Writing an introduction is probably the hardest part of any writing assignment. Just coming up with that first sentence... Or making a smooth transition into the body of the essay... It can take up hours of your time without actually getting anything done. Writers often wonder how to get the reader's attention and make their essay stand out. In this blog post, I will help you catch the reader's attention in all the right ways.
An introduction should consist of at least three and at most, say, ten sentences. About one or two of these sentences should be your "attention grabber." An attention grabber can be anything, as long as it speaks to your audience. This means that you have to be conscious of who is going to read your work.
Take this blog post as an example. The first sentence is my attention grabber. Okay, it may not be the most inspired sentence in the world, but I've certainly taken my audience into account. I imagine you are a person who is struggling to write an introduction; that's why you're here, right? Also, I'm assuming that you're not struggling as much with the other parts of the writing assignment. Otherwise you would have googled "writing a catchy conclusion," or something of the sort.
Now let's do the same with YOUR audience. If you are writing an essay for a business school or college application, your essay will be read by an admissions board. This board consists of individuals who do this for a living as well as one or more student members. They read essay after essay, hour after hour, day after day. They may be bored. They probably read all your essays in one sitting so that they get a complete mental picture of you. They are looking for the best applicants so that they get kudos from their boss and keep their job.
You need to make their life easy and pleasant. A sentence like "have you ever seen someone's leg being ripped off and eaten by a rabid dog?" will certainly catch the board's attention, but not in a pleasant way. You'll stand out... like a sore thumb. So don't sacrifice being pleasant for the sake of effect.
Instead, think of what you're trying to tell your readers in the rest of your essay. Are you writing about leadership? Grab their attention with a sentence (or two) about leadership. A quote plus your own interpretation of that quote is a great option. Don't just throw a quote at them and let them figure it out. Tell them WHY you feel this is the perfect quote to grab their attention for this topic. You can also repeat something inspired someone (a boss, a colleague, your four-year-old niece) has told you and again explain why this is significant or meaningful to you. Another option is to give your own view of leadership, like: "the real trick of leadership is to enable others to take initiative." Of course, your essay will then need to provide a description of a time when your leadership enabled others to take initiative.
Grabbing your audience's attention should be a gentle, pleasantly surprising event, not a jarring experience. Your attention grabber needs to relate to the topic of your essay and indicate to the audience what your focus within that topic will be. Just one or two sentences of your introduction can peak the reader's attention and let you make a great impression.
For more information on writing a good introduction, read my previous blog entry "Writing a Great Introduction."