Your teacher just informed you that you must write an essay by Friday, and he has provided you with a topic and basic guidelines for the assignment. You are to write a five paragraph essay using a variety of sentences, appropriate vocabulary and standard American English grammar. Excitedly you sit with paper and pen and begin to brainstorm various ideas. After the brainstorm, you organize your main idea and supporting points in an outline. Now you are ready to begin writing your first rough draft but wait. Where do you start?
I observe two types of students in my class when they write timed essays. One type of student quickly begins writing usually within 2 or 3 minutes. The other type of student spends 8-10 minutes just staring at the paper, the wall or his watch. Do you know what he is doing? He is doing one of two things. One, he finds himself "thinking in the air." Well, that's what I call it and because he fails to write anything down on paper while the clock ticks, many of his great ideas "float away" unfortunately. Or two, he spends these precious minutes fighting against an opponent who refuses to let him win. Who is this opponent you ask? The fight takes place in his head, and you guessed it...no one really wins during the match. The constant going back and forth, debating, questioning, second guessing and criticizing defeats the writer even before the writer has an opportunity to begin. So how do you battle against this opponent? Quite easily. Develop a plan of attack for your writing projects before you begin. To avoid that internal battle, you must have a technique or a style prepared that comforts and empowers you. Knowing how you will organize, initiate, develop and transition reflects on your preparation as much as on your capabilities. You need more than just an idea. You need a plan.
The introductory paragraph provides your reader with the first impression; the introduction sets the stage for the rest of your writing. Therefore, a successful introduction requires an effective attention getter which impresses your reader, leads him in and captures his imagination. As a writer you do not wish to lose the reader's interest at any point much less early on in the essay. Therefore, I suggest your "writing plan" first include an impressive attention getter.
There are various practical and effective ways to capture the reader's interest. Here are a few:
- Questions Ask a series of questions that lead to your thesis statement. This method allows the reader to passively participate in your essay. Because of the inclusive nature of this method, the reader quickly finds himself hooked which is exactly your purpose.
- Contrast Write sentences related to a topic opposite to your main idea. It may seem misleading at first but adds an interesting twist to your introduction and catches the reader by surprise. As long as you lead into the main idea gradually with the appropriate transition, this method proves quite effective.
- Broad Statement Entice the reader with a variety of general statements related to the main idea. The statements must be general but relevant to the overall topic of the assignment.
In the next few weeks, I will post a few examples of attention getters.