How can the writer get someone's attention with the first one or two sentences?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I get the impression that many students worry too much about writing thesis statements, introductory paragraphs, and opening sentences that grab the reader's attention. This can cause writer's block. You don't have to write these things first. It may be best to leave them for later--or even to leave them for last. You might be better prepared to state your thesis after you have written your essay, and you might stumble upon one or two attention-grabbing opening sentences right in your manuscript while you are in the process of writing the paper. 

James Thurber was one of America's best writers. He confessed that he had a hard time writing anything and that his first drafts looked horrible. But his advice to writers is worth remembering. He said: "Don't get it right. Get it written." That means get something down on paper. Say what's on your mind the best way you can. You are not carving your words in stone. You can always change them--especially if you have a word processor. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sometimes the answer to a question can be found in the question itself. The best answer to your question, in my opinion, is to keep asking: "How can I get the reader's attention in the first one or two sentences?" This is a question you could ask every time you try to write anything. Another question you might keep asking is "How can I hold my reader's attention after the first one or two sentences?" It won't do much good to grab the reader's attention if you can't hold on to it. Another good question about writing which you might ask for as long as you continue to be a writer is: "How can I make this piece more interesting?" There would probably be a slightly different answer in each piece you write, so you could never find a magic formula to grab your reader. 

One way to grab your reader's attention is to pick a topic that is intrinsically interesting. If you are going to write about your Aunt Mary's cat, you are going to have a hard time getting or holding any reader's attention. Editors as a rule don't look for interesting openings but for interesting subjects. You might make a habit of observing what sorts of things get published. They get published because a lot of people are interesting in the subject matter. 

And, of course, you have to be interested in your subject yourself. You can't expect to interest a reader in something in which you are not personally interested. You can't evoke emotions in your reader unless you are feeling those emotions while you are writing. Even if you could do it, it would be dishonest, wouldn't it?

The best book on writing is The Elements of Style, by Wilfred Strunk and E. B. White. E. B. White was famous as an essayist, but now he is best remembered as author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. He wrote the last chapter in The Elements of Style and gives a lot of extremely valuable advice in very little space.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The beginning of a piece of writing is often referred to as a hook.  It is, as you say, how the writer gets the reader’s attention in just a few sentences.  There are a few different ways to do this, such as to ask a question, make a shocking statement, tell an anecdote, or use a statistic.

One of the most common ways to begin an essay is to ask a question.  In fact, it’s so easy and so common as to be trite.  You can begin an essay with: Have you ever wondered what happens to water bottles after you throw them away?  You might have your reader's attention, but only somewhat.  After all, the question is only a fairly boring way of capturing your reader’s attention.  It doesn’t require much effort on the reader’s part to think, and it doesn’t require much effort on the writer’s part to write.  This is why it is the first hook you were taught to write.  It works sufficiently, but you can move on to something more interesting.

Another type of hook is the shocking statement.  This can be in the form of a fact or piece of information that your reader is not likely to know that is going to catch most people’s attention.  Here is an example to make that water bottle topic a little more interesting.

Americans throw away about 40 billion soft drink cans and bottles every year. Placed end to end, they would reach to the moon and back nearly 20 times. (www.cityofsouthfield.com)

A shocking statement like this would prepare the reader for a persuasive essay on recycling, for example.  It prepares the reader for a more interesting essay, and also peaks the reader’s interest.  It is better than the simple question because it already gives information makes the reader want to know more.  A variation of this is to simply supply a statistic.

Another way to begin a piece of writing is to start with an anecdote.  An anecdote is a short personal story.  You could, for example, tell the story of a water bottle from the time it is purchased and the five minutes or so it is used to the 450 years it takes for the plastic to break down.  This method of beginning with a story means that your reader is interested and emotionally invested from the beginning, and you are on your way to an interesting essay.  Now you just have to write the rest!

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dayo | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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     A writer can get someone's attention from the first one or two sentences by the use of a killer opening.The best opening lines, when read in the bookstore, can make or break the sale of a book, arguably even more than its synopsis. I may not judge a book by its cover, but I often judge it by the first sentence.                       

A writer can write a brilliant opening by setting tone of the story, raising questions to be answered, and also creating surprising or shocking events. Also, through the use of figurative langue, like onomatopoeia, which creates an element of surprise or suspense, and by introducing the characters 

     

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rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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When you are writing an introduction paragraph you want to hook the reader and make them want to continue reading your piece. There are several ways that you can catch a reader's attention in the first couple sentences.

One way you could do this is by using a fact or statistic. For example, if you were writing a paper about world hunger you could write "842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat." This is a way to "shock" the reader and make them more curious about the topic.

Another way to catch a reader's attention is to use a quote. An interesting and deep quote that relates to your topic would also intrigue your audience. It will also help if it is relatable to your intended readers.

Lastly, you can use a scenario. Telling a story will always make readers interested in your topic. You can either directly tell the story or make it seem as though they are a part of the story, whether it is from their point of view or they are seeing it for themselves. I always like these type of introductions the best. 

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jess1999 | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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There are a few ways to get a reader's attention, but remember to NEVER use a question. Teachers have always taught that there are many more ways to grab a reader's attention, and that starting with a question was something that we would do in elementary school.

  • Start with a shocking fact. Readers will find the fact to be interesting and would want to continue                                                                              Ex. Most lipstick contains fish scales...
  • Describe someone/yours experience. This plays with the reader's emotion, making them to want to read more.                                                                                                              Ex. Sarah and thousands of other girls have never met their   parents...
  • Use a quote. You should use a quote that's deep which will leave the reader to wonder more about your essay.                                                         Ex. Edgar Allan Poe once said, "And so being young and dipped in folly. I fell in love with melancholy."

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taangerine | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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A person can get someone's attention with the first one or two sentences by writing a HOOK. Ranging from an anecdote to a quotation, a hook is the best way to catch the reader's or audience's attention in an essay. 

EXAMPLES

If you are writing an essay about saving the earth, you can start of your essay by: 

  • Imagine waking up and being surrounded by a landfill of garbage. Imagine using the sink only to have waste come out instead of water. According to scientist, this is how the world is illustrated if nothing is done sooner. What can we do to prevent this?
  • The following sentences can be used to lead up to your thesis and reflect your entire essay.

If you are writing an essay about actions, you can start off with a quote like this one:

  • "Life is what you make it, always has been, always will be." -Grandma Moses
  • You can then explain your interpretation about what you think Grandama Moses is trying to say and then state your thesis. Afterwards, in your following paragraphs, you can write about historic, media, or even personal examples to support it.

Depending on what your essay is about, the HOOK will be different, but it will always be the best way to grab someone's attention in an essay. I hope this helps! 

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melissa1106 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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To grab someones attention you can start by asking the audience a thought provoking question. That will get your readers thinking and want them to learn more about what you are writing about. In some cases if it is relevant you can start with a statistic or interesting fact about your topic. 

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parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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You can start with a hook, such as a rhetorical question.

E.g. Did you ever think plastic kills dogs? (Example)

You can insert an interesting fact or unique fact that you believe is not widely known.

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