Five Tips for Writing a Great Intro
Sometimes the first paragraph in an article is the hardest to get right. OSP shares five tips for starting strong and writing a great intro.
A common plea from participants in our Writer Enablement Workshops begins, “When I sit down to write a blog post, I know what I want to say, but then I end up staring at the screen with no idea how to begin—how are you supposed to do it?” We feel their pain—intros are hard!
A great introductory paragraph addresses its target audience (either directly or implicitly) and “points the camera” in the right direction for the rest of the piece so that readers can preview what’s coming. Here we share five tips from writers at OSP on how to get your articles and blog posts started.
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1. Clear your throat, then delete
You don’t have to write a perfect intro on your first try—the delete button exists for a reason! That’s why we recommend ‘clearing your throat’: write down more than necessary, get everything out of your system, and make sure all the context for the article is on the page.
Afterward, you can comb through each sentence and ask yourself:
- Can I reasonably expect my audience to know this already?
- Is this relevant to my article?
- Does this bit belong in a different section?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, hit the delete button. (Or copy and paste the text to the bottom of the page, if that suits your nerves better.). You’ll find your intro gets better and better through iteration.
2. Point the camera where you want your audience to look
Our writers at OSP frequently have a lot of information swirling around their heads, plus pages full of interesting quotes from our subject-matter experts. The hard part is deciding where to ‘point the camera’ and focus.
We recommend you:
- Directly reference your readers’ pain points and empathize with their needs.
- Adjust the writing’s technical level to the right settings for your reader (for example, if your readers aren’t well-versed in security software, you may need to explain what multifactor authentication means)
- Focus on what your readers care about and make sure you’re answering their implicit question, “what’s in it for me?” — WIIFM in our editing codes
3. Play around with ordering
“Saving the best for later” is a common pitfall among newer writers. Often we’ll see people begin with the background information, then put the real ‘lead’ with enticing details in the second or third paragraph. Try swapping the ordering of your paragraphs around to hook your readers from the get-go. “Lead” is also spelled ‘lede,’ as in “Don’t bury, the lede!”
Also, remember that whatever you bring up first will have to be addressed (either directly or indirectly) later on in the piece. An intro can help bring order and create a shape for the post. Conclusions can open up the topic introduced in the article (“zoom-out” the camera) or close the metaphorical circle.
4. Tell a short story
Readers naturally respond to stories, so sharing a quick anecdote can provide a welcome entry point for a wide range of people. Share a true story related to your blog post, or describe a user scenario that gets your readers thinking (e.g., “You sit down to write an intro. You have a steaming cup of tea, your keyboard is free of crumbs, and the cursor is blinking on your screen. What to do now?”).
5. Save the first for last
An intro is (by definition) the first paragraph, but there’s no rule that you have to write it first. So long as you have a clear thesis, you can begin by writing the body of the article. Once you’ve nailed down the supporting points, you might have a clearer idea of what you want to say in the introduction—so feel free to leave it until the end.
How we can help you?
Want to make your blog posts and case studies sing? OSP has experience in creating compelling, targeted communications for our clients. Contact us for a chat today!
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Image credits: Mirror selfies by Noémi Macavei-Katócz, Green red bar and letters photo by Jingxi Lau, X key and keyboard Photo by Sam Pak, figurine lineup by Markus Spiske, scribble list photo by Brett Jordan.
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