduction is to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the topic, its significance, and the structure of the ensuing discussion or argument.

Students often struggle to think of ways to start introductions because they may feel overwhelmed by the need to effectively summarize and contextualize their topic, capture the reader’s interest, and provide a roadmap for the rest of the paper, all while trying to create a strong first impression.

Choose one of these example words to start an introduction to get yourself started:

  • The debate surrounding [topic]…
  • [Topic] has garnered attention due to…
  • Exploring the complexities of [topic]…
  • The significance of [topic] lies in…
  • Over the past decade, [topic] has…
  • The critical question of [topic]…
  • As society grapples with [topic]…
  • The rapidly evolving landscape of [topic]…
  • A closer examination of [topic] reveals…
  • The ongoing conversation around [topic]…
Don’t Miss my Article: 33 Words to Avoid in an Essay

Words to Start a Body Paragraph

The purpose of a body paragraph in an essay is to develop and support the main argument, presenting evidence, examples, and analysis that contribute to the overall thesis.

Students may struggle to think of ways to start body paragraphs because they need to find appropriate transition words or phrases that seamlessly connect the paragraphs, while also introducing a new idea or evidence that builds on the previous points.

This can be challenging, as students must carefully balance the need for continuity and logical flow with the introduction of fresh perspectives.

Try some of these paragraph starters if you’re stuck:

  • Building upon previous research…
  • As [source] suggests, [topic]…
  • Analyzing [topic] through [theory]…
  • Considering the impact of [policy]…
  • Delving deeper into [topic]…
  • Drawing from [author]’s findings…
  • [Topic] intersects with [related topic]…
  • Contrary to popular belief, [topic]…
  • The historical context of [topic]…
  • Addressing the challenges of [topic]…

Words to Start a Conclusion Paragraph

The conclusion paragraph wraps up your essay and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

It should convincingly summarize your thesis and main points. For more tips on writing a compelling conclusion, consider the following examples of ways to say “in conclusion”:

  • In summary, [topic] demonstrates…
  • The evidence overwhelmingly suggests…
  • Taking all factors into account…
  • In light of the analysis, [topic]…
  • Ultimately, [topic] plays a crucial role…
  • In light of these findings…
  • Weighing the pros and cons of [topic]…
  • By synthesizing the key points…
  • The interplay of factors in [topic]…
  • [Topic] leaves us with important implications…

Complete List of Transition Words

Above, I’ve provided 30 different examples of phrases you can copy and paste to get started on your paragraphs.

Let’s finish strong with a comprehensive list of transition words you can mix and match to start any paragraph you want:

  • Secondly, …
  • In addition, …
  • Furthermore, …
  • Moreover, …
  • On the other hand, …
  • In contrast, …
  • Conversely, …
  • Despite this, …
  • Nevertheless, …
  • Although, …
  • As a result, …
  • Consequently, …
  • Therefore, …
  • Additionally, …
  • Simultaneously, …
  • Meanwhile, …
  • In comparison, …
  • Comparatively, …
  • As previously mentioned, …
  • For instance, …
  • For example, …
  • Specifically, …
  • In particular, …
  • Significantly, …
  • Interestingly, …
  • Surprisingly, …
  • Importantly, …
  • According to [source], …
  • As [source] states, …
  • As [source] suggests, …
  • In the context of, …
  • In light of, …
  • Taking into consideration, …
  • Given that, …
  • Considering the fact that, …
  • Bearing in mind, …
  • To illustrate, …
  • To demonstrate, …
  • To clarify, …
  • To put it simply, …
  • In other words, …
  • To reiterate, …
  • As a matter of fact, …
  • Undoubtedly, …
  • Unquestionably, …
  • Without a doubt, …
  • It is worth noting that, …
  • One could argue that, …
  • It is essential to highlight, …
  • It is important to emphasize, …
  • It is crucial to mention, …
  • When examining, …
  • In terms of, …
  • With regards to, …
  • In relation to, …
  • As a consequence, …
  • As an illustration, …
  • As evidence, …
  • Based on [source], …
  • Building upon, …
  • By the same token, …
  • In the same vein, …
  • In support of this, …
  • In line with, …
  • To further support, …
  • To substantiate, …
  • To provide context, …
  • To put this into perspective, …

Tip: Use Right-Branching Sentences to Start your Paragraphs

Sentences should have the key information front-loaded. This makes them easier to read. So, start your sentence with the key information!

To understand this, you need to understand two contrasting types of sentences:

  • Left-branching sentences , also known as front-loaded sentences, begin with the main subject and verb, followed by modifiers, additional information, or clauses.
  • Right-branching sentences , or back-loaded sentences, start with modifiers, introductory phrases, or clauses, leading to the main subject and verb later in the sentence.

