“The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until … safely hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit: the lead.”
– William Zinsser, On Writing Well
With respect, I must disagree with Mr. Zinsser. We all know the most important part of any article is the title. Without a compelling title, your reader won’t even get to the first sentence.
After the title, however, the first few sentences are certainly the most important part. Journalists call this critical introductory section the “lede,” and when properly executed, it’s the bridge that carries your reader from an attention-grabbing headline to the body of your blog post. If you want to nail it, try one of these 10 clever ways to open your next blog post.
1. Be Short and Direct
Minimalists rejoice. Less is more in some cases. This method seems to be especially useful for list posts with a compelling and descriptive title.
Example From: 7 Ways to Get Your Blog Posts Shared On Facebook by Dan Zarella
“Want to maximize sharing of your content on Facebook? Here are seven tips that are sure to help.”
2. The Quirky or Funny Opening Sentence/Paragraph
A little personality goes a long way, especially on a business blog. So don’t be afraid to let loose now and again. When done tastefully (and sometimes not so tastefully), it’s bound to make people take notice.
Example From: Who The Hell Are YOU? by Naomi Dunford
“It will please some of you to know that I almost titled this article ‘What’s My Name, Bitch?’ it will please the rest of you to know that I realized not everyone spends as much time watching hardcore porn as I do and begrudgingly decided against it.”
3. Ask a Thought-Provoking Question
When someone asks you a question, you almost can’t help but think of an answer. Your reader will do the same thing, and you’ll immediately engage them in a conversation. Be careful though. Avoid any questions that can be answered with “no” or “who cares.” In other words, always make your question relevant to your reader’s needs.
Example From: How to Make People Love You When You’re Not Around – Be A VIP! by David Wright
“What do people say about you when you’re not around?”
4. Ask a Multiple Choice Question
A variation on the question technique above, the multiple-choice question is another great way to engage your reader. I don’t know about you, but I love multiple-choice questions. It’s like responding to a poll. As above, make your question relevant to your reader and the article itself.
Example From: How to Change Your Mindset for Growth by Ali Luke
“Pop quiz. Which of these do you agree with?
- Intelligence is fixed at birth.
- Some people are creative, others aren’t.
- You can become a world-class expert through enough practice, whatever your starting point.
- You can change your personality.
“If you agreed with the first two statements, you’re coming from a fixed mindset. If you agreed with the second two, you’ve got a growth mindset.”
5. Share a Shocking Fact or Statistic
Example From: ‘Infomania’ worse than mairjuana
“Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers, new research has claimed.”
6. Share Something Personal
This is a great way to establish a deeper connection with your readers. Assuming that’s your thing. Use with caution, however. This is not something that should be used as a “tactic,” but rather as a true expression of your own personality and desire for transparency. Also, if you have a history of writing posts that are all business, you may want to ease into a post that delves into personal stuff.
Example From: How Cancer Changed My Blog by Karl Staib
“I was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. Yes, the dreaded c word. It’s probably not what you are thinking. I don’t look at this health issue as an anchor. I look at this as an opportunity for growth.”
7. Withhold a Compelling Piece of Information
Sometimes known as “the tease,” this approach is a little sneaky, but especially powerful. The trick is to withhold a key piece of information till later in the piece so the reader is compelled to keep reading.
Example From: How to Pull Readers Into Your Content Instantly by Derek Halpern
“How’d you like to learn how to pull your audience into your content by taking advantage of an innate human behavior?
“What if I said that every TV network, movie, blog, book, and other forms of media use this same tactic?
“Better yet, what if I showed you how to leverage this tactic to attract more subscribers and earn more sales?”
8. Debunk Conventional Wisdom
This is one of my personal favorites. The blogosphere is often criticized as being one big “echo-chamber.” That may or may not be true, but the bottom line is, any time you write something that goes against the status quo, it’s bound to get some attention. Just be sure the rest of your article can back it up.
Example From: 11 Smart Tips for Brilliant Writing by Dean Rieck
“Do you sound smarter when you use big words?”
“According to a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, the answer is no.”
9. Lead With a Success Story
What’s more compelling and inspiring than reading about someone else’s path to success? This is a tried and true approach to hooking your reader. It’s also great for linkbait (but that’s another article). The cool thing about this is the success story doesn’t even have to be your own.
Example From: 10 Simple Tips To Get 250,000 Page Views Per Month by Niall Harbison
“When we started our business 16 months ago we decided to use a blog as the central marketing tool for our business. We did it because we didn’t really have any money for advertising and we never really believed that attending networking events would work for us. We placed the blog at the center of our website and only had one commodity on our hands to make it a success….time.
“It’s been a long journey but 16 months later we now get 250,000 pageviews to our site per month, in the last year we have brought in over $500,000 in business as a direct result of the blog and the business operates in 2 countries and our content has been picked up all over the world.”
10. Start With a Reader’s Question
Reader questions are great. Mainly because you can usually be sure other people share the same question. Also, it’s so much easier to address a specific question rather than have to pull content out of your own head.
Example From: How to Create More Content for Your Blog and Kill 2 Birds With 1 Stone by Darren Rowse
“Darren, do you have any tips for creating more content for my blog? I have grown my blog to become reasonably successful but as it grows find myself with more and more requests and questions from readers that take me away from writing content. What should I do?”—William
“Hi William and thanks for the question. I do have one tip that comes to mind that I hope you find useful. It certainly helped me keep my inbox load light and create more content!”
11. Unadvertised Bonus Opening: Share a Quote
As a post opener, quotes are one of the best. When done well, they not only add credibility to your work, but they also form a solid foundation upon which you can build the rest of the article. For an example, just go back to the top of this post.
The next time you’re stuck on how to open a blog post, roll out one of these eleven beauties, and you’ll be well on your way to clicking the publish button.