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Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-out Opening Sentences

Posted By Skellie 6th of November 2007 Featured Posts, Writing Content 0 Comments

Keeping you posted, by Skellie.In this post regular contributer Skellie from Skelliewag.org explains how a great opening sentence can draw readers into your blog posts.

You might not want to hear this, but a killer headline simply isn’t enough.

To be effective, every great headline — like the punch of any legendary boxer — needs follow-through.

In this post, I want to suggest seven tried-and-tested methods to craft a gripping opening sentence.

This could mean the difference between someone reading your post from start to finish or skipping to the next item in their feed reader (or browsing to another blog).

These seven methods should also be a source of inspiration when you’re unsure how to start your next post. In that sense, they have the potential to benefit both you and your blog.

#1 — The tempting offer

A simple and effective way to grip readers in your first sentence is to tell them what you’re going to tell them.


This is why news broadcasts always begin with a preview of the stories to come. It’s why the commercial for a TV show will, as a rule, highlight the best bits. People are always more likely to stick with you if they know what they stand to gain.

A fictional example:

If you’ve ever wanted to get fit, save money and work less… this post is for you.

When using this method it can be useful to think of your first sentence as an advertisement for what’s to follow. What could you say that would entice readers to keep reading? How could you make reading the post seem as attractive as possible?

#2 — The irresistible question

Questions are powerful because they coax the reader into giving an internal answer. Another effective way to start a blog post is to ask a question you’re confident most readers will answer yes to. An example:

Want to convince your readers to do something or agree with your point of view? [Source]

After answering “yes, I do want that,” the next logical step is to continue reading.

#3 — The curious connection

This model appeals to the reader’s sense of curiosity. It links two seemingly unconnected ideas together and invites the reader to stick with the post and see how the connection was made. An example:

What do Thom Yorke, Tim Ferriss and successful new media publishers have in common? [Source]

By linking together a famous author and a famous musician the reader’s curiosity is piqued. She or he will want to know what these two very different figures have in common, and will (hopefully) keep reading in order to find out.

Photography by neurmadic aesthetic

#4 — The controversial claim

Confronting or strong statements engage readers because they’re curious to see how the author will justify their claim. An example:

Chances are I’m not reading your blog. [Source]

Strong statements work, but they need to be carefully justified and qualified within a few paragraphs. You don’t want to risk putting any readers offside by not explaining yourself properly.

#5 — The engaging anecdote

Anecdotes are miniature stories you tell about your experiences. The best anecdotes, apart from being entertaining, are enlightening for the reader. They don’t just say something about you: they speak to the experiences and struggles of the person listening or reading, too. A fictional example:

Yesterday, after 35 years working in the PR industry, I came within an inch of quitting my job in order to write the novel I’ve always wanted to write.

If used on a blog about writing this anecdotal sentence would appeal to most readers because it speaks to a common concern: how much should we be willing to sacrifice in order to achieve our goals?

Anecdotes help readers get to know you. They appeal to our natural love of stories. They also encourage readers to keep reading and find out how the story ends.

#6 — The problem solver

Everyone has certain things they struggle with, and we’re always willing to lend an ear to anyone who might help us resolve one of those struggles.

When bloggers highlight a problem this is often followed by an attempt at a solution. Readers know this. Here’s an example of this method in action:

We all know that .com domains are the best option, but it is also difficult to find good ones that have not been registered yet. [Source]

That statement will probably draw nods of agreement from many, prompting readers to continue with the post in the hope that a workable solution is offered.

#7 — The tricky question

This one’s a twist on the ‘problem solver’ model above.

Everyone has unanswered questions, and particular niches attract readers with certain types of questions.

ProBlogger readers might come here because they want answers to the following: how can I create a popular blog? How can I generate a full-time income online? Or, an example from another niche:

Should I wait until I’m rich to give back? [Source]

Beginning with a tough question works because, even if you don’t have a complete answer, you’ll probably have some advice or useful thoughts on the matter. Readers are always eager to get help with tough questions they struggle with.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You’ll find more practical blogging advice at her own blog, Skelliewag.org.

  1. This is one of the best posts I have ever read. Headlines and opening sentences are what gains the readers attentions and makes them want to keep reading.

    I love the controversial openers, as they shock the visitors into becoming readers.

  2. Well I did in fact read the whole article from beginning to end so I guess it worked! I’m thinking the sentence you used falls into the first category of telling us what you’re going to tell us!

    I need to think about this stuff more often in my posts. I think a mistake I make is that I craft a reasonable headline but then I tend to put background information in the opening paragraph and that can be, well, boring!