In academic writing, left-branching or front-loaded sentences are generally considered easier to read and more authoritative.

This is because they present the core information—the subject and the verb—at the beginning, making it easier for readers to understand the main point of the sentence.

Front-loading also creates a clear and straightforward sentence structure, which is preferred in academic writing for its clarity and conciseness.

Right-branching or back-loaded sentences, with their more complex and sometimes convoluted structure, can be more challenging for readers to follow and may lead to confusion or misinterpretation.

Take these examples where I’ve highlighted the subject of the sentence in bold. Note that in the right-branching sentences, the topic is front-loaded.

  • Right Branching: Researchers found a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function after analyzing the data from various studies.
  • Left-Branching: After analyzing the data from various studies, a strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function was found by researchers.
  • The novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes , which captivated the audience from the very first chapter.
  • Captivating the audience from the very first chapter, the novel was filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking themes.

The words you choose to start a paragraph are crucial for setting the tone, establishing context, and ensuring a smooth flow throughout your essay.

By carefully selecting the best words for each type of paragraph, you can create a coherent, engaging, and persuasive piece of writing.


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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How to Start a Scholarship Essay

Last Updated: May 26, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams and by wikiHow staff writer, Jessica Gibson . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 90,553 times.

College scholarships can be incredibly competitive and most of them have an essay component. While you may dread writing these essays, they're nothing to fear—the scholarship committee just wants to know a little more about you. With a strong introduction that hooks your reader, you're halfway there! But how do you start a scholarship essay? Here, you'll find some great ideas for how to start, along with some general writing strategies that you can carry through to the rest of your essay.

Sample Introduction and Template

how to start off a letter essay

Include the 3 key elements of an introduction.

Get your readers' attention, give an overview, and list a thesis statement.

  • A great intro sentence could be something like, "I never thought I'd have to raise my siblings," or, "On April 7, 1997, my life completely changed."
  • Your overview sentences could go on to say, "My parents struggled to look after us, so I become the only constant in my brothers' lives. I had to grow up fast, but I also learned a lot about myself in the process."
  • Your thesis statement might look like this, "I realized that I have a lot to offer and I'm starting a career in social work. This scholarship will give me the financial support that I need to start my educational journey."

Open with an element of surprise.

Use a surprising or shocking fact about yourself to draw in the reader.

  • For example, you might write: "If you looked at my parents' mantle, overflowing with trophies and medals, you'd probably conclude that I was an athlete. But what you wouldn't know is that I was born with only one leg."

Compare yourself to the scholarship's namesake.

Show what you have in common with the person for whom the scholarship is named.

  • For example, you might write: "Mary Lewis dedicated her life to improving her community with public vegetable gardens. Last year, I worked with fellow disabled students to create a sustainable vegetable garden at our school that was accessible to others with disabilities."

Raise a question.

Ask your readers a question to stir their curiosity about the answer.

  • For example, you might write: "For the past 4 years, I've volunteered with my local hospice. Why would a healthy, athletic young woman want to volunteer with people who are dying? Because I, too, have faced death. I know what it's like to be told you only have a few days to live."

Set the scene dramatically.

This option works well if you have a strong, compelling personal experience.

  • For example, suppose you're writing an essay about rescuing an injured dog and how that made you decide to become a veterinarian. You might write: "I could smell him before I saw him. Small and frail, he limped toward me. His fur was matted and he trembled. His large eyes were full of fear. He pleaded with me for help."

Include quotes with caution.

Use famous quotes only if you can quickly tie them to personal experience.

  • For example, you might write: "Nevertheless, she persisted." I never really understood the meaning of that rallying cry until, at 14 years old, I stood in front of the principal of my school to speak on behalf of myself and other disabled students."

Use buzzwords from the essay prompt.

Highlight important nouns and adjectives that apply to you.

Include a roadmap of your essay.

Share tangible, real-world examples that directly address the prompt.

  • For example, you might write: "My compassion for and special connection to animals spurred me to pursue a career in veterinary medicine." Then, in your essay, you would provide an instance that demonstrated your compassion and another that demonstrated that special connection.
  • Your roadmap doesn't necessarily have to be a "spoiler." For example, if the prompt is to "discuss a book or experience that made you want to be a writer," you might write: "While I'd always loved reading, I never considered writing stories myself until my 7th grade English teacher gave me a book for an extra-credit report." In your essay, you would then go on to discuss the report and name the book. [11] X Research source

Close your introduction with your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement tells your reader the purpose of your essay.

  • For example, if the prompt is to describe what sparked your interest in veterinary medicine, your thesis might be: "My experience rehabilitating stray dogs sparked my interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine."

Write in your own voice.

Let the reader know who you are from the first line.

