Many writers lose their readers right away with one glaring misstep: a lifeless first sentence.
Without a WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) element or something striking to pique their interest, readers will bail out for something else—anything else.
The first sentence, or “lede,” must drive the reader onward—often by asking a pertinent question, posing a problem to be solved, or offering a quirky take on a current trend or issue.
Here are seven steps for grabbing readers’ attention—and then delivering the goods and following up with a cogent directive:
1. Start with power.
Pounce on your focus right away—your insight, not something borrowed from another source. Keep your lede concise. Avoid old news; save supporting research and context for later.
Some weak ledes stem from the author’s timidity about making an assertion. Instead, he or she opts to draw on gravitas from an outside authority or provide context from years past.
Instead, be that authority yourself, and keep your initial offering fresh.
2. Avoid these terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ledes:
I just finished reading a book about… Back in 1993… In previous blog posts I discussed… Whenever I conduct a presentation… It used to be that… Les Izmoore’s latest article asserts… In the early days of Twitter…
What makes them bad? There’s no news, no insight, no hook to grab the target audience. They make dated references or cite outside sources.
“Heck,” the reader figures, “there’s nothing new here. I should just go read that otherpiece.”
3. Fine-tune your