Attention Grabber For Essays
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Attention grabbers are techniques you use at the very beginning of an essay as a means to hook your readers’ attention and get them interested in your topic. You can use one of several techniques, such as a surprising statistic, a generalization or even a story. However, no matter which method you use, you need to make sure that your hook either supports your thesis or provides an opposing stance to which you can argue.
One effective way to grab your reader’s attention is to issue a general statement about your subject as a pathway into the argument. Consider the following thesis: “Because recycling technology isn’t yet cost effective, we’d be better off relying on traditional garbage disposal while using funds currently allocated for recycling to develop new, efficient recycling technology.” You could open with a generalization, such as “We can all agree that recycling is a good idea.” A statement like this aligns your sensibilities with your reader’s, and simultaneously introduces your subject in a way that leads you into an argument that will challenge the way readers think about recycling.
Surprising facts work as attention grabbers because they teach the reader something interesting and unexpected. These facts can take the form of statistics, or obscure information related to your subject. For example, if your essay argues that higher education is a waste of money, you could open with a statistic about the staggering number of college graduates who can’t find employment within their fields of study. Remember, if you’re going to use a surprising fact or statistic, make sure it works to support your thesis, and isn’t just an unrelated gimmick to get your reader’s attention.
Quotations, like surprising facts, are effective for engaging your reader with the subject of your argument, and make the reader feel as though they’ve been dropped right into a conversation about the topic. Using quotations also bolsters your credibility because you are citing an outside source to help prove your thesis. When quoting somebody directly, make sure to place their words in quotation marks, and attribute the quote to its source. For example, if you are writing an essay arguing that the U.S. government should increase funding for NASA to search for alien life on distant planets, you might open with the following quote and attribution: “‘To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.’ These were Dr. Stephen Hawking’s words regarding our need to explore the cosmos.”
Perhaps the most effective method of grabbing a reader’s attention is to use an anecdote. Anecdotes are short stories that illustrate a point. When used properly, they can captivate your audience, and even make them forget they’re reading an essay. When opening with a story, start right in the middle of a scene. Use descriptive language to paint the setting, and strong verbs to describe the actions so your reader can experience the events as though they were reading a novel. Furthermore, don’t tell readers how they should feel about the anecdote, show them in a way that allows them to figure out the theme for themselves. For example, if you’re writing a personal essay about how your brother always stole from your family and made life difficult, don’t say that he’s a thief; show him stealing something.
- University of Maryland University College: Introductions
- Scholastic: Five great Hooks
- Brainy Quote: Stephen Hawking Quotes
About the Author
Christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University. His literary work has appeared in “The Southampton Review,” “Feathertale,” “Kalliope” and “The Rose and Thorn Journal.”
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Attention-Grabbers to Use When Writing an Essay
By Goody Clairenstein
Attention-grabbers should go at the very beginning of an essay to hook your reader. It’s not necessary to include an attention-grabber at the start of every paragraph; well-constructed paragraphs and clear transition sentences will keep your reader interested. Crafting an essay with careful attention to organization and cohesiveness is your best bet for essay-writing success, so if you find yourself struggling to come up with an attention-grabber for the beginning of your introduction, move on and come back to it later.
An attention-grabber with good potential for success is a quote from someone notable or relevant to the topic of your essay. A quote used at the beginning of a piece of writing is called an “epigraph.” If you are using multiple sources to write your essay, find a quote from one of your supporting sources to strengthen your writing. Relevance is more important than fame when using quotes as an attention-grabber; in fact, using a cliche can frequently backfire, giving your reader less incentive to continue reading your paper. If you can’t find a quote easily, try an online quotation database that you can search by keyword, like The Quotations Page.
A rhetorical question is one whose answer is not necessary to understand the asker’s point. An example of a rhetorical question like “How much longer must intolerance and inequality continue before we will start to change?” has a very straightforward and simple answer — such as “No longer” — and the question is posed more for its persuasive effect than in hopes of reaching a conclusion. For this reason, a rhetorical question can be an effective attention-grabber. Consider one of the more provocative or debated aspects of the topic of your essay, and begin your essay with the rhetorical question straight away. Transitioning from a rhetorical question to the rest of the introductory paragraph can be very easy: for example, “The answer to this question may appear simple, but Mark Twain was of the opinion that…”
Use a personal anecdote as an attention-grabber in a personal essay or statement of intent. Personal anecdotes may be less effective or useful in a literary essay, where the writer is expected to use the third person throughout the essay and examine the text on a critical, not a personal, level. However, using a personal anecdote as an attention-grabber in a statement of intent, like one that you would include as part of a college or fellowship application, can set up the entire essay and make it easier to bring your essay full-circle in your conclusion. Use a personal anecdote that tells the story of a personal struggle, or a unique experience, to convince the reader to learn more about you and how you’ve grown.
Set the scene. Descriptions can be effective attention-grabbers in literary essays. Describe a scene from the book you’re examining that epitomizes a theme or embodies the central conceit. One advantage of descriptions is their versatility: you can make them as short as one sentence, or you can build suspense by drawing your description out into three or four. Descriptions can also be fun to write. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little carried away by the world you’re constructing — and know that if you feel that way, chances are your reader will, too.
Use a surprising fact to grab your readers’ attention. As a general rule, numbers and statistics can be very powerful rhetorical tools. Because quantifying phenomena is such a challenge, using a statistic, fact, or number immediately draws your readers’ attention and impresses upon them your mastery of the topic you’re treating. It’s also important to be wary of using a surprising fact. Make sure your sources are accurate and reliable, and always cross-check them to make sure. If you can’t cite your surprising fact, don’t use it, because a lack of credibility will undermine your entire essay, no matter how well you grabbed your reader’s attention at the beginning.
- Essay Info: Introduction
About the Author
Goody Clairenstein has been a writer since 2004. She has sat on the editorial board of several non-academic journals and writes about creative writing, editing and languages. She has worked in professional publishing and news reporting in print and broadcast journalism. Her poems have appeared in “Small Craft Warnings.” Clairenstein earned her Bachelor of Arts in European languages from Skidmore College.
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