  • Focus on standing out, not writing like everyone else. Although you can look at samples of other winning scholarship essays to get ideas, make sure the words in your essay are your own.
  • Your own perspective is key. For example, if you're a person of color, don't try to "whitewash" your essay. Scholarship committees like diversity, so if you try to cover up your identity, you're only hurting yourself.

Make your sentences active and concise.

Use short sentences and action verbs to make your writing pop.

  • For example, you might write: "I strive to demonstrate my passion for the environment every day. In my sophomore year, I started the recycling program at my school. As president of the environmental club, I teach fellow students what they can do to help save the world we live in."

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

  • Make your introduction short and sweet. The general rule is that the introduction should be about 10% of the total word count of your essay—this usually isn't many words! [16] X Research source Most scholarship essay introductions only have 3-4 sentences. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
  • Have friends or family read your essay—they can give you tips on how to make it stronger. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to start off a letter essay

  • Typos can ruin an otherwise beautiful essay! Make sure you proofread carefully. [17] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
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About This Article

Jake Adams

To start a scholarship essay, open with an interesting story, experience, or anecdote to draw your reader in. Then, connect your opening to the broader topic or question you'll be addressing throughout your essay. If you need some inspiration for a good introduction, read the essays written by the previous winners of the scholarship you're applying for. Just make sure you use your own voice and experiences to write your essay so it comes across as authentic. To learn how to conduct research for your scholarship essay before you write it, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to start off a letter essay

How to Write the National Honor Society Essay + Example

how to start off a letter essay

What’s Covered:

National honor society: four pillars and essay, five tips for writing your nhs essay, nhs essay example, time well spent.

What do former first lady Michelle Obama, actor Chadwick Boseman, singer-songwriters Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. have in common?  They were all members of the National Honor Society (NHS).

As you apply for membership in this national organization, remember NHS membership is based on meeting criteria in four areas that the NHS calls its four pillars: Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character .  


The first pillar, scholarship , requires that a student earns a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or equivalent. Many high schools set a higher GPA bar for their school’s chapter. If you meet your school’s academic requirement, congratulations, you’ve passed the first hurdle. 

Now it’s important that you carefully complete the application and write a compelling essay.  Most high schools require students to write a 300-500 word essay that showcases their commitment and accomplishments in the other three pillars.

Service refers to the contributions you make to your school and or community on a volunteer basis, without receiving any compensation. For your most significant service activities, be sure to explain why you choose to support certain organizations and why you chose specific roles. 

Showcase your leadership in your school and or community while working with or for others. Remember, stating that you are the captain of a team, president of a club, or supervisor of a shift does not prove that you are a leader. A leader makes things happen, sets a good example, and inspires others to give their personal best. Clearly state why you were selected to hold a leadership position and how you effectively lead. There are many successful leadership styles. Communicate your unique brand of leadership. 

Character is how you conduct yourself with high standards of honesty, reliability, and respect for others. Many attributes define good character, and they all reflect a personal commitment to ethical and compassionate interactions with others as well as how you treat yourself. Results are only part of the story.  How you achieved them is critically important to communicate.

Think about how many NHS applications your school counselor reviews each year. Not every student who completes an application is selected for the honor. So how do you make your essay stand out?  Here are five strategies:

1. Make it Personal and Individual  

Your application form provides the facts about the scope and range of your involvement and contributions to your communities. Be sure that you write your essay in a way that brings this data to life. A compelling essay enables the reader to feel a strong connection to you. Express your unique values, aspirations, and priorities. State the motivation behind your choices and the trade-offs you’ve made. Be honest about challenges and what you have learned through your mistakes. And be sure the tone of the essay sounds like you and nobody else. 

2. Share Your Stories

People love to hear and remember stories, not simply facts and figures. Express themes and points that you want to share by relaying stories that bring these concepts to life. Stories can be poignant, funny, suspenseful, or surprising. Any approach that makes a reader want to continue reading is a great one.

3. Be Humble and Bold

Many students find it hard to express their hard-earned accomplishments without sounding boastful. Proudly stating your achievements without sounding brash is possible and important. Clearly state your motivations, your challenges, your vulnerabilities, and your mistakes to mitigate any concerns.  

4. Follow Tried and True Essay Guidelines

Channel all the advice you’ve received over the years about how to write a great essay. Do you have a clear thesis around which you have organized your thoughts? Compelling topic sentences to hook your reader? Strong supporting sentences to back up your reasoning? Have you avoided clichés? Do you vary your sentence structure and word choice? Does the text flow and keep the reader engaged? Last, but not least, have you checked and double-checked your grammar, punctuation, and spelling?

