How can you get your reader curious from your first line? This is called a “hook” and it’s a technique used to impress the reader so that they want to read more.
A descriptive, shocking or captivating opening are effective ways to kick off your essays.
Here are some of the best techniques to get your readers hungry for more:
Ask a question
When a reader sees a question, they automatically want to answer it. So by starting off with a question, you’re immediately engaging them with your subject. If you’re going to talk about this year’s election, you could start out by asking “Do you know who you’re voting for?” or if you’re planning to talk about global warming you could ask, “Do you believe that humans are causing global warming?” By addressing them directly and asking them what they think, you make them want to read on to see how you answer the question you asked them.
The thing about statistics is that they make sense of data in a way that helps you drive your point home. If you say “a lot of young black males are in jail” it doesn’t have the same impact as saying “33% of black males under the age of 25 are in jail.” Statistics lend credibility to your writing. They create confidence in the reader that you’ve done your research and are an expert on the topic. Just make sure that your statistics come from reliable sources.
Use a quote
The right quote can really capture the essence of your subject. If your topic is racism, a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. would be appropriate since he’s a universally recognized civil rights leader. But don’t go for the quotes that everyone knows. Dig deeper and find interesting, original quotes that the reader might not have heard before. Goodreads quotes is an excellent resource for finding quotes on a variety of topics.
Write an anecdote
An anecdote is a story that has to do with your topic. For example, if you’re writing about drunk driving laws, you can tell a story about a scary brush with a drunken driver to help readers understand the context of your essay and why the topic is important. This type of story-telling introduction humanizes your topic and is more effective than a dry, academic approach.
A great way to hook your reader is to bring up controversy, especially if your topic is something that’s naturally polemical such as politics, religion or ethics. Even if you’re not personally committed to one side or the other of a subject, for the sake of argument, choose a side. Stirring up emotions in your opening paragraph and nailing your thesis statement with a strong opinion makes your readers want to know more. They might be curious to find out why you feel so strongly or they might feel strongly about the subject themselves. If they agree with you, they’ll read on to find out if you have any new perspectives they haven’t heard of yet. If they disagree, they’ll read on to find out what arguments you’re using and how they can dispute them. Either way, this type of opening is a winner.
Another way for you to draw the reader in is to set the stage for them. If you’re writing about alternative energy use, you might start with a descriptive account of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2009 and its effects on the environment. Paint a picture of what the shoreline looked like, the ducks that were covered in oil. Make the reader feel like they’re right there so they can understand the relevance of your topic.
All of these openers are winners. Use them in your essays if you want your readers to keep reading until the last line.