Written by: Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin
You have most likely read engaging, page-turning articles before and marvelled at, or be intimidated by, the exceptional genius and language-mastery expertise with which the writer crafted the piece. You might have taken the essayist for a wizard – one whose talent and skills you do not possess and may never develop – but wait a while: you might be mistaken! What if I tell you the gimmicks behind such fantastic introductory pieces can be learnt, and mastered, too? What if you could be taught the practical, step-by-step secrets to write as good as, nay, better than that? Learning to write such opening attention-grabbers is possible. It always has been; always will be, and below is how.
The essence of the introduction is to provide background information. Your motive is to convince the reader that the piece is worth his precious and limited time. If you cannot make him feel he would be missing a lot by omitting to read on, then your introduction isn’t effective. Your opening statement should be enthralling; it should be capable of arresting the interest of the reader. The first paragraph is the most important paragraph of any type of writing because most readers stop if the first paragraph does not grab their interests. There are a number of ways in which you can achieve this:
Use a striking contrast that leaves your reader’s eyes glued to your write-up. This entails presenting facts that conspicuously contradict one another; facts your readers or any sane person at that would believe shouldn’t co-exist. Consider these suggested opening sentences for different issues in Nigeria:
Poverty: Although Nigeria is the top exporter of crude oil in West Africa and the kitchen allowance of the presidency in the 2012 budget signed into law on March 15, 2012 is a staggering N1 billion Naira, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) found in January, 2012 that 112 million Nigerians constituting 61.9% live on less than 1 dollar (about N155) per day.
(NB: the abundant wealth of the nation and the staggering feeding allowance of the presidency are sharply compared with the abject penury of the teeming population).
Insecurity: In the 2012 budget signed into law on the 15th day of March, 2012, a whopping 25% of the planned spendings of government is allocated to security; yet, terrorism, insecurity, wanton wastage of lives and indiscriminate spillage of innocent blood are commonplace.
(NB: the incredibly-high sums invested in security makes a distinctive contradistinction with the gross escalation of criminal acts).
Use an important statistics that’s so outrageous and incredible as to turn your reader into a doubting Thomas. Hook him with a feeling of “Wow! I never knew the situation’s that bad!” But this is not a license for you to make a bogus claim! So, work this out only with facts and figures. For instance:
Polio: In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that northern Nigeria is the largest reservoir of the dreaded bone-crippling disease, polio in the world.
Poverty: The World Health Organization (WHO) in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems declared that extreme poverty is a behavioural disease, showing that the 112 million Nigerians who live on less than a dollar each day are ‘insane’.
This piece is part of a series. You can find the second part here.
*Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin is a professional Nigerian freelance writer, writing tutor and the CEO of Naija Writers’ Coach. He blogs at www.NaijaWritersCoach.wordpress.com. You can find him on Facebook via www.facebook.com/oxygen.mat or follow him on Twitter via @Oxygenmat
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Select ONE of the following three topics:Topics
- What do you think Eddie Willers’ role is in the story? How does he help convey the novel’s theme? Why do you think his fate is left open in the last chapter?
- Why does John Galt go on strike when the Starnes heirs take over the Twentieth Century Motor Company? Do you think he is right or wrong to start a strike? Explain.
- Choose the scene in Atlas Shrugged that is most meaningful to you. Analyze that scene in terms of the wider themes in the book.
Eligibility: 12th Graders, College Undergraduates, and Graduate Students
Entry Deadline: September 17, 2012
FIRST PRIZE: $10,000
3 SECOND PRIZES: $2,000
5 THIRD PRIZES: $1,000
25 FINALISTS: $100
50 SEMIFINALISTS: $50
Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
The winning applicant will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Winning essays must demonstrate an outstanding grasp of the philosophic meaning of Atlas Shrugged. Essay submissions are evaluated in a fair and unbiased four-round judging process. Judges are individually selected by the Ayn Rand Institute based on a demonstrated knowledge and understanding of Ayn Rand’s works. To ensure the anonymity of our participants, essay cover sheets are removed after the first round. Winners’ names are unknown to judges until after essays have been ranked and the contest results finalized. The Ayn Rand Institute checks essays with Ithenticate plagiarism detection software.
