The introduction of an article can determine whether it gets read or not. That is why smart writers are very particular about how they write their introductions — and writing effective introductions isn’t as complicated as many people think.
According to Copyblogger, on average eight out 0f 10 people will read the headline of a piece of content but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the rest.
While a lot of factors will determine how many more people will go on to read your article, more often than not it is your introduction that will make the most difference.
Whether you want to write an introduction for an essay, an introduction for a research paper, an introduction for a report, or an introduction for a short article, you can often do so by following a set of principles.
Firstly, however, why is an introduction important?
Instead of simply telling you why an introduction is important, I’ll show you several example introductions and the impression the left on me.
Examples that Show Why It is Important to Write a Good Introduction
I came across the following introduction many years ago and it made me realize the importance of writing really good introductions.
You can read it below:
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On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both — as young college graduates are — were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.”
Talk about a good example of a perfect introduction!
You’ve probably come across the above example introduction before. This is because it is the introduction used in what is widely regarded as the greatest sales letter of all time. The sales letter that used this introduction sold over $2 billion worth of Wall St. Journal subscriptions and ran for 28 years!
You might want to read that again: that’s 2 BILLION (with a “B”) as a result of a single sales letter, mostly thanks to a sold introduction.
The above example introduction works because it ticks many check marks:
- It uses a story (if used rightly, especially for less formal writing, stories can be a very good way to start your introduction!)
- It started on an optimistic note and suddenly shows things didn’t end happily after. Readers will naturally ask, “Why?” As a result, they want to read further.
- It was written in a way that defies logic and creates friction in readers’ minds that needs to be resolved. For example, it tells us both men had similar backgrounds, similar personalities, similar education, and similar dreams. Both even worked at the same company. Yet, one was at its peak while the other was far below him. Readers will naturally ask, “Why did these two men experience different outcomes?” And this makes them want to read further.
When writing introductions, it is important to realize that it isn’t usually about word count. Both long and short introductions can work if they are written the right way.
Take a look at the following example introductory paragraph used by American Express in its “Quite Frankly” advertisement, also widely regarded as one of the greatest sales letters of all time, to see what I mean:
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“Quite frankly, the American Express Card is not for everyone. And not everyone who applies for Cardmembership is approved.”
In less than 20 words, this introduction hooks readers and make them want to read the entire copy by exploiting their innate curiosity:
Why isn’t the American Express Card for everyone? Why is it that not everyone who applies is approved? More importantly, would the reader have been approved if he/she were to apply?
These are questions readers will have as they read the introduction, and their natural curiosity to get an answer to these questions will push them to read further.
The American Express ad introduction was so effective that it was reportedly responsible for billions of dollars of business for them during the 12 years period it ran.
Yet another example introduction in more recent times:
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“There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.”
The above example introductory paragraph is from The Guardian’s “Top five regrets of the dying” article.
The above introduction works because it leverages two key factors: surprise and authority.
Many would expect people to have much deeper, profound regrets while dying, but in a culture that celebrates working hard above all else, this introduction has an element of surprise to it — and this hooks people on: “Why would most people wish they hadn’t worked harder on their deathbed?”
The introduction also leverages authority. “Authority” can come in the form of statistics, facts, or some other data. In this instance, it cited a nurse who spends time with people at the point of death. Certainly, the nurse is an authority figure who knows enough to be able to make the claims in the introduction.
Many years after it was published, The Guardian cited the article that used the above example introduction as its second most popular article in about four years (secondly only to its article about Edward’s Snowden’s NSA revelations) — even as it celebrated 100 monthly million unique visits.
This is no mean feat when you consider the fact that we’re talking about possibly billions of visits and that The Guardian was the media outlet that broke the news about Edward Snowden’s revelations of the NSA’s spying on Americans — a very sensational news item at the time.
Why You Should Spend More Time Writing Introductions
As a writer, you should realize that your readers are always very busy, and there are a lot of things fighting for their attention. A sure-fire way to get a lot more people to read your content to the end, and tell others about it, is to work on writing the perfect introduction.
Your introduction leads to your content, and if people don’t enjoy your introduction they would probably not read your content — no matter how great it is.
I have written a lot of articles over the years, and writing introductions is probably the most difficult part of writing my articles. Once I’m able to write the introduction for an article, writing every other part of the article becomes easy.
