Most readers never scroll “below the fold” on an article, meaning that the first 200 words of body copy count more than anything (except—of course!—the headline). Not to be excessively negative, but if your introduction flops, nothing else matters. Here’s how to write strong hooks (also known as article introductions).
If you already know everything there is to know about writing introductions and think you landed here by accident, consider checking out other Noodle resources, like:
Use the first 200 words of your article to quickly explain the purpose of your article (why you’re here), tease what’s coming (things you’ll detail later), and engage the reader (be a damn human). The body of your article will be rich with information, but the introduction is where you have the most leeway to take advantage of style and tone.
In the first 200 words of your introduction, bold the most important keywords so they stand out to users who may have searched for them. In the below article about teaching English as a second language, the author bolded exactly that phrase—which also happens to be a fairly common search term.
With keywords in bolded, readers looking for information about ESL degrees and career paths will immediately recognize that they’re in the right place (and, fingers crossed, they’ll continue reading).
If you want readers to take your advice seriously, tell them why you’re qualified to dish it up in the first place. Everyone has an opinion. What makes yours valuable? Did you graduate—or even drop out—from the college or university featured in your article? Maybe you work(ed) there and know what it takes to get in? Do you have years of related personal or professional experience?
Maybe you just like writing and sharing your experiences (that’s cool, too).
Whatever your reason for writing an article, explain it in a way that is straightforward and relatable. Transparency—if only to say “take or leave my biased two cents”—builds trust and credibility. Also, do this in two sentences or less.
This author introduces herself to the reader in an honest, clear, and vulnerable way in an article about switching careers to become a social worker:
“When I decided to apply for a Masters in Social Work, I was worried that my lack of experience would make me a weak applicant. I’ve spent the past several years as a journalist, writing about everything from breast cancer to beer halls. I had never been a caseworker or counselor, and I was nervous I would seem too green to an admissions committee. But as I began to write my application essays, I realized that the opposite was true.”
__This article about getting an MBA in Business Analytics weaves a popular movie scene into the introduction:__
In the classic 1967 movie The Graduate, an older neighbor offers young protagonist Benjamin Braddock some brief but fervent advice on his upcoming career. “Just one word: plastics,” the neighbor counsels, adding earnestly, “There’s a great future in plastics.” What advice would a well-intentioned neighbor offer a young graduate today? “Just one word: data.”
__The introduction to this article about becoming a school principal is brutally honest… and it works:__
Good school principals are underrepresented in TV and movies (unless their name is Dumbledore). But, maybe you’re into elementary school pranks, like a couple of kids—BUELLER!—calling you and pretending to be a grief-stricken parent. If you can keep your cool while handling inordinate amounts of nonsense and managing a whole staff of school employees, you might want to consider the career path to becoming a principal.
__This article about states with the highest-paying nurse practitioner jobs puts the most important information first:__
The growing number of nurse practitioners (NPs)—there were 120,000 in the United States in 2007 according to the AANP, while today there are 234,000—indicates that more Americans are seeking care with NPs over physicians. As Knestrick explains, “NPs are quickly becoming the first choice as primary care providers for thousands of people across rural as well as urban America.”
Without transitions, sections can end too abruptly, which forces readers to connect the dots themselves. This move (which we won’t file to “news”), can be a major turnoff. To avoid losing reader interest, make your articles as easy as possible to read. Transition with intention by wrapping things up, and speaking to the question the reader will ultimately have to ask herself.
For example: Is it worth my while to pursue this graduate degree? A strong takeaway about the value of the degree and the characteristics shared by all good programs offering the degree will be useful to your reader and give your article a nice, pleasing symmetry.
__Before this author dives into tips for teachers to avoid burnout, he transitions the introduction in a personal, articulate way:__
When I ask my fellow professors and teachers how they beat burnout, I get a variety of answers, ranging from “bourbon” to “therapy” to “retirement.” One former student told me “You don’t. Some survive it and eventually find a balance, but we all go through it to some degree.” But instructors are hardly powerless against the forces of being worn down. There are several steps they can take to battle burnout.
Questions or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org