- No application is required. The Contest is open to students worldwide, except where void or prohibited by law.
- Entrant must be a 12th Grader, College Undergraduate, or Graduate Student. To avoid disqualification, mailed in essays must include a stapled cover sheet with the following information:
- your name and address;
- your e-mail address (if available);
- the name and address of your school;
- topic selected (#1, 2 or 3 from list above);
- your current grade level; and
- (optional) the name of the teacher who assigned the essay, if you are completing it for classroom credit.
- Essay must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words in length, and double-spaced.
- One entry per student. No purchase necessary to win. Essay must be postmarked no later than September 17, 2012, no later than 11:59 PM, Pacific Standard time.The Ayn Rand Institute has the right to provide contest deadline extensions when deemed appropriate.
- Essay must be solely the work of the entrant. Plagiarism will result in disqualification. Essays must not infringe on any third party rights or intellectual property of any person, company, or organization. By submitting an essay to this Contest, the entrant agrees to indemnify the Ayn Rand Institute for any claim, demand, judgment, or other allegation arising from possible violation of someone’s trademark, copyright, or other legally protected interest in any way in the entrant’s essay.
- Decisions of the judges are final. Employees of the Ayn Rand Institute, its board of directors and their immediate family members are not eligible for this contest. Past first-place winners are not eligible for this contest.
- All entries become the property of the Ayn Rand Institute and will not be returned.
- Winners, finalists, semifinalists and all other participants will be notified via e-mail by November 28, 2012.
- Winners are responsible to provide their mailing addresses and other necessary information under the law in order to receive any prizes. Contest winners agree to allow the Ayn Rand Institute to post their names on any of ARI’s affiliated websites. The winning first place essay may be posted in its entirety on any of these websites with full credit given to the author. Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state or local taxes.
Or mail your essay with stapled cover sheet to:Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest
The Ayn Rand Institute
P.O. Box 57044
Irvine, CA 92619-7044
Please do not submit duplicate essays!
If submitting your essay electronically, you will be sent an email confirming our receipt. If you have not received an e-mail notification within 24 hours, please firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are submitting by mail, please paperclip a stamped, self-addressed postcard to the your essay and we will return it to you.
To learn more about Atlas Shrugged, go to: http://atlasshrugged.com
Comments or Questions
Comments or questions about the essay contests are welcome. Please write email@example.com.
Protected by Ithenticate Plagiarism Detection Software
Essay Contests Contest FAQ
I’m a home-schooled student, can I still enter the contest?
- Yes! Home-schooled students may enter our essay contests. Please enter the contest for your current grade level. Instead of writing your school name and address on your coversheet, just write “Home-schooled.” If you’re not sure which contest you’re eligible for, please write to the Education Department firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I’m a foreign student, can I still enter the contest?
- Yes! Foreign students may enter our essay contests. We have no citizenship requirements. Please enter the contest for your current grade level. If you’re not sure which contest you’re eligible for, please write to the Education Department email@example.com.
- How can I verify that my essay was received?
- If you send your essay by mail, you should paperclip a self-addressed, stamped postcard to your essay. When we receive your essay, we will drop your postcard in the mail. Alternatively, you can send your essay to us via registered mail or by using Priority Mail Delivery Confirmation. If you send your essay via e-mail or via our web form, posted here, we will reply to your message and notify you that we received your essay.
- How can I submit my essay via e-mail?
- If you wish to submit your essay via our web form, please follow the guidelines posted here.
- I included a self-addressed, stamped postcard with my essay, but I haven’t received it back in the mail yet. What should I do?
