The overall success of your essay depends to a large extent on whether you grab your reader’s attention in the first few sentences. Generally speaking, the introductory paragraph is the best place to hook your reader in. If you fail to capture your reader’s interest and convince him that your essay is worth reading, don’t expect him to read the rest of your piece with much enthusiasm. If your reader is a teacher who has to read your paper and grade your efforts, he is likely to feel somewhat detached and disinterested as he evaluates your work.
Know your audience. If possible, identify your intended reader, learn something about his background and try to anticipate his reaction to your topic. Use language that speaks to your reader in terms he can understand. Consider his age, mental acuity and other personal characteristics. To the extent that it is possible, learn something about your reader's personal interests and cater to him as you write the introduction to your essay.
Answer the question, “What would my reader find particularly interesting about my topic?” and approach your piece from that angle. Aim to convince your reader -- right from the start -- that your essay is relevant to his life in some meaningful way. Your goal is to opt for the approach that is most likely to draw him into your piece; make it clear in the introduction that this is the approach you are taking.
Start off your essay with a brief personal anecdote that relates directly or indirectly to your topic. Engage your reader by describing a real situation involving real people and places. If you do your job well, your reader will identify with the scene on some level. He will then feel some connection to your topic and be inclined to keep reading.
Pose a thought-provoking question to grab hold of your reader and inspire him to think deeply about your topic. As you proceed through the remainder of your essay, the answer to this initial question will gradually unfold. Your reader will be pleased that he read through to the end.
Shock your reader with a seemingly absurd statement. Wake him up with something outlandish. After reading your introduction, he will feel alert and curious about where your essay is headed, which is precisely the response you seek.
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