I have found the following six methods to be very effective for writing effective introductions — I also include examples to make it easy for you to understand:
How to Write Introductions: 6 Methods that Work
You can write effective introductions by using any of the following six methods. These methods work regardless of whether you’re writing introductions for an article, a report, an essay, or a research paper. I also include an example to help you see each of the ways to write an introduction in action.
Method #1: Start With A Question
My preferred way to write introductions is to start with a question.
It is human nature to want to think about an answer to a question we are asked, and since it is presupposed that your article already has the answer to the question you asked in the introduction, your readers won’t be able to stop reading your article until they find the answer.
By using questions to start your introductions you are tapping into readers’ innate curiosity. As a result, your readers won’t be able to stop just at the introduction. They will read your article to the end to find the answer to the question you asked.
Example: Do you know that using introductions in your articles can increase the chances of your reader reading your article to the end by 400 percent?
With the above example used as an introduction, the reader naturally wants to find out why, and how, using an introduction can increase the chances of an article being read to the end by 400 percent.
Method #2: Start With Facts
People love facts. This is because facts usually have an element of surprise and make the reader appear smarter. People are also not used to reading many articles with facts, so your introduction stands out when it uses facts.
If you want to get people to read your content much longer, it might be a good idea to use facts for your introduction.
Example: 31.3 percent of American adults are obese, and the percentage of obese Americans increased by 5 percent in 2018 alone.
By reading the above example as the introduction to an article you will want to know why 33.8 percent of American adults are obese and why that number increased so much in one year.
Method #3: Start With a Story
Why are inherently wired to love stories.
In fact, research has shown that our brain releases a hormone called oxytocin when we hear good stories. Oxytocin is a hormone that makes us feel good. It is the same hormone that is released when we reach a sexual high.
In other words, use a really good story as your introduction and the reader has a feeling similar to that of having really enjoyable sex. Who wouldn’t want to read your article to the end in such a scenario?!
People also love stories because they can relate better to them. You can use good personal or made up stories as introductions in your article so as to get a lot of people to read along.
Example: I lost my father at the tender age of seven. Because my father was wealthy, it wasn’t until his death that I started seeing the other side of life. All of my father’s friends and family members who constantly visited and socialized with us when he was alive departed my family when he was gone. Some relatives even went as far as to take his properties after his death.
Method #4: Start With an Interesting Quote
A lot of great and wise men have lived before us, and so many of them have gone through a lot of pain and joy and as a result have a lot of knowledge to share. Fortunately, some of the best sayings of these great men have been made available as quotes and people are always inspired by them.
In other words, quotes are able to connect with people, and using a quote to start your article puts your reader in the right frame of mind to read your article.
Example: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times“ – Bruce Lee
A quote is simply irresistible, because it echoes the saying of a great man, and as a result, you want to read the article to find out what the writer is trying to add to, or criticize in, “such a great saying” that has been for a very long time.
Method #5: Start With Humor
After a busy day at work, or after being bombarded with all the sad news from the media, what better way to assimilate some quality information than it being introduced with humor?
While they might not always ask for it, everybody appreciates some great humor, especially if it is being used as an introduction to a great article they need to read.
Example: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Method #6: Start With Interesting Statements
You can also start the introduction of your article with an interesting statement. While this statement doesn’t necessarily need to be a fact, or quote, it makes people want to read your article to know the reason behind you using the statement.
Example: Some people will never be what they think they are. Lord help me be the person my dog thinks I am.
Seeing the above statement as the introduction to any article makes you want to read the article. Why? You want to know the reason why someone wants to be the person his dog thinks he is…lol! Seriously, statements like that are sometimes very unique, and provoke a lot of thought, and as a result, you want to know what the reasons for the author using the statement are.
Go and write better introductions!
Introductions can break or make your article. Learning to use the right introductions for your article can make a whole lot of difference in whether a reader reads through your writing or not and as a result end up taking the action you intend.
Personally, an article becomes extremely easy for me to write once I have written the introduction. I hope the above tips help you write better introductions.
P.S. The above examples were only used in such a way to ensure you get my point, and none of them can actually be verified. When you use facts as introductions in your articles, it is important to make sure they can be verified.