- Please note that it could take up to three weeks to receive your postcard from the date you sent your essay. If you are concerned that your essay was lost by the post office, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Can I send my essay in before the deadline?
- Can I send my essay in after the deadline?
- We cannot accept essays postmarked after the deadline. If you have a valid reason why your essay could not be postmarked by the appropriate deadline, please write to email@example.com.
- I entered one of your contests in a previous year; can I enter again this year?
- Yes, as long as you were not previously a first-place winner. In fact, some students have won prizes two years in a row!
- I am not in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade; may I still enter the Anthem contest?
- Unfortunately, we cannot accept entries from students who are not in the 8th, 9th or 10th grade.
- I am not in the 11th or 12th grade; may I still enter The Fountainhead contest?
- Unfortunately, we cannot accept entries from students who are not in the 11th or 12th grade.
- If I win, do I have to apply the prize money toward college?
- No. All awards are cash prizes. We place no restrictions on how the prize money is spent. Prize winners simply receive a check from us in the amount of their award.
- Do I need to include a bibliography or do I need to reference page numbers?
- You do not need to reference page numbers for quotes from the essay topics. However, if you use any quotes from Anthem or The Fountainhead, you should cite the page numbers and place quotation marks around the quoted material. You do not need to include a bibliography unless you quote from a source besides the novel you are writing on. (Please note that you do not need to reference any additional material other than the assigned novel to write your essay. See the next question.)
- Should I cite other sources besides Anthem or The Fountainhead?
- You do not need any additional source material other than the novel you are writing on. However, you may quote and reference other sources if you like. If you do, please cite your sources and include a bibliography with your essay.
- Can I have a friend/teacher/parent proofread my essay? Is that plagiarism?
- Yes, you may have your essay proofread. It is not plagiarism to have someone check your essay for spelling and grammatical or structural errors. However, it is plagiarism to have someone else write your essay for you, or if you use someone else’s words as if they were your own (see above regarding citing outside sources).
- What exactly is plagiarism?
- Plagiarism is using someone else’s words as if they were your own. It is not plagiarism as long as you cite your sources.
- How do I know if I’ve won a prize in one of the contests?
- We will contact all the high school contest entrants by July 27. We will contactAtlas Shrugged entrants by November 22.
- Where can I see who the winners, finalists, and semifinalists are?
- The list of winners, finalists, and semi-finalists.
- Can I write more than one essay for a contest?
- No. You may enter one paper for each contest each year.
- I am eligible to enter more than one contest. Can I submit essays to more than one of your contests?
- Yes! You are welcome to enter multiple contests.
- Can I write on more than one topic?
- No. The contest guidelines ask that you select ONE of three topics. Please select only one topic.
- Can I write on a topic other than the three listed in the contest rules?
- No. Essays not written on one of the three topics will be disqualified.
- Where can I find Anthem or The Fountainhead?
- All of Ayn Rand’s novels can be purchased online from the Ayn Rand Bookstore. They should also be available in your local bookstore or library.
- Where can I learn more about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism?
- Additional information about Ayn Rand and her philosophy is available at the Ayn Rand Institute. There you will find biographical information on Ayn Rand and additional information about her philosophy, Objectivism.
- Is it necessary for me to know about Objectivism to write my essay?
- No. Judges look for essays that show a clear understanding of the novel, so no additional knowledge about Ayn Rand’s philosophy is required.
- I disagree with Ayn Rand’s philosophy; how will this affect my chances of winning?
- This will have no effect on your chances of winning. Judges look for writing that demonstrates an understanding of the novel, not whether the student agrees with it.
- Are graduate students eligible for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
- Yes, graduate students are welcome to participate in the contest.
- Are community college students eligible for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
- Yes, community college students are welcome to participate in the contest.
- Do I have to have a declared major to enter the Atlas Shrugged contest?
- Is there an age limit for the Atlas Shrugged contest?
- Are trade/certificate schools accepted?
