Your essay might have a great thesis statement, meticulous research and a unique perspective, but if the introduction doesn't grab the audience's interest, they may not even read past the first few sentences. Strong essays are not just about presenting information but doing it in an engaging, interesting way. Whether you're writing a personal essay or an argument for a debatable issue, you can grab your readers’ attention from the first sentence by using a variety of creative techniques.
Sharing a surprising fact or statistic about your topic can be a good way to grab your audience's attention while showing why your topic is important, explains the University of Maryland’s Effective Writing Center. Showing that your topic has a widespread impact can help readers to see its relevance to their lives and want to read on. For example, if you were writing an essay about the health benefits of eating bananas, you might open your essay by saying, "If you want stronger bones, more energy and better eyesight, eating bananas might be a good place to start."
Opening with a vivid word picture can grab readers' attention by engaging their imaginations, says Waunakee High School English teacher Lisa Carrothers. Just as a fiction writer uses description to establish the world of a story, you can place readers in the world of your topic. For example, a paper on the Holocaust might begin, "A boxcar packed with human cargo rumbles down a German railroad track. The air inside is hot and stale, and the passengers struggle to breathe, unaware of where they are headed. This is what millions of people experienced traveling to concentration camps during the Holocaust."
An anecdote is a brief story that leads to a central point. In essay writing, the anecdote can be an effective attention-getting device because it lets audiences get emotionally involved with the topic. If you have direct experience with your topic, the University of Maryland suggests using a personal anecdote. For example, if you're writing about cyber-bullying, you might describe an incident where you were victimized: "I never believed people when they said words could hurt, but staring at the text message I'd just received made me realize its truth. The hurtful phrase seeped into me like venom from a snakebite."
Opening with a quotation can gain the audience's attention on numerous levels, says Carrothers. You can quote a noted expert to build your credibility for your argument, use the words of a famous person for humor and irony, or even use song lyrics in a way that creatively leads into your topic. For example, an essay about political correctness might begin, "'Political correctness is tyranny with manners,' actor Charlton Heston once said. Today, that statement seems to be true. Many people are more concerned with not offending people than expressing themselves."