This guest post is by Andrea Wren from Butterflyist.com,
Did you know that I like to have sex on roller coasters? Yes, there’s nothing that does it for me more than wondering if my partner will puke at the point of, um, no return. Okay I’m fibbing. I can’t even imagine how difficult big dipper hanky panky would be, but I got you listening, didn’t I?
While I was being a little devious, and you’re now going to be a tiny bit disappointed that I’m not going to talk about my fetish for fairground frolics, I’ve demonstrated two things:
- A strong hook in the introductory paragraph of your post is crucial to grab the reader’s interest.
- Your hook should be linked to what you’re actually writing about, otherwise the reader will feel like they’ve been duped once they continue.
But then, seeing as the title already told you what this post was going to be about, I can be excused. You knew I wasn’t going to be talking about my fictional amusement park passions, so I haven’t hoodwinked you after all!
But I did gain attention.
They count, don’t they? Unlike networking events or dinner parties, where we may be forced to stay making small-talk with a person we’ve decided we don’t like, when we’re reading blogs, we have a choice. And we don’t have to stick around. Once you’ve got your title, you have to think carefully about the all-important first impression that will follow.
So how do you write a winning intro that will make your reader read on?
Find a relevant hook
This is key. A “hook” has that name for a reason—it’s designed to capture the reader as an angler would a fish. You lay the bait with your title, and then your hook (the first sentence or two of the opening paragraph) should snatch hard enough that even the wriggliest of wrigglers won’t get loose.
How outlandish you can afford to be (a la the tabloid press) depends on the context of the writing, and how confident a writer you are. But even the most conservative of business blog posts can be strongly hooked.
Whether you begin with humor or with a serious quote, a good hook will intrigue the reader, or challenge them, and draw them into finding out where your opening gambit leads.
Therefore, it’s useful to start with a curious or unusual fact connected to the post, a question, or something that tests the reader’s beliefs. You could even try all three. For instance:
“In a new report, small businesses say they cannot afford to employ women of child-bearing age who may require maternity pay-outs. Should financially struggling SMEs be entitled to refuse to recruit women in certain age groups?”
Controversy, of course, often works well. And juicy revelations can do the trick too. Here are three other tips to make note of:
1. Set the scene
Your hook could potentially be the first paragraph in itself, depending on how succinct you are. But within the introduction, the reader should know what the post will be about.
Setting the scene is about defining reader expectations—he or she needs to assess whether the time they are about to invest in reading your post will be worth it.
In the above example of a hook, the writer might go on to say which report their information comes from, what their own position is (you will generally be shown which way the writer leans from the start, but a clever writer will make it seem that they could have their mind changed), and which arguments they are going to tackle in the rest of the piece.
You give the reader the gist, without giving it all away in the first few sentences.
2. Cut the waffle
So you’ve got the hook, and you’ve set the scene. Now read over your introduction aloud.
If it trails off around the houses and then does a few thousand miles across the world and back before it makes its point, your reader will be away with the fairies before you know it.
Like with the continuing blog post, all writing in the intro should serve some purpose. It should make the reader laugh, offer a fact, provide an opinion, make a challenge, concisely explain something, or ask a question. If it does none of these things, get rid of it.
No reader wants to wade through the ramblings of your mind if they aren’t going to lead somewhere, or if you’ve already said it. You need to convince the reader you have a good story. Waffling will not do this.
Don’t say anything that doesn’t need saying.
3. After a strong beginning…
With a good hook and a pithy opening to your article, your reader should, we hope, commit to finding out what else you have to talk about.
Writing compelling introductions takes practice, but it goes without saying that this is only the beginning. You then have to keep your audience enraptured throughout.
However, that’s another blog post waiting to be written.
Andrea Wren is an experienced freelance journalist, travel writer and blogger based in the UK. She blogs at Butterflyist.com, a site which inspires people to have the confidence to push their comfort zones and see the world. Here you can also get her free eBook ‘Travel More, Work Less and Live Life’. Find Andrea on Twitter via @thebutterflyist