...was the opening title to some serious academic research into a neglected tropical disease. When it was first published, according to the New Scientist, its provocative banner generated huge altmetric scores.
If you're not aware of altmetrics, apparently they are a buzzword for measuring the impact of a piece of research based on the number of times it is mentioned in social media. Where the number of clicks equates to potential influence, grabbing people's attention is obviously a very big deal. In the case of securing academic funds it may even save lives.
In a broader context, while there is concern that engagement does not necessarily guarantee the integrity of any piece of writing, getting people's attention in the first place is the issue in hand here. Something far less short lived when you are able to combine that ability with the sharing of reliable, relevant or useful information.
While you may prefer to avoid using the odd four letter word, it is clearly a good idea to provoke interest in your ideas from the very start. If you want to persuade busy colleagues to click beyond the subject line of your email or feel engaged from the opening words of your presentation, what can you do?
If you were writing an article like this, you could for example start with a question in your title, Why is nobody responding to your emails? Alternatively, you may use fewer words to tease their interest. Lost Opportunities is one such heading that may or may not entice people to read on.
Another option is to try using shock tactics to awaken their interest. As an opener, 90% of Business Presentations are a Waste of Time could be something your reader already knows. Alternatively, they may be curious to know why or indeed where the author derived their data.
If you were to reflect on introductions to the more inspiring presentations you have been party to, they often start in powerful ways too. A rhetorical question, a curious fact, a thought-provoking quotation, a prop or some great visuals or audio visuals. Telling a great story or sharing relevant case studies do the same thing - they get people to sit up and listen.
If you're feeling these tactics may be inappropriate in your field, it's worth thinking again. Even when it comes to sharing information on potentially dry subjects, you might try using headlines rather than headings.
As the title of a PowerPoint slide or to a formal business document, Status Report does very little to entice interest. On the other hand, Outstanding Results Achieved in Commercial Sector seems a much better alternative to sharing the same information - it also helps focus your readers or listeners on what you want them to know.
Clearly, marketeers and journalists know how to capture your interest in seconds. As an experiment, stay attentive to which blogs or articles catch your eye and try pinching some of their methods to help engage your colleagues or clients where appropriate.
This brings us to the case in point, the opening title for this piece, where the authors used a combination of heading and sub-heading to successfully grab your attention; An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit: Distribution of Schistosoma mansoni and Hookworm Eggs in Human Stool