Thursday, July 12, 2007

How to Write a Killer Article, Part 3

How do you start this thing?

One of the most challenging things of writing a good article is to figure out that first line. It’s so critical. Not only does it determine if they’ll start reading or not, but often it determines just how much they’ll read.

That first sentence, that first paragraph has to engage the reader. I’ve done some research and found out some great strategies for starting a killer article off right. I’ve also gone back through the eShopTalk archives and found some excellent examples of each. Let’s look at them and talk them over.

  1. Ask a Question

Many killer articles start with a question to engage the reader. It immediately plugs into the brain and makes them wonder. Here’s one by Debra Dunn. She starts by asking, “Have you been watching Google TV lately? The question very well may be is Google watching you?”

Or in this article about the IVOS - In-Vehicle Operating System: “Tired of being tracked on your home computer? Why not take a drive to get away from it all? You can zip down the highway, and still have access to …wait… your computer system?”

  1. Share an Anecdote or Quote

In my church, I teach the kids in Sunday school. Nothing, I mean, nothing gets them engaged and fascinated like a story. And you know what? Nothing catches an adult like a good story, either.

Here’s an example from one of my articles. I start off passing on a tale that one of my students shared with me about deer hunting. "…He told me of a friend of his that lived near him in Arizona for a number of years. He and this friend loved to go hunting, though they rarely got the chance to go together. Still, they got together socially often, and when they would, my student would admire the trophies on his friend’s wall. Magnificent examples of wildlife, of deer and antelope, the kind a hunter dreams of seeing, even more so of taking…”

Doesn’t that make you want to find out how the story goes, how it turns out? Stories not only catch attention, they keep it.

  1. Invoke the Mind’s Eye

In another one of mine, I capture the reader by engaging their imagination. I create a scene and then shape it into the point of the article. This one is about when an apple falls too far from the tree...

“Imagine that in your back yard, out by the fence, there’s a big apple tree. It’s been growing there for many, many years, and it’s gotten really big. So big, in fact, that many of the branches reach out over the fence. Your next-door neighbor really likes the tree. Partly because it’s big enough to shade most of his backyard as well, and also because every summer, he’s able to pick fresh apples off the branches on his side of the fence…”

  1. Use an Analogy, Metaphor or Simile

Comparisons are a great way to start off. If what you’re talking about is similar to something that’s familiar to your audience, they’ll “get” your message better, and be more interested. Nate Neville caught my attention by referencing the gorilla in this article about MySpace.

  1. Cite a Shocking Statistic

One out of every five articles will lose their readers by the second or third sentence. Is that true? I don’t know. But it sure got your attention for a moment! I’m not saying you should make stuff up, but if you can find statistics that surprise your audience, then that’s a great way to start. It catches that, “I didn’t know that!” part of the reader’s mind.

John, in this article about social networking and word of mouth advertising, said, “’Word of mouth’ advertising is the fastest and most reliable way to get the word out about your business. Why? According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, 76% of people who see your traditional advertising won’t believe you, anyway. They don’t even know you, and yet they assume that you’re lying to them. Who do people believe? Their friends.”

The impact of this one was strengthened by the inclusion of the citation of the source.

Bonus Tip:

Combine two or even three of these elements to make an even stronger impact. Quote a statistic in a question. Make an analogy from a story or an anecdote.

Finally, the next most important part of your article is the closing. A great way to close is to tie back into your opening.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know how to make a "killer sale"?!