Web reporting - How to write an addictive introduction

by Michelle Walkden (Mich-communication)
Download as PDF Coaxing readers to your online content with snappy and informative headlines is pointless if you fail to follow up with an equally well-crafted intro. Here are some tips for crafting that crucial first paragraph.

A clever and informative headline will lure readers to your content but you need a well-crafted introduction to really hook them.

1. Add to your headline: your reader has most probably been lured into your content by the headline. An introduction that doesn't continue the same theme or build on the idea leaves the reader confused at best, feeling cheated at worst. Either way they are most likely to abandon your writing for someone else's.

My equation: the headline gives the what, the intro provides the why.

2. Highlight your message: every element of your content should contain your message, especially the intro, after all it's the reason you created the material in the first place. The added advantage of having it up front is your reader is exposed to your main point even if they ditch your content after 7 seconds – the accepted attention span of the average online user.

My message: introductions are important to readership; I can help you write them better.

3. Summarise: time-challenged readers want to be assured they are not wasting their time. The intro should summarise the content so the reader is confident it meets their purpose.

My summary: here is some concrete information on how to write a good introduction.

4. Indicate the format: part and parcel with my previous point, your intro should let your audience know how the information will be delivered. Is it pure information, a Q&A, list, infographic, personal story, testimonial, or tips and tricks.

My format: tips and tricks.

5. Stand out: you can have all the right elements in place but readers will still click away if you don't grab their attention.

My attention grabber: emotive wording "coaxing" and "pointless" followed with a promise – I can help you.

6. Keep it short: there are a lot of theories on the ideal intro length. My feeling is if you can't say what you need to in 40 words or less than your content probably rambles or lacks a clear purpose.

My word count: 34 words – I was trying for 32 (a hangover from my first editor).

7. Don't be scared to try again: I'm happy to confess that I rewrote the intro to this post four times before I was satisfied. It takes a lot of discipline to convey so much in so few words and still be interesting. I'll let you be the judge whether or not I succeeded.

Other Mich-communication posts on writing content:
First posted on Michelle Walkden's blog on January 10, 2012. Published here by kind permission of the author.

About Mich-communication
Whether it's a commentary on how communication is impacting or is being impacted by the world, suggestions on how to improve content, issues to avoid or an out and out rant, Mich-communication is here to challenge bad habits and encourage more relevant communication.
But why listen to me? Well there isn't a really good reason except that I am curious about everything to do with how we use words and images to interact with each other. If you are reading this, I assume you are to.
I've been communicating all my life, as have we all, but started making a living out of it when I was accepted for a journalism cadetship (apprenticeship at a newspaper) when I was 17. With the exception of a few years wandering the globe with my life in a backpack, and the occasional stint in restaurants or behind a bar waiting for communications work to come my way, I've been a writing, talking, teaching and preaching communication professionally ever since.
From 14 years in newspapers in Australia, covering everything from the local flower show and Christmas Day babies born in the back for cars, to triple murders and political corruption, I switched to corporate communication, first as a consultant then as an employee.

Contact Michelle: michellewalkden@yahoo.com.au

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