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.
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