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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Power of the Opening Paragraph | Hesham Zebida, Social Media Today

If you don’t captivate your audience and draw them in within the first 100 words or so, it’s likely that they won’t bother to finish your blog post or article regardless of how amazing or well-researched it may be. With so much on the line, a lead paragraph should be planned out carefully before one even begins.
I don't know if the fact about the "first 100 words" in Zebida's statement is accurate, research-wise. But I do know that the message in his article is right on.

It's common sense, for one thing. Our readers have many interests and concerns, and they're constantly looking for information that meets their particular interests and concerns. Thus, it's essential that any blog post or article make its main point immediately--in the opening paragraphs. Doing that will grab the attention of readers with that particular interest and concern.

Zebida writes:
The main thesis of your article should be more or less summarized in the title and first sentence. From there, you’ll need to use the rest of the first paragraph to expand on your central idea and clarify it.
But then he adds this "warning":
No matter what happens, don’t give your audience a reason to stop reading after the first sentence and paragraph. In other words, don’t give away the game before you've gotten started. Your first paragraph should set the table, so to speak, without serving up the whole buffet. Just make sure that your teaser ultimately delivers on its promise.
He also emphasizes that writers know their audiences  because that understanding can influence how they write the opening paragraphs. He writes:
Some articles and audiences demand that you jump right into the topic at hand. Other types of writing are better suited to a softer, “warm-up” paragraph that eases the transition into weightier subject matter. Matching your tone with your audience is tricky, but well worth putting some effort into.
For more related advice, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide, especially these two sections:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas.
Zebida's article is featured today, Oct. 30, in my daily paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications--available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription. 

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