If there’s one thing that’s always a struggle for me to write… it’s an opening sentence.
But you know what I’ve realized?
Most writers, even really good writers, struggle with their opening sentences.
You’ll see what I mean when you try this simple experiment.
Pay very close attention to the first sentence of anything you read, whether it’s a chapter in a book, an email, an ad, or, ahem,… a blog post.
Then, read whatever you’re reading all the way through once.
After you’ve finished reading to the end, go back and read the first sentence.
When you re-read the opening sentence, ask yourself, “Was it exciting? Did it draw me in? Did it set the right tone? The right expectation?”
What you’ll find is that, more often than not, well-written ads have great opening sentences.
Books, emails, and blog posts… not so much.
In fact, lately, I’ve read a lot of marketing emails where the opening sentence was a total dud.
And don’t even get me started on books.
If I judged every book by its opening sentence, I would read a whole lot fewer books than I do now!
On the other hand, most well-written ads will have powerfully engaging opening sentences.
There’s a reason ads typically have better openers than these other forms of writing.
Ad writers will re-write their openers about 40 times.
They know their ad will be judged based upon the first 2 seconds of engagement.
So they spend a ton of time trying to make sure their first few lines of copy are as sharp and engaging as they can make them.
On the other hand, when someone reads a book, they have a commitment to give the writing a chance.
Sure the first chapter needs to be strong. But the writer can afford to wind up a bit before they really get going.
And what about email?
Well, the first sentence of an email should be treated more like an ad. Because your reader can click away at any moment.
But here’s the thing…
It costs almost nothing to send a bad email.
And a lot of times, if you’re writing daily emails (like yours truly) there just isn’t time to obsess about your opener.
You need to get your message out because the shows gonna go on whether your copy is perfect or NOT.
… After going back through my own writing, I have noticed how much better my messages perform when they have a powerful opener.
The emails I’ve sent that packed a punch in the opening line piled up way more clicks and sales than messages with soft openers.
The disparity in the results between messages with good and bad openers got me thinking…
Is there a framework that can help me (and you) write better opening sentences more often?
The answer is yes… I think there is.
I think there are even multiple frameworks.
And you’d better believe after that long-winded explanation of why openers are important… I am gonna share those frameworks with you.
The first framework is one I call “open in the middle.”
You see this technique in TV series all the time. And if you have a good story to tell, this is absolutely the best way to draw your audience in.
Here’s how it works.
Instead of opening your story at the beginning, you open at the height of the action.
For example, your opening sentence might look like this:
“After the third time the call dropped, I knew I was screwed.”
See how that works. You bring your reader right into the rising action of your storyline. Then you double back and build from there.
The next framework I call “Let me tell you a secret.”
Here’s an example of this one in action:
“Most people don’t know this… I didn't until T.J. shared it with our team this past summer…”
Essentially, what you’re doing with this framework is teasing some insider knowledge that your reader will care about.
The next framework is what I call “Exciting news.”
This is probably the simplest opening framework. All you have to do is tell your audience you've got something exciting to share.
Here’s an example of this opener in action that you can literally swipe and use if you want:
“I’ve got a BIG announcement for you today…”
The caveat with this one is that you better have exciting news, or you’re going to wind up being the writer who cried “BIG” one too many times.
Framework Number four is called “the Big Warning.”
Here’s an example of what this one looks like.
“The events I am about to share are a bit graphic.”
The big warning framework is by far my best performing opener.
But it’s also the most dangerous. Because if your story, message, post, etc.doesn’t legitimately pay off this foreshadowing… you will lose your audience's trust.
Fifth on the list is what I call “Look at this shit!”
Here’s an example of this one:
“When we released our new Drop-In Shorts, Tom Wilson left this comment:”
The example doesn’t really spell out how to use this one. So here’s a little more guidance.
Use this framework when you have something to show your audience, and you want to call attention to it right away.
Coming in at number six is “do you feel this way too.”
Here’s an example of this one:
“If there’s one thing that’s always a struggle for me to write… it’s an opening sentence.”
Hey, that looks familiar, doesn't it? So what I’ll say about this framework is it’s my weakest.
Some writers are really good at it, and it works gangbusters for them.
The key with this framework is to share a feeling, struggle, or joy your audience can immediately identify with.
Wrapping things up at number seven is “Something’s amiss!”
Here’s an example of this one:
"There’s a fear that holds a lot of course creators back from making the income they should be making.”
With this framework, all you’re trying to do is plant a seed of the unknown.
You’re setting your reader up to discover why something is wrong, scary, worrying, upsetting, or just not quite right.
OK, so those are the top seven.
There are actually a couple more I didn’t get to.
But seven is plenty to chew on for now…
And as a wise hitchhiker one said:
“7’s the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that’s the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin’ on a branch, eatin’ lots of sunflowers on my uncle’s ranch. You know that old children’s tale from the sea. It’s like you’re dreamin’ about Gorgonzola cheese when it’s clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.”
What do you think? Are these opening sentence frameworks helpful?
Did I miss any good ones? (I am sure I did!)
Post a comment letting me know what you think of these frameworks.
Or comment with your best opening sentence framework.
And remember your first sentence is your most important. So write and rewrite if you have time.