    Thanks Skellie, great post :)

  3. Excellent and hard to implement.

  4. I always start my sentences with either “how to” or ? or something that draws peoples attention.

    I ti s bad to leave comment headlines short or description like for example iphone and then description ‘ read about iphone” who wants to click on that? unless some iphone freak :)

  5. Skellie’s post is correct. Opening lines is a great way to pull a reader in to read the entire blog. It is also taught in most writing classes along with other ways to pull the reader into wanting more. You can head off to your local bookstore to that little visited section on writing and you will find a host of books that give ideas on pulling readers into your story, article, or whatever you are writing. The same books offer many ways to improve your skill in writing those opening lines.

  6. Great article. Very practical.

    It reminds me a lot of Brian Clark’s style of writing, and his subject matter too.

    Which is good because he’s an excellent writer and copy writing is something that’s important to everyone in business.

    I think you’re posts are a great compliment to Darren’s news-focused posts, I’m glad to see you over here.

    Keep up the great work,

    – Mason

  7. I dunno Skellie – you may say that headlines aren’t all they are cracked up to be… but with such a killer headline I think you defeated your own point. ;)

  8. The problem I’ve found is when summarizing my posts on the main page to fit more of them on and used these, my users were not aware of what the article was about besides the title which could sometimes be misleading.

    Therefore while I do still try to incorporate some of these styles it’s definetly to a bare minimum just to provie comic relief or for the inital attention.

  9. once again a good article Skellie. Bang on target..

    this might be little hard to implement but once bloggers start implementing this way of writing headings for blog posts..they surely going to see the run in the traffic..

    To add to the list here are few more:

    — The usage of the word FREE in headings

    — How to be a blogger like Problogger (just an example).. but I guess this comes in no. 1

    — answer to a popular question in the heading itself..like “Tired of blogging? Stop blogging!”

    — going against the wind. example: “Problogger fooling people” *joke*

    and ofcourse many more such can be generated.. :)

  10. I loved the one from Blog Herald – “Chances are I’m not reading your blog.” Blatantly obvious, but controversial at the same time.

    Great post, Skellie. Keep up the great work!

  11. Great post Skellie, this is definitely something I need to do more often. Nice added list as well, CompuWorld…using the word “FREE” is always going to keep people interested.

  12. That’s a great thought-provoking post Skellie.
    I am always guilty of long drawn out opening passage and am looking to improve. This would be a good guide for me.

  13. Those are some very good tips. Thanks!

  14. This is great stuff, Skellie. This is something I’ve always struggled with a bit. I’m going to print this out and keep it handy and use one of these on all my posts for a while just ingrain the habit. Seriously.

  15. Skellie, how about you just come over and write Copyblogger from now on? I could use a break. :)

  16. Very informative post Skellie!

    My personal favorite…

    “The problem solver” – Will work great in my niche!


  17. One thing I’ve found to work well (which I got from Brian) is to start your post with a famous quote. You still want to make the quote relevant to your post and chances are the best quotes will still fit within one of these 7 types of opening.

    I’ve often found that posts I started with a quote end up with more links and more comments.

  18. Great 7 knock-out opening sentences. I will definitely try these 7 methods and see the results I get.

  19. Excellent tips, Skellie! Right from the “Unofficial Unprinted Writer’s Handbook.”


    Meg Meyer

  20. Ah yes, the opening sentence. I’ve always struggled with it even back in highschool when I was still with the school paper. But once that first line has been laid down, everything else flows through like a waterfall.

  21. When a post with “make money” or “ideas” or “free” in the starting sentence definitely will attract many attentions!

    Skellie gave a very good post with excellent tips indeed!

  22. Short and sweet and very workable openers; my favourite being the controversial “Chances are…”; perfect for stopping your prospect straight in his/her tracks.

  23. After reading this blog for a few days I realized I wasn’t writing good enough headlines.. i changed them and saw a spike in traffic… Definatalely plan on trying to change my opening sentences to see if that has an effect as well.

  24. I love this topic and the suggestions mentioned. Great post to get everybody thinking.

    The effect that certain words can have on peoples minds, and their reaction to them, seems amazing to me.

  25. @ Thomas: What a compliment! Thank you.

    @ Caroline: I did make sure to spend some time on a good opening sentence… would have been a bit of a let down if I didn’t :). The tendency to use an opening paragraph for background info I think comes from the way we tell stories verbally. I’ve never told a story and started with the best bit first. Verbally, we always provide a long preamble!

    @ Mason: Thank you — trust that I enjoy reading your insightful comments as much, if not more, than you enjoy reading my posts :-).

