Online audiences might as well have ADD. The internet is full of flashing, neon distractions, with banners and headlines constantly vying for your readers’ attention. To keep it for longer than two seconds you have to carefully craft your opening paragraph. It has to give them enough information to make them want to read on, but hold enough back to leave them hungry for more. Your opening paragraph is without a doubt the most important part of your article, because it has the power to turn idle clickers into readers.

The very first sentence has to hook the reader in. You have to strike right to the heart of the topic in a succinct and engaging fashion, without lapsing into bland, generic information. The opening paragraph introduces the topic, but the first sentence mainly serves as an attention-grabber. The focus of the article has to come through, but it’s really a lure, a taste of the delicious, information-rich meal to come.

Crafting the perfect opening sentence is only the first step

To land yourself a reader and give them the motivation to continue with your article you have to take a step back and provide some context. The bulk of the opening paragraph is used to establish the angle of your piece. If your aim is to increase sales of a product, this is the time to introduce the problem that it solves and outline the criteria for a solution.

Think of the remainder of the paragraph as an effort to explain to the reader why he or she should care about what you have to say. Readers aren’t there to admire your wordplay; they want useful information and solutions to their problems. To read the remainder of your article, they have to know that they’ll be rewarded for their time, and you have to show them how you’re going to do that.

Take your time writing your first paragraph

It’s the only section of your article that everybody enticed by the headline will read, so it has to stand out. Read it back from the point of view of your target audience. Does your first sentence grasp their attention? Do you establish your angle? Do readers know why they should care? If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” you’ve written a compelling introduction.