- Can someone who is in the military, but who is enrolled school, enter the essay contests?
- I have additional questions not answered in this FAQ; what should I do?
- Please send your comments or questions about the essay contests firstname.lastname@example.org. In most cases, we should be able to respond within two to five business days.
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NOTE: Though this article is targeted at people writing an essay competition, it would be an priceless asset for Students, Researchers and help in improve your daily writing skills.
Writing a winning essay requires the writer to understand effective writing style that would capture the judges’ interest and challenge them to patiently read what the writer has to say. On the other hand, a clumsy writer style waters down a writer’s message and kills the reader’s interest. In addition, Economy of language, naturalness of expression, variety of sentence structure and length, avoidance of unintentional ambiguity and of vernacular English, and sensitivity to what the intended audience already knows or needs to be told are the hallmarks of writing which every writer must aspire to cultivate in order to write a winning essay.
Below here are what’s right and wrong in essay writing:
YOUR ESSAY SHOULD
- Demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues surrounding the subject matter and it’s implication (if necessary).
- Show that the author has personally wrestled with the nature and character of compassion.
- Demonstrate the writer’s own serious reflection on the current and future problems facing the subject matter.
- Be focused and well reasoned.
- Use correct spelling and grammar.
- Do not repeat yourself unnecessarily.
- Do not use more words or fewer words than are required. Avoid wordiness, verbosity or redundancy.
- Write naturally. Avoid a forced attempt to impress the judges with flowery, flamboyant use of language. Simplicity is a key virtue in writing.
- Do not let your mother tongue intrude on how you express yourself in English.
- Avoid ambiguity.
- Do not always presuppose that your audience already knows what you have in mind.
- Vary the structure and length of your sentence.
FREQUENT MISTAKES IN ESSAY WRITTING
- No paragraphs:
Many writers submit their essay as one block text with no line breaks or paragraphs. Not only is this improper English, but it’s a turn-off to judges who will find it hard to read.
- Underlining or ALL caps:
Don’t use them! You’re not chatting in instant messenger; you’re not trying to impress your essay judge. Let your words and strong writing speak for itself.
Be careful not to make words possessive that shouldn’t be. A prime examples of a misused apostrophe is the common mistake of confusing “its” and “it’s”.
Use capital letters properly! This means they should be used at start of a sentence and for proper names.
- Misspelling and poor grammar:
If you’re unsure about your grammar, take it to your school’s English Lecturer, Writing club or have an adult or trusted friend look over it. Ask yourself, does this make sense? And if nothing else, run a spell check (Microsoft word and many software have this inbuilt).
- Answer the question:
In this example, the writer sometimes doesn’t answer the question properly. Instead of sticking to how to manage money in current economic times, he forecasts a worst case scenario and explains how to deal with it.
- Keep it formal:
Even a fun or promotional essay contest should not be informal. By all means, feel free to include an off-beat idea or a unique or creative answer-this is encouraged! But remember to write in a professional tone. Your essay should not read as though you’re chatting with a friend.
- Do some research:
Even in an opinion piece, try to back your ideas up by research. The essay writer should have better researched his thesis statement. If you put your money in a bank, not only will it collect interest but the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Commission (NDIC) will insure your account for up to N200,000. That means that even if the bank goes bankrupt, you’ll still get your money. Need another reason not to keep your money in your house? What if you get robbed or the house burns down? A little research goes a long way.
CRITERIA FOR JUDEGING ESSAYS.
- Awareness of the problem:
Demonstrate knowledge and depth of understanding about the issue form your research.
- Quality of analysis:
Develop your own perspective on the issue. This perspective should be reflected on your analysis of the issue and your personal response to it. Upon reading your essay, the judge wants to answer these questions – is your essay convincing, substantial and understandable?
- Style and mechanics:
Use proper spelling and grammar. Your response to the topic should be clear and original.
