Nobody cares a dime about you and your ramblings.
That is what professional writers (especially copywriters and journalists) say about the way people read. Nobody cares a dime about the author and his astonishing personality traits – they want to be interested in what they read. And if you fail to grasp the reader’s attention with the very first phrase you write, chances are, he will not go on reading.
One may say that in case of essays you receive as an assignment it is not all that important – after all, your tutor has to read them. But isn’t it better to make him want to do it?
Hookers and Chasers
Beginnings can be divided into two types – in terminology used by Stephen King, they are “hookers” and “chasers”. Hookers are the beginnings that immediately catch the eye and are interesting in and of themselves. It may be something that makes the reader stop in his tracks in shock, amazement or disbelief. Something he rereads once again just to make sure he understood correctly what is written. Something like the title of the essay in which Stephen King described them: “Great Hookers I Have Known”. Taking into consideration another, less contextual meaning of the word, this title makes you want to make sure you’ve understood it correctly. And read on.
On another end of sliding scale of quality there are chasers – trite, bland, boring beginnings that do nothing to make you want to read further.
Beginnings to Avoid like Plague
- Clichés. “It is common knowledge”, “You probably know”, “It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say”. They reek of commonplace, and it is very hard to believe that there is something more exciting to come.
- Referring to the assignment in question: “When I received the task to write about the most memorable experience of my childhood…”.
- Announcements: “In this essay I will describe…” It looks helpless and shows that you didn’t know how to begin.
- Quotes from dictionaries or encyclopedias. Another beginning that shows that you have no idea how to get to the point. Probably the most widely used and, therefore, to be avoided even more than all the other types.
- Hooker wannabes – it is what happens when you try to amaze the reader but either cannot logically connect the initial shocking statement to the main text or just happen to make the rest of the essay look boring and uninteresting in comparison.
Read your own beginning as if you see it for the first time and ask yourself: would you be interested in reading further if it was written by somebody else? If not – you are doing something wrong.