How to Write A Badass Opening to Your Blog Post

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  • Content Management, Favorites
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    Key Points

    • The introduction paragraph is the second most important thing in a blog post, and should be taken as seriously as a headline.
    • The better the "hook" you create, the more people will be interested in what the rest of your article has to say.
    • Opening with methods like humor, using metaphors and sharing shocking statistics are always effective.
    • Images, drop caps and even custom styling make opening paragraphs even more interesting to read.

    Summary

    The opening paragraph is one of the most important things to a post, and you need to be able to write one that truly kicks ass. The more you can tie it into the headline, the more effective it will be in keeping a user interested in your article.

    Close

by Alex

Would you believe me if I told you that the first few lines of an article are the most important? It’s not very hard to believe, as a good opening to any sort of writing is completely necessary if you want to gain a reader’s interest.

Keep in mind that the most important thing to grab somebody’s attention is not the opening paragraph(s), but the headline of your article. Your introductory paragraphs need to be compelling and interesting by all means, but they are only important if you can create a headline that gets people clicking.

Since I have talked plenty about creating amazing headlines before, I won’t talk about it here. What I want to go over now are the best ways to open a blog post; the second most important thing in writing. Just like a headline, the way you open your post can be the factor that determines whether or not someone will read your post or leave it. And if you were lucky enough to get a person to click your headline, you better know how to keep them reading.

Creating the “Hook”

Creating the “hook” (or “creative lead“) is a bulletproof way to grab anyone’s interest. The hook you come up with needs to be short, but very interesting. Just read around any blog with a persuasive writer behind it, and you will find a very enticing opening to just about any article on their blog.

Grabbing an interest in one sentence (that’s generally how long a hook should be) can be either very easy or very difficult. Sometimes, the sentence will just come naturally and will be no problem to write. But other times, it will be very difficult to write. It’s important that your hook is the best it can be, so don’t think of it as a waste of time spending 15 to 20 minutes on it.

The best hooks are short and simple, and can immediately capture anyone’s interest. There are some great methods of making your hooks very effective, and can make coming up with one very simple:

  • Start with a surprising fact or statistic: It’s amazing how powerful this is. The more interesting the information you have, the more interested people will become, right? What works better than amazing a reader with a shocking statistic? Example: Every 10-13 seconds, someone gets divorced.
  • Open with a quotation: If you can open an article with the words of an authority figure, or just a very powerful and meaningful quote, you will find that more and more people will develop an interest in your article. Example: “Happiness depends on ourselves” — Aristotle
  • Ask a question: This works in headlines, so why couldn’t it work for an introductory paragraph? Try to ask a question that may not be able to be answered unless your article is read, or just ask something that relates very closely to the headline of your article. Example: Do you know what the most important thing in a blog post is?
  • Speak metaphorically: Metaphors are very powerful literary devices, and are very thought-provoking. If you can pick a good enough metaphor that relates to your headline, you are bound to get people thinking and reading. Example: Life is a dream
  • Be humorous: What’s a better way to connect with someone who’s being funny? If you can make someone laugh, or even smirk once – they will most likely keep reading your article so you can make them do it again. Example: Statistics have shown that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25.

Formatting

Have you ever thought about the formatting of your first paragraph? There are actually a few ways you can really spice the look up of your introduction to make it look more aesthetically pleasing. The better you can make something look, the better the chance of you grabbing someone’s attention will be.

1. Drop cap

There is a drop cap used in every post here, and it looks really nice. It’s a simple little technique, and is very popular with newspapers and magazines, but works with blogging no problem. Want to create a drop cap for yourself? You just need a little code:

  1. Firstly, wrap this tag around the first letter in your content: <span class="drop_cap">H</span>
  2. Add this to your CSS (values may need adjusting):


    .drop_cap { float: left; font-size: 3em; margin: 0 0.5em 0.5em 0; }

And just like that, you can have a cool looking drop cap at the beginning of all your blog posts with little effort to style.