5. Draft, Edit, Edit, Edit, Polish

Writing is an iterative process so give yourself the time necessary to land on the best approach for explaining why you are deserving of the NHS honor. There are many ways to tackle an essay. Try a few to determine which is the most effective. Then, when you determine the best approach and are satisfied with your latest draft, share it with someone whose opinion you value. 

Looking for someone to read over your essay? Check out Collegevine’s free essay help ! Our peer review system will help you get feedback from other students so that you can improve your NHS essay and college essays.

While there is not a single template for a strong essay, here is an example of an NHS essay written by an 11th-grade student who was accepted into NHS.

Success is not only about improving yourself, but also about improving life for others. While my GPA shows my commitment to academics, how I spend my time and conduct myself outside of school reveal my commitment to making the world a better place, consistent with the values of the National Honor Society. 

For the two years my grandfather lived in a nursing home, each weekend I took my dog EJ to visit him. I witnessed first-hand the healing power of animals as EJ lifted his and the other residents’ spirits. Because of this experience and because monkeys are my favorite animal, when I heard about Helping Hands (HH), the only organization in the world that raises capuchin monkeys to be live-in assistants to people with spinal cord injuries, I reached out to volunteer. 

Both in the summer and during the school year, I assist the trainers. Monkeys begin training when they are teenagers. It typically takes three to five years until they are ready to be placed with a person. My first job is to clean the cages of 60 monkeys. (Not my favorite responsibility.) I also prepare meals and construct and distribute dexterity “toys.” 

While not glamorous, my work is critical to the success of the initiative. The physical support the monkeys provide is unbelievable. They turn pages of books, scratch itches, pour water, and retrieve dropped items… Most importantly, I have seen the life-changing impact a monkey’s companionship has on a partner, including a college-age student confined to a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury from hockey. 

In the spring, summer, and fall I also volunteer at Gaining Ground (GG), a non-profit that grows organic produce to donate to food pantries, shelters, and meal programs. When I volunteered at a local food pantry, it struck me that recipients receive mostly canned and packaged food. I think it is important that people in need receive fresh fruits and vegetables, and I enjoy the physical work of weeding, harvesting, cleaning, and packing produce.

Soon after I began volunteering at GG, my rabbi gave a sermon about the working conditions of tomato farmers in Florida. (It reminded me of Grapes of Wrath, and I couldn’t believe inhumane practices continue.) Her sermon motivated me to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers by distributing postcards urging Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop to only buy tomatoes from farms that agree to fair wages and human rights. Both chains have now agreed, showing that a little effort by many people makes a difference.

Last, I believe a story is the best way to explain my “behind-the-scenes” leadership. At the annual nighttime football game, one of my soccer teammates (not someone I hang with) was drunk. When our principal came over to the bleachers, my teammate’s friends fled. Concerned that my teammate would fall and hurt herself, I brought her outside the stadium, called her parents, and waited with her until they came — without worrying about social retribution. Despite getting grounded, she thanked me for my help.

I would be honored to be recognized by NHS for my service, leadership, and character. Thank you for your consideration.

The time you invest in composing an effective NHS essay will help you when you’re ready to write your college essays! Essays are important components of applications to selective colleges. Getting into NHS is also an honor that may boost your application at some schools. Remember, you can estimate your chance for acceptance using Collegevine’s free chancing calculator . This tool will factor in your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and more to calculate your odds of admission at hundreds of schools across the country.

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

how to start off a letter essay

Trump social media stock surges in first day of trading

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump's social media company got off to a quick start in its stock market debut Tuesday.

Shares of Trump Media & Technology Group , the parent company of Truth Social, shot up more than 50% in its first minutes of trading. The quick move triggered a trading halt of five minutes, which exchanges use to put a check on volatile stock moves.

Interest remained hot for most of the day, although the stock flagged toward the close of trading, finishing about 16% higher. It was also one of the most actively traded stocks on the Nasdaq exchange, according to CNBC data.

Trump appeared to celebrate the stock's performance with a post on his platform late Tuesday morning.

Shareholders in shell company Digital World Acquisition Corp., or DWAC, voted Friday to approve a merger with Trump's social media company. The long-expected deal effectively took Trump Media & Technology Group into the public market, allowing people to easily buy and sell its stock. DWAC's stock had been trading since September 2021.

The stock, which now trades under the ticker DJT, is being closely watched in large part because its fortunes could have a major impact on Trump's strained finances. The former president's net worth, at least on paper, is now at over $6 billion , according to Bloomberg.

Trump has 10 days to post a $175 million bond for the judgment in his New York civil fraud trial — a sum that was reduced Monday from $464 million. Trump said Friday he has at least $500 million in cash.

Any windfall for Trump from DJT stock will take some time. As part of the merger, he cannot sell his shares for six months , though that could change if the company's board of directors votes to allow him to liquidate some of his stock.

