“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
No matter what type of writing you do—be it creative writing, content writing for your own webpage, or writing for academic purposes—you want to grab the attention of your reader and encourage them to stay with you for the entire piece. There are many tips and tricks you can follow to make your content more appealing; however, nothing does more to bring a reader into your world and encourage them to keep reading more than a well-written introductory sentence.
The line quoted above is one of the most famous opening lines ever, from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Even those who have never read the book are likely familiar with this introduction—and those who have, realize it is the ultimate introduction to Dickens’ penultimate tale of turmoil. While not every piece of writing is meant to have the same impact as a Dickens novel, choosing the right opening line is an art and a science that every writer can learn to improve. Each introductory sentence is different, and what works for one piece will not work for another. Because of this, some of these tips will run counter to each other. Keep in mind the ultimate goal of your piece and find which of these tips for writing a great opening sentence work best for you.
- Introduce – It’s called an introduction statement for a reason, after all. In your opening statement introduce something. It may be a main character, the land the piece is set in or the main topic that is discussed.
- Keep it simple – This is especially important for web content. A short, clean opening statement shows your readers that this is a piece of content that will be easy to read, simple to comprehend and above all, important to them.
- Shock and awe – In some cases it can be beneficial to shock your readers. If you can provide a shocking statistic or create a “word picture” that makes your readers want to keep reading, you are doing your job right.
- Set the tone – On the other hand, it is very important that the opening statement matches the tone of the rest of the article. If you start a very technical, boring document with a funny joke, or a humorous piece with a shocking, graphic opening line, your readers will be confused and likely lose interest soon after the opening.
Writing the perfect introductory statement takes practice. Do not be afraid to ask for advice from others or even hire a ghostwriter service to help you with your business writing. Remember—every book, article or blog post is only as strong as its leading statement!
Tracy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.