How to Start an Essay to Grab a Reader's Attention

Let's cut the chase and get straight down to it - it's called a 'hook' - the means to get a reader 'hook'-ed on to your writing. This Buzzle article tells you all you need to know to create that perfect beginning for your essay.
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get readers hooked on to your essay
Do You Know?

Well, you wouldn't really know it right now, but by the time you reach the end of this write-up, you'll be able and equipped to ace every essay you'll write throughout the rest of your life.
And there's your very first tip―make a slightly believable, yet over-the-top statement right at the beginning of your essay. It may spark a bit of outrage, but then, that is the underlying point of this exercise. With a confident start like this one, you're bound to arouse a significant amount of curiosity, making the reader want to know if you actually end up living up to the initial hype.

It goes without saying that the rest of your write-up MUST live up to expectation, with each following paragraph being more enriching and insightful than the previous one.

The purpose we're trying to serve here is to make your essay read-worthy, be it for an examination or an application. Your writing needs to be impressive enough to make a willing reader, rather than an obligated one. The very first step towards doing that would be to make a sufficiently striking start, termed in literary parlance as 'the hook'. The hook manifests in various forms, as explained below, but it never shifts from its original purpose of gripping the attention of the readers.

A Striking Fact/Definition

Nothing screams 'impact' quite like the truth, especially if it possesses the much-coveted shock value. A striking fact may come in the form of a statistic or a news headline, as long as it stays absolutely relevant to the topic at hand. A random fact used to merely shock the reader will not serve the purpose, and turn into a damp squib instead.

The advantage of using this tactic is that it works for all kinds of essays, be it formal or informal, introspective or argumentative. All you need to ensure is that the fact stays as close to the topic of discussion as possible. Also, do not forget to mention the (correct and verified) source, as it will only lend credibility to your research.

A Deep Question

Anything thought-provoking will more often than not, strike a chord with the reader. Also, it will prod them to think, and thus become more involved in your content. They will have the urge to compare their response with yours, and before you know it―they will be hooked.

Always keep one thing in mind―which is, not to use questions that have simple, straightforward answers. A person reads the question, answers it, matter closed and tossed aside―which is not how you'd like your essay to be reviewed. Remember, the key here is to cajole the reader to go through the entire write-up in search for the answer.

A Unique Observation

Aren't we all aiming for a hook that is unlike anyone else's? Without a shred of doubt―however, that's easier said than done. But yes, let's say you're writing on something that's relevant to the times we're living in, it would be nice to begin by presenting your point of view. In other words, use your perspective, and write an observation you've made about the issue at hand. It need not be extraordinarily brilliant or completely earth-shattering (great if it is!), but 'unique' is what we're primarily looking for.

You can keep this quip staid, philosophical, or even humorous, but ensure that it belongs to you and does not appear "borrowed" in the slightest.

Something Borrowed...

Inspiration is a finicky old bugger, and it may not necessarily strike at the opportune moment. And when the creative wells run dry, you have no other option but to look around you for that much-needed hook. This is when you turn to others to provide you with those precious pearls of wisdom which have eluded you.

Books are the most reliable go-to source for quotes, but the Internet admittedly has a vast array of quotes to suit all situations and topics you're dealing with. Mind you, though, that it is upon you to determine whether the quotation is worded as it is meant to be and that the attribution is authentic. In case of any doubts, go for another one, instead of being sloppy with the words or its author/personality.

Spin a Yarn

Using an anecdote or a story to begin your essay is not always a good idea, and here's why. Firstly, your story/anecdote needs to be believable and absolutely relevant to the topic. Next, it is very easy to sound absolutely juvenile with a beginning like this, especially in case of formal essays. And thirdly, not everyone can actually pull this off. So, why use a story at all?

Because if, and we stress, if you get it right, it can be the most smashingly impactful beginning you can dream of. It can perfectly set the tone for what's about to come, and it eliminates the need of writing a labored introduction that may or may not create the desired impact.

There can possibly be another thousand unique ways in which to commence your essay, but all of it is inconsequential if it is not backed up by an equally formidable body and conclusion. As we are close to concluding this write-up, there's just one thing left―wish you all the luck in snapping that elusive, all-conquering hook.
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Published: July 8, 2014
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