There are questions about the company’s financial footing, too. Through the first nine months of last year, Trump Media lost more than $49 million while racking up revenue of nearly $3.4 million, according to the most recent financial data available . X, the company formerly known as Twitter, did about $2.5 billion in revenue last year.

how to start off a letter essay

Jason Abbruzzese is the assistant managing editor of tech and science for NBC News Digital.

how to start off a letter essay

Mike Calia is the managing editor for business and the economy at NBC News.

Screen Rant

Today's wordle hints & answer - march 31, 2024 (puzzle #1016).

March 31’s Wordle answer features repeating letters that could throw off many players and cause them to lose their streaks if they do not use hints.

March 31’s Wordle answer is going to be slightly harder than the rest of the week, and you need to be careful before proceeding. The answer contains three vowels, which is hard enough to discover. However, one of them is also a repeating letter. In such cases, it is recommended to use hints or starting words that won’t let you waste your attempts on random guesses.

Using Wordle ’s hard mode might be a better idea for today’s answer, as finding three vowels in a five-letter word can be quite challenging. In this mode, once you discover the correct positions of the vowels, you won’t be able to reuse them in random spots . This should make it easier to guess the answer, especially if you use hints.

10 Wordle Strategies To Keep Your Streak Alive

Best starting words for today’s wordle answer, three starting words to help you solve wordle.

If you want to start off well, you can use some starting words to help you with today’s Wordle . Since the answer is quite difficult, we recommend using these starting words as they might share attributes such as consonants, vowels, and some of the letters with the answer. Hopefully, these words will help you solve the answer in less than six attempts and continue your streak.

Note that the three starting words are classified into three difficulty levels. One of the words will be fairly easy and let you solve the answer quickly. However, the other two starting words might require rearranging letters and guessing the answer.

You can use some of the best starting words and combos for future Wordle answers; however, the below options only work for today’s Wordle answer:

Challenging Start Word For Today's Wordle

  • Shares no consonants with today's answer.
  • Shares two vowels with today's answer.
  • No letters are in the correct position for today's answer.

Medium Start Word For Today's Wordle

  • Shares one consonant with today's answer.
  • Shares one vowel with today's answer.
  • Three letters are in the correct position for today's answer.

Easy Start Word For Today's Wordle

  • Shares three vowels with today's answer.
  • Four letters are in the correct position for today's answer.

If you need some tips to solve most Wordle questions, check out this video by BuzzFeedPlayer player on YouTube.

Save Your Wordle Streak: Hints For Today's Wordle Answer

March 31 #1016.

If you are looking to use hints with Wordle ’s hard mode or after using some of our suggested starting words, we have four that might help. These hints do not give the answer away but should provide enough context so that you have a fair idea about the answer. Here are four hints you can use to solve March 31’s Wordle :

5 Letter Words Wordle Hasn't Used Yet (Updated Daily)

Today's wordle answer.

You might be in big trouble if you didn’t use any of the hints or the starting words for today’s Wordle answer . It’s not worth using hints at this point, as there is a chance that you might lose your daily streak. But if you had used all three of our suggested starting words, you would have been able to solve the answer on your fourth attempt. Nevertheless, here’s the actual answer for today’s Wordle .

March 31’s Wordle answer is TABOO .

Other Games Like Wordle

If you are looking to play games similar to Wordle , there are some options you can explore. These games are somewhat similar to Wordle as they might use the same mechanics and do not take too much time to solve. They are perfect for players looking to play other puzzle games and might keep them busy until the next Wordle .

Video Credit: BuzzFeedPlayer/YouTube


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A Bronx Teacher Asked. Tommy Orange Answered.

When the author received an impassioned email, he dropped everything to visit the students who inspired it.

  • Share full article

Tommy Orange, in a sweatshirt, a baseball cap and a pair of sneakers, sits in a high school classroom. Students are sitting in a circle around him. The back wall is covered in art and posters.

By Elisabeth Egan

Elisabeth Egan is still in touch with her high school English teachers.

Tommy Orange sat at the front of a classroom in the Bronx, listening as a group of high school students discussed his novel “There There.”

Listen to this article with reporter commentary

Open this article in the New York Times Audio app on iOS.

A boy wearing blue glasses raised his hand. “All the characters have some form of disconnection, even trauma,” Michael Almanzar, 19, said. “That’s the world we live in. That’s all around us. It’s not like it’s in some faraway land. That’s literally your next-door neighbor.”

The class broke into a round of finger snaps , as if we were at an old-school poetry slam on the Lower East Side and not in an English class at Millennium Art Academy, on the corner of Lafayette and Pugsley Avenues.

