I can’t tell you how many times introductions are written hastily just to provide a quick overview of what an article is about. Nothing wastes the energy that you’ve spent writing a thoroughly researched and well written blog article like a lacklustre introduction.
You only have a few seconds to keep your reader’s attention. Will they read your introduction and continue reading your article to the end? Or, will they read the introduction and quickly click away?
Your introduction is your biggest make or break opportunity to convince the audience to read your article.
Rules for introductions:
- Add a new idea to the conversation
- It actually needs to be interesting, compelling and novel
- Do not write tropes. ie. working from home in your PJs
Consider Your Reader
Read through your introduction from the perspective of your ideal reader.
From this vantage point, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this writer understand me? Do they know my problems? Do they know why I’m here?
- Does this company offer a bonafide solution to my problems?
- Do they give me any indication that I can trust what they’re saying?
Your introduction should be able to leave the reader responding with resounding yes to all of these questions.
Don’t Start Your Article With a Dictionary Definition
Too often we see introductions that are akin to a dictionary definition or Wikipedia entry. It’s a natural starting point when you want to explore a topic; what is the nature of the topic?
You might be given a topic along the lines of How to Walk A Dog. So, you decide that first you must define what a dog is.
This is literally the most boring way you can possibly start an article; with a definition.
Instead, think about your reader. What will make them want to stay? What will help them to grab your idea and read more? What will compel them to sharing the article with a friend, even before they’ve gotten past the first paragraph?
A compelling, interesting, engaging, motivating, unique article is shareable. And, these types of articles don’t start with a dictionary definition of the topic.
Leave that for your school and university essays!
Creating a compelling introduction is a key technique for you, as a writer, to master. Every reader wants to start at the top of the article and find some little nugget that piques their interest.
Learn how to write a good introduction.
Use Layout Too
In the below example Chris shows how you can use layout devices such as capital letters, spacing and a list-type concept to make your introduction more compelling.
Don’t Use Weak Transition Phrases
The worst part about weak transition phrases is that they’re so easy to fall back on, but they’re weak, generic, and quite frankly boring.
Including them in your introduction isn’t compelling, and it lowers the overall quality of your article.
What are weak transitional phrases?
- Let’s explore
- Here’s what you need to know
- Read on
- Get ready to dive in
- Ready to crack on?
- Here’s X features to look out for
You get the idea. They don’t add value to the text, they simply ask the reader to keep reading, or they hang on the end of a sentence awkwardly and do nothing. Yet, think about it this way: have you ever read any of these and thought to yourself: “you know what, I will keep reading?!”
The chances are you haven’t. The chances are you’ve already arrived at the article with an intention and you’re going to read the article anyway.
The chances are your decision to read past the intro is based on how compelling the intro is, not because of a weak transitional phrase telling you to keep reading.
So what can you do instead?
- Add a bullet list of what you’re going to cover in the article.
- Tell an anecdote that relates to your article — personal experiences in the intro build authority. They show the reader you know what you’re talking about (just be sure to check the client brief, avoid using first person unless the brief specifically says so).
- Offer social proof that will drive the reader into wanting to know more about your client or topic.
- Talk about how your article will benefit the reader.
- Mention facts and statistics or something with shock value, that will make the reader want to learn more.
- Raise a challenging question that your article will answer.
Remember: this isn’t a definitive list. As a writer, you should be able to come up with tons of compelling ways to beat these weak transitional phrases.
If you do any of these right, you should be able to naturally flow your text into your first sub-heading without using a weak transitional phrase.
Learn From These Experts
This has a good bullet list that you can cross-check against your own work, especially point 8.
Oh my goodness, point 1 of this article is just so true! You need to spend more time on this bit even by itself.
This advice relates to research papers, but I think it’s worth skim reading. Sometimes you can glean new information from related industries/concepts more than the actual topic.
Ha! I like the way he has substantiated his opening introduction example. (Is that classic irony??)
I like her third bullet point about the warm up sentence. I had never thought of that before; it’s good advice.