Opening paragraph custom font styles

The difference between the opening text & body text

2. Special font style

Have you ever thought how changing the font attributes would have an impact on the look of your opening paragraph? By that I mean, changing the font family, changing the color, or even changing the style. Take UXBooth for example. Their body text has the following font attributes:

  • Font: Verdana
  • Size: 12px
  • Color: #3D3F40
  • Style: Normal

But if you take a look at their opening paragraph alone, they have the following font attributes:

  • Font: Georgia
  • Size: 15px
  • Color: #656565
  • Style: Italic

Do you think these changes have any impact on the effectiveness of the opening paragraph?

3. Images

You hear it time and time again, but it’s very important nonetheless. An image can really make a headline “pop” and stand out, just as it can help your opening paragraph. The more you can relate an image to your opening paragraph, the more a reader will understand the main idea of your article. Even look for an image that uses one of the “hook” techniques I mentioned above – humorous, metaphors, shocking, etc.

How serious do you take your introduction?

The opening paragraph is one of the most important things to a post, and you need to be able to write one that truly kicks ass. The more you can tie it into the headline, the more effective it will be in keeping a user interested in your article.

What tips could you share that will make the introduction to an article much better? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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Auto TFT Monitore March 22, 2010 at 1:50 am

I liked the way you write all your blogs. Keep it up.
.-= Auto TFT Monitore ´s last blog ..Rückfahrsystem 7" TFT Auto Monitor im Rückspiegel =-.

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Dev | Technshare March 22, 2010 at 1:57 am

That’s an awesome advice alex, creating the hook. I think question headline must do more than simply writing “10 ways to promote your blog”.
And here is the Drop Caps plugin !:)!
.-= Dev | Technshare´s last blog ..A Video Marketing Blueprint That Will Knock Your Socks Off =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Why install a whole new plugin when you can achieve it with just a tiny bit of CSS and an extra HTML tag?

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Adrienne March 22, 2010 at 3:04 am

I never noticed the drop case before. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
I like the use of pictures. Especially if it’s a long post.
.-= Adrienne´s last blog ..Berries and Walnut Crusted Salmon =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Some people notice it, others don’t. As long as you read the article, that’s all that matters!

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Auto TFT Monitore March 22, 2010 at 3:36 am

It’s really very informative and useful post.thanks for sharing this useful information with us.keep blogging. Looking forward to reading your nest post. Thanks a lot.

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Ajay March 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

Great tips for writing opening paragraphs. I especially like the drop cap and I believe that a humorous opening paragraph works the best. Perhaps another way of starting would be to state something controversial and then back it up. Of course, the content of the blog must support this. All in all, a slightly humorous start is probably the best.

While I accept the importance of an opening paragraph, I believe that it’s importance has been exaggerated. Personally, I concentrate more on the middle of blog and not so much on the headline and first couple of sentences because I think that people don’t judge something based on the first sentence. A catchy headline is cool, but it isn’t necessary. A bad headline would be a 100% non-defective method to make readers cringe. But this is probably more a matter of taste and personal abilities. What would be your thoughts Alex?

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Honestly, if I can read something and even smile a little bit, I’ll keep reading it. For that reason, I think humor is one of the best ways to open for sure.

Ajay, the middle (or “the meat”) of the content is important. Really, every word you write should be important. But the headline and opening paragraph are always the most important no matter what!

Let me ask you: what draws a person to a post initially? The way you advertise an article is through the headline. You wouldn’t post an excerpt of the post on Twitter, you’d post the headline because it acts as a summary for the entire post. And trust me here Ajay, people will judge something off a headline or opening paragraph.

The opening paragraph should really reinforce the headline, and lead in to the middle of the content. It needs to act as assurance to the reader that the headline didn’t lie, and that what they thought they came to the article for is actually there.

Let me know your thoughts Ajay! I think it’s actually really interesting to hear a perspective like yours as I have never heard anyone worry less about their headline and opening paragraphs before. :D

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D. Lambert March 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

FYI, I read your article via RSS, and the drop cap you mentioned didn’t appear in RSS. I’ve had this problem with other formatting, and learned that stylesheets aren’t recognized by feed readers.

