When the thought expressed in the first sentence of an article is sufficiently unusual, or is presented in a sufficiently striking form, it at once commands attention. By stimulating interest and curiosity, it leads the average person to read on until he is satisfied.
A striking statement of this sort may serve as the first sentence of one of the other types of beginning, such as the narrative or the descriptive introduction, the quotation, the question, or the direct address. But it may also be used entirely alone.
Since great size is impressive, a statement of the magnitude of something is usually striking. Numerical figures are often used in the opening sentences to produce the impression of enormous size. If these figures are so large that the mind cannot grasp them, it is well, by means of comparisons, to translate them into terms of the reader's own experience. There is always danger of overwhelming and confusing a person with statistics that in the mass mean little or nothing to him.
To declare in the first sentence that something is the first or the only one of its kind immediately arrests attention, because of the universal interest in the unique.
An unusual prediction is another form of striking statement. To be told at the beginning of an article of some remarkable thing that the future holds in store for him or for his descendants, fascinates the average person as much as does the fortune-teller's prophecy. There is danger of exaggeration, however, in making predictions. When writers magnify the importance of their subject by assuring us that what they are explaining will "revolutionize" our ideas and practices, we are inclined to discount these exaggerated and trite forms of prophecy.
A striking figure of speech—an unusual metaphor, for example—may often be used in the beginning of an article to arouse curiosity. As the comparison in a metaphor is implied rather than expressed, the points of likeness may not immediately be evident to the reader and thus the figurative statement piques his curiosity. A comparison in the form of a simile, or in that of a parable or allegory, may serve as a striking introduction.
A paradox, as a self-contradictory statement, arrests the attention in the initial sentence of an article. Although not always easy to frame, and hence not so often employed as it might be, a paradoxical expression is an excellent device for a writer to keep in mind when some phase of his theme lends itself to such a striking beginning.
Besides these readily classified forms of unusual statements, any novel, extraordinary expression that is not too bizarre may be employed. The chief danger to guard against is that of making sensational, exaggerated, or false statements, merely to catch the reader's notice.
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