Blog Tips: Making Your First Sentence Count

by Content Solutions on January 10, 2011

If this sentence doesn’t entice you to read the rest of this post then I’ve already lost. In the information age it’s hard to connect with readers and keep them interested long enough to read your entire post. Given that the average user spends roughly 33 seconds on a given website before surfing on over to the next portal you have to hook people right at the top. If you’re wasting a paragraph or more before getting to the point then you’ll never see your readership increase.

The sad truth about things written online is that only about 20 percent of what you write is ever even read, so a lot of time spent crafting those in-depth anecdotes or fancy theoretical arguments are just time wasted. The average user merely scans the page, so you have to offer something that will grab them right up front and provide a compelling reason to read through the rest of the text. Here we offer a few different approaches for how to kick off a blog post, as well as the pros and cons of each option.

The Thesis – This is the traditional opener wherein you tell the reader what point you wish to prove over the course of the blog post. It’s the same approach you learned in middle school composition, and for a lot of folks it’s the only style of writing they ever really bothered to learn. While this is the safest approach to writing it’s also the least effective, as it does nothing to grab the reader’s attention or spark any sort of debate. Therefore, for most blogs it’s highly ineffective.

The Shocking Statistic – There’s an old saying that numbers don’t lie, and even though you can manipulate almost any statistic to make it sound the way you want there are few things more convincing than cold, hard numbers. Thus, if you’re blog post is attempting to examine a measurable issue then it’s a great idea to throw out an overwhelming number (which is of course grounded in facts!) to grab your audience by the shoulders and give them a shake. For instance, if you’re writing an article about marriage can show that Christians are 6 percent more likely to get divorced than Atheists then you’ve almost assuredly gained the attention of anyone reading and now have them primed to read everything you have to say.

The Clever Anecdote – People love stories, especially if they’re funny, poignant and, most importantly, short. If you were inspired to write a blog post based on something really important that happened to you or someone close to you then lead off your article with a retelling of the story, but for goodness sake keep it brief. Don’t ramble, don’t add unnecessary detail and don’t leave readers wondering what could possibly be the point. Also, if your inspiration for writing the post is more mundane or boring then avoid talking about it, we hear enough about what everyone else had for lunch on Twitter, you don’t need to lead off a blog post talking about how one of your potato chips looked like Dwight Eisenhower and that inspired you to blog about the military industrial complex. I say this for your own good, no one cares.

The Bold Challenge – The biggest risk/reward opening is the bold challenge, which makes a definitive and sometimes inflammatory statement that spurs the user to keep reading out of both curiosity and also possibly anger. This is the most fact-intensive of openers, as you must be able to back up your initial accusations with plenty of facts and supporting information. For example, if you want to write an article claiming that all redheads are inherently lazy then your very first supporting claim after you boldly exclaim that those with copper manes are naturally slothful better be chock full of scientific data and links to supporting studies. Those who don’t back up the bold challenge with facts will be immediately dismissed and shouted down, and you’ll lose all credibility in the eyes of readers. This is easily the most challenging opener to attempt, but if you pull it off well not only will you draw major reader interest, you’ll also likely ignite a conversation in your comment section.

While these are but a few suggestions on how to create great topic sentences that will engage readers they should give you some ideas on how to draw in your audience effectively. Just remember, you have less than a minute to catch someone’s eye and give them reason to stick around and read your work. Don’t write a beautiful blog post that no one will read just because you took too long to get to the point!

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