People don’t spend much time reading a text today, they skim through it. I’ve mentioned this before and how we as writers need to catch their attention early, especially online. Your readers need signposts, or keywords, to help them grasp the message they’re about to take in or they may grow impatient and click you away.
The first paragraph of a communication needs to establish at once what it’s about. This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen so many examples in corporate writing where people start with background rather than the news.
The best way to present the news is to use a keyword, usually a strong verb, in the lead paragraph. Decide the keyword before you start writing. If you are about to introduce a new product, verbs such as launch or unveil are natural keywords to select for the first sentence. But make sure that whichever you choose is as close to the start of the sentence as possible.
Wrong: “Our development centre is pleased to announce that an improved version of our No 1 face cream was launched today.”
The keyword is left too late. The reader is arguably unsure what’s about to be announced until reaching the penultimate word. Also, I am allergic to management guff such as pleased to announce because it goes without saying that a company is pleased when things go well. It’s one of those redundant expressions that some companies can’t get enough of.
Right: “We launched an improved version of our No 1 face cream today.”
The keyword is at the start of the sentence, planting a seed in the readers’ minds of what’s up the very second their eyes fall on it. All you need to do now is to apply the inverted pyramid principle and layer your message. I wrote about the inverted pyramid the other day.
I welcome your comments.