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.
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:
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 other piece.”
3. Fine-tune your opening line.