Article introductions are the first point of contact readers begin to engage with your copy. Like a first date, your introductions need to captivate at first sight and give a good first impression. Here are six tips to help you write compelling article introductions that captivate readers immediately and persuade them to read your article through to the end.
Craft a sharp, concise, catchy and highly targeted opening sentence to grab readers' attention instantly and hook them to your piece. In journalism this first, catchy, highly targeted opening sentence is called a lede. A lede summarizes the essence of a story in one or two sentences.
Cite a credible source to inject authority in your lede. Mention the stakes involved in your topic or subject to heighten interest. You may also point out little known facts or the most newsworthy facts of your story to pique reader's curiosity and heighten their interest.
Example of a lede sentence: Emergency preparedness can make the difference between life and death.
Reason: This sentence immediately identifies the stakes involved – life and death. The reader will want to read further to learn why emergency preparedness is a matter of life and death.
Tell the reader why he should care about what you have to say in at least one of your introductory sentences. Inform him why the subject is relevant in his everyday life. Provide the “What” and “So what?” of the topic. If you cannot explain why the reader should care about your topic, the topic is probably not relevant, valuable or compelling enough to warrant reading. Work on making your introduction as relevant to the reader as possible.
Example of a sentence with a strong value-proposition: When gambling becomes a problem – namely, leads you into extreme debt and causes you to straggle to pay the bills – it is high time to take proactive measures to tame the habit.
Reason: The sentence immediately makes the reader understand when gambling becomes a problem and promises a solution to the problem. The reader will want to read further to learn the proactive measures needed to tame gambling.
Give the reader the bigger picture of the topic hinted in the title and explain how your article will answer the title's subject. Tell the reader the angle you have used to address the title and justify your criteria for taking that angle. In journalism this is called a nut graf.
Nut graf provides a wide-angled view or foreshadows information that will come in the body of the text. It determines your credibility in the eyes of the reader as well as the credibility of the information you offer from the outset. Put in your best work to ensure you are in good standing with your audience.
Example of a powerful nut graf: Nepal is a breathtaking country renowned for its magnificent mountain scenery and some of the highest peaks in the world. The country presents prime trekking regions, exciting, winding trails, picturesque landscapes and crystal clear mountain streams and lakes. One of the best ways to explore Nepal's rich heritage is to walk through its streets and villages.
Reason: The sentence immediately provides a wide-angled view of the subject – scenic, mountainous Nepal. It tells the reader from where the article will explore the subject – from its streets and villages. This wide-angled view of the topic helps readers align their expectations with what the article will offer and helps prevent reader disappointments.
Avoid strings of generic observations in your introductions. Provide observations that are unique to your topic and that provide as much context as possible. This wets the reader’s appetite for what you have to say next. If you can substitute the subject in a sentence with another subject and the sentence still makes sense, then the sentence is probably too generic to offer any real value or be of interest to the reader.
Example of a generic opening sentence: London is big city known for its museums, friendly people and rich culture.
Reason: You can substitute “London” in the sentence with any other big city in Europe and the observations of what the city is will remain true.
Use clear and meaningful adjectives throughout your text, especially in your introduction, to ensure your readers stick around and continue reading your text. Choose adjectives that create vivid mental pictures/images and that lead to a clear call to action. Avoid empty adjectives that don’t provide context or help in understanding the text. Clear and meaningful adjectives make your introduction easy to understand, visualize and act upon.
Examples of empty adjectives: great, unique, fun, interesting
The introductory is a snapshot of the rest of the article. Make your introductory paragraph brief. Do not pack too much information in it. Just put enough information to entice the reader to read on. Ideally, make the introduction paragraph no more than 75 words. Move any extra facts or points to the body of the text.
Remember it is your job as a writer to produce interesting, relevant and informative introductions. So, take your time. Plan and organize your introductions carefully to produce truly compelling introductions.
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