Did you know that 88% of statistics are made up? That cats are the secret overlords of the web and the pugs are trying to takeover? No? Okay, the statistics in the headline and the first sentence were clearly made up to get your attention. Now that I have it, shall we talk about opening a blog post and creating a powerful paragraph that hooks readers in?
How to write your opening paragraph so that it gets read - no trickery involved.
My daughters are fans of the Sound of Music, they listen to it everyday, singing along. In one of the songs Julie Andrews sings “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you start with A-B-C”.. you know the song? Opening or starting your blog post with a story to illustrate the point is a great place to begin. I opened this paragraph with a story example. In the next paragraph I’d tie in how the story relates to my ideal customer and include the first in a series of really useful tidbits to lead them down the post until they reach my call to action. Stories make great opening paragraphs to blog posts but they are not the only way.
Another way to open your blog post is to
Ask a question with the intent to engage your target audience.
“Have you ever noticed that some bloggers just jump straight in with the facts and figures? Why do they do that? “Isn’t it frustrating when…” Readers that experience the same as you feel a connection with you and are more likely to comment and share – after all you understand them. You can make this type of opening paragraph short and sweet or expand it with a thought-provoking quote. Quotes (like the statistics but use real ones please) add an element of interest and credibility to your blog post. Remember to attribute the quotes correctly and if you have the time add them to a beautiful image to make them pinnable.
Experiment with the question on an image.
Yes, that’s a start the post with an image and see what happens. It’s not a frequent occurrence here on this blog, but I do open the occasional post with an image just to spice things up a little. Yesterday’s post was opened with an quote around writing time from Peter de Vries. It was perfectly matched for the post and a nice opener. Last week’s post about experts that don’t use the terminology correctly also opened with a great image. Every now and then an image makes a great opening.
Paint a picture in the reader’s mind.
Paint a colourful scene with words, be descriptive and make your reader feel like she’s there with you. Let’s make the reader by part of our morning routine at Chez Arrow:
The alarm is buzzing but nobody is stirring. The sun streams through the curtain onto the sleeping faces and in some part of the house a cat yawns and stretches. Dad wakes with a start, we’ve all overslept and although the day is warm, all the rushing around getting ready for school makes everyone is grouchy. They’d much rather be in bed sleeping still.
When you you open with a powerful visual paragraph you must remember the point is to get the reader to continue to read to the next paragraph. Blog posts with this kind of visual opening can also be closed with it. It helps tie everything in the post together and make it flow better. This type of open and close can be tricky, so expect to write a good number of them before they “click” and read naturally.
Start with a bold statement or claim.
Get it out there! I opened with a made up statistic, how’s that for boldness? A claim was made in my headline, but they work equally well in the opening paragraph of your blog post. Would you read this bold opening paragraph?
“In my 9 years of blogging, I’ve come to the conclusion that most bloggers just don’t get it and are, in fact, endangering the businesses of their readers.”
Bold claims must be backed up with some evidence, they can’t be mere random thoughts pulled from your mind. Attributing and listing your research makes your post more credible and if you misquote or make an inaccurate assessment based on the data then at least you know where the information came from. Dave Munger has some great advice when it comes to a research post here.
If all else fails…
Study other articles in online and offline publications see how some of the most shared blog posts are opened and create a swipe file of the better ones so you can model their openers. That’s model not copy word for word. See what techniques other writers are using to get attention in with their opening paragraph and see if it can be adapted for your niche.
Over to you – what works best for you when opening your blog posts?