Good English Writing – No Sugar for You

Imagine your trusted family doctor told you that you had to immediately stop all consumption of sugar. No chocolate, no ice-cream, no sugar in hot beverages, no sugar at all! How would you respond? Would you immediately dismiss his advice, or would you want to know more? For example, would you want to know why he is recommending such drastic action? That is what the introduction to your article, assignment or paper should achieve. After reading your introduction, your readers should not only understand what your article is about, they should also ‘want to know more.’ They should want to read on. This article will explain three techniques writers use to arouse interest in the introduction of their pieces of writing.

These techniques have one thing in common, they always involve the readers, showing that the subject you will discuss is important to them. Thus, to write an effective introduction you must first know who your audience is. For example, if I were writing for diabetics, the above introduction may not be very effective, because they limit their sugar intake anyway.

How can you achieve this? One way is by shocking them! The introduction to this article is an example. No sugar? Shocking! Another way to shock is to make a controversial statement, such as: ‘Women are more intelligent than men!’ Or a humorous statement like: ‘Women are more intelligent than men!’ (just joking). There are two cautions that go with this method. Firstly, always shock in good taste – smut and insult are easier to write, but they will not attract intelligent readers. Secondly, immediately after your statement, beware of sounding dogmatic or narrow-minded, which will also ‘turn off’ many readers.

Another way you can involve your readers is to ask them questions. This point also comes with cautions. Your questions should not belittle your audience or insult their intelligence because the answers are too obvious. Questions should stimulate thought and help the reader see that the topic under discussion will inform them and thus benefit them. ‘Do you brush your teeth?’ This belittles and insults. ‘Do you brush your teeth according to the recommendations of the National Dental Authority? And do you know why it is important to do so?’ These questions prompt readers to formulate mental answers and encourages them to read on.

The third technique is to start with an interesting example. This may be an anecdote, a quote, part of a newspaper article, or some facts and figures. Just beware that the opening evidence or illustration is not too long. Readers wish to have their interest aroused, but they also want to know what the article is actually about before they commit to reading it.

Does that mean that the best introduction involves a shocking citation or anecdote, accompanied by intelligent personal questions? Maybe, but not necessarily. That may be like offering a rich chocolate cake, and although this may be a surprise for some, not everyone likes that! The best introduction, informs your particular audience exactly what the article is about whilst involving them and thus motivating them to continue reading.

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