This morning I awoke suddenly, shaking with fear. A giant spider had crawled up my arm and was making its way across my face. I can’t begin to tell you what a hideous experience it was.
Sitting bolt upright I brushed the creature away, while my heart pounded ninety to the dozen. That spider had certainly gained my attention, while creating a dramatic start to my day.
Unpleasant though the experience was, it got me thinking about internet journalism and how there might be a lesson here for all of us when we are writing articles for the web. You could call it the giant spider effect.
It seems to me that as article writers we need to do to our readers what that spider did to me this morning. Gain their attention with a dramatic start.
Striking and different
OK, you don’t necessarily want to scare the living daylights out of people, but you should be looking to hit them with something striking and different, that makes them want to read on.
Right at the start, try to surprise your readers. Violate their expectations. There are many ways you can do this. You could, for example, present them with a challenging statement, pose a controversial question or describe a dramatic incident.
Look for ways of injecting emotion or tension into your words. Try to work colourful imagery into your descriptions. Avoid the bland, boring or clichéd. Steer clear of the obvious and predictable. Instead, look for something that has more of an impact.
Bear in mind, an article is not an academic essay. That means in your opening paragraph you don’t need to do lots of scene setting, or provide loads of historical background. Just go straight to the idea that delivers a big bang.
Later on you can fill in the gaps and explain the context. Remember, if your readers aren’t engaged from the start, they are unlikely to stick around for the rest of the article.
So next time you sit down to write an article, spare a thought for the giant spider effect. It certainly made me sit up and take notice.
Ben J Morgan is a business communications tutor at Strawberry Training, a UK training provider offering, among other things, bespoke courses on writing articles. You can find more information about these courses at: http://www.strawberrytraining.co.uk/writing-feature-articles.html