Attention Getters in Academic Writing

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Why do we need attention getters in academic writing? Some students undeniably would have been happier if they were given a way to avoid their tutors’ attention, not to attract it. After all, tutors have to read what they write – so why bother?

Like a lot of other self-obvious statements, this one is completely, utterly and undeniably wrong. But let’s start at the beginning.

An attention getter, or a ‘hook’, is used to compel the reader’s attention from the very moment he lays eyes on your essay. And whatever you may think, attracting attention to yourself and your work isn’t a bad idea.

The thing is, controlling the reader’s attention is an essential part of proper essay writing – and the vast majority of students haven’t an inkling of how to write an essay paper so that it would be interesting to read. As a result, you tutor has to read dozens upon dozens of bland, watery essays that mostly repeat each other. At the end of the day, he is literally bored out of his mind, and anything that is capable of bringing in some variety comes as manna from heaven – in other words, you are likely to make a positive impression.

And don’t forget that you won’t always be at school – sooner or later the art of attracting the reader’s attention from the first line will help you in writing admission essays, resumes and reports.

So, how do these ‘hooks’ look?

They fall into four main groups:

  • statistics,
  • anecdotal,
  • quotes,
  • questions.

There are some other, less common variants, but the general idea is always the same: catch the eye and make the reader interested in reading forwards.

Statistical hooks are based on some interesting or, better yet, surprising statistic pertaining to your topic. It works best in argumentative essays and research works – if you manage to fascinate (or even shock) the reader with your first sentence, he will be invested into reading the rest carefully.

Anecdotal hooks are based on a story you tell. Not just any story – it should meet some requirements: fit into several short sentences, have an interesting premise, be personal enough – by using it you get an opportunity to show how closely your topic affects real people.

Quotes are self-explanatory – if you happen to remember a good saying on your topic, preferably by a well-known and authoritative person (writer, politician, public figure), you may start your essay with it. Just make sure the connection between the quote and the topic isn’t too far-fetched.

Finally, there are questions, which are not as self-obvious as it may seem. You should better avoid obvious yes/no question and stick to something the reader will have to think about. A good attention getter example of this type would be something like “Have you ever wondered why Prohibition-era mobs were so powerful and so numerous?”. It is thought-provoking, it touches upon a controversial subject and leaves space for interpretation.

Learning to choose a right attention getter for the particular paper is an art you have to master if you are thinking about a career that has something to do with writing – and it will be useful even if you are not.

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