    @ Wendy: That means a lot to me, because I find headlines pretty tough. I agree — a great headline is very powerful. But a killer opening sentence adds some extra oomph ;-).

    @ Brian: You provide the cloning technology and I’m in!


    @ Steven: That’s a great idea. Tip number 8!

    @ NaomiDunford & RobbiePringle: The beauty of that one is that, though it sounds controversial, it’s not hard to back up. It’s 99% likely to be true :-).

  26. Hey Skellie
    I enjoyed reading this post it was a great lesson in getting your readers attention from the get go.Something I need to work on with my post.Thanks for sharing this with us.


  27. If you want to know which of the 7 methods Skellie used for her opening sentence here, this comment is for you. 8)

    Caroline suggested it was “#1 — The tempting offer.” I think it’s about 40% that and 60% “#4 — The controversial claim.” While the opening sentence does tell us what she’s going to tell us, “a killer headline simply isn’t enough” is a bit shocking, and “You might not want to hear this” is confrontational.

    Anyway, whatever category it falls into, awesome post!

  28. Chances are I am reading your blog!

    Great post…

  29. Spending a lot of time in journalism classes teaches you these things. They practically force the “inverted pyramid style” down your throat until you know of no other way to write.

    Write a killer headline. Draw the readers in with a one-sentence description or question that explains your article. Follow through with good writing.

    It’s a tried-and-tested method. Journalists have been doing it for a very long time.

  30. Extremely insightful and effective. The post was really gripping and in real life we see many instances of its effectiveness.. be it in media, movies, novels etc.

  31. Skellie,

    Great post, once again.

  32. Great! My blog posts will improve starting tomorrow!

  33. The best place to learn how to write headlines is to look at tabloids and magazines at the supermarket. They all have very similar, time tested methods for getting you to “read more”. For example they use things like “7 Secrets of Great _____” and “Which _____________ are you? Look inside.”

    Grabbing the person’s curiosity is key.

  34. @ Justin Tadlock: I make a crappy journalist, but this is one thing I learned studying journalism that has really stuck with me. Good call!

  35. They say bloggers are anti-journalists, but i feel the best blogs out there are written by those who either have a journalistic background or atleast studied it in school.

    I’m not one, nor studied it, but this is evident in my blog. lol.

  36. The one thing I’d suggest is to not overuse method one. Once people start consciously feeling that you are trying to sell them on something, it can become a huge turn off.

  37. Skellie, what strikes me about these wonderful tips is how much they each invite me (or force me!) to FOCUS ON MY READER. This question of “Who am I writing to?” – who is my audience and what does she/he care about? is a challenging question. I think it’s tempting to write in a blog the way we might write in a diary – our audience is ourself. Boring. I’m really new to blogging, so keeping my reader(s!) in mind is essential if I want to build a relationship. Thanks.

  38. @ Kelly DuMar: I think it’s great that you’ve picked up the wider point of focusing on your audience. You must be a natural! :-)

  39. Skellie, this is another great post. I have used a few of these methods but look forward to trying out some of your other suggestions.

  40. Great examples, and bookmarked for future reference, although the 1st one would probably seem too impersonal to make me read a post.

  41. Great post, Skellie, like always :)

  42. Another great post from Skellie – already fast becoming one of my ‘must reads’ in my rss feeds.

    I know the art of the opening line is one I need to work on, so prone to waffling out the first paragraph in a misguided attempt to set the ground. An opening line such as the above sets the ground far more effectively than a verbose opening paragraph of back story or establishing information.

  43. Sometimes, the opening line with a twist, play on words, or humor can snag someone’s attention. The only risk is if the humor is too off the wall they may not take you seriously.

  44. Skellie,

    This is a useful post. I have been on a short break, but have been trying to figure out how to make headlines more attractive. It seems that most people flock to gossip or bad news which is something that I am not very interested in writing about much. However, even with posts that may seem boring to readers, there are ways to get people to read your posts if you title and structure it properly.

  45. I’ve found a lot of the same things that you have mentioned in your post. I’ve always found that people can’t resist a question, well at least the intellectuals among us :) When blogging, and doing link building I’ve found that if you post a question you get people interested, and if your link building your comment is a lot more likely to not be pulled. Cheers.

  46. Great post, Skellie, like always

  47. Always good to draw the reader in within the first two sentences. These are excellent starting points and a well written post indeed. If you can engage your reader instantly you’ve hooked them for the entire article most likely.

  48. I will be use this tips at my websites. Thank you!

  49. Excellent post Skillie. Thank you

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