After struggling with this a bit trying to do a callout box on my blog, I ended up writing a plugin to do this for me. I understand that CSS is a more elegant solution to the problem, but this technique allows my callout boxes to be readable in RSS. You can read more about the plugin here:

http://componentoriented.com/content-management/wordpress/insert-callout/
.-= D. Lambert´s last blog ..A feature greater than the sum of its bugs =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Yeah, that’s the only problem with RSS readers, they don’t show the added formatting you include in articles.

I personally wouldn’t go as far as installing a plugin to make a drop cap appear in the RSS. I already know my RSS readers are my best readers and will read whatever I write, so I don’t worry too much about little things like that. :D

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D. Lambert March 27, 2010 at 8:21 am

Sure, I don’t know that I’d have gone to the trouble for a drop cap, either, but in my case, having a callout turn into a random paragraph stuffed in the middle of a post was a little awkward.

In any event, I think it’s worth keeping in mind that formatting tricks that look great on your web site might not end up looking so hot for subscribers.

Thanks for the great article.
.-= D. Lambert´s last blog ..A feature greater than the sum of its bugs =-.

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Zack March 22, 2010 at 10:10 am

Great post Alex. I especially like the tip of opening with a surprising fact or statistic. Seems like that would really work, have to try it.
Attention spans are so short for web surfers these days, it really is important to grab attention with headlines and hooks.
.-= Zack´s last blog ..Are you a Smart Marketer? =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Keep it simple, that’s really the best thing you can do. Share that shocking statistic and move on. It’s just that easy (usually).

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Elena March 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

The drop cap looks nice. I might want to try it some time. And the tips are quite useful too. I’ll definitely pay more attention to opening paragraphs from now on!
.-= Elena´s last blog ..Kremlin Pill Promises Eternal Youth By Zapping Your Guts =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Good Elena, I’m glad you learned something from this article. :)

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Gautam Hans @ Blog Godown March 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I agree starting with a statistic can really help. I usually give a brief scenario or a question to start a blog post and the i relate it to the main idea behind the blog post.
.-= Gautam Hans @ Blog Godown´s last blog ..How to Become a Blogging Idol =-.

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Nick Tart March 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Hey Alex! I agree that after the headline, the opening paragraph or two is critical to convincing someone to read the rest. The formula I use is three-tiered:

1. I establish rapport with an agreeable opening. Something the reader can say, “yes, that’s also what I think.”
2. Set up a need. Tell them why they need to continue reading.
3. Prime them with a promise. Promise them that by reading the article “this” is what they’ll find out.

It’s hard to stick to the formula, but I try to.
.-= Nick Tart´s last blog ..Fresh Funding Advice from Venture Capitalist, Mouli Cohen =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

That does sound tough man, how long does it usually take you to do all of that?

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Nick Tart March 27, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Depending on the post, it usually only takes a few minutes. The basic premise is that you have to answer the question, “Why should I spend 5 minutes to read this?” If your intro doesn’t answer that, then they’ll probably go elsewhere.

By the way, I need to give credit to Copyblogger for the formula ;) . I meant to in the original comment, but there was a sudden distraction.
.-= Nick Tart´s last blog ..Interview: Jacob Cass, 12-Time Award Winning Designer =-.

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Richard Scott | Jewelry Secrets March 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I take it that image is your vision of a badass? ;)

Gotta have a great headline. Yes!
I like the use of hooks as well. But if I started reading a quote I would quickly bypass the blog, or skip ahead. I get bored with quotes. That’s half of what people tweet and it gets annoying. I would also cringe on a metaphor. The humor, facts or statistics would work great, but I like the idea of a question the best. Peak their interest right off the bat. Get them thinking. I’ll have to try more of them. And yes, I fully believe in the use of images. A good image can easily hook the reader and explain your blog so much better.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm

When I saw the glasses and expression, I just had to use it. Plus, the guy is kind of nerdy looking, so it tied in perfectly to us bloggers. Basically, you take a blogger and sunglasses, and you have that picture almost exact. :D

You really don’t like quotes? What if it was a funny quote, or a quote with a crazy statistic in it? It would be better then, right?

