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Hooking the reader. This has become one of the most important elements in writing, especially in an age of abbreviated attention spans. Social media has upped the ante on being interesting and relevant. Tweets are 140 characters. Most blog posts are between 300-600 words. News segments are edited to :30 sound bites.

In teaching writing to my students, they learn ‘hooking the reader’ is one of the first components under setting context. The hook could be your title, your first sentence or a thought at the close of your first page. Wherever it is, the hook needs to come within the first 30 to 90 seconds of your reader’s attention.

Reader’s do not read your work if they lose interest.

If you don’t capture a reader’s attention immediately, s/he’ll turn the page, click on another link or look elsewhere. So how do you set context and keep a reader in an age where attention spans that are shorter than length of the Happy Birthday song?

You want to provide a connection between the writer (you) and the reader. You can do this by bringing the reader into a piece of writing at the onset and directing one’s attention throughout the piece. How do you do this?

  • analyze the audience and tailor the message to that audience;
  • bond with the reader;
  • use terminology the reader is familiar with; and/or
  • create a tone and style the reader will respond

You will most likely find success if you address the reader directly (as an individual or a group) with an interesting thesis, cause and effect, or compelling fact/opinion in the first paragraph.

And remember, if you’re bored with what you write or can’t find the hook, there’s no doubt your reader will have the same problem.

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