How can you get more readers? you may often ask as a writer. Or perhaps, How do I get an editor to read my submissions? First, you'll need an attention-grabbing title. But after that you'll need an introductory paragraph that compels the reader to plunge into the rest of the article with a Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead attitude. In other words, you need to hook onto an emotion. Here are five ways to open an introductory paragraph that locks on to your reader and deftly holds their attention to get your article read all the way through.
1. Start your first sentence with a question
The question, Is writer's block an avoidable condition?? would open a Grand Canyon-sized lead for an article which delves into the intricacies of one of our most commonly broached topics. Writer Lesa Kuma started off her holiday piece with; Did you remember Iguana Awareness Day? (Well, did you?) A controversial question can be even more effective for grabbing the reader's attention in that all-important introductory paragraph. The question, Check It In or Carry It On? opened Steve Roche's piece on getting your media materials through airport security. After asking the opening question, give your answers point by point leading your reader along the path to discovery. Questions anyone?
2. Start your first sentence with a quotation
When I wrote an assigned piece on the qualities of a good language teacher, I opened with a poignant quote by Abraham Lincoln, Whatever you are, be a good one. This could be used with any article addressing being good at or the best at something. The opening quote sentence, Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it? said Joseph Pulitzer, was used to open an article on giving more powerful presentations Dig up a good, relevant quote or two (or three) and open your piece with one of them. Work in its relevance with an explanation or analogy and you're off and running with the reader's full and faithful attention.
3. Start your first sentence with an opposing opinion
Give a strong opinion on a topic that is the opposite of the position that you are planning to take in your article. For example, the statement, ?Coffee is not addictive.? opens an article by Rich Maloof for MSN Health & Fitness, which goes on to explain that coffee is habit-forming and has been linked to Osteoporosis. Another example, the Frank Jones article, ?Fluency in Spanish in 2 Days or Less? goes on to explain the virtual impossibility of learning a language in such a ridiculously short time. The contrast of opinions adds a measure of depth to the article that lends value and credibility.
4. Begin with an anecdote or short narrative
Sweat erupted all over the man's body. The strain of pulling against the as yet unseen force below rippled the muscles in his arms and torso. Blood ran in trickles down the opaque monofilament line cutting into his hands dripping into the open Pacific Ocean as if to some instinctive ritual rhythm. On the next pass a cold, unblinking left eye met his. Knowing it was hooked, the shark bolted for deeper water nearly capsizing the canoe. He thought of his wife and children. Tomorrow would be Christmas. But today, one of them was going to die.? This dramatic narrative served as the introduction to a creative non-fiction piece about the dangers shark fishermen face on a daily basis.
Suddenly, waves of sound crash over you
like an ocean surf. Breaking out in a sweat, your heart pounds to the rhythm of bass, bongos, bells and brass. The walls pulsate. The pungent smell of perspiration mixed with perfume assaults you. As your eyes adjust to the dark, broken by hypnotic flashes of the multi-colored strobes, you realize it's not walls that enclose you, but dancers? scores of dancers gyrating, weaving and swirling, limbs flashing, hips thrusting iii quarter time beat. You fill your lungs with the spicy aroma. Tighten your belt a notch and plunge in. Welcome to Changos. Another anecdotal opener I used for an article on Salsa music published in South American Explorer magazine.
Long a writing staple, an entrancing opening narrative is an almost never-fail tactic for snagging and holding reader interest. There's nothing like a good anecdote to set the scene for an article. Once the reader is ?involved? with the opening narrative or anecdote, they're set up to continue, much to your delight. Remember, humor works well too as long as it's related to the story.
5. Make your first sentence with an interesting fact
Daley's article for Men's Health magazine opens with; ?If your throat tickles, scratch your ear.? There's nothing like an interesting or offbeat fact related to your topic to pique the curiosity of your readers. They're bound to keep going as long as you keep up the pace with snappy writing that continues to draw them into the story. ?About 75 percent of expecting mothers have ultrasounds (also known as sonograms)? was in the opening of an ultrasound advice piece in Parents magazine. Using a statement of fact opener works best when the fact is an unusual, quirky or startling one.
Try some of these time-tested methods for breathing life and star quality into your article openings. You'll get the reader's (and the editor's) attention and pave the way for your in-depth research, poetic word play and riveting writing to get read. You can get some coin of the republic passed your way in the process too. Now wouldn't that be nice?
Larry M. Lynch is a writer and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines in print and online. He travels researching articles throughout Latin America and teaches at a university in Cali, Colombia. To read more, express a comment or get original, exclusive articles and content for your newsletter, blog or website, contact the author at: [email protected]