You’re writing a serious article or blog post about serious stuff.
Therefore, you should get right to the point. Right?
If that’s your way of thinking, you might be on to something. Or you might be losing a lot of readers and potential readers because you’re not engaging them enough.
You’re not appealing to their emotions.
Before you go there, emotions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We have them for a reason. As psychiatrist Sheri Van Dijk put it:
Emotions serve important functions and are very necessary, even though they can be really painful at times. Think of your emotions as another sense, just like your vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell, because they provide information just like any of those other senses.
She then specifically details their motivational, informational, and communicative qualities to back up her point.
The way I look at it, emotions can be used for good or bad just like intelligence or any other human resource. Besides, we all have emotions (even sociopaths do), and there’s really nothing we can do about it.
So why not use this commonality to appeal to our readers for a greater good – like drawing them into the serious article or blog post we’re writing about serious stuff?
In my ongoing creative writing blog posts, I address the very important topic of literary hooks, which can be defined this way:
When it comes to narratives/stories or non-fiction books, a hook is a well-done, attention-grabbing beginning.
It’s the first few lines, paragraphs or, at most, pages, that ambush potential readers in psychological back alleys and snarl, “If you don’t come with me now, I swear you’re going to regret it!” Regret it as in they’ll be left wondering what happens next, listening to their imaginations cry out, “Why didn’t you buy that book!”
That's what a hook is. And that's what it does.
Truth be told though, hooks aren’t limited to creative writing. They’re just as important in nonfiction books, articles, or blog posts. Moreover, they maintain that same basic description across the board.
Essentially, a hook is a hook is a hook.
So what kind of hooks work for blog posts and articles?
I can tell you this: You’re hardly limited to begin with. There’s a broad range of possibilities to choose from depending on your purpose and personality.
For one thing, you can start out with a question, rather like I did in this section. In so doing, you directly engage your audience, pulling them into a monologue (your words) that suddenly feel more like a dialogue.
Telling a personal story can actually have the same effect, since you’re opening up to your readers. It’s as if you’re their friend, sitting with them over a cup of coffee or tea. Or chilling together by the water cooler.
Another possibility is to make a contrary statement to your thesis, presenting it as something most people believe… right before you inform them that there’s a whole different way of looking at it. For an example, look no further than the larger post’s opening lines.
Oh, and for the record, you can break each of the three suggestions up much, much further.
Is it an educational question you’re asking? A motivational one? Some other kind of personal one?
Is your story funny? Heartbroken? Disconcerting?
Do you want to shock your audience? Or would you prefer easing them into a new perspective?
Like I said, there are very few limits when writing an engaging intro. Give a historical or scientific example. Paint a picture with words. Quote someone famous or infamous.
Whatever it is, just use your purpose and personality to pull people in. Then get to the serious stuff.
Chances are your readers will follow you as you do.