Don't forget your turn signal!

from Annette 

Okay so this post was prompted by a drive home from the grocery where NO ONE used their turn signal.  How frustrating to deal with parking lots and rush hour traffic when no one is telling you where they plan to go.  It’s a sure way to get into an accident.  The same thing is true when you write your content.  Readers need to know the direction you’re taking – you have to give them a signal (aka a thesis statement).

What’s your signal?  When do you use it?

Your signal is typically the last sentence or two in your first paragraph. It’s the sentence which tells them what the body of your content is going to be about.  It gives your readers a direction to go. Leave it out and you’re going to lose the majority of your readers – certainly not your intended goal. You at least want readers to scan your content and then click through to your website or offer.

So your first paragraph has two goals, it needs to grab the attention of your reader and it needs to compel them to continue reading.  When the typical first paragraph is five or less sentences long, you have to get to the point pretty quickly.

If the first paragraph is a struggle, write backwards.  Write the main points of your content first – it doesn’t matter if you’re writing an article, blog post, email or sales letter.  Once you have the main points think about what theme unites the main points.  From this point you can write your summary paragraph followed by your first paragraph or vice versa.  If summary paragraphs are easier for you to write, write them first and then rework your summary into an introductory article.  Share a story, ask a question, or share an opinion that relates to your topic.  Follow it by a thesis or introductory statement and you’re good to go.

How do you know if your introductory paragraph and thesis statement are strong?

Ask yourself:

  • Do I address the statement or answer the question in my content?
  • Is it specific?
  • Does it offer a statement or opinion which can be challenged?

Not giving your readers a signal, failing to tell them what your content is about, is a sure way to crash headlong into content oblivion.  Not to worry, after a little practice and careful attention to your content,  writing an introductory paragraph will become second nature.  It’s as basic as thinking before you speak or using your turn signal.

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