Let’s Go Fishing for Some Readers
(Note – this post has been edited and changes are indicated for purposes of demonstration.)
Do you want to get your reader’s attention? Really? Are you sure?
Of course you do. What a ridiculous question. Why have I even bothered to ask? It’s simple: I want your attention.
It’s called a hook. As in the hook that goes on the end of a fishing line. You want to snag your reader’s interest immediately and then reel them in. If they think for a split second that you’re not offering up a tasty meal, they’ll swim off in search of something better.
Unless the reader is your mom,
you have to assume that he needs to be convinced that what you have written is worth his time. You may be offering the best, most important advice in the world. You may have content that could vastly improve or even save
their lives his life. But it won’t matter if you can’t grab his attention.
Too often, writers back into what they want to say or they start with the background. Maybe the reader will stick around if they like you or if they have to – for instance if you’re the boss or if you’ve written a report with info they need. But why put your reader [through that] even if you are paying him? Use a good hook. It doesn’t have to be clever, although it’s okay if it is. It doesn’t have to be gimmicky, and it may be better if it’s not.
Think about the book you pick up and can’t put
pick down. Or the newspaper article that you feel compelled to grab from the person sitting in the subway seat next to you. Or the blog post that causes you to pause and keep reading even though you have a long list of other things you should be doing.
How do you come up with this hook? A few ideas:
- Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. What would grab your attention? What is unusual or new or urgent about what you want to say?
- Ask a question that you then answer in the piece.
- Tell the reader why
thenhe need[s] to know what you want to tell thehim.
- Start with a personal story that illustrates the topic.
- Find a startling fact that will make people want to know more.
- Be a little mysterious, but not too much or your reader might swim away.