Orange took it all in with a mixture of gratitude and humility — the semicircle of earnest, engaged teenagers; the bulletin board decorated with words describing “There There” (“hope,” “struggle,” “mourning,” “discovery”); the shelf of well-thumbed copies wearing dust jackets in various stages of disintegration.

His eyebrows shot up when a student wearing a sweatshirt that said “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams” compared the book to “ The Road ,” by Cormac McCarthy . When three consecutive students spoke about how they related to Orange’s work because of their own mental health struggles, he was on the verge of tears.

“That’s what drew me to reading in the first place,” Orange said, “The feeling of not being as alone as you thought you were.”

It’s not often that an author walks into a room full of readers, let alone teenagers, who talk about characters born in his imagination as if they’re living, breathing human beings. And it’s equally rare for students to spend time with an author whose fictional world feels like a refuge. Of all the classroom visits he’s made since “There There” came out in 2018, the one at Millennium Art Academy earlier this month was, Orange said later, “the most intense connection I’ve ever experienced.”

The catalyst for the visit was Rick Ouimet, an energetic, pony-tailed English teacher who has worked in the fortresslike building for 25 years. Ouimet is the kind of teacher students remember, whether it’s for his contributions to their literary vocabulary — synecdoche, bildungsroman, chiasmus — or for his battered flip phone.

He first learned about “There There” from a colleague whose son recommended it during the pandemic. “I knew from the first paragraph that this was a book our kids were going to connect to,” he said.

The novel follows 12 characters from Native communities in the lead-up to a powwow at a stadium in Oakland, Calif., where tragedy strikes. “Orange leads you across the drawbridge, and then the span starts going up,” a critic with The New York Times, Dwight Garner, wrote when it came out. The novel was one of The Times’s 10 Best Books of 2018 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. According to Orange’s publisher, over one million copies have been sold.

Ouimet’s hunch proved true: “Students love the book so much, they don’t realize they’re reading it for English class. That’s the rare find, the gift of gifts.”

Some relevant statistics: Attendance rates at Millennium Art are below the city average. Eighty-seven percent of students are from low-income households, which is above the city average.

In the three years since Orange’s novel became a mainstay of the Millennium Art curriculum, pass rates for students taking the Advanced Placement literature exam have more than doubled. Last year, 21 out of 26 students earned college credit, surpassing state and global averages. The majority of them, said Ouimet, wrote about “There There.”

When three students in the school’s art-bedecked hallway were randomly asked to name a favorite character from “There There,” they all answered without hesitation. It was as if Tony, Jacquie and Opal were people they might bump into at ShopRite.

Briana Reyes, 17, said, “I connected so much with the characters, especially having family members with alcohol and drug abuse.”

Last month, Ouimet learned that Orange, who lives in Oakland, was going to be in New York promoting his second novel, “ Wandering Stars .” An idea started to percolate. Ouimet had never invited an author to his classroom before; such visits can be pricey and, as he pointed out, Shakespeare and Zora Neale Hurston aren’t available.

Ouimet composed a message in his head for over a week, he said, and on Monday, March 4, just after midnight, he fired it off to the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.

“The email felt like a raw rough draft, but I didn’t agonize,” he said. “It was my midlife college essay.”

The 827-word missive was written in the go-for-broke style Ouimet encourages in his students’ work, full of personality, texture and detail, without the corporate-speak that infiltrates so much Important Professional Correspondence.

Ouimet wrote: “In our 12th-grade English classroom, in our diverse corner of the South Bronx, in an under-resourced but vibrant urban neighborhood not unlike the Fruitvale, you’re our rock star. Our more than rock star. You’re our MF Doom, our Eminem, our Earl Sweatshirt, our Tribe Called Red, our Beethoven, our Bobby Big Medicine, our email to Manny, our ethnically ambiguous woman in the next stall, our camera pointing into a tunnel of darkness.”

Orange, he added, was a hero to these kids: “You’ve changed lives.” There was Tahqari Koonce, 17, who drew a parallel between the Oakland Coliseum and the Roman Colosseum; and Natalia Melendez, also 17, who noted that a white gun symbolized oppression of Native tribes. And then there was Dalvyn Urena, 18, who “said he’d never read an entire book until ‘There There,’” and was now comparing it to a Shakespearean sonnet.

He ended with: “Well, it was worth a shot. Thanks for taking the time to read this — if it ever finds its way to you. In appreciation (and awe), Rick Ouimet.”

“I took a chance,” Ouimet said. And why not? “My students take a chance every time they open a new book. There’s groaning, and they open the page. To see what they gave this book? The love was palpable.”

