The First Word: How to Begin Writing the First Sentence
Do you struggle to write the first sentence of a new blog post? I certainly do. Oftentimes, I will easily write an entire article then struggle for hours on that first sentence. Writing a simple introductory line can be maddeningly difficult.
In this post, we’ll examine some useful strategies for getting that first sentence down on paper.
Keep it Simple
As writers, we tend to overthink and over-complicate very simple tasks. Somehow, one can write pages and pages of excellent content and yet struggle with a single sentence.
When in doubt, just do it. Write a first sentence down, any first sentence – don’t obsess over making it perfect. You can (and should) always come back to edit and revise it later.
Ask a Question
Questions are always a good hook – we can’t help but want to answer them. By framing a sentence into a question, it immediately becomes more attention-grabbing (like the first sentence of this article.)
The best questions are personal questions:
Try to avoid asking overly simple or open-ended questions. Remember, the idea is to get your readers to look for an answer.
Share a Stat or Professional Opinion
Statistics, graphs, research studies, professional opinions and other detailed pieces of information are always a solid starting point. Within your industry, are there any surprising or shocking statistics that go against common perception? What do industry leaders have to say?
Be careful to not sound too scientific, however. For example, this sentence, while informative, is simply dull:
According to a new study, 76.33% of writers say they have difficulties generating initial sentences for their works.
It’s too specific and too descriptive. Instead, use broader, more emotionally-compelling vocabulary:
Do you despise coming up with that first sentence? Don’t fret. Even accomplished writers like Stephen King spend ‘months and even years writing opening sentences.’
By framing the statistic as a problem that your readers have, you can then set yourself (or your blog post) as the solution. Just be sure to always verify statistics before using them!
Use a Quote
Still struggling to find a good first sentence? As a last resort, try a quote. Quotations are an easy, if underwhelming, way to kick off a blog post (probably too easy, in fact.) The difficulty is to pick a relevant quote – picking a random quote can very easily look lazy.
For maximum impact, try to pick a quote from someone that your readers are familiar with. An educational quote is far more authoritative when it comes from a respected source.
Start at the End, AP Style
Ironically, a good way to start an article is with its conclusion. This is standard practice in the journalism world, as seen in the Associated Press Stylebook. As a significant portion of your readers will never actually finish the article, it’s sometimes best to put the most pertinent information first.
In practice, this can be a quote, actionable advice, a link to a useful resource, or even just a simple sentence that answers the 5 W’s: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Feeling inspired to write that first sentence? Get to it!