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.
[…] Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-out Opening Sentences […]
I noticed that not one suggestion was ‘fill the first sentence with keywords’.
Wow :) Skellie! Here you go, I’m your new fan :) Superb post. Thanks for your lovely insights :)
Good post. Skellie you are everywhere I look these days :) As somebody just learning how to write I found this article is practical and immediately useful. Thx.
What powerful ways to grab interest in your reader/s, Skellie!
Great examples. This suggestion caught my attention:
“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.”
Inquiring minds can’t resist finding solutions. Sparking the discovery process gets and keeps them on track. The more you can make it about them, the better. This tactic works to engage readers in commenting and connecting.