It is a truth universally acknowledged, the perfect opening lines will always make a reader stay.
We all want our readers to read our articles from start to finish. You worked hard on it, and you want your readers to engage with your article. Don’t you?
Well, a perfect introduction could be the key. It will always set the tone right and help you and your readers remain on the same page (literally).
It will help you nail the classic narrative arc too! (It’s just a fancy term for giving a better structure to your storytelling)
Your introductory section has a purpose. It should tell your readers the theme or ideas you would be talking about, and the areas you will be covering. Basically, setting up the story and giving the reader enough context is a good place to start.
Here are some tips to help you write a compelling introduction:
So think of the kind of introduction that will make you wanna read a piece. What can you offer to your readers in less than 200 words to make them stay?
Start with what you know:
It is always an idea, a thought, a moment that will trigger your emotions and compel you to write. But where to from there?
Jot down what you know but do not stop at that. Put it all in a draft. And now it’s time for you to dive deep.
Researching your story:
It’s extremely important to move beyond what you know about a certain topic. This helps in developing your idea better and gaining a wider perspective. Start by flagging the information gaps in your narrative. Find out what you don’t know. Search for relevant information and see how it can benefit your story.
The more work you put in the article, the more compelling it will read.
We often tend to believe information that is close to our own perception of truth. Let’s go a step further and research even the information which we believe is accurate. If you have a strong emotional reaction to a headline or the content, consider your biases before accepting it as fact.
We live in an era where misinformation is as abundantly available as information. So how do you extract the truth from all the sources of information?
You can start by answering these questions:
And some more research:
Where did the piece of information come from? Whether it was some debate, interview, press release, op-ed, speech, survey, report — verify this before you start.
Make sure that you can substantiate this information through credible sources.
Only rely on authority news sites. (refrain from left-leaning or right-leaning sources) [For eg, Jacobin, OpIndia, Postcard News, Shankhnaad, etc. We can look at their ‘About’ section to gauge credibility].
Some other points to keep in mind:
Lastly, aim for grey instead of black and white. The more nuanced your write up is the more open the readers will be to the ideas you suggest. The more open you are to newer ideas, the more you will be able to find a balance in your arguments.
Reading on screens is tiring for the eyes and about 25% slower than reading a printed matter. With a ton of pages to scroll away and millions of sites fighting for their attention, is there a way to hold your online readers?
The more accessible these readers find your content, the longer they are likely to stay. So, here’s what you can do:
What if I told you that you need to write for eighth graders? What if I told you some of your favourite writers do just that? Well, Pulitzer-, Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (my favourite!) does that too, and so should you!
Dear writer, aim to write at an eighth-grade level. This is where a majority of readers fall. Just remember that everyone has a different vocabulary level and to reach a wider audience, keep it simple. Try to write in simple, jargon-free language to make sure that all your readers understand you. It’s a win-win situation for you: easy to understand, easy to read and hence, more accessible.
There are many free online tools that can help you determine your grade level. This one’s our personal favourite.
Readers often find longer sentences hard to read. The meaning is almost always lost and so is your reader’s interest. Whenever you can shorten or split your complex or lengthy sentences.
Breaking your content into accessible, bite-sized sections helps the online readers get the gist of your content before they decide to invest their time in reading the whole thing.
Not just that, if your content is broken into subtopics or sections, following the story also becomes easier.
All in all, your reader on the internet is busy and is more likely to move on to what catches her attention next. It’s best we try and give them the content that works for us too. So, the next time you write, think of what you last read on the internet. Try to replicate what you like.
The way we write and the way we edit are two different things. While writing is about adding information, editing is about removing the things that add no value to your write up.
As a writer, here are a few things you can do to make sure your article is error-free and easy to follow:
You can proofread your article for avoidable errors such as misspelt words and other typos. The free version of Grammarly can come in handy.
Change your Passive voice sentences to active voice wherever necessary. The passive voice seems to push the action back. So changing into an active voice helps us remove extra words and brings the action back to the subject.
You can also cut out ‘filler words‘ that only make your sentences foggy. For example:
2. Shorten verbs wherever necessary
3. Double nouns and adjectives: (usually redundant)
4. Some foggy phrases to cut:
Look for such phrases and rid your writing of them whenever possible.
5. Redundant words:
6. Get that “that” out whenever you can
7. Some other pesky extra words:
Remember, do not use a long word when a short one will do. Use ‘begin’ rather than ‘commence’, ‘used to’ rather than ‘accustomed to’. This makes your writing precise and succinct, and intelligible to the vast majority of readers!
Cutting up on this verbiage will help improve your writing and make your sentences look crisp and easy to read. Use all these tips at your discretion!
Once you are done editing. It’s always best to let it sit for a day or two before hitting publish.
Share it with someone you believe will give you valuable feedback 🙂