Quality Opening Paragraph: Every Great Headline Needs One
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You have approximately two to three seconds to grab your readers’ attention before they click away from your page. In those two seconds they’re going to scan the title and your opening paragraph. Every great headline needs an even better opening paragrpah or your blog is doomed to die a slow, painful death, and your high hopes for success right along with it.
One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three… That’s three seconds. If your blog were a bomb you’d want to set the timer for only three seconds. And by the time that timer ticks down to zero your blog needs to explode with energy, vitality and engaging content that sucks your reader right into the page.
Your headline should be informative and attention-grabbing. It should let the reader know how he’s going to benefit when he reads your article. That’s what brings the reader to your blog. But it’s your opening paragraph that convinces his to stay on the page.
Regardless of what type of delivery you choose to use – humor, personal experience, or professorial – your first paragraph needs to tell the reader, in three sentences or less, what you’re going to tell him in your article. For example, in my opening paragraph for this article you can see that I’m going to tell you what it takes to write a good opening paragraph and what happens if you don’t.
I like to use a question in my opening paragraph sometimes. It makes the reader stop and think. For example, “Everybody says you have to have a great opening paragraph, but what if you’re not an award-winning writer? Are you doomed to fail?”
I never intentionally use humor. Unless you’re a professional comedy writer it’s very difficult to write humor that “reads” funny and more often than not you just sound forced and frozen. But if you have a good, funny, personal anecdote to share that you think will grab your readers’ attention, then go for it and introduce it in your opening paragraph.
It’s also important to remember that a lot of the people who come to your blog are first time visitors. They don’t know you’ve talked about this topic before. They don’t know that this particular blog post is the third in a series. Always assume that the reader has no idea what you’re talking about when you write your opening paragraph. But make sure that by the time they get to the end of it they do.
Some bloggers think they have to tell the whole story in that first paragraph but really, what you’re going for is to grab the readers attention so they want to read more. A lot of readers only scan the first line of each paragraph so if you put everything into that one, first paragraph, they’re going to skip over all the good parts.
The key is to keep that opening paragraph short but engaging. One of the best openers I’ve ever read was written by Stephen King: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That’s it. But you know who the key characters are, you know what they’re doing, and you’re already drawn into the story because you want to see what happens next.