An attention-getter usually touches on an emotion in order to get the reader to feel invested in the essay

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Attention-Getters for Narrative and Informal Writing

An attention-getter (AG) is the first part of the introduction. As the name implies, it must grab the attention of readers to entice them to read on. Most attention-getters are 1-2 sentences long, depending on the technique and topic. An attention-getter usually touches on an emotion in order to get the reader to feel invested in the essay.

You must lead from the attention-getter smoothly into the rest of the introduction. After the attention-getter, you need to have a plan to tie it, using a connecting sentence, (CS) to your thesis statement (TS). The thesis states the core idea (topic) of the paper. (However, NEVER say “this essay is about…”).

Many writers compose the attention-getter after they have written the entire essay (my technique!). However, the thesis must be clear before starting the essay.

Some non-negotiables:

DO NOT START WITH A QUESTION! You’re opening up the possibility for readers to say, “no,” and then they have lost interest. How can you fix this? Change your question into a startling statement (see below).

DO NOT START WITH ONOMATOPOEIA (Crash! Bang!)! You can be more creative.

How SHOULD you start a narrative or informal essay? Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Quotation

Start with a quote from the subject of the essay (a biography, for example), a famous person, or well-known book or movie. Here are just a few examples.

Subject of a Biography:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt believed (AG). Once a shy, introverted young girl, Roosevelt grew up to be one of the strongest, most outspoken women in history (CS). Eleanor Roosevelt was a trailblazer in the fight for equal rights, and she brought kindness and compassion to the White House during turbulent times (TS).

Well-known Book:

“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffett…along came a spider and sat down beside her…” (AG). Spiders might seem innocent to some, but others suffer from arachnophobia, or fear of spiders (CS). Seventh grader Jennifer Jones has such a terrible fear of spiders that she won’t even go in her own basement because of these leggy creatures (TS).

  1. Short list of adjectives or descriptions

Start with a list of words or phrases that are related to your thesis or topic of your essay.

Compassionate, brilliant, courageous, determined, honest (AG). Heroic words come easily to mind when thinking of Abraham Lincoln (CS). Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, ended the Civil War, and holds the honor of being of one of the country’s greatest leaders in history (TS).

  1. Paint a picture with words

Avoid “picture this…” or “imagine that…”

Waves washed over the sand and remnants of the orange sun settled into the ocean as seagulls descended onto a well-worn log (AG). Sunsets in Florida are some of the most beautiful and memorable moments of a lifetime (CS). Mary Smith has had the privilege of seeing over 1,000 of these sunsets in her lifetime because she lived on the beach in Clearwater, Florida, for several years (TS).

  1. Startling statements/humorous anecdotes (stories)

Startling statement:

Eight years ago, Janet Cushing’s parents thought that she would never fully recover her cognitive functioning after a tragic car accident left her with a massive head injury (AG). Sometimes, life can take an unexpected turn, and only strength and perseverance can help people through it (CS). This week, Janet won the state championship medal for science research, proving that anything is possible (TS).

Humorous anecdote:

When my older brother substituted fresh eggs for our hard-boiled Easter eggs, he didn’t realize our father would take the first crack at hiding them. My brother’s holiday ended early that particular day in 1991, but the rest of the family enjoyed the warm April weather, outside on the lawn, until late into the evening (AG). Perhaps it was the warmth of the day and the joy of eating Easter roast while Tommy contemplated his actions that make my memories of Easter so sweet (CS). Whatever the true reason, the fact is that my favorite holiday of the year is Easter Sunday (TS).

Of course, you can always use your own ideas! These are just a few ways to get your reader’s attention for an informal essay (narrative, biography, blog, etc.). Stay tuned for attention-getters that are well-suited for formal essays (informative and argumentative writing).

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