Within hours, the message reached Orange, who was in the midst of a 24-city tour with multiple interviews and events each day. He asked Jordan Rodman, senior director of publicity at Knopf, to do whatever she could to squeeze Ouimet’s class into the mix. There would be no fee attached. Knopf donated 30 copies of “There There” and 30 copies of “Wandering Stars.”

In a big, bustling school full of squeaky soles, walkie-talkies and young people, moments of silence can be hard to come by. But when Orange cracked open his new novel, you could hear a pin drop.

“It’s important to voice things, to sound them out, like the way we learn to spell by slowly saying words,” Orange read.

He went on: “It’s just as important for you to hear yourself speak your stories as it is for others to hear you speak them.”

The students followed along in their own copies, heads bent, necks looking vulnerable and strong at the same time. Their intentness proved that, like the spiders described in “There There,” books contain “miles of story, miles of potential home and trap.” On this nondescript gray Thursday, Orange’s work offered both.

After the 13-minute reading came the questions, fast and furious, delivered with refreshing bluntness: “What even inspired you to write these two books?” and “Did Octavio die?” and, perhaps most pressing, “Why did ‘There There’ end that way?” Not since “ The Sopranos ” has an ambiguous denouement caused more consternation.

“We were like whaaaat ?” a student said, holding the last word in a high note.

“It was a tragic story,” Orange said. “Some people hate it, and I’m sorry.”

He admitted that he hadn’t been a reader in high school: “Nobody handed me a book and said, This book is for you. I also had a lot going on at home.” He talked about how he staves off writer’s block (by changing points of view), how he reads his drafts aloud to hear how they sound. Orange shared his Cheyenne name — Birds Singing in the Morning — and introduced a childhood friend who is traveling with him on tour.

Through it all, Ouimet stood quietly at the side of the room. He shot gentle stink eye at a gaggle of chatty girls. He used a long wooden pole to open a window. Mostly, he just beamed like a proud parent at a wedding where everyone is dancing.

The truth is, “There There” didn’t cast a spell only on his students: It also had a profound effect on Ouimet himself. When he started teaching the book, he’d just given up coaching soccer and softball after 22 years.

“I was afraid: If I don’t have coaching, am I still going to be an effective teacher? ‘There There’ was this kind of renaissance. I don’t want to get too sappy,” he said, “but it was a career-saver in some way.”

Eventually the bell sounded. The students pushed back from their desks and lined up to have their books signed by Orange, who took a moment to chat with each one.

Over the din, to anyone who was still listening, Ouimet called: “If you love a book, talk about it! If you love a story, let other people know!”

Audio produced by Tally Abecassis .

Elisabeth Egan is a writer and editor at the Times Book Review. She has worked in the world of publishing for 30 years. More about Elisabeth Egan

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

James McBride’s novel sold a million copies, and he isn’t sure how he feels about that, as he considers the critical and commercial success  of “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.”

How did gender become a scary word? Judith Butler, the theorist who got us talking about the subject , has answers.

You never know what’s going to go wrong in these graphic novels, where Circus tigers, giant spiders, shifting borders and motherhood all threaten to end life as we know it .

When the author Tommy Orange received an impassioned email from a teacher in the Bronx, he dropped everything to visit the students  who inspired it.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

What is Good Friday? What the holy day means for Christians around the world

how to start off a letter essay

Christians around the world observe Good Friday two days before Easter, but what is it, and why do they commemorate the holy day?

The holiday is part of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday kicks off the series of Christian holy days that commemorate the Crucifixion and celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection.

"Good Friday has been, for centuries now, the heart of the Christian message because it is through the death of Jesus Christ that Christians believe that we have been forgiven of our sins," Daniel Alvarez, an associate teaching professor of religious studies at Florida International University, told USA TODAY.

What is Holy Saturday? What the day before Easter means for Christians around the world

When is Good Friday?

Good Friday is always the Friday before Easter. It's the second-to-last day of Holy Week.

In 2024, Good Friday will fall on March 29.

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is the day Christ was sacrificed on the cross. According to Britannica , it is a day for "sorrow, penance, and fasting."

"Good Friday is part of something else," Gabriel Radle, an assistant professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, previously told USA TODAY. "It's its own thing, but it's also part of something bigger."

Are Good Friday and Passover related?

Alvarez says that Good Friday is directly related to the Jewish holiday, Passover.

Passover , or Pesach, is a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

"The whole Christian idea of atoning for sin, that Jesus is our atonement, is strictly derived from the Jewish Passover tradition," said Alvarez.

How is that possible?

According to the professor, Passover celebrates the day the "Angel of Death" passed over the homes of Israelites who were enslaved by the Egyptians. He said that the Bible states when the exodus happened, families were told to paint their doors with lamb's blood so that God would spare the lives of their firstborn sons.