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Patrick@business debt collection agency March 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Hi Alex. That is a nice blog post. Your writing style is very simple and to the point which I think is important for grabbing people’s attention. There are so many things pulling for our attention these days, and the more to the point a writer can be the better chance of “hooking” that person in.

Keep up the good work!

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Inside the Webb March 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I focus on images a lot on my blog. Making sure there’s an image there to attract the reader’s eyes and ease them into the text is very important
.-= Inside the Webb´s last blog ..Mixx Partners with Marketfish for New Ad Platform =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I spend more time than I need to on images sometimes, but I think it pays off. I know a lot of people like the images I find.

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Kok Siong Chen March 23, 2010 at 2:33 am

I prefer to use a question for the headline. I know i have just one chance to grab people’ attention. Therefore, i will put the critical point for this article as headline.
.-= Kok Siong Chen´s last blog ..Anti-angiogenic Therapy to Treat Cancer =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I love asking questions in headlines, but you can’t do it all of the time. So, what other methods do you use?

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Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 23, 2010 at 2:47 am

These are great tips! I try to open a post with either a scripture, a question, or a great saying to get my readers attention. I did that because I saw other great bloggers doing it but I didn’t know the theory behind it. It’s good to know I was on the right track.

Great post
Jarrod
.-= Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey´s last blog ..Got Validation? =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm

That sounds smart Jarrod, how do you think opening like that has worked out for you?

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Dennis Edell March 23, 2010 at 8:49 am

Great hook tips Alex, questions work real well as does humor.

A word of caution regarding font changes – as Alex pointed out; first paragraphs only!

Far too often I see bloggers, usually newbies, getting way to overzealous thinking it looks real cool to have a different font for every paragraph…..this will only irritate, don’t do it. ;)
.-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..Would You Like a FREE Banner Ad Position? =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:55 pm

What is it they say…? No more than 3 fonts on a design? 4? Some number like that, but I hate seeing an abundance of fonts in a design….and your content just isn’t the place to be messing around with things like that.

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Tony March 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm

“Statistics have shown that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25.” -Hilarious! I should put that in my next post just for the hell of it. :)

Hmm… interesting observation about how UX Booth styles their first paragraphs differently. I think that I noticed that in some magazines before.

Instead of adding the span class for dropcaps manually, isn’t possible to use something like the :firstletter pseudoclass so everything is automated?
.-= Tony´s last blog ..5 Solutions to Common WordPress Problems =-.

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Alex March 26, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I thought it was pretty funny. I actually got it out of this little calendar I have on my desk. Every day, there’s another stupid quote on it. :D Today’s was:

Warning: Do not use heat gun as a hair dryer

So inspiring. :D

And the drop caps, yes, you can do that. But, it won’t work in IE6ish as most pseudo classes don’t work in that horrid browser anyways.

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Web Hosting UK March 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

Great post, that is why many bloggers don’t get much response to their article because many people dropped out of reading their article because the “1st paragraph” wasn’t too convincing for them…

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Reza Winandar March 26, 2010 at 12:06 am

“Start with a surprising fact or statistic”

I think this is the most easy way, just add some interesting or werid fact and your readers will be satisfied.

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Julie - Fine Tooth Comb April 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

A great article, Alex! I especially agree with your point about using an appropriate, vivid image at the beginning of each blog post. I use Flickr’s Creative Commons images in many of my posts. I also find that when I share my posts via my Facebook fan page, my readers are more prone to click on those links if the picture intrigues/attracts them.

Love your writing style. Keep up the great work!

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Holly October 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Fantastic article! I love the bit about using different font styling! I always notice that!

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