Even though the topic has been discussed in various publications, is the author’s approach innovative?
- Quality of writing:
How professional is your style of writing? How clear and organized are your ideas?
- Thoroughness of the research:
Types and varieties of source materials used.
- Interest of the subject matter.
Best wishes in your essay writing.
About ediaro. com
Golden Baobab Prize, an African literary award whose goal is to inspire the creation of African stories that children and young adults the world over will love! Today, the prize is run by a passionate volunteer team from all over the world and is sponsored by the Global Fund for Children and the African Library Project. As we enter our third year, we’re hoping to enter into even more fruitful partnerships that will bring us closer to our goal: that of ensuring stellar African children’s stories are in bookstores all over the world in the years to come.
The Golden Baobab Prize invites entries of unpublished African-inspired stories written for an audience of ages 8-11 years or 12-15 years. This year ,the prize will award $1,000 to the best story in the junior category as well as the senior category and $800 to the most promising young writer (18 years and below).
- The author must be a citizen of an African state or a dual citizenship holder (a copy of a passport or comparable document will be required of winners).
- African citizens of all ages qualify to present submissions.
- There is no restriction on race or geographical location.
- Writers below the ages of 18 years will be automatically considered for the Rising Writer Prize.
Closing date for submissions to The Golden Baobab 2012: Midnight GMT, Sunday, June 24, 2012. Winners Announced: First week of November, 2012.
Contestants and entries must comply with ALL of the following criteria. Works that do not conform to the rules will be disqualified.*
- Submitted stories should fall into either Category A (stories for readers aged 8-11 years) or Category B (stories for readers aged 12-15 years).
- Entry should be a work of fiction between 1,000 to 5,000 words. The category a story falls into may influence its length.
- There are no restrictions on themes but stories must be set in Africa or have a very evident African content.
- Stories should be in written in English and should not have been previously published elsewhere, in part or in full.
- Pseudonyms may not be used. Entries must be submitted under entrant’s real name.
- Entrants may enter up to five stories.
- All entries must be the unaided work of the entrant.
- Previous entrants and winners of the Prize are eligible to enter in subsequent years.
- The title page of submissions should state the category and title of the story. All biographical information should be sent in the body of submission email.
ALL entries will be acknowledged with an email to the address from which the entry was sent.
The Golden Baobab Prize administration reserves the right to disqualify entries that do not conform to set rules. No correspondence will be entered into in this regard.
SUBMITTING YOUR STORY
Entries should be submitted as typed Microsoft word or PDF documents. There should be a title page with the following information:
- Title of Story:
- Age of entrant:
The body of the email should include the following personal information:
- Title of story:
- Age of entrant:
- Country of citizenship:
- Phone number (country code-area code- number):
- How I heard about the Golden Baobab Prize (just a sentence or two):
- Best Story written for ages 8-11 years $1000
- Best Story written for ages 12 -15 years $1000
- Promising writer below age 18 years: $800
Outstanding stories are connected with publishers all over the world.
Q: What if I am not an African citizen but have lived in Africa for a long time?
You must be an African citizen to be considered for the Golden Baobab Prize because one of our goals is to encourage the next generation of African writers. All winning entrants will be asked to submit a photocopy of their state passport (or comparable document) to confirm their citizenship.
Q: What will the judges be looking out for?
The Golden Baobab Prize is looking for stories that will be loved by children and young adults all over the world. A winning story is one that immediately stands out and is imaginative, refreshing and well written.
Q: The GBP states that all “entries must be the unaided work of the entrant.” Does this mean we cannot ask someone to check the grammar, punctuation or give us their opinion about the story?
The entrant must be the one who wrote the story fully. That is, you cannot submit a story written by someone else. But once your story is written you can by all means ask someone to read it and assist with edits.
For inquiries: email questions to email@example.com Use “Question” in the subject line
For submissions: submissions will be accepted as email attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org
ESSAY OFFICIAL WEBSITE