Alvarez says this is why Christians call Jesus the "lamb of God." He adds that the symbolism of the "blood of the lamb" ties the two stories together and is why Christians believe God sacrificed his firstborn son. Because, through his blood, humanity is protected from the "wrath of a righteous God that cannot tolerate sin."

He adds that the stories of the exodus and the Crucifixion not only further tie the stories together but also emphasize just how powerful the sacrifice of the firstborn and the shedding of blood are in religion.

"Jesus is the firstborn, so the whole idea of the death of the firstborn is crucial," said Alvarez.

He adds that the sacrifice of the firstborn, specifically a firstborn son, comes from an ancient and "primitive" idea that the sacrifice unleashes "tremendous power that is able to fend off any kind of force, including the wrath of God."

Why Is Good Friday so somber?

Alavarez says people might think this holiday is more depressing or sad than others because of how Catholics commemorate the Crucifixion.

"I think [it's] to a level that some people might think is morbid," said Alvarez.

He said Catholics not only meditate on Jesus' death, but primarily focus on the suffering he faced in the events that led up to his Crucifixion. That's what makes it such a mournful day for people.

But, the professor says that Jesus' suffering in crucial to Christianity as a whole.

"The suffering of Christ is central to the four Gospels," said Alvarez. "Everything else is incidental."

According to the professor, statues that use blood to emphasize the way Jesus and Catholic saints suffered is very common in Spanish and Hispanic Countries, but not as prevalent in American churches.

Do you fast on Good Friday?

Father Dustin Dought, the executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, previously told USA TODAY that Good Friday and Ash Wednesday are the two days in the year that Roman Catholics are obliged to fast.

"This practice is a way of emptying ourselves so that we can be filled with God," said Dought.

What do you eat on Good Friday?

Many Catholics do not eat meat on any Friday during Lent. Anything with flesh is off-limits. Dought says this practice is to honor the way Jesus sacrificed his flesh on Good Friday.

Meat that is off limits includes:

Instead, many Catholics will eat fish. According to the Marine Stewardship Council , this is allowed because fish is considered to be a different type of flesh.

Contributing: Jordan Mendoza ; USA TODAY

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A Proclamation on Transgender Day of Visibility,   2024

On Transgender Day of Visibility, we honor the extraordinary courage and contributions of transgender Americans and reaffirm our Nation’s commitment to forming a more perfect Union — where all people are created equal and treated equally throughout their lives.  

I am proud that my Administration has stood for justice from the start, working to ensure that the LGBTQI+ community can live openly, in safety, with dignity and respect.  I am proud to have appointed transgender leaders to my Administration and to have ended the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in our military.  I am proud to have signed historic Executive Orders that strengthen civil rights protections in housing, employment, health care, education, the justice system, and more.  I am proud to have signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, ensuring that every American can marry the person they love. 

Transgender Americans are part of the fabric of our Nation.  Whether serving their communities or in the military, raising families or running businesses, they help America thrive.  They deserve, and are entitled to, the same rights and freedoms as every other American, including the most fundamental freedom to be their true selves.  But extremists are proposing hundreds of hateful laws that target and terrify transgender kids and their families — silencing teachers; banning books; and even threatening parents, doctors, and nurses with prison for helping parents get care for their children.  These bills attack our most basic American values:  the freedom to be yourself, the freedom to make your own health care decisions, and even the right to raise your own child.  It is no surprise that the bullying and discrimination that transgender Americans face is worsening our Nation’s mental health crisis, leading half of transgender youth to consider suicide in the past year.  At the same time, an epidemic of violence against transgender women and girls, especially women and girls of color, continues to take too many lives.  Let me be clear:  All of these attacks are un-American and must end.  No one should have to be brave just to be themselves.  

At the same time, my Administration is working to stop the bullying and harassment of transgender children and their families.  The Department of Justice has taken action to push back against extreme and un-American State laws targeting transgender youth and their families and the Department of Justice is partnering with law enforcement and community groups to combat hate and violence.  My Administration is also providing dedicated emergency mental health support through our nationwide suicide and crisis lifeline — any LGBTQI+ young person in need can call “988” and press “3” to speak with a counselor trained to support them.  We are making public services more accessible for transgender Americans, including with more inclusive passports and easier access to Social Security benefits.  There is much more to do.  I continue to call on the Congress to pass the Equality Act, to codify civil rights protections for all LGBTQI+ Americans.

Today, we send a message to all transgender Americans:  You are loved.  You are heard.  You are understood.  You belong.  You are America, and my entire Administration and I have your back.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2024, as Transgender Day of Visibility.  I call upon all Americans to join us in lifting up the lives and voices of transgender people throughout our Nation and to work toward eliminating violence and discrimination based on gender identity.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-eighth.

                             JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

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