Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
Your blog post has its best chance for success when you write an opening paragraph that pulls in the reader. Notice I didn’t say opening paragraphs (plural.) I said opening paragraph (singular.)
Yep, just one.
And that first paragraph is a biggee. Because Rachel Reader has plenty of options, thanks to the online information overload. Your opening paragraph can lead her through the rest of the post.
On the plus side, she has made it past your headline. Now she’s into your content.
Do a good job here – in your opening paragraph – and there’s a better chance that Rachel will be among the 50% that stays with your piece to the end.
Your opening paragraph has a single goal: get to the point right away. Don’t take 3 paragraphs to do it.
You’ll use the rest of your post – the main body – to make your case for your point. But if you don’t capture your readers right away, then they won’t read the rest of your post. Make sure your opening paragraph makes your point.
Right now you’re thinking, Gee, no pressure. But don’t panic. Just take these steps to write an opening paragraph that snags Rachel Reader’s interest.
A post topic is broad. But you can write about a topic from innumerable angles or slants. A slant is a specific angle on that topic. Getting to the point in your first paragraph means you need a clear, narrow slant to your topic. Take time to get clarity.
Let’s look at an example. Say you work in the health and wellness space and you’re writing a post on menopause. That’s a big topic. What’s the slant you’ll take with your post?
You decide to write about menopause and depression, which drills down the topic a bit but is still too broad. So you focus further to managing depression during menopause using natural remedies. Again … that’s narrower, but still too big for one post. So you choose one of those remedies: vitamin D.
Now, you’ve got a slant for your post. Write a sentence summarizes your main idea and presents your position. You’ll use that a premise or thesis statement no matter how you structure your opening paragraph.
Your opening paragraph needs three elements: a hook, a transition, and your main point. That’s a lot to cram into one paragraph. There are plenty of ways to go about it. Here are two of my favorites.
State your main point – your premise, problem, or promise – outright in the first sentence. Then use a transition sentence followed by a story, statistic, or example as a hook, like this:
Vitamin D can relieve symptoms of depression during menopause [main point]. Just ask Janice [transition]. She noticed depression symptoms increasing when she turned 50 … [hook]
Now, you’re ready to move into the rest of your post to make your case.
Open with a story, interesting fact, catchy quote, or statistic. Then pivot with a transition and state your main point before launching into the rest of the post, like this:
Janice noticed her listlessness and low energy soon after her fiftieth birthday [hook].When her doctor diagnosed the symptoms as depression, together they worked out a treatment plan [transition]. It was then that Janice learned that vitamin D can relieve symptoms of depression during menopause … [main point]
Make sure your opening paragraph includes your main point – one with a narrow slant. And get to the point as soon as you can. Rachel Reader will thank you by continuing to read your content. And you increase the chances that she’ll stay with you until the end of your post … like you did with this one.
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