How to write an introduction that captures your readers’ attention

By Brittany Taylor

How to write an introduction that captures your readers' attention

Dec. 19, 2015 

I used to bomb introductions. I did it constantly. During my school days, red ink went flying just a few sentences in. Having to write an introduction made me want to string my composition paper up on a pole and beg for mercy.

I like to think they’ve gotten better since then, but I’ll admit it: Sometimes, my first attempts still fall flat. Unlike my teenage self, I know it and (importantly!) I don’t just shrug my shoulders and hit “send” anyway.

While it would certainly be easier to give up and hope my readers will skip to the next paragraph—you know, the one after that ride through “what is she thinking?” land—I know most of you don’t have that much time on your hands. And I know when it comes to considering your own audience, you’re savvy to that observation, too.

But when you have a rough-'n'-tumble beginning, how do you write an introduction that magnetizes your audience and gets them to dig in and read the darn thing? It’s all about the hook.

What's a hook?

A hook is something that makes your article stand out. The first sentence must grab the reader. And the second sentence has to reel her in. And the third sentence? Well, it has to push her back in her chair and keep her eyes glued to the screen. That’s a lot of work for a pile of words to do, which is why introductions—and the hooks that urge you to keep reading—can be challenging to craft well.

Hooks can be anything: surprising statistics, counter-intuitive opinions, oddball quotes, or interesting anecdotes. If you have a photo that obviously requires an explanation, even that can capture your reader’s attention.

Are your introductions effective? 3 ways to find out

Ask someone honest

Hand over a first paragraph and ask your person if she's curious about the rest of the post. Hint: Your person is not your mom. It's the BFF who tells you your new haircut sucks.

Check time-on-page

If you have Google Analytics set up, you can check how long visitors spend on each of your posts. Three minutes for a short post is a solid goal.

Try heat mapping

A heat map, when activated, sits on top of your website and color codes different sections depending upon where users spend most of their time. Try a plugin like SumoMe.

Troubleshoot your introduction

Here are three questions to ask yourself about your writing, whether you’re staring at a rough draft or getting ready to write one:

  • Why is this information my readers need to know now?
  • What makes me passionate about this subject?
  • What would surprise my audience about this topic?

Your answers to these questions are the perfect basis for writing an introduction that does its job.

Find yourself with a bunch of different places to start? Pick the one that is the most eye-popping. Maybe it's contrary to popular opinion. Maybe it's a chunk of data that is just barely believable. Maybe it's a quote that hits people over the head with its rough language or on-point descriptions or hard truth.​

And if that doesn't work? Move on down the list. Writing an introduction is a tough job, boss. A couple quick sentences might be serviceable, but you can almost always do better. The more you practice, the better (and faster) your intro-writing will become.

My advice: Earmark time just for honing your introductions. When you check your website traffic statistics, go through each post, highlight a handful of under-performing ones. Then, go into each post and see what you can do differently in the introductions to capture your readers' attention. Experiment. Try something new and different, something you haven't seen other bloggers do. Be a little bit daring. Hey, you can always change it later.​

One more thing you need to know

Sometimes, you need to get the bad, boring stuff out of your head before the good stuff begins to flow. Don’t be afraid to be boring at first. Just because you start that way doesn’t mean you have to publish that way.

And you know what? I killed half of the introduction to this piece while I was editing. Why? It was 100 words too long and I’d already made my point. Brevity is your friend, even if it hurts to hit delete.

Psst! Wanna level up your blog game?

Dude, that's what I'm here for. I thought you might be all, "duh, of course I do," so I went ahead and pulled together a few other posts to get you moving in the right direction:

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