Messing up the intro is like working hard to build a house from the ground up and then forgetting to leave an opening for the door. People won’t be able to come in and see how nice it is inside. Unless of course they skip formalities and jump through the window, which most of the time they won’t bother to do.
Whether people will read your writing or not depends a great deal on the intro. That’s why you can’t afford to mess it up.
But what messes up an intro? Here are some of the usual culprits.
- Digressions from the main topic – Intros are usually not the right place for you to express your personal opinions about the topic, unless we’re talking about a first-person, personal blog post.
- Winding sentences – Longer sentences in the intro can arouse curiosity, but they are harder to get right. It’s better to stay safe and start your article with short, easy-to-digest sentences.
- Making it too long – The best intros are usually short and to the point. For most articles, that means no more than a brief paragraph of three to four sentences.
- Stretching it out – When writing about an unfamiliar topic, you have to resist the temptation to stretch the intro just to beef up the word count. Fluff or filler content in the intro can pretty much ruin the whole piece.
- Using jargon – The intro usually doesn’t give you enough space to explain jargon, which is why it’s better to leave it out.
- Being cold – Just because you’re using the third person doesn’t mean the intro has to read like an excerpt from a corporate business page. A warm intro is more likely to get people interested in the piece.
- Making it cliche – Everyone knows that driving a car with damaged brakes is dangerous, or that some foods are healthier than others. So, why repeat it? The intro isn’t the place for such cliches. In fact, no part of the article or post is.
- Explaining too much – The intro is supposed to persuade readers to read the rest of the article, not to give the whole topic away. Don’t use intros to explain more than the reason behind your article or post.
- Using links – It’s best to avoid links in the intro as you don’t want people to click their attention away from your writing. There are some exceptions to this, like posts in a series, or content that’s a reaction to other content. But even so, there are better places for links.
How to Write a Good Introduction
There is no simple formula for writing a good introduction. Some intros work because they instantly connect with the reader. Take this example from HubSpot’s Amanda Zantal-Wiener:
“Blink. Blink. Blink. It’s the dreaded cursor-on-a-blank-screen experience that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.”
I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can’t you just dive in and write it? Why all the pomp and circumstance with this dag-blasted introduction?
Here’s the thing — intros don’t have to be long. In fact, we prefer them to be quite quick. They also don’t have to be so difficult, but they do have to exist. They prepare the reader and provide context for the content he or she is about to read.”
Other intros arouse our curiosity. This one from Healthline’s Whitney Akers certainly does:
“If you wonder if you’re attached to your phone, here’s a three-minute exercise that’ll give you the answer.
Set it down, then walk across the room. Now meditate, breathe deeply, or talk to a friend for a few minutes — whatever will keep you present. Now slowly walk back to your desk. What happens?
When I tried this exercise, my heartbeat quickened as the anticipation and excitement grew. I couldn’t wait to hold my precious smartphone in hand, check for new texts and emails, and scroll through my updated Instagram and Facebook feeds.
Dr. Robert H. Lustig would likely classify my smartphone swooning as addiction or, in scientific terms, too much dopamine and not enough serotonin.”
There are many other types of intros that we could quote here, but then these two are just enough for us to figure out what makes an intro work. While they use different approaches, they have a few important things in common:
- Both attract our attention after just a few words. They speak straight to us.
- They use a warm tone. They don’t sound pedantic or pretentious. They are personal and touch upon our problems in a nice and friendly way. The tone itself is enough to invite us to read on.
- They hint at what the post is about, setting the stage for the content that’s to come. However, they don’t give everything away. They certainly don’t try to sum up all the info that’s about to follow.
- They are both short considering that the first article is almost 2,000 words long and the second well over 1,000. As a rule, good intros are short and to the point. If we scale down things to a 500-word article, then your intro should be only three or four sentences long.
- They don’t veer off topic. While they don’t jump straight to the meat of the article, they stay focused. Sentences follow one another smoothly and logically.
Article Writing Tips
Writing a good intro becomes a lot easier if you keep it short and to the point, focus on your topic, and use a warm, friendly, even conversational tone. Some content may call for a particular kind of introduction, but in general, these suggestions hold true for all web content.
Still not sure how to start an article? The important thing is to start writing and not worry too much about the introduction. You may not get the intro right from the first sentence, but then you don’t have to.
You can always write the intro at the end. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it can be liberating.
That’s because writing a good intro becomes a lot easier once you understand the topic well. Even if you do your research and outline your article, getting the intro right can still be challenging. It’s better to let the tone of the piece dictate the intro, hence the advantage of leaving it last.
Finally, writing a good intro takes practice. Most of the time, you have to try out different angles and polish your intro a bit before it’s ready to go.
Since the intro is often the most important part of an article, always go back to it one more time to make it shine.
Read the intro aloud. Does it sound awkward or clumsy? Does it seem long? Cut it down. Break it into fewer sentences. Trim it. If that doesn’t work, reword it.
Remember that you don’t have to give everything away in the intro. You only have to set the stage for what’s to come.
Writing a good intro may seem like plenty of trouble. But all the trouble you put into polishing the first few sentences of your articles and posts pays off.
The intro really makes all the difference between content that’s read and content that’s ignored.
We hope you enjoyed this post on how to write a good introduction. Come back soon for more SEO content writing tips.