By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning content writer and author who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
Ever get stuck on writing the article introduction — or the introduction to a blog post, essay, letter, or any piece of content?
You already know that a good introduction — or “hook” or “lede” or “lead” — entices readers to keep reading your piece. Since the average user reads only 20% of the text on the average page, you need to capture their interest quickly. Otherwise, your snoozer intro will add your article to the growing pile of Unread Content when readers click off.
If that’s not enough to heighten your introduction-writing nerves, then there’s the issue of the intro’s length. An introduction, insist academics, should make up just 10% of your article’s total word count. For example, if your article is 1,000 words, then your intro should clock in at 100 words. That means you need to write tight get to the point right out of the gate and get into the meat of your message ASAP.
But I’ve got some good news. It comes as a simple writing formula for how to start an article. This helpful little template can act like a personal article introduction generator. In fact, I used it to write the introduction to this post.
The writing template saves time. Plus, when I use this simple writing formula, I write a better article introduction. You can too.
Article Introduction = Problem + Solution + Transition (PST)
That’s it. Using the PST writing formula, an article introduction has just three components:
Let’s look at each one.
Readers search for articles or read books or scroll through blog posts to solve their problems. Maybe they want a simple set of steps to bake the perfect lemon tart. Maybe they’ve hit a snag or obstacle or a dilemma in parenting their preteens. Maybe they’re looking for answers about the latest skirmish in the Middle East or maybe they want an entertaining escape for 15 minutes before bedtime.
When Roger Reader’s “problem” takes center stage in your article introduction, he is enticed to keep reading. You’ve hit a pain point. You can present the problem in different ways: as an anecdote … with a statistic … in a provocative quote … with a piece of news or in a descriptive scene or as a question. But no matter what technique you use as you craft those very first words of your introduction, make sure you address Roger’s issue.
For instance, you can open with a question like, “Ever get stuck on writing the article introduction?” Clearly, this is a challenge that writers like Roger face. Writers like you, too, since you continued to read this article to this point.
Roger Reader perked up when you addressed his conundrum, but he is not interested in staying in his zone of discomfort for long. But before he reads further, Roger wants to know that you have a way to solve his problem. He needs a solution.
Tell him — flat out, in your introduction — that you have an answer to his conundrum. Otherwise, Roger will skim quickly to see if you tackle his pain point or give up altogether, flee your site, and look for help elsewhere.
You don’t need to explain your solution in detail in the introduction. In fact, that’s a function of the body of your article. But here, right at the top, tell Roger Reader that he can find a useful answer if he continues to read.
Peek back to the introduction to the article you’re reading right now. The problem? We writers can get easily stuck on writing an introduction.
But then you read, “I’ve got some good news. It comes as a simple writing formula for how to start an article. This helpful template can act like a personal article introduction generator.”
There’s a solution that may help you. So you kept reading.
Your transition links your article introduction to the main body of your piece. Don’t waste a lot of writing real estate here. A transition can be a single word, a short phrase, or a sentence. Use the transition to state that you’re about to spill the “solution” beans in detail. Try phrases like …
I used that last version in the introduction to this article, like this:
“When I use this simple writing formula, I write a better article introduction. You can too.”
The PST formula (Problem — Solution — Transition) for writing an article introduction is similar to a well-regarded copywriting formula: Before-After-Bridge, used by leaders in sales copy and social media copywriting because it’s so persuasive. It goes like this:
The same approach works for writing an introduction.
Try the PST writing formula. You’ll write your article introduction faster. Plus, you’ll persuade your reader to keep reading. It worked for me, didn’t it? You’ve read the introduction of this article to the end of the piece.
More Article Writing Tips
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Named to 2022 Writer's Digest list
BEST GENRE/NICHE WRITING WEBSITE
Grab your exclusive FREE guide, "5 Simple Writing Tips You Can Put to Use in 10 Minutes or Less"